Obey Obey Obey

Friday

James 1-22

You’ve heard the message about the kingdom of God and you’ve been taught the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You decide you want to repent of your current lifestyle and be baptized into Jesus and become a part of the family of God. There’s one question that remains. What are you supposed to do in the meantime? What should you do until his return or your death. The answer is one word: obey. A person can believe all the other aspects of the gospel but if they don’t live lives of obedience to Jesus, then the rest doesn’t matter.

“…be doers of the word and not hearers only…” – James 1.22

James 1.22 is a popular verse and many people assume that ‘the word’ being spoken here is about the Bible. Thus it reads:

“…be doers of [what the bible teaches] and not hearers only…”

However, when James is writing this, the Bible we have today did not exist. The New Testament canon didn’t become finalized until hundreds of years later, so it begs the question. If James isn’t talking about the Bible, what is he talking about? In the New Testament the gospel has a plethora of synonyms, many that we don’t pick up on when we read. Some of the synonyms are:

The gospel of God – Mark 1.14

The gospel of Christ – Rom. 15.19

The good news – Acts 8.12

The word of reconciliation – II Cor. 5.19

The word of the Lord – Acts 16.32

The gospel of the grace of God – Acts 20.24

The Message of truth – Eph. 1.13

The gospel of peace – Eph. 6.15

The word of life – Phil. 2.16

The word of truth – Col. 1.5

The promise of life – II Tim. 1.1

The faithful word – Titus 1.9

The word of God – Heb. 4.12

The word – James 1.22

Instead of James saying that we need to be doers of the Bible, what he’s really saying is that we need to be doers of the gospel, not just a hearer. However, what does it mean to be a doer of the gospel? I thought the gospel was just something I experience once at my conversion and that is it? Well remember, the gospel is not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection but it is also about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom has two aspects, the future hope and the present reality. God’s reign and rule bursts into the present when we obey Jesus. When we obey Jesus, we obey him and the gospel he preached. When we obey Jesus, we become “doers of the word”.

Jesus wants all of you. Not part of you, not some of you, and not only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Not only when it’s convenient for you and not when you feel like it. Jesus wants all of your heart and mind and soul and body and he will not accept anything less. He demands that every aspect of your life be in subjection to him and his father.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel’s will save it” – Mark 8.35

Obedience can be tough and difficult and not the easiest choice to make. But obedience is rewarding. When you obey Jesus and God you spread the kingdom influence and power to those all around you whether you know it or not. God blesses your loyalty and trust in him, when you obey. And lastly, when you truly repent and embrace the new life God has given to you through Jesus, your heart changes and you desire to obey. It doesn’t become a hassle or a chore. It’s a choice you want to make.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation– Heb. 5.9

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

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Freedom IN CHRIST

Monday, September 25, 2017

Romans 8-1-2

Romans has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. God speaks through Paul so powerfully and his words paint such a beautiful portrait of the Gospel. Romans 1-7 seems to just lay it all out and to sum it up, he shares the Gospel story like this: holy God, sinful man, coming wrath, perfect Savior, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, justification by faith, sanctification by faith.

Paul drives home his message in Romans 8:1-2.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin in death.”

That’s it. That’s the central, foundational message of God to the world. The message that we preach. The message that we take to the nations and to our neighbors. The message that we lay down our lives for: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because Christ has set us free.

If you have grown up in church like me, we can sometimes get used to this message. We hear over and over again the message of “freedom in Christ” and too often discount the weight of that phrase. Freedom in Christ– this message should never grow stale! Every day that we walk this Earth, we should be reminded of our freedom found only in Christ. We are free. We are free from death. We are free from finding our satisfaction in this world. We are free from the weight of sin, just as we are free from the eternal consequences of sin. And it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we are we are free.

And although we strive to obey God and walk in the Spirit, we will constantly find ourselves falling short. It is at these times that we must remember the beginning of Romans 8:1 that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But because of Jesus’s great victory, there is now no condemnation for believers. Our sins and failures do not cause the Lord to give up on us or to love us any less, because we are secure in Christ.  In this security found in Christ, we live a life of faith and repentance, continually serving the Lord and putting sin to death.

Tomorrow, we will continue to dive into Romans 8, talking about what it means to put sin to death. It is my prayer that today we will rejoice in our freedom that is found only in Christ.

-Jennie Montgomery

 

And, in case you missed Jennie’s Sunday intro video (sorry for that techie glitch) …

Here it is – enjoy!

Diving into Romans 8

Romans 8-5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

My name is Jennie Montgomery and I am SO excited to study Romans 8 with you guys this week. Here’s a quick video introducing myself and telling you a little bit more about our study this week.

I can’t wait to grow alongside you as we dive into God’s word!

Rom 8-6a.pngRomans 8-6 b

From Jennie…

Life Everlasting

John 10-11

john 11

Monday, May 29

Yesterday we saw Jesus give a man sight; if you thought that was cool, get ready to have your mind blown!
Jesus had some good friends. We know about Peter, James and John, who were his closest disciples. They went with him when he was “transfigured.” (Remember this story from Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9.) These guys saw Jesus do things that no one else saw, which is pretty amazing. But Jesus’ friendships didn’t only include his disciples. In the city of Bethany, south-east of Jerusalem lived two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. These three people seem to be good friends of Jesus. These people trust in Jesus (11:21-22) and know that God will raise the dead (11:24). But when Lazarus gets sick, Jesus doesn’t go to visit him and Lazarus dies.
Now, Jesus is the man who has saved people from the brink of death. This is the man who walked on water. This is the man who has constant communion with the God of the universe. This is the man who is the Resurrection and the life. But what does this man do? He weeps. Jesus does not bottle his emotions, he does not try to put on a happy face and “celebrate the life” of Lazarus. He weeps. Jesus knows the sting of death.
But then Jesus changes everything. There are miracles of children being raised to life from death in scripture. But, the Jewish belief at the time of Jesus was that after three days they were gone. There was “no hope” after three days, and even these trusters-in-Jesus seem to think so. Martha says, literally “Lord, he stinks. It’s been four days.” This is the man beyond all hope, but Jesus is bigger than even our hope. He simply speaks the words, “Lazarus come out” and out he comes, alive and struggling out of his grave cloths. Jesus proves who he is, Jesus is not simply a good man, but he is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE!
Again there are some take away thoughts that I’d like to have rattle around in your brain:
First, death is awful. Seriously, it sucks. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether it is your pet cat, your grandmother, your mom and dad, or your child, death is terrible, horrific, evil. Death is an enemy. If you have lost someone, allow yourself to feel the loss. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life Himself did not try and cheer everyone up. When you have lost someone, you need to grieve as God has made you to grieve. Do you weep in a corner? Do you play sports until you can’t stand? Do you write music on a guitar and play until you fingers bleed? This grief is acceptable. Allow God to speak into your grief, but don’t feel ashamed.
But, secondly, that’s not the last story. There is life again. Death doesn’t win! Spoilers, God kills death. What a beautiful irony! God takes the thing that destroys the people he loves and destroys it. “Death” is not the final word; the final word is “Life” with God in Christ!
You can experience this. It is not hidden and unaccessible to you. This life is available for anyone and everyone. Do you want to have Resurrection and Life? Can you say what Martha said?  “Yes, Lord. I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” (John 11:27) Does this sound familiar? John 20:30-31 reads, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” Do you believe?
Do you want this life? It’s not JUST for the future. This week we also read “10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” Do you want life? Do you want an abundant life? Christianity is not just good life for later, but abundant, God-bathed life now and eternal, blissful life later. That is not just good news. That is GREAT NEWS. May you believe in Christ and begin to experience the abundant life that overflows into eternal life by believing in his name!
In Christ,
Jake Ballard
(Photo Credit: http://presenttruth.info/the-resurrection-and-the-life-january-2016/)

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

John 8-9

Sunday, May 28

Jesus is an awesome teacher. I have read Dallas Willard’s amazing work, The Divine Conspiracy, where he discusses the Sermon on the Mount. One of the points that Willard makes is that Jesus is not just a smart guy, but the smartest guy. He is not just a wise person, but the wisest person. Jesus confirms this when he says that one “greater than Solomon is here”. (Matt. 12:42, Luke 11:31) So if anyone asks you who the wisest person in the Bible was the answer isn’t Solomon; it’s JESUS!
Jesus shows his masterful hand at teaching here in John. In these first 12 chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is performing miracles, which the author calls signs. We have already read about the sign where Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-12). There have been a couple healings, one of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) and one of a paralytic on the Sabbath (5:1-15). Then he did two where he overcame the normal laws of nature by feeding the five thousand with only a little food (6:1-15) and by walking on water (6:16-21). All these signs are connected in John, because all these signs point to an important truth: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing in him, we can have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
In John 8 and 9, Jesus connects both his teaching and a sign to point to his Messiahship. In chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples see a blind man. Instead of tying the blindness to anyone’s sin, Jesus says that God’s glory, and the glory of the One and Only Son, would be displayed in the man’s life. Jesus taught previously, in chapter 8, that he is the light of the world. He declared that if we follow him we will not live in darkness but walk in the bright light of life. He then makes his point vivid by giving this blind man sight!
The once-blind man is taken in, questioned, harassed and abused by the religious leaders of his community. Instead of listening to this man tell his testimony about the truth of Jesus, they were intent on shutting down Jesus and claiming that he was a fraud. The man’s testimony is only the truth: “I was blind, but now I see.” Jesus comes to the once-blind man and basically tells him, “You can see that I am the Messiah.” Even Jesus loves puns! Jesus teaches that the blind will see and those who think that they can see are truly blind.
This story is a wonderful picture and full of rich imagery on its own. But I also come away with three thoughts for how we live today.
First, the once-blind man was “giving a testimony” about Jesus. He wasn’t even close to a “believer” as we might define it. He trusted enough to go and wash and he came back with sight; nothing more than trust that the washing would work was asked of him. That is pretty amazing. He says nothing of faith before the miracle takes place. And when people ask him about his life, all he does is tell his story. That’s all God and Christ call you to do when they say to share the good news of the gospel. It does not mean you have to have a suave and sophisticated philosophical demonstration of the proofs of God. You simply tell people how Jesus found you, and why you are better now. Were you blind and now you see? Were you addicted to something and no longer? Are you more loving to your family and friends? THAT is your evangelism, that is the good news God calls you to share.
Second, do you feel like the once-blind man? There are times when we experience God doing something in our lives that doesn’t make sense. We CAN’T explain why something is happening. This guy just says “All I know is that I was blind, and now I see!” Sometimes, we feel God moving in ways that may make our families, our churches or ourselves uncomfortable. The people who should have celebrated this man’s miracle the most, his family and his religious leaders, turned their backs on him and cast him out. When God is moving, trust in what He is doing, keep looking for Him, and no matter who let’s go of you, God will find you. 
Third, take care that you are walking in the light of Christ so that you can see and live. Just like the people of Jesus’ day, this sign is pointing us to Jesus so that we can believe and have life in his name. Take care that you don’t lose sight of that purpose. The purpose is not for us to say “I wish I could see a miracle.” The miracle has been done. Will you believe because of it? Will you trust that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Remember, if you don’t want to believe, that is still an option. But there is a cost: rejection leads to a life of darkness, and the ultimate darkness of death. Christ offers us so much more with life in this life that leads to eternal life. He is the light of the world and he offers us himself. Praise be to God through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World!
-Jake Ballard
Jake Ballard is Pastor at Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN. He is a husband to Amber, father to Melody Grace, and proud “daddy” to a black kitty named River (for my Dr. Who and Firefly fans). Jake is a graduate student at Bethel Seminary, where he is kept busy. When he does have free time, he likes to read (Tolkien and Riordan at the moment), watch Netflix (Star Wars: Deep Space Nine), and play video and board games. (Always open for suggestions, as I am less busy in the summer). He hopes that his devotions will help you, dear reader, fall in love with the Gospel of John, because if he had to pick a favorite book, it would be this one! God bless! 
(Photo Credit: http://www.boldcupofcoffee.com/blog/i-am-the-light-of-the-world)

Justice vs. Mercy

Matthew 25-26

mercy vs justice

Saturday, May 6

Which is more important in God’s eyes, justice or mercy?  That might be a difficult question to answer, but let me give it a try.

First let’s talk about justice.  There are many examples of God’s justice in today’s reading.  In the parable of the ten virgins, those who were not ready for the return of Christ were told by Jesus that he did not know them.  They were receiving justice for the lives they lived.  In the parable of the talents, the man who did not use the talents that were given to him was sent to the place where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Justice was on display again.  In Matthew 25:31-46, those that did not help the needy were sentenced to eternal punishment.  Justice served.  Judas betrayed Jesus and Jesus said it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born.  That was a warning that justice was on its way.  There was no mercy shown in any of these instances, only justice.

In Matthew 26, Jesus is arrested and his death on the cross is imminent.  We know why Jesus needed to die – to pay the debt for our sins.  The wages of sin is death so we all deserve to die since we have all sinned.  But think about this for a minute.  Couldn’t there have been a different way to make it right?  Jesus even prayed that prayer three times.  He didn’t want to die and he was hoping there was a different way to handle this.  God is in charge of everything so certainly he could have come up with an alternative solution to this problem.  Maybe if we sincerely repented for our sins, God could have shown us mercy and wiped our slates clean without anyone having to die.  Or maybe if we showed Him that we loved Him he could have overlooked our sins.  There had to be a different way.  Why did someone have to die?  The reason someone had to die is because of justice.  God is such a just God that He could not ignore justice.  It is very clear to me that God believes justice must always occur.

So where does that leave mercy?  Let’s go back to the death of Jesus.  Jesus was God’s own son.  He was also without sin.  There has only been one person on this earth in the history of mankind that did not deserve death, and that was Jesus.  God watched his only son be tortured and killed on the cross for something he did not do.  I can’t even imagine how painful it would be to watch one of my children suffer and die for something they did not do.  Yet God allowed it to happen, even though He could have stepped in and rescued him at any time.  Why would He just watch and do nothing?  It was because of His immense love for each of us.  He let His own son die for our sins so that we would not have to.  I believe that is the greatest act of mercy that has ever taken place.

So the answer to justice vs. mercy is “both”.  God will make sure justice occurs 100% of the time and He is on record as committing the most merciful act in history.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit http://www.breslev.co.il/articles/breslev/rebbe_nachmans_wisdom/mercy_vs__justice.aspx?id=26842&language=english)

What Are You Dishing Out Today?

Proverbs 17-19

proverbs-17-28

Thursday, January 26

So, how has your mouth been doing this week?  Today is a great time to make some positive changes.  One of my favorite Proverbs about our mouths is in today’s reading:  “The tongue has the power of life and death” (18:21).   Life or Death – you can’t get more powerful than that.  Life or Death – what life-giving words will you use today?  Life or Death – which will you be dishing out today?

And, just like your momma always said, “If you can’t find anything . . . to say that brings life . . . then DON’T say anything at all.”  I’m pretty sure she got that from Proverbs.  Maybe from 17:28 – “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”    So, consider this the next time you open your mouth to speak words with the power of death – if you close your mouth before speaking it just might be a win-win for you and your listener alike.  You might avoid proving yourself foolish, and your intended audience might be spared a deathly blow.  And, if you do spit out those deathly words that are fighting to get out . . . does anyone win?  Other verses also remind us of the importance of listening and how it leads to wisdom:

18:13 – He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.

 

19:20 – Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise

Today’s chapters also repeatedly speak of the wisdom of overlooking an offense, or on the flip side, the foolishness of quarrelling.  Do you more often find yourself holding onto a grudge or forgiving and moving on?   Do you find your feelings easily hurt and hold it against others?  Are you quick to start a quarrel, or let the moment pass in peace?

17:9 – He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

17:14 – Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

17:19 – He who loves a quarrel loves sin.

I think we could all benefit by evaluating how well, or poorly, we do with 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”    Which do you find yourself more interested in – understanding others or speaking your mind?  One little note on covering offenses – I am sure this is not referring to ignoring immoral sins.  We know that unrepentant sin leads to death and it is not loving to ignore that.  Galatians 6:1 has some wise advice in that case, as well as Proverbs 28:23 and Matthew 18.  No doubt, it takes much wisdom to know how to proceed in various situations.  Good thing God gives wisdom (James 1:5) and thank goodness we have the book of Proverbs to help us grow our wisdom.
A few more Proverbs that are just too good to not mention briefly . . .

On Zeal – typically considered a good thing – however . . .  “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (19:2)  Can you think of a project you may have jumped into . . . and then realized you should have done more “homework” first?   What about those facebook posts we have all seen where a very zealous person is on a rampage because of the latest outrage . . . only to have a friend point out the errors in their information (thank you, snopes).  Very zealous, but not very helpful without the true knowledge – and God’s Word is even more reliable than snopes.

On Disciplining Children/Youth – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (19:18).   No one likes to be  disciplined – and the parent doing the discipline isn’t too thrilled either.  However, discipline sure beats death.  As a parent I need to remember that I do NOT make their life better by being their best friend and making things easy for both of us.  I make their life better by firmly and lovingly teaching rules, consequences, boundaries, how to listen and follow directions.  By teaching our children how to obey their parents we are also teaching them how to obey God and that is the most important lesson, that leads to life not death.  So teens out there reading, next time you are disciplined by your parents, surprise them – give them a giant hug and a great big thank you for saving you from death.  Then, watch them faint!

What would our relationships and family look like if we lived out all of these wonderful Proverbs everyday?  Keep praying for wisdom and working at the lessons learned in Proverbs.  They bring life – and who couldn’t use more of that.

Marcia Railton