Identity in Christ: You are loved!

Ephesians 2

When you think of the word “love,” what comes to mind?

Our culture would like for us to believe that love is found in sappy movies, romance novels or certain songs on the radio, but that’s simply not the reality.

1st John 4:7-11 reads, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

God created each of us with a desire to love and be loved, but He did that so He could be the one to fulfill that desire and work through us. But His love reaches even deeper.

Ephesians 2: 1-10 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5 made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. “

Let’s unpack this passage a bit. First, while we were still sinners and walking in accordance with our own will and what we wanted to do, God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, even though we didn’t deserve it, out of pure grace. We did nothing on our own to earn that privilege. Secondly, God’s purpose for this was for us to reflect His love and grace to the world so that we could one day enjoy fellowship with Him and Jesus in the Kingdom.

So now that we have received love and grace from God to the point of Him choosing to sacrifice his only Son to bring many of his sons to glory, (as the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us points out) what are we supposed to do? How do we go about letting our Father’s love radiate though us?

1) Spend time with Him through prayer, Bible reading and worship. Just as a bond is strengthened with your best friend whenever you go out for lunch or whatever you may do to spend time with them, our bond is strengthened with God when we make it a priority to spend time with Him.

2) Invest in your personal relationships, whether that is with brothers and sisters in Christ, or people you may know that are not Christians. We are called to the breaking of bread and fellowship (Acts 2:42) but we’re also called to evangelize and share the Gospel (1st Peter 3:15, 2nd Corinthians 5:20).

3) Finally, tell your friends and family that you love them through words and actions. I know this seems obvious, but in today’s society, social media and text messaging takes away from hearing a verbal “I love you.” When we have a friend or family member that is struggling, quite often we assume that just because we see them online, they must be okay instead of going over to their house to check in and keep them company (with their permission of course). So, I encourage you to ponder how you can show your love and God’s love to those around you.

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Song of Solomon 3-5 and Ephesians 2

Marked by God for Salvation

Because of their Grief over Evil

Ezekiel 9 4 NIV sgl

Ezekiel 9 – 12

 

In addition to many similarities between the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, there are also many similarities between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

 

In Ezekiel 9:4, we see God commanded someone with a writing kit to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”  Then God commanded others in verses 5 and 6 to “follow him through the city and kill without showing pity or compassion.  Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.”

 

I’ll point out that this is similar to the 144,000 in Revelation 7 who have the seal of God on their forehead, and are protected, but that’s not what I want to comment on.

 

I want to focus on those in Ezekiel who were to be sealed.  Specifically, the only ones marked were, “those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things” that were going on in Jerusalem.

 

This makes me wonder what God thinks of people today who claim to be God’s people, including us.  Do we grieve and cry because of the sins of our nation?  If not, and if we had lived back then, we would have been targeted for slaughter.  That’s a sobering thought.  It isn’t enough to just try to live a righteous life, we should also be deeply distressed by the evil we see around us.

 

I’m reminded of 2 Peter 2:7-8, which says, “and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)”.  I reference this to point out that Lot was distressed and tormented by what he saw and heard in Sodom.

 

I’m also reminded of 2 Corinthians 6:17, which says, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

 

God is calling us to radically follow Him.  I don’t mean we should be radical like, say, Islamic jihadists, I mean we should radically live for God – so much so that we are tormented by the evil that surrounds us.  If we were, I dare say, we would much more enthusiastically share the gospel with the dying world around us.

 

I’ll close with the exhortation found  in Jude 1:22-23, “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to from BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 9-12

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezekiel 13-15 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Facts of Life

Matthew 10

emoyer - facts of life

Ok, so I am going to age myself this week.  An old sitcom that was popular when I was young had a “catchy”/ jingle that would get stuck in my head every week when it was on.  The Facts of Life.  The chorus was:

You take the good, you take the bad,

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

 

There’s a time you got to go and show

You’re growin’ now you know about the facts of life,

The facts of life.

 

When the world never seems to be livin’ up to your dreams

And suddenly you’re finding out

The facts of life are all about you, you.

 

It takes a lot to get ’em right

When you’re learning the facts of life. (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life.

 

If we we all think back and think about how we thought our lives would be, we would probably admit that things are nowhere near what we had dreamed if we are honest with ourselves.  In our reading today (Matthew 10) Jesus was speaking to his disciples and charging them to go out and share the gospel to the world.  He knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The disciples had a long and challenging road ahead of them.  In fact, sharing the message and living for him would be one of the hardest things the disciples would ever do.  It was the disciples “Facts of Life” message from Jesus.  As we consider our relationship with Jesus, we might find times that make us angry, confused and end up with doubts and hurt.  What I take from these verses is the challenges may be great- and they are.  We may have teachers, family members, coworkers and friends that challenge, mock us or walk away from our lives. But the reward is greater.  

Let’s focus on what Jesus says in verses 21-23.  The Message Version says: “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family.  There is a great irony here:  proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!  But don’t quit.  Don’t cave in.  It is all well worth it in the end.  It is not success you are after in such times but survival.  Be survivors!  Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”   

So don’t cave in! Don’t be discouraged.  As the song lyrics state:It takes a lot to get it right when you are learning the facts of life. The fact is Jesus loves you and desires your commitment, love, praise and life.  He wants you to face these challenges in life and the end result is the ultimate prize. It does take work and the road may not always be easy but he is there and his love and promise is worth it.

emoyer-ruff

-Emily Moyer

See Where God is at Work

Romans 1-16

The theme for our devotions this week was the gospel. The Bible is full of accounts and teaching but the most important teaching is the gospel. Self-examine and be honest with yourself, ask ‘Do I know the gospel? Can I show someone in the Bible where it is? Do I understand the gravity and significance of this message?’ Often times many Christians are weak on the gospel. Either they don’t know it or they don’t live by it or they fail to share about it with others. Which leads us to today’s lesson: share the gospel with other people.

If you have ever shared the gospel, you know it is scary. In the two years God has worked with me about sharing the good news to people, and let me tell you whether I’m sharing with an immediate family member or a total stranger, it’s scary every single time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get comfortable with it. Just like with anything, the first time you share is rough and you might stumble over your words or be extremely nervous. But the more times you do it, the better you become at it. When you share the good news with someone, you are speaking the eternal into the temporal. You speak life into death. You shed light into the pitch black void. God is with you and the spirit is at work in you when you share the gospel. I want to share some lessons I’ve learned in my experience with sharing the gospel.

  1. Have spiritual eyes and ears to discern a situation.

Let God direct you with whom to speak the gospel to. Some people are at a place in life where they’re not ready to hear the message. Be sensitive to the spirit and if you feel a prod to talk to someone or steer a conversation to faith, do it – God is with you. You don’t have to share the gospel with every person you come across.

  1. You don’t save anyone, God does.

The greatest miracle is the miracle of conversion. God is the only one able to bring that about. Don’t gauge your success by how many people you get to convert, that’s not what God wants from you. You can’t even save yourself, how can you save someone else? Instead gauge your success by if you’re sharing the gospel or not. If you are faithful and share, then you’re a successful evangelizer. I’ve shared the message with many people and none of them, to my knowledge have converted, still, in God’s eyes I am successful.

  1. It’s not an option, it’s a command.

It may be easier to not evangelize however it directly disobeys Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew 28:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” – Matt. 28.19

It’s easy to go to church, attend Bible studies, listen to Christian music, or post verses on your social media and so on. But the mark of a mature Christian is one who takes the message of salvation they received and shares it with others. Let us have confidence to obey Jesus in this all too important area of life. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.

Be the one who obeys Jesus and spreads the gospel. Be the spiritual warrior who wages war against the powers of darkness. Be the one who breaks the silence and darkness with the power and glory of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Rom. 1.16

“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” – Acts 8.12

-Jacob Rohrer-