Wednesday – June 22nd, 2022

2 Corinthians 5

Most of our lives are spent trying to make sure that we are doing all we can to live bigger and better. We spend years in school so that we can get a good job and make good money. Then, we can buy a nice house/car (which we may sell later on to get a bigger and better house/car). We accumulate lots of stuff that we can eventually pass on to our kids – which may not actually want any of it. It seems kind of pointless when you describe it this way, but this is truly what we talk about when we say we are pursuing the American Dream. It’s a materialistic pursuit of wealth and things… that ultimately prove meaningless when held against the gospel of Christ. 

Though the concerns of the Romans and Jews were different than what we worry about today, we still see the distractions that can come from the pursuit of things other than God. These idols could be wealth (and Rome had its own version of the American Dream), but it could also be power, status, or a legalistic self-righteousness. All of these idols are forms of the old self that should have been put to death with Christ. 

In 2 Cor. 5:14-15, Paul says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” This is such a counter-cultural statement. We are not living for ourselves anymore. We are not trying to pursue lives that are bigger and better according to the world’s standards. We have “died” to that pursuit and are raised again. We no longer live for ourselves but instead we live for Christ. 

This is what it means to be a new creation. In verse 17, it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” When we are raised with Christ, our concerns change to the concerns of Christ. What is the concern of Christ? Verses 18-19 say, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” We are being reconciled to God so that we can become the righteousness of God. Praise God! We have been made new! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Questions for Application: 

  1. What are some of the things that you spend time pursuing? What are things that distract you from God? 
  2. Do you believe that these distractions are idols? 
  3. If you are a believer, you are a new creation in Christ. Do you live in a way that shows that you are a new creation? How? 

Time to Purge

Deuteronomy 7-8

Deuteronomy 7:5 – This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.

I’m a keeper. Not exactly a pack rat. Definitely not a hoarder. But I do like to keep stuff from the past. 

For example, I have movie theater ticket stubs that date back to the 1980s! Yeah! I know. I even scrapbooked them at one point! Can you believe it?

Here’s another example. Several years ago I went through a grand purge of my closet and found a tshirt that a boyfriend from my early college years had given me. Why had I kept that? It had zero relevance to my current, happily married life and yet I still had the silly shirt.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to toss that shirt in the trash. 

As we continue our reading through Deuteronomy this week, we read about all the stuff that God is directing the Israelites to get rid of once they enter the Promised Land.

Specifically in Deuteronomy 7:5, God is referring to idols that all the “ites” nations worshipped. God tells them that if His people do not break down, smash, and burn the idols that those practices will separate them from the love of God. 

When we enter into a relationship with God, our lives begin to transform from the inside out. And for those of us who have been on the journey for some time, we realize that God is always refining our character and letting us experience a life that will draw us closer to Him. 

And sometimes that means we need to get rid of the stuff that is keeping us from having a closer relationship with our Father. That “stuff” might be actual physical materials. It might be habits or relationships. But it is also mindsets, the ideas that casually roam freely through our minds that do us more harm than good. 

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one understands me.”

“It’s too hard to accomplish.” 

“Who would want to take a chance on me?”

LIES! LIES! LIES!

Listen to me. 

You are a child of the Most High God! 

You are precious.

You are valuable!

You have a grand purpose in God’s eyes and that purpose will be fulfilled!

When God tells us to get rid of the old stuff in order to experience the new creation He has intended for us to be…THIS is what He is talking about! 

Dear Friend, Do not let old mindsets and ways of thinking separate you from the love of God. 

Believe His Word. 

Do what it says. 

Experience the life He has designed for you to live! 

-Bethany Ligon

Read or listen to today’s Bible passages at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 7-8 and Luke 12

A Job to Do

2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5 19

 

I recently watched Finding Hope Now (also more recently titled Streets of Hope) based on the true story of the ministry of Roger Minassian and his book Gangs to Jobs: Faith-Based Gang Intervention for Your City.  At 53 Roger left his comfortable pastorate to create a ministry to gang members (something he knew nothing about at the time – except that they needed help – even though they often didn’t want it).  I won’t share too much about the movie because I hope you see it for yourself.  But at one point a gang member is before a judge who has the power to convict the young man for crimes he did commit and deliver him to a punishment he did deserve.  But, Roger was there at the teen’s side – even though this kid had personally caused Roger much personal pain, heartache and property damage.  Roger was speaking for the troubled teen.  Telling the judge of the change he saw – the old was gone, the new had come.  Roger was deep in the ministry of reconciliation – both to reconcile this young man with the court system and his community – as well as to reconcile him to God.  Now, you have to watch the movie to see what happened next.

 

Reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations”.  And, the world is much in need of it – particularly as it pertains to restoring a relationship with God.  Paul says it best here:

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.                   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 . NIV)

 

 

God seeks restoration and “friendly relationships” with His creation.  So much so that He sent His sinless Son to carry our sins to the cross so we could become new, righteous creations who could draw near to God.  Previously our mountain of baggage and sins we were carrying was keeping us from embracing God.  But God made a way for us to set it all down – at the foot of the cross.  Because Jesus spoke for us God is not holding our sins against us – if we are in Christ – and have asked for forgiveness, accepted Jesus as Lord, been baptized to demonstrate the putting off of the old self, and are living a life of obedience.

 

If you aren’t there yet – in Christ – why not?  “We implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20).  Please talk to your pastor or Sunday School teacher or youth group leader or Godly parents or me.  You don’t have to wait until you are perfect or you know the whole Bible – none of us Christians fall into either of those categories.  You just need to be ready to put the old behind.  Drop the junk you are holding onto, accept the sacrifice the Son made for you as he was speaking to his Dad for you and put on a new friendly relationship with God.  Be reconciled to God.

 

If you are there – in Christ – Congratulations!  Best choice ever!   Daily enjoy that friendly relationship with God that was opened for you by Christ.  And, get to work – you have a job to do!

 

“God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18 and 19).  Saying it once wasn’t enough for Paul.  So, I will repeat it, too.  “God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation. (vs. 18 and 19)”.  Do it!

 

If you’ve got the priceless gift of reconciliation with God through His Son – give it to others.  It won’t subtract what you have, but it will only multiply as you follow God’s command.   Maybe you will bring the message to gang members and in the process save a whole town!  Maybe you will boldly speak to a neighbor, family member, friend, co-worker, or church youth and be instrumental in that priceless person’s decision to be reconciled to God.  And all of heaven will rejoice with you.  Pray for God to show you where to start – and then start!

 

People are listening.  People are looking for hope in a hurting world.  Yesterday my heart hurt to hear of a girl in Malaysia who posted an Instagram poll – should she live or die?  Tears are falling as I type that she received a 69% response to die – and she took her own life.

 

The enemy is alive and well and we have a job to do!   Spread life and hope and reconciliation.  You won’t convince everyone.  Paul didn’t.  Roger didn’t.  But they did change lives because of their ministry of reconciliation.  And, we can, too.  People need reconciliation with God – even if they don’t know it yet.  How will you share it?

 

In Christ and Reconciled With a Job to Do,

Marcia Railton

Lukewarm Caterpillars

2 Corinthians 5_17

A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Koryta Hall

 

 

Union with Christ

Philippians 3

IMG-0279

The last few days we’ve been talking about unity in the body. Today I want to spend some time discussing unity (or union) with the head of the body. Our connection with Jesus affects every relationship in our lives. If we are to achieve unity in our local church, we must maintain union with our Lord.

 

Union with Christ has two important aspects. The first is knowing him. This does not mean to know who he is or to know some things about him. It is to understand what he went through and why he endured it. It is to realize that without him we are hopeless. It means communicating with him. It means recognizing that our own efforts count as nothing towards our salvation and that only through him can we be saved and that this is a good thing. Paul says that everything he could boast about in himself is garbage compared to the worth of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8), and in John 17:3 Jesus says that eternal life is to know the only true God and His son. Knowing Christ is essential for salvation and for being united with him.

 

The second aspect of our union with Christ is being like him. Earlier in Philippians, Paul tells readers to have the same mind as Christ (2:5).  Just as Jesus lived to serve the will of God, we should. Just as he was willing to give up his life for others, we should. He lived perfectly and we should strive to do the same. In Galatians 2:20 (ESV) Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Union with Christ is about emptying ourselves of the muck that comes from our sinful nature and replacing it with the holiness that comes from Christ—out with the old, in with the new.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in [union] Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (1 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

 

In this life, we will never achieve perfect union with Jesus. We will not fully know him or be totally like him until we can be with him—without the presence of sin. Paul recognized this and writes that despite his shortcoming he would “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NRSV). We, too, should press on towards the goal to have union with Jesus. It won’t be perfect, but it will go a long way in furthering our own spiritual development and the unity of the Church.

– Joel Fletcher

Boldly Be His

Saturday –

Boldly Be His & Who He Made YOU to Be!

Let’s recap who you are.

You are a new creation in Christ, created with a purpose.

You are God’s masterpiece, His poem.

You are an overcomer!

Once we begin to see who God had in mind when He created us, and we agree with Him to lean in to that (as opposed to running from it), we are then able to start living boldly for Him.

One of the dominant themes of the book of Acts is the boldness of the believers.

A short aside here:  Boldness does not mean crazy, irrational, illogical, or rude behavior.

Boldness is when we truly know something and our actions are determined by that belief.  The Greek word translated as ‘boldness’ in Acts is “parrhesia” and it conveys the idea of confidence, assurance, courage and acting without fear.

Remember Peter, who we talked about the other day.  The early Peter was characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions.  (Example, “Hey Jesus, everyone else may abandon you but not this guy, not me.”…..Proceeds to deny knowing Jesus repeatedly).  Yeah, that guy.

BUT, not long after that, Peter preached one of the boldest messages in history and said things like, “You are a corrupt generation.  Turn from your sin, repent and get baptized!”  (Acts 3-4)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The word that’s translated ‘ordinary’ is the Greek word “idiotas.”

Any guesses what that means?

Yup, Peter and John were idiots.  Idiots for Christ.  So we could give the book of Acts the subtitle, “The Idiots Guide to Boldness.”

When’s the last time someone was amazed at your boldness?

I think we often put the cart before the horse when it comes to boldness.  We want so badly to be used by God, to serve, to be bold…that we run ahead.  The key is that boldness that accomplishes something, boldness that matters, comes from knowing who we were created to be.  It comes from everything we’ve been talking about this week.

Your boldness won’t mean anything if you don’t know who you are…or should I say, whose you are.

And if I can offer one bit of advice from someone a bit further down the road…this process is not quick.  As we seek Him, God reveals bits to us.  It’s a lifelong pursuit, not an assignment to check off of our to-do list.

But that’s also kind of cool.  That there’s always more to know, more ways to grow.

Praying for you to see yourself through His eyes.

-Susan Landry

 

Note:  These lessons this week were drawn from Craig Groeschel’s book, “Altar Ego”.  If you’re looking to read more on the subject, I highly recommend it.

 

A Change of Perspective

Thursday –

Romans 8-28

 

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Repeat after me:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

If you didn’t actually repeat after me, we’ll wait.  (No, I’m not kidding).  Say it.  Out loud.  If you really want to believe something, it can help to speak it out loud.  So let’s try it again:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

I’ve never made a tapestry, or any major work of art, but I can understand that those who do need to repeatedly take a step back to look at the big picture.  Just looking at the little area where the artist is currently working doesn’t allow for seeing how that bit fits with the rest of the piece.

A change of perspective can make all the difference.

When Joseph was being sold into slavery, being accused of committing a crime he didn’t commit or serving time in prison (Genesis 37, 39-41) I’ll bet he wasn’t thinking, “Hey perfect!  Slavery!  This is the next logical step in accomplishing my leadership vision!”

Of course not.  But what Joseph did do was use the gifts God had given him even in his distress.

Joseph had taken hold of God’s purpose for his life.  He believed that God had a plan for him.  But he still had to walk through very difficult experiences (for years) to see those plans fulfilled.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

How many things?

How many?

And who are you?

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  God made us to be overcomers, even when we don’t feel like it.

-Susan Landry

How to Change: Pray!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Conclusion and Recap

We started the week with a memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’ve been trying to show why this verse, to me, is so closely tied with prayer. So let’s go over everything from earlier this week and try to tie it all together.

2 Corinthians 5-17

We started by talking about why we need to pray. The main reason I pointed out is that Jesus explicitly commands it. According to our verse in 2 Corinthians, if we are doing what Jesus said to do, then we will become a new creation, leaving our old selves behind.

 

Then we moved on to talking about what we should do with our bodies when we pray. This was a little different because the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should or shouldn’t pray, although it does give us some examples. Jesus would pray alone, some people prayed in front of others, some prayed in their hearts and some others prayed kneeling. Find the way that you can have the most productive prayer time and follow through with it.

 

On a similar note, we talked about what things we should pray for and what our words should sound like. Our prayers should consist of praises (things we love about God), petitions (things we want and need from God) and Repentance (asking for forgiveness and pledging to turn from our error filled ways). It’s important to hit all three categories and not exclude one because this is how Jesus himself taught us how to pray. We also need to be sure to pray, not to be heard (like the hypocrites who babble) because God already knows all of your prayers, but rather to make these prayers known to yourself.

 

Making the prayers known to yourself is what I claimed the entire purpose of prayer is. When we prayer, it’s not like God thinks “Oh, so that’s what Nathaniel needs from me!” No. He already knows what I need. We pray to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to change ourselves and also to be able to turn from our sin. This is how the change comes about; it is how we become a new creation.

 

And finally, I tried to tackle a very big, very difficult question: Why do some prayers go unanswered? My thoughts on this are that the way God set up the world to work many years ago was to be able to function without his direct influence. He created humans with the capacity to learn and to love and he created a universe that makes sense and follows logical rules. I believe that he very rarely chooses to intervene and grant miracles to those who pray for them. Instead, he gave us, his servants, the tools to carry out his will. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.

 

All of this together wraps up my thoughts on prayers. Maybe you have additional thoughts or even different opinions. That’s great! Just keep studying and looking to Jesus, because when we are in him, we are a new creation.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

(Editor’s Note: We apologize for the picture that was included on Sunday.  It gave an incorrect reference for the verse.  Today’s is accurate.  Thank you for reading!)

What Happens When We Pray?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

psalm 145 18

We know that God already knows our thoughts and prayers before we ever lift them up to him (Matthew 6:8), so why do we still need to pray? Yesterday, I promised you an answer to this question and today I will do my best to provide you with one.
I first want to start with a story from when I was in elementary school. Back in those days, I was too young to drive, so I would use my bike to get around. For my birthday one year, I got the coolest green bike from my parents. I loved that thing and would ride it up and down my street or take it to my friend’s house. Then one day while I was at my friend’s house, my green bike was stolen out of his driveway. After this happened, I prayed for weeks that God would give me a new bike. Firstly, I don’t know what I expected God to do. Did I expect a new bike to show up in my garage overnight? Did I expect him to take control of my parents and have them go and buy a new bike?  Regardless, what ended up happening was not what I asked for. Instead of getting a new bike, I had a change of heart.

 

After days of praying about this, I realized that what I was praying for really was not necessary. So what does prayer do? God works through prayer to change us. Whenever we pray in Jesus’ name, we are actively being made into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now there are certainly special cases where God physically interacts with the world to answer our prayers. This has a special name: miracles. I absolutely believe that God has the power to grant any kind of miracle, but I also believe that he rarely chooses to do so. He is our Father that knows what is best for us (Matthew 6:30), and will not neglect us. However, most of our prayers will be a medium for God to work in our own hearts and minds to change us. This is why we must commit ourselves to constant prayer. On the one hand, if we have important issues on our mind and in our prayers at all times, then our actions will start to reflect those things and through our actions, God can answer our prayers. On the other hand, if we spend our time praying for frivolous things, we will be able to realize that by the amount of time we spend thinking and praying about it.

 

This of course leads to one more very difficult question: if God knows what we need and won’t neglect us, than why do some of our prayers, especially those for healing, go unanswered? We will dive into that topic tomorrow. But for today, focus on prayer and being made into a new creation.

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

Why Should We Pray?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Luke 18-1

I don’t want to spend any time talking about what prayer is or how we should go about it before I even convince you that we should be praying.

So why should we pray?

I think this is a pretty easy question to answer. Jesus commands it. There are a few verses that explicitly command prayer: Matthew 6:5-15, Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:18 and Luke 18:1. I want to look a little closer at the verse in Luke today.

”Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).  If we strive to be disciples of Jesus, then we should always pray. Being a disciple is essential to being “in Jesus,” just like our memory verse says. If we commit ourselves to constant prayer, than we can become a new creation.

Seems like a pretty easy step right? All we have to do is pray! Tomorrow we’ll talk about what that looks like.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

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