Repent, Persevere, LIVE!

Revelation 2

Thursday, November 17, 2022

In Revelation 2, John is tasked by the Son of Man to begin writing to the seven churches. This chapter specifically details what should be written to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. All of these churches share a commonality of starting strong and then waning in righteousness over time. To Ephesus, the Son of Man comments on how they started strong, with perseverance and a low tolerance for evil. However, they have strayed from their faith, and so Jesus warns them to repent, or they will have their lampstand removed. In Revelation 1 it was discussed that the lampstands represented the churches, therefore the church would cease to exist. Furthermore, in repenting they are promised to be able to eat from the tree of life in the Kingdom.

The second church, Smyrna, has a fate that is full of tribulation. They have persevered through poverty and blasphemy against them, and Jesus remarks that the Devil would test them by having them thrown into prison. However, if they remain faithful, then they would receive the “crown of life.” He further remarks that “he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” This situation seems fairly awful, but when you put thought into it, this situation is represented by the world that we currently live in anyways. Sin and suffering are rampant, yet, we are promised the crown of life by persevering and overcoming. This message is purely to enforce steadiness in faith.

The third church, Pergamum, shares commonality with the situation described in the first church. They remained steadfast at first, but now there is heavy straying from their original path. Teachings of false gods, eating idol sacrifices, and general acts of immorality have become practices among some members of the church. Jesus warns that those who walk this path will have “war waged against them” personally. From the being who has a double-edged sword protruding from his mouth, that’s definitely not a message that I would take lightly. However, this can be avoided if they repent, and they in return will receive mana, a white stone, and a new name that only they will know.

The fourth church, Thyatira, has had a congregation that has been led astray by a woman named Jezebel. Now, this woman is not the same Jezebel from the Old Testament, but she is enabling people to practice extremely immoral practices as a false prophetess. The Lord commented that He gave her a chance to repent, but she steadfastly refused to do so. However, those who follow her have been given a chance now to repent, or else they will suffer pestilence alongside the false prophetess. And like the other churches, if they hold fast and overcome, then they will receive the morning star and will be given authority to rule over nations.

All of these messages have two similar messages that can be generalized and applied. The first message is that all of these churches are going through tribulation and external influence, and have been led astray. However, they all have time to repent. This is familiar, though, as every day we will struggle with the external pressures of sin and can very easily be led astray. However, Jesus has made it clear that everyone has a chance at forgiveness upon repentance, even someone as corrupt as the false prophetess influencing the people of the church in Thyatira. The second similar case in these messages is the reward for persevering. This is the same message that Jesus and his apostles have spread since the gospel and throughout the New Testament: the good news for those who hold fast and persevere. Sin is very easy to fall into, but staying on the righteous path is much more favorable considering the reward that awaits.

And so, let us take these messages to the four churches discussed so far and apply them to our lives, let this be like a message to us. Whatever sins we have committed; they are already known as the Lord knows our hearts and minds. This is referenced in Revelation 2:23. Therefore, our time left gives us a window of opportunity to repent of them, and live as righteously as we possibly can. In the end, true victory is on the side of the righteous.

-Colby Leggitt

Reflection Questions:

1. Smyrna specifically is tasked with remaining faithful until death. How can we ensure for ourselves that we are likewise holding steadfast throughout our lives?

2. The Son of Man has offered repentance to everybody mentioned who is living in sin in this chapter. How can we hold these messages in our minds when interacting with those who are deeply entrenched in sin?

3. Does it make sense that these churches have such devastating issues yet Jesus still holds the star of their angel in his right hand? Why?

But as for You…

Micah 5

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

One of the major downfalls of us as humans is that we love evidence. We hear a cool fact, and want to know where it is cited. We learn something in school, and we need a peer reviewed article. When a statistic is cited we like to know how the study was conducted. The cool thing about God is that he knows this about us. In Micah 5 we receive prophecy about Jesus which reads; “Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:1-2)

This direct prophecy from God through Micah foretells of the only king the Israelites will ever need, Jesus Christ the Messiah. The remainder of Micah 5 relays the message that the land of the Israelites will be laid waste for their sins and for their breaking of the covenant God set forth to protect them.

There’s a message that parallels something rather unfortunate that goes on in our modern churches today. I have been quite blessed in my experience in church growing up. The people surrounding me who I have known as God’s people have acted accordingly. However, as I meet others my age, I learn that is not always the case. This experience, I have come to learn, is called church hurt. It seems to be when people experience behavior that doesn’t quite align with the ways a Christian should conduct themselves, causing a disruption between what is expected from God’s people and the reality of their actions. But like all sin it’s hardly anything new. Micah was attempting to call out the corrupt leaders of his day, comparing them to Ahab stealing the family vineyard from Naboth, (see 1 Kings 21) and to call out the Prophets who are offering “God’s protection” to those who are willing to pay.

Throughout the book, Micah continues to warn that God has withdrawn his protection and is going to allow the Babylonians to take over and use them to remove the corruption of the Israelites.

“Then the remnant of Jacob Will be among many peoples Like dew from the Lord, Like showers on vegetation Which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men. The remnant of Jacob Will be among the nations, Among many peoples Like a lion among the beasts of the forest, Like a young lion among flocks of sheep, Which, if he passes through, Tramples down and tears, And there is none to rescue. Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries, And all your enemies will be cut off.” (Micah 5:7-9)

This is where we are today. Remnants of Jacob. We wait for the day of our prophesied King to return to rule correctly. So what do we do in the meantime? Despite having a bad experience, continue meeting with your fellow Christians, but be on guard for the “Wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). There will be a day when we are gathered together as one nation truly under God, and we’ll be awarded according to our faith in the King born in Bethlehem which prompts us to obey and work for him.

-John Evans

Reflection Questions

  1. What is the good news of Micah 5? And for whom is it good news?
  2. What is the bad news of Micah 5? And for whom is it bad news?
  3. Do they both still apply today? Which do we hear more of today?

Freewill in the Vineyard

Isaiah 5

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Editor: For the next three weeks we will be spending some time looking at the books of prophecy from the Old Testament – with at least one devotion for every book. Then, mid-November we will be ready to start Revelation, one chapter a day. And we will finish off the year with the last gospel we have not yet read this year: Luke. Keep Seeking God in His Word! SeekGrow(good fruit)Love!

We have all desired to be the plant lady/man at some point in our lives. We go to the store and get a cute little house plant, and then we put it on our windowsill and water it once or twice a week, depending on the type of plant.

            But, if you are anything like me, you do not have the greenest thumb, and most of the time your plant ends up looking… well, dead.

            My point is, that even though we may water that plant, and provide it with the best soil. If the plant were to cover itself up under a blanket and hide, it will never grow, and will eventually die.

            That is what Isaiah 5 talks about in the song of the vineyard.

            Isaiah 5:1-2

I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: the one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest of vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes.”

            In this passage we are depicted as the vineyard, and God is the tender of us. He provides us with everything we need, and pursues a relationship with us, for us to live for him, and spread his word.

            It is because he gives us freewill that we can choose him and grow healthy fruit that can be shared. It is we who decide what kind of fruit we are going to grow in the vineyard with our actions, and what we focus on.

Jerusalem at this time was not following God’s commands. They were pursuing drunkenness, compound sinfulness (denying your sin), and amalgamation of land (combining of land together with small properties). Today we aren’t necessarily combining land, but we may be pursuing other things that are not what God wants us to pursue.

God wants us to consider this, just as he wanted Jerusalem to consider it.  Who was to blame for the worthless grapes? What caused the worthless grapes? And how can we produce healthy grapes?  We have the free will to choose what we want to produce.  Be the change.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. In what way/ways have you noticed your garden producing worthless fruit?
  2. How can you trust and grow closer to God, while letting him work your vineyard?
  3. How can you produce positive fruit and influence change?

Spiritual Darkness – and Light

1 John 1

Saturday, October 15, 2022

It is impossible for me to read this opening statement in 1 John 1:1 without immediately thinking of its strong parallel to John 1:1. John 1:1 says in the beginning was the word and 1 John 1:1 says that all they have seen and heard and touched – that was from the beginning (what beginning?) concerning the word of life. John was with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, so he may be referring to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There is a lot to unpack here, so I will leave that for another day, but you can think about some of these correlations.

John says that they are proclaiming the word so that his readers may have fellowship with John and his community, as well as fellowship with God and Jesus through the ministry of the word (that is an implication of having true fellowship with John et. al.). Also, John emphasizes that he is writing these things so that joy may be made complete. True joy, that transcends all circumstances, is a direct result of having fellowship with God and Jesus in a life of faith (see also James 1 for insight into the relationship between authentic faith and joy).

John then gets into a dichotomy between light and darkness. God is light and in him there is no darkness, therefore if we are walking in darkness (not in the midst of darkness but having elements of darkness ingrained into our life) we do not have fellowship with God. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we can live a dualistic life embracing both God’s will and abiding in the ways of the world. Purity of heart precludes us from walking in darkness. If we’re doing this (walking in darkness), the implication is that we are liars and live a life that is antithetical to the truth.

Conversely, if we walk in the light (i.e., the truth, abide in the word), we have true fellowship with one another and we have our sins cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Walking in light does not mean that we have no sin, that would be a ridiculous assertion, but it means that we do not live lives defined by sin. We all stumble, but there is a difference between falling short and living in sinful pursuit. Our self-deception can come from being double-minded, or from a false notion that being forgiven makes us sinless. We are free from the bondage of sin through Christ, but we still fall short of perfection. In confessing our sin (and repenting of it), we are cleansed and through our faith are counted as righteous. If we don’t acknowledge our sinfulness, how can we confess (we can’t!)? Worse than deceiving ourselves, if we deny that we sin, we make God out to be a liar!

It’s not a good look to make God out to be a liar, so I would strongly encourage each of us to take into consideration our behaviors and not try to explain them in a way that denies the authority of scripture to call out wicked behavior and attempt to justify our (sinful) behavior as acceptable. Sin is offensive to God, so we should not attempt to explain it away as inoffensive. Confession is a powerful tool, and we should be quick to utilize this, rather than explain away or double down on any sinful elements that encroach on our lives. It is better to suffer for doing what is right now (deny our sinful desires) than to embrace sin and deception now and miss out on the amazing Kingdom of God (which will trump all imaginable satisfaction in this life).

-J.J. Fletcher

Reflection:

1. Do I regularly confess my sin to God? Do I confess my sin to other believers (1 or 2 people who you can trust) and reap the benefits of having accountability in brothers or sisters (who likely have had similar struggles) that can speak truth into my life?

2. What am I doing that could constitute self-deception? How might you assess and address this?

3. What relationships do I have that allow people to speak truth into my life? Do I surround myself with yes men? Do I live in an echo chamber? What changes can I make in my life that can help me more effectively eliminate sinful habits?

Deception

2 Peter 2

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Peter draws to attention the fact that in the history of Israel, false prophets arose among the people and the same thing will happen in the church age… False teachers will arise, so we must be on the watch. If many will follow, we must be watchful and call out these false teachers as to prevent as many people as we can from falling into these destructive teachings. In thinking of what modern teachings this applies to we could put “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity” teachings into this category. We could also think about the many “liberal” denominations that reject the sexual ethics of scripture and the “evangelical” teachers that often seem to conflate (at least in the way I see it) being a Christian with voting for a particular political party. We need to make sure that we stand in the word and do not allow ourselves to be deceived and exploited, but also we must stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22) and do what we can to keep others from being deceived and exploited.

Peter then delves into ideas concerning judgment and preservation of righteous people standing up in the midst of wickedness. If God will rescue Noah and Lot, will he not also rescue some of us from perishing in this present age of wickedness? Of course, God does not keep all of his people from perishing (for reasons that are known to him and not us… i.e. Stephen and many of Jesus’ disciples), but he does in many instances deliver his people out of dire straits. Not only will he in many instances rescue us, but those who stand in wickedness stand in punishment. While we may not see the unrighteous handled in ways that we desire, we must recognize that God deals in his own ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Peter then writes of the ways of deceivers and references Balaam (see Numbers 22 to begin his story) as he is pointing out many of the traits of these wicked opponents of God.

Peter states that those who depart from the corruption of the world and come to Jesus, but then depart from him and return to deception are worse off than they were at first. Can we wrap our minds around that? It’s better to have never known Jesus than to come into that saving knowledge and then depart from him. That makes it all the more important for us to keep in Christian community and to have people who can speak truth into our lives when we stumble and fall short in our pursuit of righteous living. The self-deception that comes from a lack of self-control is more than just a minor issue, it can cost us everything (abundance now, but more importantly, that abundance that we can embrace in the coming Kingdom).

We just got a new puppy about a month ago, so when I read Peter’s reference to a dog returning to its vomit, it gives me an all too clear visual of what that means. Our dog ate a couple of our children’s socks and had a miserable night (gagging constantly) and then when my wife took him out in the morning he proceeded to puke them up (it was Sunday morning, so in the rush of things getting ready to leave for church, the socks remained on the ground). When I took the dog out after several hours in the kennel, what did he do? He went right for one of the socks and tried to eat it (I got rid of it this time). Later that day (or the next), he got lucky(?) and ate the second sock… I’ll spare you the details of the next morning… The socks were bad for my puppy (he got lucky all things considered), but that did not stop him from going after them. Sin can be the same way for us, even though things are bad for us (and even when we absolutely recognize this), we often return to it (or at the very least are enticed by it) which makes it ever more important that we stay vigilant (constant vigilance!) in abiding in our lord Jesus, because without his advocacy and without the helper that he will send, i.e. the spirit of God, his father) , we are done for.

-J.J. Fletcher

Reflection:

1. What do I need to be most on the guard for? What types of deception might entice me to neglect my faith in Jesus and his kingdom message?

2. Why do the promises of false teachers often sound so sweet? Do they play around with scripture and make it sound like it is saying something that it is not? What can we do to limit the voices of deception that are lurking not only in the shadows, but out in the limelight?

When No Sacrifice is Left

Hebrews 10

September 28, 2022

Chapter 10 contains one of the five major warning passages in Hebrews, which makes up the second half of the chapter. It is this section that we will focus on as it functions in a very unique way in this context.

Leading up to verse 26 where the warning begins, the author has now fully explained the perfect sacrifice and the forgiveness that is now possible which was not available under the old covenant. And so, as the author concludes, “where there is forgiveness of these sins, another sacrificial offering for sin is no longer required” (v. 18). This is valid so long as certain conditions are met as the author will go on to describe.

The warning passage begins: “For if we deliberately continue sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire that is about to consume the adversaries” (vv. 26-27).

For those who choose to continue willfully committing sin after coming to know the truth about Christ’s sacrifice, it says “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” What does it mean that there is “no longer” a sacrifice for sins? The author has just gone to great lengths to show the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and such an offering as Christ’s is the only one that is able to “perfect forever those who are sanctified” (v. 14).

If Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that is sufficient to take away sins forever, and since the author made it clear that the old covenant sacrifices could never “take away sins” (v. 11), then if a person disregards the cleansing and sanctification that is brought about through Christ by willfully continuing to sin, then they have no other recourse to fall back on for forgiveness. Christ’s sacrifice is the only offering that can remove the defilement of sin. Therefore, repudiating Christ and disregarding the knowledge of the truth leaves a person with nowhere else to turn. And that is why the author says that such a person only has to look forward to a “terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire.”

It is God’s will that we turn away from sin and embrace Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf so that we may be forgiven and cleansed from sin and have “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (v. 22). The means by which we can have this purification in our hearts and minds has already been provided by God through Christ.

And this is why the author warns the reader that they must not fall away and turn aside from the knowledge of the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the chapter, in one of the final exhortations, the author asserts, “So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (vv. 35-36).

In Christ, there is forgiveness from sin now and forevermore. But outside of Christ, we have no hope and no provision for sin. If we will endure in the faith, holding onto the perfect sacrifice of Christ, then we will have done the will of God and will receive the reward of what he promised—everlasting life.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

What 4 things are we told to do in Hebrews 10:22-25 (“Let us…” -in NIV – do what 4 things?). Which of these 4 do you think you do most regularly already (though, still with some room for improvement)? Which one would you like to concentrate on doing better this month? How?

Who has spurred you on to love and good deeds? How did they do it?

Who has been an encouragement to you? How did they do it?

Fine-Sounding Arguments

Colossians 2

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Have you noticed that some of the greatest wisdom on this planet is defining a word by again, using that same word?  Here are some examples: Fair is fair. Business is business. The rules are the rules. A deal is a deal. Love is love.  While each of these sayings have a context and a more nuanced understanding, it tends to oversimplify complex issues that need some mulling over.  We accept these phrases because it makes our logic simpler and dismisses further discussion.  Fine-sounding arguments such as these may not be all they are cracked up to be.

Even worse, an apologist, for any belief under the sun, can use the words of God in the wrong context or without a key understanding and can distort it immensely.   In Matthew 4, Jesus actively combats the words of God taken out of their context.  The world is rapidly filling with empty arguments that lead to the rebranding and normalization of sin.  Like Jesus, it is our responsibility to call it out for what it is. And surely, God did say we will die, in a second death if we buy in, sell out, give up ourselves to these false teachings. Truth is truth.  Here are three ways for your eyes and ears to discern between the eternal wisdom of God or the shallow echoes of hollow human reason.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. – Colossians 2:2-5

Did God really say it?  While I believe that God has inspired wisdom since the Bible was composed, including some of what I hope is wisdom in this blog, you can’t go wrong believing only what is already written from Genesis to Revelation.  Well, God didn’t say anything about social media, phones, or college?  Truth.  But what he did say was how to treat your neighbor, how to spend your time, and how you should work.  These truths found in scripture are living and active.  If we truly feel we are faced with some ethical dilemma that is completely unique to us in our present state, we should pray for wisdom because God gives wisdom generously to all without finding fault.

Who, exactly, does it benefit? Jesus makes an important distinction between behaviors that are motivated by God and those that are motivated by self. Prayer, tithing, and fasting are all wonderful disciplines for every Christian to take up. However, when we do it in public or take God’s glory by making it about ourselves, we are not feeding our relationship with God; we are feeding our ego.  Jesus makes the case that motives and intentions are every bit as important as the action we take. Truth may be on the side. I can eat or drink whatever I wish, but it may cause a stumbling block for another. If I knowingly offer advice that gives me permission to act for my benefit alone, then my words are not heavenly Father’s.

Does it advance the Kingdom of God? When our Savior heals on the Sabbath, he speaks clearly to this measure. Isn’t it right to work for the Lord on the Lord’s day?  To act more like Him?  To worship him in not only words but action?  Choosing to live for God is vastly different than choosing what goes on your plate.  There are some clear lines drawn in the sand. The gate is narrow, and only those who intend to deceive you will widen it.  There are simply behaviors and relationships that God doesn’t give his permission or his blessing.  It doesn’t advance the Kingdom of God to make allowances for habitual, unrepented behavior.  A short-term gain of a warm-body in a seat on Sundays is an eternal loss when sin isn’t confronted.  We accept the whole of God’s moral will or we are rejecting the lot.  This wisdom can burn like a good rubbing alcohol, but it also allows us to heal and be cleansed.

My hope and prayer for the church of today is that we can rid ourselves of these fine-sounding arguments, and make the case for sound, Godly discernment. Wisdom and life stem from Him alone.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:2-7

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Colossians 2 what are some of the dangers Paul is warning the church to avoid? What does he want the church to stay focused on?
  2. Where do you see God’s word and wisdom being distorted by fine-sounding arguments. Pray for wisdom and discernment to see clearly.
  3. What is the end result for those who are led astray and deceived?

Guilt and Shame

Psalm 51

Sunday, July 10, 2022  

Do you remember the first time you disobeyed your parents or did something that you knew was wrong?  Chances are you felt guilty and ashamed.  Those are two different things. 

Let’s imagine that your Mom made fresh chocolate chip cookies.  After they cooled a bit she gave you two cookies and a glass of cold milk.  It was delicious!  Then, after she wiped the excess chocolate off of your hands and chin and nose she put the rest of the cookies in the cookie jar and she told you, “The rest of the cookies are for your Sunday School Class.  There’s enough for each person to have 2 cookies, but don’t you take any more or there won’t be enough.”  She goes about her activities, but all you can think about is the cookies.  They were so delicious and you’d like to have some more, but your Mom said “no more”.  When Mom’s not looking you go and grab another cookie and shove it down your throat as fast as you can before she sees.  You go back to coloring.  Your mom comes back in the room, looks at your face and says, “did you eat another cookie after I told you not to?”  You say “no, mommy”.  Then she asks “then why is there chocolate all over you face and fingers again?”

You’ve been busted.  If you’re like most people you’re feeling two things: guilt and shame.  You feel guilty because you did something wrong, you disobeyed your mom and stole the cookies after she told you not to and then you lied to her about it.  You also may feel shame.  “I’m a bad boy or a bad girl, I never listen to mommy, mommy’s going to hate me now and when the kids in my class hear what I did they’re gonna hate me too, and so will my teacher and so will the pastor when he finds out, and maybe even God will hate me.”

When we feel guilt we feel bad about something we have done (or sometimes what we didn’t do that we should have.)  When we feel shame we feel that there is something wrong with us.   I’m broken, I’m damaged, I’m bad, I’m evil.  Guilt and shame are both powerful and shattering emotions.  Is there any remedy for them?

Psalm 51 was written by King David.  I recently attended a musical about David at the Sight and Sound Theater.  It showed David’s life from the time he was a little shepherd boy until his death as King of Israel.  David was a great man, a man after God’s own heart.  Most of the Psalms in the Bible were written by David.  David killed the giant Philistine Goliath with stones and a sling.  David was good, but he was not perfect.  One of the worst things David ever did was commit adultery with his neighbor’s wife while his neighbor was off fighting in battle in David’s army.  David got his neighbor’ wife pregnant and then tried to cover up his sin.  In trying to cover up one sin David committed an even greater sin and had her innocent husband killed in battle.  It was an act of great treachery.  David succeeded in covering up  his sin so that no one else (he thought)  knew about it and then he took his neighbor’s wife to be his own.

David was later confronted by the prophet Nathan who revealed  his sinful act.  But even before his sin was revealed, David was not at peace.  His heart was mired in guilt and shame.  In the midst of his guilt and shame David cried out to God to be set free.  Psalm 51 is one of the prayers he prayed to God.  Take time to read through Psalm 51.  Imagine this powerful king in anguish before God.  He is so overcome by guilt and shame, that he had sinned and that he was a sinner, a wretched, broken man.  What David feared most was being alienated from God, from the joy of knowing God’s saving love and the power of having God’s spirit.

David knows that if he can be set free from his feelings of guilt and shame, the joy of God will come back to him and he will be able to powerfully declare God’s grace and mercy to other people who are also trapped in their guilt and shame.

Lots of people today are trapped in guilt for what they have done and shame for who they are.  So much of the evil we see going on in our world every day is born out of people trying to escape the bad feelings of guilt and shame. Rising rates of suicide and deaths from opioids, increased murder and sexual violence, the rage and confusion that so many feel all can be traced to feelings of guilt and shame and attempts to cover up or self-medicate the pain away. 

There is a better way.  David knew that true healing for his guilt and feelings of shame would only come from God.  Only God could bring real joy to His heart.  The same is true for all of us.  Jesus, who was both David’s descendant and the true son of God provides the only lasting solution to guilt and shame.  When Jesus went onto the cross he took upon himself the burden of our guilt for sins we committed and our feelings of worthlessness for having committed those sins.  In their place we are forgiven of those sins and discover our true identities, we are also children of God made in God’s image.

I John 1:8-9 says: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Chances are, after you told your Mom that you really did eat the cookie and said that you were sorry, she wiped your face, gave you a big hug and said “I love you, don’t do it again” and you felt a lot better.  Love covers over a multitude of sins.

-Jeff Fletcher

Reflection Questions:

  1.  Which do you find more painful- Guilt- I did something wrong, or Shame-There’s something wrong with me, I’m worthless?
  2. What are some of the ways we try to hide our guilt and shame?  Why do they often make things even worse?
  3. Is there still some guilt and shame hiding in your heart?  What is preventing you from going to God, confessing it to him and letting  him clean you up and give you a hug?

Finding the Edge of Infinity

Romans 6

May 22

Observable and theoretical astronomy both confirm the universe is indeed infinite.  It just keeps going, and going, and going in every possible direction. There is no place within our existence you could plant your telescope and see what lies beyond.  There is no edge.  There is no boundary.  Even for those who make no concessions for God who brought this all to be “in the beginning,” this can be both a mind-boggling and mind-numbing contemplation.  

Such are qualities of an infinite God. Specifically, Romans 6, speaks to God’s infinite grace.  It expands in all physical locations, to every generation, in every moment.  No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what we’ve seen, no matter what lies in our past, we will not find a place within our own existence that God’s grace cannot live in. It, too, is both mind-boggling and mind-numbing.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2

To know God, is to know grace, but to know grace is to know sin.  Ironically, Paul states we should actually use less grace, even though we have the knowledge that the mercies of God are infinite.  This is because he has counted the cost of using an infinite amount of grace versus living a life in accordance with the laws of the Heavenly Father.  Unrepented sin, no matter how great or small, creates separation from God, an expanse as large as the universe.  The great irony is the further you settle into a life of sin, the less likely you are to seek God’s forgiveness. God’s grace is flowing abundantly like water from a tap, yet continual, habitual sin becomes a drain that siphons it away, never allowing the vessel to fill.  We gain nothing by exhausting the grace of God.  We have the same empty vessels with which we started.  Sin only further entangles and enslaves; and eventually, we become entrenched in wickedness instead of righteously restored through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. – Romans 6:11-13

Paul encourages us to plug the drain. Stop the habitual sin, or “building a testimony”; or creating a who’s who of things you’ve done. Set yourself free from sin and death and submit to and live for the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that leads to a life more abundant, and ultimately, a life that is as infinite as the heavens. You can be filled with Living Water, ready to carry his words of grace, comfort, love, healing, and love wherever and whenever in the universe he calls you to – the place you now stand or the ends of the Earth.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:22-23

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you found sin to entangle and enslave? How else would you describe the power of sin?
  2. In Aaron’s illustration, how do we keep God’s grace from running down the drain?
  3. Do you appreciate God’s grace for you? How will you thank God?

One Perfect Donor

Hebrews 10

Have you ever known someone who needs kidney dialysis to live?  Your kidneys act as very efficient filters for ridding the body of waste and toxic substances, and they return vitamins and other vital substances to the bloodstream.  You need dialysis if your kidneys no longer remove enough waste and fluid from your blood to keep you healthy.  Dialysis is usually required if your kidney function is down to 10-15 percent. 

Hemodialysis is a procedure where a dialysis machine and a special filter called an artificial kidney are used to clean your blood.  For most patients, dialysis is needed three times a week for approximately four hours each session.  Most importantly, a dialysis patient needs hemodialysis for the rest of his/her life unless a kidney transplant is received.  A dialysis patient continues to live, but not what we would call a “quality” life. 

The example of kidney dialysis reminds me of verse 11 of our Hebrews passage today, chapter 10.  “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  The Hebraic priests daily performed their duties, offering up animal sacrifices on an altar for the various sins of the people.  But the cycle never ended because God’s people then, like us today, continued to sin.  Sin needed to be removed by their offered sacrifices just as kidney dialysis removes waste from a patient’s body. 

In truth, the sacrifices were simply a reminder of the people’s sin.  This is explained in verse one of this chapter.  “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” Heb. 10:1 NIV

But Hebrews 10:12-14 NASB continues: “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet.  For by one offering He has PERFECTED for all time those who are sanctified.”

Praise to our Almighty, loving and gracious God.  And to His Son, Jesus, our Saviour, the sacrificial Lamb who died for each one of us, once and for all. Verse 14 says Jesus’ death on the cross made we, who have accepted that sacrifice and entered into a relationship with him, perfect!  Perfect!  Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we appear pure and without sin to God.

“Now where there is forgiveness of these things, an offering for sin is no longer required.”  Heb. 10:18 NASB. When we sin, we ask forgiveness of God, and through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are forgiven.  There is NO NEED for daily offering of animal sacrifices by priests. 

What then should be our response to this marvelous covenant (verse 16) God has given us? 

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

  • Draw near, fully assured of our purity before God
  • Hold fast to our hope in God
  • Stimulate one another in love and good deeds
  • Assemble together regularly
  • Encourage one another

Remember our introduction about kidney dialysis.  When a dialysis patient receives the gift of a kidney transplant, from a donor, the regular three times a week dialysis ends. New life begins for the kidney recipient, a life of freedom to enjoy their loved ones, to travel, to appreciate each day.  A kidney recipient is no longer tied down to the once necessary dialysis regimen. 

Regular dialysis of the Hebrew people’s sins was no longer necessary with the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.  He was their donor; he is OUR DONOR! 

Today, when we accept that gift through repentance and baptism, a cleansed and new life is “transplanted” within us.  Praise God for the freedom we have in Christ.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  Romans 8:2 NASB

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Paula Kirkpatrick lives in Minnesota with her husband, and is a wife, mom, grandma, school librarian, and most of all, a child of God.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 37-38 and Hebrews 10

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