The Law of the Letter or of Life

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Job 3-4, 2 Corinthians 3

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

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

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

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

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

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

What’s That Smell?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

Job 1-2, 2 Corinthians 2

My husband is a great cook, but he takes a long time to prepare his meals. On the nights when he is in charge of dinner, I wait patiently for him to chop all of the vegetables, season the meat, and get something sizzling over the stove. After 30 minutes (or a few hours), I finally know that dinner is ready when I get a whiff of something that smells delicious. That smell draws me into the kitchen; it’s enticing and promises a great meal. 

In today’s reading, we read a little bit more about Paul’s testimony. He explains some of the trials that he has faced in his ministry, some of which are difficult and bring him to tears. At the end of 2 Corinthians 2, Paul begins to turn his focus on the way the Corinthians are living. And the question he asks is one that is a little strange, “What do you smell like?” 

At home, I get to smell the delicious smell of my husband’s cooking. But, at work, the smells are not so pleasant. Middle School boys back from PE hang out in a cramped classroom, where Axe Body Spray mixes with some pretty rank BO. Sometimes the students can’t take it anymore and they say, “Mrs. Fletcher, I need some Febreeze in here, because it STINKS!” So, obviously I get to smell the best of smells and some of the worst of smells. Smells that bring me joy and lead to life and smells that make me die a little inside. 

So let’s go back to Paul’s question – “What do you smell like?” He’s not talking about smelling nice like you are about to go on a date to a nice restaurant. Or smelling bad like a middle schooler back from Field Day. He’s talking about the way that our ‘fragrance’ – our way of living – shows Christ to other people. 

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.” 
Paul here is saying that we are the fragrance that points people to who Christ is. Through us just being in people’s lives, we should leave behind a scent of Christ. This scent can encourage others to know Christ more – an “aroma of life leading to life” – or it can convict others who refuse to follow Christ – “an aroma of death leading to death.” Our testimony points others to Christ. People are watching, and they are judging the Christian faith based on how you are living. So, I’ll ask you the same question: What do you smell like?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Our Testimony

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Esther 9-10, 2 Corinthians 1

So far this week, we’ve seen how we need to live in light of our ‘why’ – or our purpose for living. Our why should be the gospel. We’ve also seen how we can live in light of our final victory. Jesus has already won the war, so we can face our battles with strength and determination. As Paul begins 2 Corinthians, we see him turn his focus onto another important element of our Christian walk – our testimony. 

The word testimony means “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” When we think of a testimony, we may imagine someone getting up in court and attesting to what they believe happened in a situation. Testimonies are important and can be used as evidence in serious cases. If a testimony is given in court, that can make the difference between whether or not justice is served. 

In our Christian walk, we also give a testimony. Our testimony is the evidence of Christ’s work in our lives. It is our account of how the gospel has changed us. Sometimes our testimony may look like it does on true crime documentaries. We get up in front of our church or small group and recount in 1-5 minutes how we came to know Jesus and what he has done for us. Our testimony however is much more than a short speech. Our testimony is our whole lives. 

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul gives his own personal testimony of issues that he had previously in his missionary journey. At one point in their travels, they had even despaired of living because things had gotten so bad. But Paul reminds himself and the Corinthians of his hope. He says, 

9 Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again 11 while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11) 

Even in the midst of his trouble, Paul reminds himself of what God has done for him in his life. He knows that God has already delivered him, and so, he can trust that God will deliver him again. This truth helps to strengthen Paul’s own faith when faced with a difficult circumstance. It also becomes an amazing testimony for the church as a whole. The Corinthians can see how Paul handles this time of trials, and they can live with the same mindset in their own lives. 

Our testimony can be based on the past times that God has been faithful to us, but our testimony also includes how we treat others. In verse 12, Paul goes on, “12 For this is our confidence: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.” The way we treat other people is also a part of our testimony. If we treat others well – with God-given sincerity and purity, we will testify, or show evidence, that the gospel makes us better people. It makes us a people full of love and grace. Our actions can testify for God or they can testify against God. It depends on how we live. 

What is your testimony?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

We Will Win the War!

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Esther 7-8, 1 Corinthians 16

Esther took a chance and invited the King to dinner again. By this point, she knew that she had to act fast, but you can tell that she was nervous. If the king was angry at her request, she could have been sent away like Vashti – or worse. The king asked her again what she desired and she spoke out against Haman, letting the king know that Haman was planning destruction for her, Mordecai, and her whole people. Furious, the king sentences Haman to be hung on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Mordecai was then given Haman’s estate and role as advisor to the king. 

A happy ending for Esther and Mordecai, but there was still a dark day planned for the Jews. After the king gave the edict Haman advised him to give, he signed it with his signet ring. An order from the king was not able to be revoked; the day Haman had planned for the Jews would still happen. In order to prevent total destruction of the Jews, Mordecai planned another day where the Jews would be able to face anyone in battle who was hostile to them. Because of this order, there was rejoicing. The Jews could defend themselves, and consequently, they would not be destroyed. They knew they faced a battle, but ultimately, they had already won the war. The king was on their side. They would have victory. 

Most of us will not face a battle like this in our lifetime. We don’t need to worry about anyone destroying our communities, families, or – for the most part – even our property. We may not face physical battles, but we will face spiritual battles. Jesus promised in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We know that we will have trouble in this world, but we can be encouraged that Jesus has the victory. We may have battles, but we know that we will win the war! 

Paul encouraged the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “13 Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. 14 Your every action must be done with love.” We need this encouragement too. Whenever we face difficult trials and temptations, we can stand firm in the faith. We can be strong. And, we know that we can overcome. We pray – as Paul did – ‘Lord Jesus come’ and then we face our battles head on, because we know that we will win the war! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

The Victory

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

Esther 5-6, 1 Corinthians 15

I love summers because it seems like the pace of life slows down just a little. With camps, VBS, and simply more time, I feel like I can evaluate my priorities and reorient myself towards the things that really matter. Once August rolls around, my mind starts thinking about my classroom in the Fall, and I begin to plan out how I want my year to look. It’s helpful to think about those big priorities when planning out my next year. I want my life to be lived in light of my ‘whys’ – the reasons that I have for doing what I do.

If we are not intentional with our lives, the reason we have for living can range from getting our next meal, next paycheck, or next night out. These things can easily become what dominates our thoughts and our actions. If our lives are ruled by these things, we may end up going down a wicked path – as in the case of Haman. He wanted to get his next egotrip from everyone bowing down to him. When Mordecai didn’t, Haman didn’t stop at anything to destroy the Jews – which he thought would make him feel better. He thought it would make him have that feeling of pride (or being admired) again. Because his pride was his ‘why,’ all of his thoughts and actions led to how he can get that feeling of being admired again. This took him down a dangerous path that ultimately led to his destruction. 

In today’s passage in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul talks to the Corinthians about their ‘whys.’ The Corinthians had people who were trying to teach that there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul systematically goes through their arguments and refutes them. One main point of his argument is that if there is no resurrection from the dead, Christ was also not resurrected from the dead. And, if that’s the case, then, what was Paul doing all of this for?  At one point, he reminds them of their ‘why’: 

29 Otherwise what will they do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are people baptized for them?[f] 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I affirm by the pride in you that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord: I die every day! 32 If I fought wild animals in Ephesus with only human hope,[g] what good did that do me?[h] If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.[i]   ~ 1 Corinthians 15:29-32

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, Paul argues, we should be pitied more than any other person. He would then be suffering only for a human hope. But, he reminds them later on: 

55 Death, where is your victory?

Death, where is your sting?[p]

56 Now the sting of death is sin,

and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory

through our Lord Jesus Christ!

~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Paul knew he was living with the power that comes from Christ’s victory over sin and death. This was his ‘why’ and this helped him to endure whatever he faced – whether shipwrecks or angry men – and glorify God in the process. 

Our ‘why’ is the gospel. When we live in light of eternity – in light of this ‘why’ – we can face whatever battles come our way. We can have the victory!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

If you’re not a sinner, you can skip this

Deuteronomy 21-23

Deut 22 21 b NIV 

What we’re pulling out of this text today and applying to our lives today may at first seem contradictory, but I don’t believe that it is.

Throughout these chapters, we see the phrase, “purge the evil from among you.”  In fact, many of the instructions God gave to the Israelites were for this very purpose.

Purging implies a complete eradication.  If my kids had lice, my goal would be a complete purge.  Mostly gone wouldn’t cut it.  That’s how God sees sin.

Purge sin completely

Paul gives a great analogy in 1 Corinthians 5, comparing sin among the body of Christ (the church) to yeast,

“Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?”

And in Ephesians 5 he uses that analogy again, and gives even more instruction on choosing God’s best (living by the Spirit) instead of choosing what comes naturally (the sinful nature).

Let’s come back to that thought after we look at our next principle.  Exclusion.

Come to the Table

In Deuteronomy chapter 23, we’re shown a list of those who are to be excluded from entering the assembly of the LORD.  Those of certain ancestry, illegitimate birth, or certain physical deformities were forbidden.

Instead of applying this principle directly to believers today, what strikes me is my gratefulness that Jesus changed all of this for us.

In Matthew 22 he tells a story of a banquet that the invited guests have declined to attend.  The host decides to invite everyone, even the ‘undesirables’.

“So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Paul addresses this as well in 1 Corinthians 6 when, after listing all of those who will not be a part of God’s kingdom….the sexually immoral, idolators, thieves, the greedy, the drunkards and more… he says to the church,

“And that is what some of you were.”

You might be thinking that these two principles give counter instructions.  After all, how can we “purge the evil from among us” if we are not excluding the wicked and sinful people?

Simply put, we are the sinful people.  God invites us to the table despite our wickedness, despite our illegitimacy. Once invited, the banquet changes us. As we indulge in the presence of God’s pure holiness, we are called to purge sin from our life and from our church body.  But let us never forget, like Paul writes in 1 Timothy, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXxLwxfo0U

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+21-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 24-27 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Saved to do Good Works

Titus 3_14

Titus 3

Today we are going to dive deeper into the discussion of good works and how we should apply it to our own lives.

Among some of Paul’s reminders to Titus, in chapter 3, verse 1, he mentions being ¨ready to do whatever is good¨. (Titus 3:1) Continue to ask God to show you what good works you can do. Ask Him to open your eyes to see what service needs to be done. Since God showed His love to us it is now our job to show that love to others. 

¨This is a trustworthy saying. And 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.¨ (Titus 3:8)

As we wait for the coming Kingdom we have a job to do. An opportunity to make a difference. Not only that, but it leads to a joyful and fulfilling life focused on God.

¨Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.¨ (Titus 3:14)

Throughout Titus I see a recurring theme of the importance of good works. This makes me believe that this was something Paul didn’t want Titus and the church in Crete to forget. So maybe we should devote ourselves to doing good as well. Find a way to serve and then do it. 

¨Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody¨       -Brad Montague

Grace (& good works) be with you all,

– Makayla Railton

Paul, the Servant

Titus 1

Titus 1 1

Similar to some of Paul’s other letters, he begins the book with an introduction of himself. To start off, Paul calls himself,  ̈a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.¨ (Titus 1:1) Paul’s willingness to serve allowed him to reach many churches and impact a whole lot more people. He clearly states that he is a servant of God to help the faith of God’s chosen. 

 

Throughout Paul’s letters we can find how he did this – by mentoring people in godliness. This includes Timothy, Titus, Philemon and entire churches in Colosse, Ephesus, Galatia, Corinth, Achaia, & Thessalonica. He consistently encouraged, prayed, and thanked God for them all. Since Paul understood that faithful churches needed Godly leaders he worked to mentor others to be those faithful leaders in the church for when Paul couldn’t be there. In verse 5 we can see Paul left Titus in charge of appointing elders for the churches on the island of Crete. He gave Titus careful instructions as well as warnings. He told Titus and the church to beware of, ̈rebellious people, mere talkers, and deceivers” who were ¨teaching things they ought not to teach ̈ (Titus 1:10,11)

 

Paul’s willingness to serve is shown through all of the mentoring he was able to do so that God’s word could continue to spread. This is something we should all learn from. We should encourage younger Christians as well as seek guidance from others more spiritually mature than us. 

 

And as Paul would say,

Grace be with you

 

-Makayla Railton

Persevere

2 Thessalonians 1

2 Thessalonians 1 4

Christians are called to live a life glorifying to God.  Sometimes, Christians assume that the Christian life is going to be easy.  This idea is very incorrect because 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 clearly speaks of how Paul, Silvanus and Timothy endured hardships during their walk with God.  They endured persecution for the cause of Christ.

Application: Don’t expect the Christian life to be easy, and painless.  God will allow trials and hardships to occur to test our faith and dependence on God.

Esther Heise

Repentance that Leads to Salvation

2 Corinthians 7

2 Corinthians 7_10

While I was at church last week, one of the younger girls that I have watched grow up  since she was a baby came up to me and was so very excited to whisper some big news into my ear. Her smile grew larger and larger as she leaned in close to reveal that she and her older sister are planning to be baptized in just a few weeks! I looked at her with excitement! I was overjoyed! What wonderful news for anyone to tell me, let alone this sweet girl who I adore. Of course as an education major, I am drawn towards investing in youth. I am passionate about teaching children in my daily life but more than that, I am passionate about guiding youth to become individuals who strive to honor God daily. In the same sense, Paul was passionate about building and growing the church. He was passionate about investing in others also as we see here in 2 Corinthians. I imagine the excitement that I had when I received the news of the baptisms in my church was similar to the excitement that Paul had when the people of Corinth were repenting.

 

 

While reading this chapter today, I was especially drawn to verses ten and eleven as they state,

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,

whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief

has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation,

what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved

yourselves innocent in the matter.

 

Question:

Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from pursuing a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father? Moreover, is there anything in your life that is stopping you from accepting the sacrifice that His son made on our behalf?

 

  • No matter where you are at in your life right now, no matter what struggles you may be facing, I encourage you to give it all to God. Lay down all of your burdens and troubles and He will meet you wherever you are. It’s not too late to say yes to His free and perfect gift. It’s one that you don’t want to miss out on!

 

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

 

-Kayla Tullis