Resurrection Power!

Hello everyone!

1Corinthians 15 58

Next week Josiah and Amber Cain will be writing on having a missional perspective on life. And when I think of being missional, I think of the original disciples and Paul. I think about their relentless pursuit to spread and share the gospel at any cost and not backing down to anything or anybody. What gave them the boldness and confidence to speak and act in this manner? What ignited their fire of zeal for the name of Jesus that turned the first-century world upside down? Two words. The resurrection. This is the topic we will be looking at this week. The memory verse for this week is I Corinthians 15.58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord”. This verse is encouraging on its own but it has so much more power when Paul connects this to the reality of resurrection!

For the next seven days we will journey through one chapter of Paul – I Corinthians 15, also known as the resurrection chapter. I Corinthians 15 is about only one topic – resurrection.  This week we will explore many different aspects about not just Jesus’ resurrection but about Paul’s perspective on resurrection theology as a whole.  Today we will look at verses one through eleven:

1 Now I make know to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believe in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. 9 For I am least of the apostles, and not fit to be called as apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul begins by talking about the gospel and he says that it is a message that saves us if we hold fast to it. To hold fast to something is to remain tightly secured to it. And in verse three through five, Paul makes known the contents of the gospel message that saves namely, that Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and then he rose on the third day. Paul says that this is something he himself received. On a side note, we normally think about Paul as being this intellectual and theological giant and while that’s true in one sense, in another sense just like you and me, Paul had a beginning to his walk with Jesus.

Had Jesus only made one appearance to one individual it would seem to be a little shaky, but this is not the case at all! Paul records that the risen Jesus appeared to Peter, the apostles, James, a group of five hundred people, and lastly to Paul himself. The power of the resurrection event was enough to turn a zealous and ardent persecutor of the church, Saul, into a equally zealous and ardent messenger of Jesus, Paul. If  Jesus and the resurrection can change a man like Paul, how much more can it change people’s lives today? The resurrection is not just an event in the past nor just a future hope, as we’ll see later. Jesus and the resurrection has power to change lives today and right now. Paul knew this and it reflected in the life he lived. I ask you, do you live life in the reality of the resurrection?

-Jacob Rohrer

 

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Show a Little Love

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13_1

Hello again everyone!

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard

Wise Words Regarding Sin & Discipline

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1b

Welcome back friends!

Today we’re talking about sin and discipline.  Very bright and happy topics I know!

To start off let’s take a look at verse 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”  I want to focus on the sin that so easily entangles.  We are told to throw off everything that hinders us because there is a great cloud of witnesses.  And if we remember from yesterday, we were just reminded that God has a perfect plan for us that will come someday, so this verse is reminding us to keep pushing and running the race until that day.  So why does the author specifically mention sin?  Wouldn’t that be included in the things that hinder us?

Now, obviously I am not the author of this book so truthfully, I don’t know exactly why it was written this way!  However, as I was reading it my eye was drawn specifically to the phrasing of “sin that so easily entangles us”.  I know for me personally at least, you almost forget that sin can creep into our lives SO easily!  People who grow up in the faith tend to recognize (and hopefully avoid) what we term as “big sins”, don’t we?  I’m talking things like sexual immorality, murder, drunkenness, etc… We are quick to recognize those and turn our nose up at them.  But what about things such as lying? Or jealousy, anger, greed, anxiousness and impure thoughts?  Sin is sin no matter what.  When we ignore the “smaller” sins, that’s when they easily entangle us!  The bigger issue is not that we are sinners, because everyone is and everyone has been offered the same grace.  The issue is when we fail to recognize our own sin and shake it off in order to keep running the race.

And now that we’ve covered sin… we get to move on to the discipline.  Yay?

Verse 6 reads “…Because the LORD disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  This is a common message that is still hard for me to grasp at times.  God disciplines, corrects, humbles, however you want to word it, BECAUSE He loves us.  He is working to create a righteous and peaceful life for us (vs. 11).  Verse 8 even says that if we do not undergo discipline, we are not true sons and daughters!

I am not a parent, but I do have the joy of watching a lot of un-biological nieces and nephews, as I refer to them.  I love my kiddos!  Just the other day one of the kids I was watching kept trying to stick his finger in an electrical outlet.  I continued to swat his hand away and tell him no.  Not so surprisingly, he started crying with his head thrown back and huge tears falling from his eyes.  Obviously, my intent was never to upset him, but I also didn’t care!  I wanted to make sure he was safe and understood how dangerous that could be.  I think God works in similar ways.  He knows that our sins in our life are going to lead us to pain and suffering.  When I was watching that little boy, I could not believe how frequently he went back to the same outlet despite my corrections, almost like he didn’t even notice I was steering him away from it!  I wonder what God is thinking when we keep trying to go back to the same thing He knows is going to hurt us not matter how often He corrects us.

God loves us.  He loves us as sinners and disciplines us in order to protect us from ourselves.  He will one day give to us a kingdom that will not be shaken and because of that, we should worship Him with reverence and awe (vs. 28).  In what areas of your life is God correcting you?  Do you even realize it yet?  Although the discipline may be painful now, rejoice in what it will create later!

-Sarah Blanchard

Actively Waiting

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11_6

Here it is – the faith chapter!  When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind!  Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming.  We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes.  When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here.  Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!

Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly.  Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises!  As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life.  What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were!  If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2?  Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?

I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you.  So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.

Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised?  Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith.  Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises.  I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were!  I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow.  And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect.  As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.

It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same!  When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait.  But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait.  I think we need to wait actively!  All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God!  We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true.  So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others?  Are we being good examples like the ancients?  Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!

-Sarah Blanchard

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

New and Improved!

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8_10

Today we get to look at a short chapter that is pretty packed!  I really enjoy how this chapter is laid out; it makes it easy to pick out what is being said. As a college student, I love when authors give you a heads up by saying, “Here’s the main point!”.  It’s like they are pointing flashing arrows at key concepts that will be on the test later.  Not that there is necessarily going to be a written exam at the end of this book… but we are definitely expected to know what is going on here!  Verse 1 and 2 clues us in as to what the author is trying to get at.  We have a high priest sitting at the right hand of God serving in a heavenly sanctuary that wasn’t built by humans.  He’s there!

As we move on to verse 5 we see that the current tabernacle at that time was built specifically to mirror the one in heaven.  I found that tidbit really interesting!  I’m someone who tends to gloss over the verses that are just measurements and descriptions of structures… I find them pretty boring to be honest.  BUT, how cool is it that the tabernacle Moses was to build had all of those specific measurements for a real purpose, besides just structural stability?  It gave me a little bit of a boost to read through all of those seemingly unimportant building directions we find throughout Scripture!

Verse 6 and on is somewhat of a comparison and contrast between the old covenant and the new.  First, we see that the new covenant is made superior and is established on better promises (vs 6).  In verses 7 and 8 we see that a new covenant was deemed necessary by God because he found fault in the first and wanted to establish one between both the people of Israel and Judah.  The next verse I think would’ve been a little tough to swallow as an Israelite.  Here the author is writing about how the Israelites did not remain faithful to God’s first covenant and because of that, He turned away from them.  Thankfully the chapter doesn’t end there and continues on to describe how amazing the new covenant will be!

In the last few verses we are told that we will be God’s people, that all will know the LORD, and that we will be forgiven of our sins!  Verse 12 says that God will remember our sins no more and that our wickedness is forgiven.  Praise God for a second chance! (Truthfully more like third, fourth, fifth, one millionth….) To end the chapter verse 13 restates that the old covenant is done, gone, obsolete.  We are living under a new covenant that offers us a clean slate.

Today I encourage you to take advantage of your clean slate, let your sins of yesterday be dissolved and obsolete like the old covenant, and press forward with the reminder that your sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ.  What are you going to do today with that grace?

-Sarah Blanchard