Saved – by Your Faith

Luke 7

Luke 7_50

In Luke 7:1-10 we find the story of the centurion’s servant.  The centurion was a conqueror and a foreigner, but despite this we find that he is a God fearing man who supports the Jews by building a synagogue for them.  He has a servant who is dying so he sends messengers to Jesus to have Jesus heal the servant. He shows great humility and faith in Jesus through his actions and the servant is healed because of his great faith. Faith unequalled in all of Israel according to Jesus.

 

I think there are a couple of important lessons in this.

First, maybe you are like the centurion, maybe you didn’t grow up in the church and are a new believer, and maybe you are looking at Christianity from the outside and wondering if you can even be a part of this community.  Of course you can! Salvation and God’s work in the world is based on faith, not upbringing or culture or works. So don’t worry about your past, because God can work powerfully in your life no matter what is in your past!

Second, maybe you are like the Israelites in this story, you grew up in church or have been a Christian for a while and are maturing in your walk with God. I think for you this story has an encouragement and a warning. I encourage you to be like the Jewish people that the centurion sent to Jesus that were able to see past the fact that the centurion was a foreigner and conqueror and see the faith he had and to then recommend that Jesus help him. We should always be ready to welcome new believers based on their faith, and not judging them the way the world might judge them.

 I also warn you to not be complacent or lukewarm like much of the Jewish community was when Jesus was with them. Jesus said that this centurion had more faith than any other in Israel. Many in Israel missed out on being healed and having their sins forgiven in Israel because they were out of tune with God and were not able to see when he was moving. I encourage you to be disciplined in your prayer life and in reading the scriptures so that your relationship with God will not grow stale.

 

I encourage you to read the rest of Luke 7, and especially verses 36-50, and to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Do I show my gratitude for Jesus’s sacrifice for my sins like the Pharisee or like the woman?

When I give God my time or money or talents do I give my best or do I give the leftovers?

-Chris Mattison
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The Boy who Changed – and Is Still Changing – the World

Luke 2

Luke 2 final

“Do not be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

 

Today, we are reading through Luke chapter 2 which contains one of the most popular accounts written in the Bible—which is the birth of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Regardless of our religious affiliation or background, we are familiar with the story line. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be registered under Caesar Augustus’s decree. While there, it comes time for Mary to give birth. Because there is no room in any inn, she must give birth in a stable.

 

For us, this narrative is important because it is the beginning of the story of a man who turned (and is still turning) the world upside down. We can skip forward and see how much of an impact Jesus had on so many, and we can also see how he works in our lives today.

 

But imagine being in the shoes of Mary, Joseph, and even the shepherds. They weren’t able to skip ahead, they had to live it out. For Mary and Joseph, they had to trust in God that he would see them through. They had to have strong enough faith that God would do what he said he would do. For the shepherds, imagine going from a normal day to having an angel tell you that the Son of God has been born. The Messiah is here! It is even written that they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

 

Why does this matter? I just think it’s important for us to realize that these heroes we read about in the Bible were more than just characters. They were real people. They didn’t get the luxury of knowing what was written on the next page. They had fears, and they weren’t perfect. They had to trust in God and his purpose. They had to believe that God was going to hold their hand through everything. Imagine the trust! Imagine the faith!

 

So as you read today, place yourself in their shoes. Because if we can understand what Mary and Joseph went through, maybe we can learn to emulate their faith in our own lives.

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

Allow Me to Introduce You to Luke…

Luke 1_4

 

 “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”    Luke 1:3-4

If you have grown up in the church like myself, you were probably taught basic theology at a young age. I sang the songs, made the crafts, remembered my memory verses, and before I realized it, I had formed beliefs. Everything seemed so simple.

As we grow older, everything becomes complicated. We look at all the denominations around us, with many differing perspectives, and that child-like belief starts to become muddled by all of the confusion. This is the point where we ask ourselves, “What do I really believe?”

This is why I love Luke. His in-depth account of the Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his resurrection not only gives us insight into the Son of God in an intimate way, it gives us backing to the beliefs that we hold dear.

Regardless of any creed, doctrine, or ideal, I know, without a doubt, that I can sit down and read Luke’s account of the story of Jesus and know that it is true. That validity is such a faith builder and invigorates me to dive deeper into the gospel.

This week, we are going back to our roots. Let’s start from the beginning together shall we? Because, sometimes, in order to jump forward, we have to get back to the basics.

 

-Leslie Jones

Paul’s Prayer: Strong Holy Hearts

TUESDAY

1 Thessalonians 3-13a

I Thessalonians 3

1Th. 3:1   Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

 

1Th. 3:6   But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7 For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

 

1Th. 3:11   Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

I highlighted Paul’s prayer at the end of this chapter. In several of Paul’s letters, he offers a prayer in the middle. In these prayers, he often prays about the things which he is about to write. In this prayer, after praying that God will make it possible for him to return to Thessaloniki, he prays three things for the Thessalonians:

 

  1. May they increase and abound in love for one another,
  2. May God strengthen their hearts in holiness.
  3. May they be blameless before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

 

Paul gives practical teaching on these three things in chapter 4 and we will be looking at his teachings on holiness in the remainder of these devotions this week.

-Greg Demmitt

 

Bold

Peter

When being bold can be a flaw

Matt. 14:22-31, Matt. 16:21-23, Luke 22:31-34

I think we all know someone, it may even be the person in the mirror, who seems to have the Frank Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way” playing as their anthem. I believe one such person in the Bible is Peter. Peter seemed to try to be the exception to every rule and push boundaries that the other apostles didn’t dream of.

Remember when Peter walked out on the water to meet Jesus? It doesn’t mention anyone else volunteering but Peter in faith and boldness offered to meet Jesus on the water. This is just one of many stories of Peter stepping up and speaking out. While many times his boldness was a good thing there are times the contrary was true.

In Matt 16 Jesus explained that he would suffer and be killed but Peter rebuked him! Can you imagine taking Jesus to the side and telling him that he was wrong? Jesus set Peter straight on the matter but Peter still didn’t seem to understand.

In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus tells them again that he must suffer and that they cannot go where he is going. Peter boldly proclaims that he would follow Jesus even to death. Later in the chapter (vs54-62) Peter boldly denied Christ three times just as Christ told him he would. I can’t imagine the sorrow in Peter’s heart as he looked into his Savior’s eyes knowing that he had denied that he even knew him.

Peter’s boldness when not thought through was a flaw but Jesus knew there was potential in Peter and even prayed that his faith would be strengthened so he could also help strengthen his brothers (Matt. 16:32). After Jesus’ resurrection Peter boldly spoke about the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaimed the gospel message.

God answered Christ’s prayer and helped shape Peter into an evangelist. If Peter, Jesus and God chose not to focus on Peter’s flaws that tells us that we should also choose grace and not focus on our own flaws or the flaws of others.

-Lacey Dunn

Defeated

Elijah

1 Kings 19 14

1 Kings 18:20-24 and 36-40, 1 Kings 19:9-18

When I hear the name “Elijah” my mind fills with highlight moments from his life such as the chariot of fire whisking him away, him egging on the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, or him bringing a dead boy back to life. This highlight reel that plays in my mind however doesn’t give the full spectrum of Elijah.

In 1 Kings 18 we see one of these highlight moments. Elijah spent the day with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel as they tried to prove that Baal was god. Long story short is that the prophets of Baal failed but the one true God showed up. The prophets of Baal ran away but were chased and killed by Elijah and the people of Israel.

What I find fascinating is despite this moment of faith and triumph it says in 1 Kings 19:3 that Elijah was, “afraid and arose and ran for his life” after Jezebel (the wife of the wicked King Ahab) decided that she would have him hunted down and killed since he killed all her prophets of Baal.

Elijah finds himself in the wilderness and reaches a point to where he feels he can’t go on. God sends an angel to him to give him food to help sustain him and he then traveled for forty days and nights to the Mountain of God at Horeb.

In Kings 19:8-18 Elijah reaches Horeb and God tells him that He is about to pass by. A rock shattering wind blows through but God was not in it. An earthquake shakes the mountain but God was not in it. A fire tore through the mountain but God was not in it. After these powerful forces comes a gentle whisper and Elijah knows that it is God. God listens to Elijah’s fears and feelings of defeat and then explains to him that He has a plan for Elijah and comforts him.

Elijah is a bit different from the other Bible characters we have discussed so far because I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Elijah feeling defeat is a flaw. However, I think we often will see defeat in ourselves and because of it label ourselves as flawed. The beauty is that God had a plan for Elijah just as He does for you and I. He knows that we will have times that we feel completely drained and defeated but He is willing and able to replenish us.

-Lacey Dunn

Reprobate

Rahab

Hebrews 11-31

Read Joshua 2:1-21, Joshua 6:22-23

If you have made it through high school literature classes you have more than likely ran across the story of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Whether you sat down and read it while sipping on a cup of cocoa or madly skimmed through the cliff notes you probably know the basic story. Hester Prynne is marked with a scarlet letter because of her sin of adultery and is forced to be branded with the letter A making her and her illegitimate child reprobates in their town.

Early in the book of Joshua we find another woman who could have also been branded as a reprobate. Joshua 2 tells us about how Joshua sent out spies to get a glimpse of Jericho. While at Jericho the two men end up seeking refuge at Rahab’s home. Rahab was a harlot in Jericho. It seems that she was pretty well known for being a harlot as the King himself sent her a message to hand over the men that came to her home. (Joshua 2:3)

At this point we as readers can do one of two things. We can treat Rahab like the townspeople did Hester Prynne’s character and focus on that giant “A” embroidered into her clothes or we can focus instead on her heart and faith. Basically we can either focus on Rahab’s flaws or potential.

In Joshua 2 while the spies are still hiding in her home Rahab demonstrates great faith and courage. By hiding these spies she was committing treason which could have resulted in her death but she recognized the power of God and was willing to be courageous and hide the spies while sending her own countrymen on a wild goose chase. Although she had grown up with pagan gods she saw that Yahweh was powerful and was willing to put her faith in him so that she and her family would survive. Rahab also showed that she was intelligent and wise with how she very carefully orchestrated the spies’ getaway.

In Joshua Chapter 6 after the walls of Jericho tumbled down we find that Rahab did as the spies instructed and that God was faithful to her. She is also noted in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 as a woman who was faithful and righteous. We even find that Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5).

How can it be that a prostitute is so highly spoken of and even in the lineage of our Savior? It is because God didn’t see her as a harlot but rather as His creation. He saw her as a person who had value and potential and redeemed her as His own.

-Lacey Dunn