The Great Debate

Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Do you know who I would love to see debate in a globally televised event? Jesus and the Pharisees. Sure, Jesus could take on the whole crew of them. For people who had so much in common, they sure were polar opposites.

What did Jesus and the Pharisees have in common? They were from the same family. They could trace their ancestry back to Abraham. They were Jews born at the same time in history. Both Jesus and the Pharisees knew well and deeply appreciated the Old Testament scriptures. They both knew the importance of the coming Messiah the Jews anticipated. They both spoke of how to please God and urged people to follow the way they laid out in order to be saved in the life to come. They had so much in common. Imagine what they could have done together for God’s work – if only the Pharisees hadn’t been so pharisaical.

The Pharisees loved the law of Moses so much (as well as the additions they added to the Law to make themselves look even more saintly) that they were blinded to the true Messiah in front of them. In the end they were much more interested in making themselves look good (and pointing out others’ shortcomings) than in doing what God actually desired – and that is a dangerous place to be.

In today’s reading we come across a few topics that would surely come up in our much anticipated debate between the Pharisees and Jesus.

The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity and his displays of God’s power. But, rather than accepting him for who he was showing himself to be – they preferred creating lies and rumors for something they didn’t fully understand. So, when the crowd was amazed at Jesus’ healing of a demon possessed man, the Pharisees tried to explain it away by saying Jesus must be working with Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24 & Luke 11:15). I don’t think I would take that very well, but Jesus calmly rebuttals that if indeed Satan were working at driving out Satan, his house wouldn’t be standing for long. He goes on to say that from evil you can expect evil, but from good you can expect good – for what is stored up in a man overflows for all to see and hear. And, he reminds them that there is a day coming when all will be judged for “every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

But, they fail to realize the wisdom and truth and warnings Jesus spoke. So, the debate topics continue. They notice Jesus didn’t wash his hands before he ate (this definitely sounds like a debate topic that could be used today against a political opponent – times never change). Jesus counters with a truth stinger – the Pharisees spend so much time making sure they look good on the outside, but they neglect the more important work of cleaning up their own greed and wickedness on the inside. They are so busy harping on the itty-bitty showing-off, do-good outside acts (like tithing on the produce from their herb garden) and expecting praise for their goodness – but they completely overlook the weighty matters of justice and God’s love. In trying to make themselves look holy, they have neglected to care for others. And Jesus was telling them that is a dangerous place to be. Judgment will also be coming for today’s Pharisees.

Thankfully, there is another option. Jesus laid it out. Be his family – accept who Jesus is – do the will and work of his Father in heaven – not your own selfish agenda, or what will make you look good in the eyes of today’s twisted Pharisees who try to tell us how to be godly but have totally missed the boat themselves. Draw closer to Jesus than you ever have been before so you can tell the difference between the truth that he offers and the lies of the Pharisees. Your life depends on it – as well as the lives of those who are watching you.

There will be a time coming when the whole world will see and know who is the clear winner of this debate.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 13 and Luke 8 as we continue on our…

Don’t Slip to the Default

Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11 3 NASB

Today is another comparison between the righteous and the wicked.  This time most of the comparisons are about outcomes.  Although it may already be clear, there is a relationship between wisdom and righteousness.  There is also a relationship between fools and the wicked.  Because of temptation always trying to lead us astray, fools turn towards wickedness, but it takes seeking wisdom to be righteous.

Verse 3 through 6 say:

The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed

We see that the upright or righteous person will be delivered from death.  The fool or wicked person will be destroyed.  The money, possessions or whatever else they have gained from their crooked ways cannot save them.  We see people who have gained wealth and power from all kinds of things that are not pleasing to God.   We see people that appear to have it made who are not seeking God’s wisdom.  We see righteous people who are seeking God’s wisdom go through struggles.  However, It is made very clear that no matter what people gain from their wicked ways, in the end it will catch up with them and they will be destroyed.  In the end, the righteous ones will be delivered.

Another example from this chapter is verses 24-26

24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
25 The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.
26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

There are people who teach that this is specifically talking about wealth in the current time.  They say that if you give away $10.00, you will get $100.00 in return.  I don’t think that is accurate, and I don’t think it is even a great blessing compared to all the blessings that God does give us.  However, the generous man is the one who is doing what God wants, which makes it a wise decision.  The generous will be blessed.  The miser who withholds everything for himself will be cursed.  I think some of this comes in everyday life.  If someone who is generous and helpful has a problem, often people will help that person.  However, when someone who is greedy and never helps anyone else has a problem, people are unlikely to help that person.

Verses 29 and 30 say:

He who troubles his own house will inherit wind,
And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.

The outcome of seeking Godly wisdom and following in God’s righteousness is life for themselves and for the souls they win.  We have to choose daily to seek after wisdom.  If we make no choice, foolishness and ultimately destruction are the default choice.

Andrew Hamilton

Judy’s Candy Bar Story

Proverbs 5

Proverbs 5 23 NIV

Solomon begins Proverbs 5 again reminding us to seek out God’s wisdom. We must not only hear the wisdom offered, but we must absorb that wisdom and apply it to our lives, so that we can make wise and moral decisions.  Then your “lips may preserve knowledge”.  In other words, the things we say will be full of knowledge and insight.  Solomon knows that we need God’s wisdom to help us make wise choices, because we are constantly facing temptations.

Solomon continues the chapter talking about our temptations, using the example of an adulterous woman.  He says, “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” (Proverbs 5:3) Simply put, this means that this immoral woman may come to you with sweet, flattering words.  She will look and sound very tempting.  She will tell you whatever it takes to lure you into believing that sexually sinning with her will bring you nothing but joy and happiness.

However, the next few verses go on to say, “But in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.  She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”  (Proverbs 5:4-6)  In verse 3 it seemed as though the woman was offering bliss, but we find out in these verses that she actually will lead us to suffering and death.  You notice it says “her steps lead straight to the grave”.  We are all moving on a path.  Each day we make countless decisions that are leading us down a path.  We need to be using the wisdom God has provided to us in the Bible to make sure we are making choices leading us on the right path.

In verse eight Solomon goes on to offer this advice, “Keep to a path far from her (the adulteress), do not go near the door of her house.”  The message here is stay as far away from temptation as possible.  Do not put yourself in situations that will tempt you to sin.

The story of Judy’s chocolate bar is the perfect illustration of the stay-as-far-away-from-temptation-as-possible principle.  Judy loves chocolate.  In fact, Judy loves chocolate too much, so she decides to not eat chocolate for a month.  One day, after deciding to give up chocolate for a month, Judy is at the grocery store buying food for dinner.  While at the store, Judy decides to just go down the aisle where the chocolate is.  She is not going to buy any, she just wants to look at it.  As she gets closer to the chocolate she notices that it is on sale.  Judy decides to purchase just one bar of chocolate.  She will not eat it now, but it is on such a good sale, she wants to take advantage of the bargain and buy it for later.  When she gets home from the store, she keeps thinking of the chocolate bar that is now sitting in her cupboard. Judy believes that just getting to smell the chocolate will be very satisfying and help her to stop craving the chocolate, so she unwraps the chocolate bar and takes a large whiff of the delicious chocolate.  It smells incredible.  Judy sets a small piece of the chocolate on her tongue, not to eat it, but just to take a little lick.  You guessed it, soon the chocolate is gone!  Judy devours the entire bar.  The question is, when would it have been easiest for Judy to refrain from eating the chocolate? Would it have been easier to not eat the chocolate when it was sitting in the wrapper in the cupboard, or when it was sitting on Judy’s tongue?  What if Judy had never gone down the chocolate aisle at the store, but had instead just gone to the fresh produce section?

We need to constantly pursue wisdom, so that we can make God-pleasing choices.  We must be vigilant so that we do not believe any of the world’s lies. And finally, when we have identified what our stumbling blocks are, we must stay far away and avoid those temptations.

Jill McClain

Transforming your Mind

FREE THEME – Romans 12:9-21

romans 12 2 (1)

Every morning when I wake up I try to have my first thoughts be, “Thank you, God, for another day of life and the blessings you will give me today.” Unfortunately, often, my first thought is, “I have cancer” and I have a sinking feeling in my heart. I have to intentionally then redirect my thoughts to the first statement, put a smile on my face, remembering God’s goodness and mercy. I may have cancer, but God sent Jesus so I can be made right with him and live forever with him in his kingdom. That is worth far more than anything this life has to offer. 

But I have to keep reminding myself of this because the things of this life bring so much pleasure and that is what I know and want to keep knowing. I love my family, friends, church, God’s beautiful creation, vacations, sewing, art, … And it can go on. And now I am a grandmother as well! 

But even with these things that I love and know first hand, I don’t always appreciate or treat them in a way that would honor or please them or God. I have to be reminded again and again about having the right attitude, treating people right, and living intentionally. That is what Romans 12 helps us do.

 

Romans 12 is a chapter in the Bible that we as Christians would be wise to read every day. It reminds us of the practical, and yet profound, attitudes and actions we are to have in our relationship with God, fellow believers, and everyone we come in contact with. The following passage is verses 1-2 and then 9 and following. Read them carefully. 

 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

  • “Let love be genuine. 
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. 
  • Outdo one another in showing honor. 
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 
  • Live in harmony with one another. 
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. 
  • Never be wise in your own sight. 
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 
  • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2, 9-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

You may not have to deal with all of these on any given day, but every day you will be faced with some of them. In keeping these instructions in our minds we will be ready when a situation faces us and we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, respond in a way that will please and honor our God and Maker. The bonus is that not only will the situation turn out better, but you will be happier, with an inner peace and joy, as you grow and mature into the person God has called you to be. 

Beth Mattison

Keeping God’s Gospel

Galatians 1

Galatians 1 7

Today we are going to be starting the book of Galatians which was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia.

After his introduction, he gets right into a major problem he is seeing among them:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Although this was an issue the people of Galatia were having, it is something that we can fall prey to as well.  It is a good reminder to us that the truth matters and that if we are trying to present the gospel contrary to what is found in Scripture, we are in trouble.

He continues on with his reminder in this way:

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

You may find that it is easy to go through life being a people pleaser, and you may be able to avoid a lot of conflict this way, but if you are so focused on pleasing people to the extent that you start to displease God, you are going to have problems.

Now, I’m not saying you should try to stir up conflict with others.  We are told in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But that doesn’t mean that you give in to the world.  You still have a responsibility first and foremost to God to uphold His Word which brings us back to keeping the gospel as it is presented in Scripture.  It is an unchanging story.

This first chapter finishes up with Paul summarizing his conversion and early faith story which we read about earlier this year in Acts.  If you missed it, go back and read the full account!  When Paul is writing here, he is assuming that his readers have already heard the story and he doesn’t go into much detail.  His point here is that God was praised because of Paul’s conversion, not because they knew Paul at all.

Most of us probably don’t have a story like Paul’s, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t be praised because of what we do for Him.  If our lives are reflecting God’s love, He will be praised.  Make that your goal for the week – that because of how you are living, God will be given praise.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

What Do You Hate in Life?

Proverbs 6 17-19

I was reading in Proverbs about the things that God hates, this got me thinking about the things I hate. Towards the top of the list were things like people chewing with their mouth open, people who leave the toilet seat up and running out of TV shows to watch on netflix, just to name a few.

Let’s take a look at God’s list.

 

There are six things the Lord hates,

   seven that are detestable to him:

17         haughty eyes,

       a lying tongue,

       hands that shed innocent blood,

18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,

       feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19         a false witness who pours out lies

       and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19

Wow, my list suddenly seems very trivial. After reading this it got me thinking about my husband. In a relationship we communicate the things we love and the things we hate and out of respect and love for that person we do our best to please them. I appreciate my husband for caring about what I love but also for not doing the things I hate, like chewing with his mouth open.

 

In the same way, I appreciate that God clearly communicates to me the things He hates. Because of this I can do my best to please Him by loving the things He loves and hating the things He hates.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski (with help from Zack)

More and More

1st Thessalonians 4

1 Thess 4 1 

This is one of my favorite chapters.  I will explain why shortly; first,  I want to point out that this chapter talks about living to please God. Verse 1 not only asks, but urges us in the Lord Jesus to please God more and more. It says to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. We are told to love each other. It seems like I have heard that before?  How about in Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) where it says:

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

If we follow those commandments, we will please God. And if it is mentioned more than once, it must be important.

 

Now the reason this is one of my favorite chapters is because it speaks about the sleep of the dead. It says that one day Jesus will return and those who have fallen asleep have hope. We have HOPE! Hope of what you ask? Hope of meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him and God FOREVER! Verse 18 says to encourage each other with these words.  So I tell you encourage each other that we will be able to live for eternity with not only other believers but also God and Jesus.

 

Tomorrow we will talk about the last chapter of 1st Thessalonians, Chapter 5.

 

-The Ransoms

A New Name

Tuesday –

Untitled design

Yesterday we talked about labels.  Let’s take a look at some labels of folks we see in the Bible.

Gideon labeled himself the weakest member of the weakest clan of Israel.  Yet God’s angel addressed him as “mighty warrior”.  Now, he didn’t immediately become that mighty warrior, but he did eventually grow into his new name. (Judges 6)

We see other times in Scripture when people are given new names: Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, and Paul, for example.  And each time, the new name carries a new purpose.

Let’s look at Peter.

 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17-18)

I think it’s interesting to note that AFTER Jesus gives Peter his new name and new purpose, Peter STILL fails Jesus (repeatedly).  It takes him time to grow into this new name.

We all have this idea that once we accept Christ, or once we really commit ourselves, or once we decide to live to please God for real — that all of the sudden our trajectory will be consistently up.

Unfortunately, just like Gideon and Peter, we are human.  We fail.  We fall down.  We screw up.

But, just like Gideon and Peter, if we get back up and keep trying, we will keep moving upward.  Sometimes, we need someone to remind us of our new label, our new purpose.  So, I’ll remind you:

You have greatness inside you.  It’s time to act like it!

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  Do you ever feel like your best just isn’t good enough?

While We Wait

2 Peter

2-peter-3-9

Friday, July 14

During high school, I would bring my Bible to study during lunch and free time. Numerous people would ask me why I would put my faith in a book that was written by various authors and not “actually written by God.” I always tried to defend why I believed what the Bible told me but felt like I wasn’t explaining it correctly. 2 Peter 1:20-21 states that we “must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Had I come along this passage while defending the Bible, it would have been a lot simpler to explain my reasoning.

Being mature in our faith and living Godly lives is imperative these days due to the fact that God and Jesus will soon return. We are to “make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if we possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV). The reason we should ensure that we are living to the standards set for us by God is because there are false teachers in the world who will try and lead us astray. These teachers will tell lies that seem to be true, but will also deny the Lord and live sinful lifestyles. The people that are most vulnerable to this destruction are those who don’t have solid foundation in Biblical teaching.
While we wait for the day of the Lord to arrive, we need to “be on our guard so that we may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from our secure position. But we should grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18 NIV). Today, I want you to take the time and ask God to show you how to live a life pleasing to Him and ask Him for forgiveness of your sins. He doesn’t want any of us to perish and wants everyone to repent. I look forward to when God and Jesus come back to make the Kingdom here on earth and pray that we all have salvation! May God bless you today and always. Amen.
-Cynthia Fyfe
(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/2-peter/3/9)

Pearls from Peter

I Peter 1-5

1-peter-3-10-11

Thursday, July 13

 

The Christian lifestyle can be hard to follow for a variety of reasons- worldly desires,  living in ignorance, not submitting ourselves to authority, or going through tough times. Thankfully, Peter gives us advice on how to live a life that is pleasing to God and, also, explains how to endure the struggles and hardship we may be facing in our daily lives.

Peter tells us that as God’s chosen people, we need to live holy lives by loving the brotherhood of believers, fearing God, honoring the king, and showing proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 3:8-9 states: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Our lives may become more manageable and less stressful once we dedicate our lives to Jesus.
Suffering from major depression, anxiety, or any other hindrance can be hard to live with. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV). It is nice to know that all we have to do is ask God to take our pain and suffering away because he loves us.
According to 1 Peter 3:17-18, “it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…”  We are taught to depend on Christ more when we suffer and we shouldn’t feel ashamed for suffering as a Christian. Luckily, we know that we aren’t the only ones suffering in the world and can help each other when things seem to get out of control.
Whatever you may be doing this week, next month, or a year from now, remember 1 Peter 4:7-11: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” I pray that we all learn how to live the correct way that is pleasing to our Lord and serve Him in whatever capacity we can with the gifts He gave us. God bless you. Amen.
-Cynthia Fyfe
(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/1-peter/3/10-11)