A Powerful and Caring Savior

Hebrews Chapter Two

death was arrested

Let’s jump right into chapter two of Hebrews.  I want to start off in verse four.  Verse four states that “while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  God can witness to us in a number of ways.  God is constantly working in and around us.  He is constantly witnessing to the world that he is LORD of all.  We have to keep our eyes and ears open to what God is doing both in and around our lives.

To continue, we again see the theme of Jesus being glorified.  God has placed “everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.”  That is some high praise.  God has placed everything in subjection to Jesus.  With the Church of God being so strong on the oneness of God, sometimes we may fail to give Jesus enough credit in trying to distinguish him from God.  Hebrews is full of great passages that glorify Jesus.  What is important to note is that when Jesus is glorified, God is glorified in him.  We see this in John 13:31, as it states, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”  On the other hand, Jesus wasn’t always glorified.  Verses 7 and 9 state that Jesus was made lower than the angels.  This is great proof that Jesus is not coequal with God or God himself.  Although Jesus gets a lot of high praise in the book of Hebrews, it is still evident that he is not equal with God.

If we jump ahead to verse fourteen, we see that through Jesus’ death on the cross “he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”  This reminds me of the song Death was Arrested.  The final verse of Death was Arrested reads as followed:

Our Savior displayed on a criminal’s cross

Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost

But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand

That’s when death was arrested and my life began

Now you can think of this verse every time you sing this verse in Death was Arrested.  It’s beautiful how the death of our Lord and Savior ends up being the sign of victory through his resurrection.  One could not write that any better than what took place about 2,000 years ago.

We have been talking (well I have been talking) a lot about how Hebrews glorifies Jesus.  It is awesome to hear of these great things about Jesus, and also hear things such as “he helps the offspring of Abraham,” (Heb 2:16), and “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted,” (Heb 2:18).  The same Jesus that is ascribed to have so much power and authority in Hebrews, is also described as helping us out!  We have a Lord and Savior who is powerful and caring at the same time.  He helps us out, as Galatians 3:29 points out that we being Christians are Abraham’s offspring.  Let this encourage you as you go along the rest of your days.

Sincerely,

Kyle McClain

 

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The End of the Christmas Story

nativity

What is the end of the Christmas Story?

Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were  returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)

Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)

Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December.  A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder.  The end.  But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story.  I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.

Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!!  And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children)  all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant.  His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).  Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before.  The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.

And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world.  His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then.  How could they have been so wrong?

Thankfully, that is still not the end.  Three days later…the tomb is empty!  Joy to the World!!  Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.   Luke 24:22-28

A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom.  And Jesus’ death made the way.  And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection.  For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin.  This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations.  The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week.  But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.

In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven.  When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).  The best is yet to come!

The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning.  A beginning that is still to come.  When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful.  The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king.  A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.

I pray I will be found ready.  And I pray you will be found ready.  Let’s get to work and tell the nations!

“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)

-Marcia Railton

 

Joy to the World – Up From the Grave He AROSE!

Luke 24

JOY to the WORLD!

In yesterday’s devotion, Jesus died.  And the world –  the centurion, the sky, the women, the crowd – took notice and responded.  Even the crowd that had not been Jesus’ followers, some of whom may have earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!”, now, “beat their breasts and went away” (Luke 23:48).  There was something very different about this man Jesus and the way he died.  Though they did not understand at the time that he had died for their sins – and not only theirs – but the sins of the world.

If Luke’s gospel story had ended there, we could still be forgiven people today – able to have a relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus carrying our sins to his death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  BUT – there is even MORE good news to come in Luke 24!  A great gift of God is set before us – eternal life in Christ Jesus our RISEN Lord.  Without a risen Lord there would be no future hope for a resurrection for his followers.

When the women brought news to the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11,12).   He was going to search it out and find the truth.  Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had many questions and were confused about what they had seen and heard.  Jesus walked with them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).

Today, news of his resurrection and the resurrection to come still brings great joy to his followers.  There are those who say it sounds like nonsense.  There are those who are questioning.  Be like Peter and seek out answers.  Like Jesus, dig into the Scriptures and reveal them to others.  Declare the good news of Jesus’ birth – but then so much more – his death and resurrection.  Share the Joy!

-Marcia Railton

The Christmas Story Continues

Luke 23 47

Luke 23

Questioning Pilate

Curious Herod

Accusing chief priests

Mocking soldiers

Appealing Pilate

Shouting crowd

Desperate Pilate

Mad mob

Defeated Pilate

Fortunate Barabbas

Condemned Jesus

Cross-carrying Simon

Mourning women

Guilty criminals

Crucified three-some

Forgiving Messiah

Sneering rulers

Informative sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

Insulting felon

Compassionate criminal

Welcoming Jesus

Saved criminal

Darkened sky

Torn curtain

Committed spirit

Last breath

Amazed centurion

Dead righteous man

Seeing crowd

Generous Joseph

So much could be said and written about any one of these elements of Luke 23.  Much of Luke and the gospels – and even the Old Testament – point to this moment in history: the Crucifixion of the Son of God.  Which character do you identify with most today?  Which adjective describes you this year?  What do you find the most amazing?  How does this chapter of Jesus’ history add to the Christmas story of Luke 20 we discussed earlier this week?  In an effort to become more Christ-like, what characteristics do you see in this chapter that you want to work on this week?

Keep Reading and Growing

-Marcia Railton

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

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

1Corinthians.6.20_lg

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

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