Hearts of Flesh

Empathy

This week, we have explored the ways in which empathy informs and shapes our call as Christians to love one another.  We’ve learned how empathy is sitting with and understanding another’s perspective.  We’ve looked at how empathy allows us to love others in ways that uniquely speak to their circumstances.  We’ve even seen how we have a high priest in Christ who’s empathy has brought us salvation.

 

Today, I would like to end our time together by encouraging each one of us to live our lives more empathetically in light of our readings.  In a society that often seems more and more connected, we can increasingly find ourselves alone.  At its very root, empathy stands against such isolation by opening our own hearts to those around us.

 

This is hard.  This is dangerous.  It’s a path that has even led to the cross.  But when we refuse or close our eyes to the full humanity of those around us, we begin to break the very ties that make us human.  Because out of everything that God has made, only loneliness was not good.

 

To be human – the way that humanity is meant to be – is to be in community, relationship, and connection with all those around us.  Who is our neighbor? Everyone.  Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.  Who should I love? Even my enemies.

 

The work of God, from the emancipation of the Israelites to the salvation of the resurrection, is a story of an ever widening circle of people that are called to love and care for one another in the glory of God.  That cause has not changed even today.

 

We are called to love and care and expand the boundaries of our own comfort so that the unlovable will be cared for and the lonely will no longer be alone.

 

Empathy is the tool that protects our hearts from becoming stone.

 

As we part ways today, my prayer for each of us is that we are transformed and empowered to carry hearts of flesh that can love beyond human comprehension.

-Graysen Pack

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The Death of a King

Wednesday

Romans 5-8

There are a handful of ways to think about the meaning of the death of Jesus. From a Jewish point of view Jesus was killed because he was a false prophet. From a Roman point of view, he gathered a large following that was counter-cultural to Roman authority, so they executed him. Or if you’re a muslim, Jesus wasn’t killed at all on the cross. Almost all people recognize that Jesus actually did die, but the question is why? The New Testament has several different ways of understanding why Jesus died. These include, Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil, to satisfy God’s need for justice, to justify us apart from Torah or the law, and to give us eternal life. However, the most ubiquitous reason the New Testament gives as to why Jesus died, is that he died for our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us from this present evil age…” Gal.1.3-4

“…he bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I Pet. 2.24

“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Rom. 5.8

“…when he had taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin’” – Matt. 26.27-28

The reason Jesus’ death is so significant is because it solves the problem of sin. Sin is a barrier between us and God, it is impossible for us to be in the presence of God because he is holy and perfect and we are not. Jesus’ death satisfies God’s need for justice. The cost of sin has been paid for by Jesus. So through Jesus we can have a renewed relationship with God through Jesus. Apart from Jesus, God sees us as worthy of wrath and death, he sees all our mistakes and rebellion. But in Jesus, he sees us being right before him and clean and pure. Because of Jesus we are able to be in the presence of God. Jesus’ death is the means by which we can enter the kingdom. Hope, forgiveness, contentedness, and so much more can be found when someone accepts the gift of Jesus’ death for them.

For someone to be restored to God and to be a part of the kingdom when it comes, they must accept Jesus’ death. Through Jesus’ death all can live.

-Jacob Rohrer-

 

 

Your Body?

I Corinthians 5-9

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Monday, June 19

 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.                                                 I Corinthians 6:19-20

 

Paul’s discussion on sexual immorality in the second half of chapter 6 can be difficult to hear. Even though Paul uses the example of being “joined to a prostitute” (v. 16), he is talking about sexual intercourse outside of the marriage covenant in general (i.e., before marriage or with someone not our spouse).

 

Paul’s reasoning is that our body is a temple of his spirit that he has given us, and that joining ourselves to (i.e., having sex with) someone who we are not married to defiles our body. And since we are members of Christ’s body, we defile Christ as we each have become “one spirit” with him (v. 17).

 

Now what is the point of Paul’s injunction except to say that you should not have sex before marriage? In a beautiful declaration to conclude this section of his letter, Paul proclaims, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (v. 20). What does it mean that I am “not my own”? Am I not a person, do I not have a mind, am I not free? Paul’s language here is couched in the language of being purchased as a household servant was purchased in the ancient biblical culture, and it communicates the value that is inherent in each person’s life.

 

Something was sacrificed and given in order to be claimed by God as his. In Paul’s metaphor, he is portraying the crucifixion of his son, Jesus Christ, as a price that was paid in order for us to be purchased by God. So if we are not our own, what does that mean for my life? We are not our own because our life has been rescued from the power of darkness, but not by our own doing. We were dead and helplessly lost in sin. But because God loved us so much, he sent Jesus to die and redeem us and reconcile us back to God.

 

Therefore, our life is not ours to do with whatever we want. We are not free to live in whatever way we please. Being purchased by God and given new life in Christ means that our life should reflect that reality. We don’t get to decide what is right and wrong, or good and bad. If we choose to follow our fleshly desires and every inclination of our heart, we would be living no differently than an unbeliever, and our life would not be a testimony to God’s love and mercy. It would be mocking and making fun of God’s love by treating it as a trifling thing of no importance at all.

 

So rather than making the mistake of living however we feel, Paul exhorts his readers to “glorify God in our body” (v. 20). Glorifying God is more than the duty of one who believes in God, it is a response of worship and thanksgiving that recognizes the life we now have and the fellowship we enjoy with God and the Lord Jesus Christ is all because of the cost that God paid by sacrificing his son on the cross.

 

In conclusion, think upon the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians as he considered himself to be joined to Christ both in his death and also in his resurrected life.

 

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

 

If we live in ways that are contrary to being united with Christ, then nothing has really changed in us, and it would be as if Christ died for no purpose. How can our lives can be a living sacrifice that brings glory to God and is a light to the world? How can we demonstrate that we are connected to Christ and united with him in one spirit?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

(Photo Credit by: http://www.warrencampdesign.com/graphicDesign.html .  Found at http://www.warrencampdesign.com/heartyBoys/corinthians/letter1a/week8.html)

 

The Wisdom of This Age?

1 Corinthians 1-4

1 Corinthians 2-5 Faith In The Powe Of God blue

Sunday, June 18

 

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  (I Corinthians 2:6)

 

Paul has been describing how the message of the cross is God’s wisdom and power (1:18, 24), but it is a wisdom that this world cannot offer. And while Paul asserts that his message is not with “lofty speech” or “wisdom” (2:1), the cross is, in fact, wisdom—wisdom from God. It is a “hidden wisdom” (2:7) that contains an ancient message with the power to save those who believe.

 

Every period of history, there has been a conflict between the popular wisdom of the day and the wisdom of the cross. Paul refers to the popular wisdom of the day as the “wisdom of this age.” It is the wisdom that is espoused by the culture and times where one lives. But the wisdom of the age is contrary to the wisdom of the cross. Everything that the world claims to be wisdom is in fact foolishness compared to the cross, and everything God has revealed through the cross is deemed to be foolishness according to the world.

 

Have you ever wondered why the message of the cross receives such resistance by the world? Paul declares that the wisdom of the cross is radically different than the wisdom of the world because the wisdom of the age is diametrically opposed to the wisdom that is offered through the cross. And not only is the wisdom of the cross contrary to the wisdom of the world, the message and power of the cross cannot be understood by the world. In the eyes of the “natural man,” the wisdom of God is foolishness (2:14). It takes the spirit of God to discern the spiritual truth resident in the message of the cross. By all natural means, the despicable death of a false prophet from Nazareth upon a dishonorable and humiliating cross must surely be devoid of any real wisdom, for there can be nothing of value by following the teachings of some obscure, washed-up rabbi, who was thought to be born illegitimately and who did not follow the customs and traditions of the ancestors as was expected of a Jewish teacher of the Law.

 

This is exactly the appeal that the “wisdom of the age” proposes. It will contradict and distort the meaning of the cross or just out right deny its truth and power. Concerning the denial of the wisdom of the cross and the very existence of a God who sent his son to die upon it, I am reminded of a scene in the autobiographical allegory of C. S. Lewis, Pilgrim’s Regress, when John (Lewis’ main character) is portrayed as being imprisoned by despair that is imposed by a worldview that rejects any notion of a Creator (i.e., Naturalism). As Lewis personifies the antagonism of this worldview, he shows the perversions and absurd deductions of a worldview that tries to make sense of life apart from God and the wisdom he offers.

 

“Then I [John] dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them [the prisoners] and the jailer said as he put down the pipkin: ‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions….’

 

John said, ‘Thank heavens! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense. You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

 

[Jailor]: ‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’

 

[John]: ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?”

 

Don’t let the wisdom of the age undermine the wisdom of God and the power of the cross. Life will not make sense without the wisdom that is found in the truth revealed by it.

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Devotion by Jerry Wierwille

 

 

Empty

Matthew 27-28

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Sunday, May 7

 

Empty … What does that word mean to you? Is your wallet empty? Is your plate empty? Is your gas tank empty? Do you feel empty? Empty is usually a word that gives us a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of defeat. It is a word that can be almost painful to say. Emptiness can paralyze our thoughts, it can stop us in our tracks.

 

Matthew 27 tells us about Jesus being beaten, mocked, crucified, and buried. This seems like a good reason to lose hope and that is exactly what some did. We all know how painful it can be when someone close to us dies. The disciples watched the man they had been following for years die on a cross. They watched as the Messiah they had spent their lifetime waiting for hung on a tree and they saw him breathe his last mortal breath. I can only imagine the emptiness they felt that Friday and Saturday.

 

The good news is that in chapter 28 empty takes on a new meaning for all who follow Jesus. Our hearts are full of hope because the tomb is EMPTY!!! Matthew 28:6, 7 says, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen…!” (NASB) The disciples found hope in the emptiness of the grave. We find hope in the emptiness of the grave. For the believer, the empty tomb provides the fullness of our hope!

 

-Bill Dunn

Bio – I am a husband, dad, and a pastor. I am also a longtime St. Louis Cardinals fan. Our family has a dog and some fish. We spend our spare time (which there isn’t usually much of) as a family and try to show the world the love God has shown us. If I have the chance to be outside, that is probably where you will find me.

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/matthew-27-2016/)

REMEMBER (Numbers 15-17)

September 5

talon mon

By Talon Paul

In this section of reading, it can get very overwhelming to read with all of the laws that God gives to the Israelites that may not matter to us in 21st century America very much. However, one of the laws that God gives the Israelites should draw our attention and is very important to understand.

In Numbers 15:38-41, God commands the Israelites to wear ‘tassels’ on their outfits, but it isn’t just so that they look fashionable and “cool”. God has commanded this so that, as verse 39-40 state, the Israelites will remember all that God has done for them and to remember to do all that God commanded.

We as Christians have a very firm and more powerful reminder to do what God has commanded: the cross. A man, Jesus, was literally tortured and executed because of our sins. We can look back to this as a reminder of the fact that God has given us a way to be forgiven of our sins, but also as a reminder that, because of that sacrifice, we need to obey the commands of Jesus and God. When we do this, it keeps us from sinning against them and gives us a hope for the future.