His Commandment

1 John 3

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The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel

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4 Benefits for Christians in This Age

 

Out in the world today, we see a lot of bold claims made by companies. They promise you weight loss, happiness, wealth, status, and anything else that you can think up. What is their purpose in making these bold claims? They want your money. Many of the times the claims are flat out lies and at best they deliver only a fraction of what was promised. What about Christianity? Does the Bible make big claims like companies do?

Personally, I think the Bible makes a lot of claims about those who put their faith in God. But the logical follow up question to that statement is  – are they true? So in this blog post I want to set out to show you four claims the Bible makes about the benefits a Christian receives in this age. The fact that we are talking about this age is important. Obviously a Christian has a major benefit in the age to come with eternal life and the kingdom. However, I want to focus on this life and how being a Christian makes our lives better, now. The four benefits to being a Christian are peace, purpose, perspective, and people.

Peace is a commodity of which the world is in short order. It seems that mental illness is all over the news with illnesses like depression and anxiety sweeping over our nation. Christianity promises to those who put their faith in God that they can find peace. Look at Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul, talking to the people of Philippi, is saying that if we hand over our anxiety to God through prayer and thanksgiving in return we will receive peace that surpasses all comprehension. I love how Paul makes the point to say that this peace will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. I think Christianity has the best solution for finding peace in this life.

1 Peter 2 9

Purpose is an elusive things that some people spend their whole lives searching out. I truly think that people thrive the most when they are living a life after the purpose for which God created them. If you are looking for purpose look at 1 Peter 2:9-10 which says, “9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” First look at verse 10 where it says, “you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God”. In other words, once you had no identity and no purpose but now you are the people of God and you have a purpose. The purpose statement is at the end of verse 9, “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. I think when we are giving the good news to people, and that is our driving purpose, we find fulfillment with our lives. What could be better than helping someone change their life forever?

Perspective can be a tricky thing to find, especially perspective that is trustworthy and true. Let’s talk about the world’s perspective on one of the most difficult things we deal with in life, death. To the world, death is crushing, scary, oppressive, breaking, and most of all final. The world has no hope when it comes to death but the Bible offers a better perspective on death. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says, “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” If you are a Christian, you are offered a perspective on death that doesn’t include fear but instead centers on hope. Don’t get me wrong, death is still a painful and difficult event but it isn’t crushing for Christians. To me, 1 Thessalonians 4 is a clarifying and liberating passage. Because of the Bible I am freed from the fear of death. Christianity offers us a better perspective on death and a whole multitude of other things.

People, who doesn’t want a people to call their own? Community is an essential part of human flourishing and Christians absolutely crush the competition when it comes to community. Look at what Jesus says in Mark 10:29-30, “29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.’” In this present age we will receive 100 times the family that we currently have. This doesn’t mean that all of a sudden our family multiples by 100. What it means is that those who are Christians become our family. You are probably familiar with the term family of God. It is short hand for the community of believers that form one large family all around the world. When I walk into church I know that those people have my back, they love me, they support me, and they are my family.

Maybe now you are asking how can I be sure that these claims actually hold up under pressure? Are these claims made by the Bible like the false claims made by big companies? If you are curious about the validity of the Bible, just ask a long time Christian that you know. They will tell you about the peace they have felt in their lives when there should not have been peace. They will tell you about the purpose they have found. They will tell you about how the Bible has shifted their perspectives for the better. They will tell you about the community that they have in the family of God.

If you are looking for peace, purpose, perspective, or a people I think you should give Christianity a serious look. Maybe you have been on the fence about dedicating your life to Christ or maybe you have fallen away and aren’t where you want to be with God. Either way there is a better life out there, it just takes commitment. You need to commit to following God wherever He leads and you need to put your trust in Jesus. If you are thinking about dedicating or rededicating your life to Christ find a pastor or Christian you trust and talk to them about how following God can change your life for the better.

-Josiah Cain

1 Timothy 5

Fri Devo

“Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.” 1 Timothy 5:25

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul changes his focus to how those in the church should take care of those in need. In the early church, the church created a support system for widows who could not take care of themselves (because of cultural norms and their age). This support system was an important part of the church’s ministry and testimony. In fact, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). Paul does give requirements about which widows to serve in this chapter, but a central truth here is that we should be serving those who are in need now.

As we look at the modern-day church, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing for those in need now. We’ve talked this week about how our faith will be shown through our actions. When we are following Jesus, we should show gentleness as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). According to this passage, we should also be showing kindness and goodness through our generosity and hospitality. If you look at your life and find this is not the case, think of ways you can begin to serve those around you, whether in a church ministry or one you create yourself. This type of service should be an outpouring of your strong relationship with Jesus. 

Just like Jesus cautions in Matt. 6, when you serve, you need to ask yourself what you are doing this for. If you are serving to try to save yourself, you can stop and rest. God’s gift of grace is the only thing that saves us. If you are serving to gain glory from others, you should stop and ask for humility. As Jesus says over and over again, when you are applauded for your actions by man now, you’ve gotten the reward for your actions. We should serve, because we want to love our brothers and sisters in Christ just like Jesus loved us. And, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 4

Thurs Devo

“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-8

I’ve always had the dream of running a marathon. It’s something that I put on my bucket list in high school. At times, I’ve gotten closer to this dream by keeping up with a running plan and completing 5Ks and 10Ks. Other times, like now, that dream is definitely in the distant future as my running shoes collect dust in the back of my closet. 

As Christians, we have a dream as well. Our dream, or our goal, is to live in the Kingdom of God. This hope should give us the strength to aspire to live righteously. We should be pursuing godliness with our lives with the same passion that an athlete would pursue their sport. However, my pursuit of Kingdom-living can sometimes be like my goal of running a marathon. Instead of inspiring me or causing me to take actions towards that goal, I just add it to the list of things that I might do in the future. This goal doesn’t push me to live in a godly way. It becomes a dream that never affects my reality.

Though running and other sports can have positive benefits, we should be actively training ourselves in godliness. Like Paul says, “Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8). Like running can help me to feel better in my daily life as well as help me to finish a future race, godliness helps us to live abundantly now and in the Kingdom. Importantly though, as Paul describes it in this chapter, godliness isn’t a switch that you can flip on and off. After baptism, you don’t just emerge out of the water a new person who will always make good, godly decisions. Godliness is something that requires training. How do we train in godliness? We follow the example and teachings of Jesus who reveals godliness to us (1 Tim. 3:16, 4:6). So let’s put on our training shoes and get to work! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

***If you would like to read some more about how to train yourself in godliness, check out this article about the topic: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2018/02/11/train-sport-godliness/ 

 

1 Timothy 1

monday devo

“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:18-19

1 Timothy is jam-packed with rich truths that Paul wrote to Timothy, a mentee in the faith. 1 Timothy was written sometime between 62-67 A.D. while Paul was out of prison. He wrote to Timothy, a person who he had known since about 46 A.D. and who was currently ministering in Ephesus, a town in Asia Minor. A majority of this letter focuses on how to ‘do church,’ discussing a range of topics from  worship services to church leadership to interactions between church members. 

1 Timothy begins with an instruction to remind people to not teach different doctrines or pay attention to myths or genealogies (1 Tim. 1:3-4). In doing this, Paul said that the people were promoting “empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.” Wow! That’s a powerful statement. The discussions of the people of the church in Ephesus were not glorifying God. Instead, they were people just carelessly making a prediction about topics related to the concepts Paul taught. The discussions of the people were like junk food instead of a wholesome diet. They tasted good in the moment, but they ultimately produced nothing of value for the people. 

We need to ask ourselves what type of instruction we are filling ourselves with, as well as what types of instruction we are giving others. If are not taking in any instruction or teaching about God’s word, we will starve. God’s word is our daily bread, and we daily have to get into the word to get the nourishment that we need. Once we do, we have to look at the type of teaching we are getting. Are we taking in things that will build us up and draw us closer to God? Or does a majority of our Bible study focus on acquiring knowledge that we could use in a debate or class but ultimately leaves us spiritually unfulfilled? If we are teachers, we also need to ask ourselves these same questions. Is what we are teaching empty speculation, or are we teaching what Paul was teaching? Paul said that his ultimate goal for the instruction he gave was to produce a love that “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). If that is not our goal for what instruction we take in and give, then we need to reevaluate our purpose for that instruction. 

Paul recognized the importance of analyzing the purpose for what we do. When we reject producing pure love as our goal, we can lead ourselves and others down a path that leads to the shipwreck of their faith. In other terms, when we are not placing God’s plan first in our lives, we are choosing to not allow God to work in our lives. Let’s all strongly engage in the battle of our faith. This begins with the spiritual food that we take in. Make sure that you are taking in good things, not empty things.

~ Cayce Fletcher 

2 Thessalonians 3

“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” ~ 2 Thess. 3:13

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging believers to hold fast to the traditions that was taught to them by his message or letters (2 Thess. 2:15). His final directions to the believers in Thessalonica was to watch how they were living. Paul had first touched on this in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 where he says, “We encourage you to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” In the months that spanned in between the letters, those who were living irresponsibly had not yet changed how they were living. He says in his second letter, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Though at first this can seem harsh, Paul is not talking about someone who is physically not able to work. In the Thessalonian church, some able-bodied believers were not working for their own food. Instead, they were relying on the church for their food, thus taking away from those who may have actually needed the food because they couldn’t work. They were also using their free time to interfere with the work of others. 

So how does this passage relate to us today? We all have a responsibility to contribute to our community of believers. If you are not regularly meeting with church or body of believers, the first step is to find a church and get involved! Then, we have to evaluate our attitude, actions, and speech about the church. Unlike the irresponsible believers in Thessalonica, we should adopt the attitude in our church of givers not takers. Do we view the church as a place that we go to for a service once or twice a week? Or do we view the church as a community that we are currently building up? If we believe the church is meant to serve us, our attitude will be that of a taker, a selfish attitude that focuses on ‘What does this place do for me?’ A giving attitude focuses on what we can do to help to strengthen the church. Our attitude is directly related to our actions. A taker attitude will be critical, hands-off, and selfish, whereas a giving attitude will be encouraging, supportive, and selfless. A giving attitude will try to build up members of the church through encouraging words, financial support, and tithes of time and resources. When we are focused on giving to the church, our speech will also be focused on building up rather than tearing down. A taker attitude will lead to speech that criticizes without ever contributing solutions. A giver attitude will use wise words so that their speech helps to glorify God. 

The way that we work and contribute to the community of believers is a testimony to the world of our faith. We have to focus on how we can give to glorify God. And when it seems too much, we can remember Paul’s words, “Brothers, don’t grow weary in doing good.” 

Sunday Devo

~ Cayce Fletcher 

What’s that Smell?

2 Corinthians 2

2 Corinthians 2 14

 

My brother (cool uncle that he is) gifted my daughter with a unique board game called P.U! -The Guessing Game of Smells.  Players try to guess what smell is radiating off of each scratch and sniff card.  Some are deliciously delightful and you don’t want to put the card down – like freshly baked cookies or peppermint.  And others – such as skunk, burnt rubber and doggy doo-doo – leave quite a lasting impression in the opposite direction.

 

Smells are powerful and memorable – and perhaps that is why Paul uses this powerful analogy in 2 Corinthians 14-16 (NIV).

 

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

 

Picture the streets in ancient Corinth (a busy seaport in current Greece) lined with the crowds which came out to see the Roman Emperor (God) and his general (Christ) leading their captives (those belonging to God and following Christ).  The Roman Emperor and general are powerful, awe-inspiring and triumphant.  The obedient, orderly, well-kept captives are clear witnesses to the superiority, majesty, might, and care of the emperor and general.  They indeed spread the knowledge of the triumph of Christ.

 

It is interesting to note that many versions remove the “captive” phrasing which might be seen today as a negative connotation for Christ’s followers.  The NASB for example says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ”.  In that day and age, the military image would have been very well understood.  But perhaps today we could imagine the owner (God) of the triumphant Super Bowl Championship football team at the head of the parade leading the football team (those who belong to God) who are testifying everywhere to the ‘sweetness’ of their football coach (Christ).

 

Either way – God is pleased at the witness and sweet smell of those who belong to Him.  He loves to see them show homage to their Christ/general/coach/His Son.  Others see this as well – and respond – one way or another.  Those who belong to God and are trophies of Christ’s victory are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ EVERYWHERE – both to “those who are being saved and those who are perishing”.   Our victory parade route should not stay within our church parking lot.  We need to let that sweet aroma waft through the entire city and countryside.  Even knowing that when some people smell it – they will smell death.  The losing football team (Satan’s) still has some very vocal, die-hard fans.  Sometimes when those who are perishing smell death they can react in very hostile ways.  We can, and must, still expect this today.  But don’t let it cancel your parade.  Carry on with the sweet smell of Christ – it brings life to those who will let it in.

This is so much more than a scratch and sniff board game.  More than a football play-off.  This is for life – or death.  Carry the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere you go.

-Marcia Railton