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

The United States of Gomorrah

Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

After all of the doom and gloom we’ve read so far in Jeremiah, in 23: 5-6 we read a promise of the coming messiah,  “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord our Righteousness.”

This is clearly a promise of Jesus, the heir to David’s throne.  Notice in particular the name attributed to the messiah here, “The Lord our Righteousness.”  This was especially important because the people of Judah were wicked.  They needed some external righteousness, because they weren’t righteous themselves.

In fact, in Jeremiah 23: 14 we read, “And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible.  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness.  They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gamorrah.”

The very people who were supposed to be the most righteous, and who were supposed to be pointing others to God, were living a lie.  I don’t know if the adultery was physical adultery or spiritual adultery, but either way, they weren’t living the Godly lives they tried to portray.  They were living a lie.  We would call them hypocrites.  And not only that, they were promoting sin in the land so that the people were as bad as Gomorrah in God’s eyes.

When I look around at churches in our country, I see whole denominations who claim to be Christian, actively promoting wickedness.  As I look at our country as a whole, I can’t help but see many parallels to Judah in Jeremiah’s day.  We seem to be the United States of Gomorrah.  In fact, our wickedness is getting so bad that it seems like God either has to punish our nation or He will need to apologize to Judah for punishing them.  Because it seems like we are just as bad.

Today’s reading in Hebrews ties right in.  In Hebrews 3:12-13, we read, “See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3 goes on to give the example of the Israelites whom Moses led out of Egypt.  When they rebelled against God, their bodies were strewn across the desert.  (They couldn’t rest on their laurels.)

And this brings us to our application for today.  

Fortunately, we aren’t justified before God because of our own righteousness – because we could never measure up on our own.  It is by grace we are saved, through faith.  Faith in “The Lord, our Righteousness.”  And that faith will produce works.

Just like Jeremiah was grieved by the sin that surrounded him, if we are in tune with God, we will be grieved by the sin that surrounds us.  It is imperative that we turn wholeheartedly to God.  And it is critical that we don’t turn away.  And because we are surrounded by such wickedness, we must actively encourage fellow believers to seek God wholeheartedly too.  And if we have lived a God-centered life so far, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

I Did it My Way!

Jeremiah 11-12 and Psalm 102-103

Have you noticed one of Jeremiah’s repeated themes yet? So far we have seen it in 3:17, 5:23, 7:24, 9:14, and in today’s reading in 11:8. It will surface again in 13:10, 16:12, 18:12 and 23:17. Chapter divisions were not included in the original writings of Jeremiah, but it’s interesting that throughout the first half of his book about every 2 chapters (or perhaps every column or two on his scroll), Jeremiah writes of the stubbornness of the people.

Jeremiah 5:23 – But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.

Jeremiah 7:24 – But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.

Jeremiah 11:6-8 – The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

I can envision some stubborn starved Hebrew men and women who have been shut up in Jerusalem as the enemy surrounds and destruction is eminent. And they are belting out Frank Sinatra’s hit song – “My Way”.

They had been determined to do what they wanted. They had shut their ears and their hearts to God’s call and His commands. They had refused to comply, agree to or give in to the terms of their Creator’s covenant. They had turned their backs on the Almighty and were going backward not forward. They had chased after pagan idols. In their pride they had elevated themselves, their pleasure, their dreams, their wants, their ways above God’s. Their evil hearts were caught up in sin. They were stubborn and rebellious and there would be a price to pay.

Do you have any stubborn streaks? Sometimes we prefer to use words like determined, headstrong, set in one’s ways. Got any stubborn children – or should I say – strong-willed and opinionated? How often do we remember that God’s opinion is the only one that matters? How often do we remember, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Funeral homes in the UK reported that the song “My Way” is the most often requested song for funerals. A lot of people would like to be remembered as the strong, bold, unbending trailblazer who did life his/her own way. Will you be one of them?

Or will you hear God’s voice calling, “Obey Me”? Stop trying to stubbornly do life your way. Your way leads to disaster and death. My prayer is that we may be a people who surrender to God’s will and way and can say, “I did it God’s Way!”

-Marcia Railton

As an interesting note, Frank Sinatra disliked his great money-making hit, “My Way”. Songfacts.com states: “This became Frank Sinatra’s signature song, but he couldn’t stand it, saying he “loathed” the song. In his later years, he described the song as “a Paul Anka pop hit which became a kind of national anthem.” In a 2000 interview with the BBC show Hardtalk, Sinatra’s daughter Tina said, “He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent. He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe.” Beware of turning your life into a catchy, popular, people-pleasing tune that is actually self-serving and self-indulgent. Thanks for the lesson, Frank.

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 11-12 and Psalm 102-103

Don’t Withhold the Cure

Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

The Old Testament prophets who spoke for God, including Jeremiah, were entrusted with preaching a lot of doom and gloom. Because God’s children had strayed from his commands, judgment would be coming and the people needed to know. I loved Jeff Fletcher’s illustration in his devotion yesterday of a doctor who could be charged with malpractice if he knew the sick condition of a patient’s insides and knew how to fix it and what changes the patient would need to make in order to cure the potentially deadly ailment, and said nothing. This would be like the Christian who sees the broken sinful world and pretends everything is okay. Don’t withhold the cure.

Jeremiah paints a very vivid picture of a world that is not okay. Chapter 9 opens with the prophet mourning the sinfulness of God’s people. He would love nothing more than to pack up and go to a desert retreat where he could get away from and forget this crowd of unfaithful people. Can you relate? But, rather than abandoning the people in their sin, Jeremiah continues passionately speaking truth for God, over and over, even though his words often seem to fall on deaf ears. He still must speak and write and hold out the cure to these wayward people.

God has had it, too. He aptly describes the situation this way:

“It is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3b NIV)

and again, “They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sining. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:6 NIV)

It sounds to me like God and Jeremiah are describing the sad state of affairs in 2021. So many lies and deceptions abound when attempting to justify and explain and even celebrate sin and sinful lifestyles that fester and grow when individuals and nations and societies have turned their backs on God.

It is as though God is left without a choice. “What else can I do because of the sin of my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7 NIV) “‘Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’ ” (Jeremiah 9:9 NIV). God had drawn up the rules long ago with blessings promised to those who followed and curses to those who stubbornly disobeyed. Many chances had been given. Prophets had been sent to remind the people of the deadly disease and of the cure – repentance, turning away from sin and turning back to God. But these were a very stubborn people who took delight in continuing in their sin and lies and more sin and more lies.

God had given mercy. God had given reminders. God had given prophets. God had stretched out the cure. But, to no avail. So, God says – it is time. It is time to teach your daughters how to wail – death and destruction is coming. (Jeremiah 9:20,21).

Towards the end of chapter 9 an interesting section seems almost out of place…

 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

Perhaps it was written more for us who would be reading Jeremiah centuries later, to remind us of the choice we have. And, the great opportunity we have to boast about our God, our Creator, Our YHWH. He created the cure. His Son is the cure that was not yet available in Jeremiah’s day. Sin is the same and comes with the same consequences – death. People today need to know about the cure. They don’t need to hear you bragging about your dinner, your kids, your car, your job, your grades, your house, your ______ (on social media or at the checkout line). They need to know about the LORD our God who exercises kindness AND justice and always righteousness. The Psalms passages today have some great examples of boasting about our God while holding out the cure. How can you hold out the cure today to a nation and world that is unknowingly in the stages of the deadly disease of disobedience?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

Reminders

Isaiah 63-64, Titus 3

Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself.  Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself.  “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00.  Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning.  Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance.  I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting.  In 1 hour I have a meeting.  In 15 minutes I have a meeting.  The Meeting is now starting.  Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.

Do you ever need reminders?  Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework.  What do you need reminders for?

The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians.  I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing  what’s necessary or urgent.  Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live?  Yep, we sure do.

In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2

Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years.  We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we?  Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority?  Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good?  Don’t all Christians always do what is good?   Certainly we never  slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing.  I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).

To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things.  Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good.  I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you.  That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community.  We need each other.  There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading,  but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.  

Following Jesus is hard some times.  Being obedient to God is hard some times.  Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes.  I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right.  I need you, and you need me, we need each other.

I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember.  Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy.  God has both.  God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other.  He hates it when his children fight and argue.  He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us.  We hurt each other when we sin.  No parent likes to see their children hurt each other.  We learned that from our Father, God.

So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.

“Hey Siri  set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow:  be considerate and gentle to everyone.”

“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3

Two Choices

Saturday – May 29, 2021

1 Kings 9-10, Acts 26

Solomon has finished the calling that God assigned to him. The temple was completed. In addition, Solomon has built an elaborate palace and pursued wisdom in his life. In 1 Kings 9, God appears to Solomon and makes a second promise to him. If Solomon commits to following after God and living by the commandments of God, God will build his kingdom and establish it. But, this promise presents a choice: either Solomon can have a kingdom established forever or he would have his kingdom ruined and removed. These consequences are contingent upon the actions of the Israelites outlined in Deuteronomy 30: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 19-20). 

The Israelites could have life and blessings, but they needed to love God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. If they didn’t, they would live a life apart from God, full of troubles and difficult times. Even though the choice seems like a no brainer, generations of the Israelites still choose death, including Solomon. Because of their choices, they faced exile, famine, sickness, and death. 

We have the same choices today. We can choose life or death. I’ve always wondered why the Israelites couldn’t see the goodness that they were leaving behind because they chose to live a sinful life. However, when I look at my own life, I can understand why that path seemed pleasing to them. Sin feels good in the moment. It fills us up in the short term. But, as life continues and sin upon sin piles up, it turns out to be rotten. Like sweet cakes or soft drinks, it tastes good, but over time, too much leaves us feeling gross inside. Too much leads to death. To say no to sin requires self-discipline and sacrifice. We recognize that we are giving up something that may feel good now, because later on, we will have a better thing. 

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, our consequences are not contingent upon all of our actions. We will not be judged by the law, because we have freedom in Christ – if we make one choice. If we choose to make Christ our Lord, we will have life in him. Today, choose life! Choose to live righteously and follow after Jesus, the perfect king. This choice and the sacrifice is so worth it!

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

What are you asking for?

Wednesday – May 26, 2021

1 Kings 3-4, Acts 23

After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins. 

Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God. 

In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin. 

What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

Victorious

May 24, 2021 – 2 Samuel 23-24, Acts 21

When David came to power, he had his work cut out for him. Part of his legacy was fulfilling the calling that God gave to the Israelites when they first came to the Promised Land. He was charged with taking the land. He was supposed to be strong and courageous, and over his lifetime, he proved to be a man of strong military prowess who doubled the size of the kingdom of Israel. 2 Samuel 23 describes the men who helped David make that happen. These are his mighty men, the elite warriors who single handedly won battles against the Philistines with God’s help. One warrior killed 800 men at one time with a spear. Another group broke into an enemy stronghold just to get a cup of water for David. Repeatedly, these men are described as strong, fearless. They ‘stood their ground’ against their enemies. When they faced them this way, ‘the Lord brought about a great victory’ against their enemies. 

In Acts 21, Paul is facing strong and terrifying enemies. In fact, he is told what would happen to him by a prophet in verses 11-12 when the prophet describes how he would be tied up and delivered to the Romans in Jerusalem. The people are begging him not to go to Jerusalem, weeping for the bitter end that they knew would come to Paul if he decided to go to the city. Paul shows his determination and willingness to follow Jesus no matter what when he replies: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” What a mighty and fearless response! Paul may have not been marching into a war with spears and swords, but he knew the spiritual battle he was facing that would have real – and very dire – implications for his health and well-being. But, it didn’t matter – he would do anything for the name of Jesus. 

We need to face our everyday battles with the same determination and strength, resting in the knowledge that God will bring about the victory if we stand our ground. We need to be strong and courageous, because God is right there with us in our battles. We will emerge victorious!

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

Numbers 25-26, Luke 3

Almost 40 years had passed, and the Israelites were nearing the time when they would enter into the Promised Land. A generation had died in the wilderness because they failed to trust that God would guide them, protect them, and give them the good things he had promised. God had used the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings to teach them about his holiness and to teach them to trust in him more. However, not all of the Israelites were sanctified through this time. 

In Numbers 25, the Israelites are staying in the country of Moab. Because of intermarriage and lack of loyalty, they turn away from God and begin to worship Baal, a pagan god. Leading the way in this idolatry are several leaders of the people. God sends a terrible plague among the people that eventually killed 24,000 people and orders Moses to strike the idolatrous leaders down. So, Moses and Aaron’s great-grandson, Phinehas, gather the people together. The people are in mourning for the loved ones they lost in the plague, and all gathered together at the tabernacle, they are mourning in supposed repentance. However, Phinehas sees one of the Israelites blatantly bring a Moab woman into the tent of meeting! While the people are weeping in repentance, this person acts in a way that would indicate that he was not repentant at all. He was going to continue in his sin. The repentance was only caused by the negative experiences the Israelites faced, but it wasn’t true, heart-changing repentance that would cause them to change their actions. 

Phinehas, in a zealous passion, takes a spear and kills both the man and the woman who are doing this. Because of that harsh measure, the plague stops and God promises the priesthood would continue with Phinehas for generations. This seems like a brutal action. But, the reason why God praised Phinehas for doing it was because this action shows (1) Phinehas understood the concept of the holiness of God and his tabernacle and (2) Phinehas recognized how sin has to be stopped so it won’t continue to do its damage. Sin spreads like a plague, which, once it gets started, is very difficult to eradicate. If we recognize the importance of holiness and trying ourselves to live a lifestyle of holiness, we cannot continue to allow sin to spread in our lives. We have to be willing to act zealously to snuff it out. 

In Luke 3, we read about the ministry of John the Baptist in his own wilderness. He cries out to the people to ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’ He urges those who come out to see him to “produce fruits consistent with repentance” because “every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). Recognition of the severity of sin and true repentance from that sin are crucial to producing good fruit. If we do not recognize and repent from sin, we will not produce good fruit. We will not live lives that glorify God. 

Evaluate your life. Is it characterized by a right understanding of sin? Of an understanding of the importance of holiness? What about true repentance and good fruit? As John and Jesus said, “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

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