Don’t Look Back

Acts 13 38

Acts 13 

Isn’t that what this is all about? The best gift – freedom and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. People had been waiting for him for years and now they were finally preaching about it, sharing the good news. Could you imagine being alive back then and reading the stories from the prophets and then finally hearing about Jesus? People had been talking, speculating, doubting, waiting, and anticipating him for YEARS. It is such a confirmation to our faith, it would be impossible not to talk about it!

In Acts 13, Saul, who is now called Paul, is on a mission to proclaim the gospel and he is not looking back. It’s crazy to think about the person he was just a few chapters ago. He is a great example of how we should approach our own missions. We die to ourselves, find our identity in Christ, and don’t look back. We have a lot to proclaim and not a lot of time, so worrying about who we once were will only hinder us!

-Grace Rodgers

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Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8_10

Today we get to look at a short chapter that is pretty packed!  I really enjoy how this chapter is laid out; it makes it easy to pick out what is being said. As a college student, I love when authors give you a heads up by saying, “Here’s the main point!”.  It’s like they are pointing flashing arrows at key concepts that will be on the test later.  Not that there is necessarily going to be a written exam at the end of this book… but we are definitely expected to know what is going on here!  Verse 1 and 2 clues us in as to what the author is trying to get at.  We have a high priest sitting at the right hand of God serving in a heavenly sanctuary that wasn’t built by humans.  He’s there!

As we move on to verse 5 we see that the current tabernacle at that time was built specifically to mirror the one in heaven.  I found that tidbit really interesting!  I’m someone who tends to gloss over the verses that are just measurements and descriptions of structures… I find them pretty boring to be honest.  BUT, how cool is it that the tabernacle Moses was to build had all of those specific measurements for a real purpose, besides just structural stability?  It gave me a little bit of a boost to read through all of those seemingly unimportant building directions we find throughout Scripture!

Verse 6 and on is somewhat of a comparison and contrast between the old covenant and the new.  First, we see that the new covenant is made superior and is established on better promises (vs 6).  In verses 7 and 8 we see that a new covenant was deemed necessary by God because he found fault in the first and wanted to establish one between both the people of Israel and Judah.  The next verse I think would’ve been a little tough to swallow as an Israelite.  Here the author is writing about how the Israelites did not remain faithful to God’s first covenant and because of that, He turned away from them.  Thankfully the chapter doesn’t end there and continues on to describe how amazing the new covenant will be!

In the last few verses we are told that we will be God’s people, that all will know the LORD, and that we will be forgiven of our sins!  Verse 12 says that God will remember our sins no more and that our wickedness is forgiven.  Praise God for a second chance! (Truthfully more like third, fourth, fifth, one millionth….) To end the chapter verse 13 restates that the old covenant is done, gone, obsolete.  We are living under a new covenant that offers us a clean slate.

Today I encourage you to take advantage of your clean slate, let your sins of yesterday be dissolved and obsolete like the old covenant, and press forward with the reminder that your sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ.  What are you going to do today with that grace?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

 

A Better Hope

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 26

Hello everyone!

Thank you to Kyle McClain for getting us started into Hebrews; he’s a hard act to follow!  We can’t jump right into chapter 7 without revisiting the last few verses in 6.  In the end of the previous chapter we are discussing Jesus being regarded as a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  (Gesundheit!)

The beginning of chapter 7 explains who Melchizedek was for the readers and, in a way, giving Jesus some street cred.  The author clearly wants to stress the place of power and importance this King was in (vs. 4) and why it was important that Jesus came from his order.  Verse 15 and 16 explain a little more on why Jesus was to come from his order- it’s because his ancestry doesn’t exactly lead to priesthood!  Coming from a carpenter and a seemingly average woman isn’t a common start for someone so deserving of our praise and worship.  I think the author here was trying to give Jesus some more credibility for the Hebrews he was writing to.

Verse 18 and 19 has some of my favorite language in it!  “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”  Why do we need Jesus?  Because the old law was weak, useless, and made nothing perfect!  Couldn’t be more clear than that.  With our new hope (Jesus), we are able to draw near to God and have a close personal relationship with Him.  Before Jesus, the law required sacrifice and prevented people from having that personal relationship with God that we all know and love.  After Jesus, or rather after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are saved completely and always have a connection to God through Jesus’ intercession (vs. 25).  How amazing is that?

In the last few verses of chapter 7 the author again is explaining how lucky we are to have Jesus and why we should come to him!  He is not only perfect and blameless, but he also sacrificed himself once for the forgiveness of all sins (vs. 26-27).  Past, present, and future.  He took care of them all!  As someone who has grown up in the church it’s easy for me to unconsciously be aware of this fact.  I know Jesus died for all of my sins.  Big and little, from when I was born to where I am now, and where I’ll be tomorrow.  But I’m guilty of forgetting, or at least not recognizing how important that is for my life.  If I try and place myself in the shoes of the people who were reading this letter for the first time in that setting, how overwhelmed with grace and love would I be?  I no longer have to sacrifice by the old law, because there is a new oath that has been appointed by a forever-perfect Savior.  Can you imagine the relief, love, and astonishment you might have as someone hearing that for the first time?  Why is it different for us today, simply because we already know?

Today and throughout this week I encourage you to pause and consciously reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ.  Recognize his sacrifice and thank him for the relationship he allows us to have with our Heavenly Father!

-Sarah Blanchard

Love God First

1 John 2

1 John 2 15

I love cats, ice cream, and succulents. I love big, comfy sweatshirts and the smell of old books. I love a lot of things.

You’re probably thinking, “Ok, that’s nice I guess… But what do old books and weird plants have to do with anything?”

We all have things that we love. Maybe you love coffee, sports, or your phone. Fill in the blank! Loving those things is not a bad thing. In fact, many of those things can be extremely helpful in our day to day lives – until they become worldly distractions and priorities.

When repotting my succulent becomes higher on my priority list than homework, there’s a problem. When I am engulfed in a book and lose sleep to read “one more chapter,” there’s a problem. When I eat massive amounts of ice cream every day, there’s a problem.

God should be the priority – not your facebook status, not repotting your succulent, not watching a football game. Those things are nice, and it’s great that you like them, but we find that when they are higher on our list of priorities than God, there is a MAJOR issue.

I mean, God can give us immortality. He, through Jesus, forgave us despite all of our imperfections, shortcomings, and sins. He loves us, and we, as Christians, love Him. But then we go and kill two days of our life on the couch binge watching a season on Netflix instead of using that time to pray, read the Bible, or glorify Him in general.

Catch my drift?

We need to strive to make God a priority in our lives and to love Him first. Because our stuff will break, get old, wear out, be replaced – but God will never break, get old, wear out, or be replaced. When we put God as our number one priority, everything else falls into place. So love Him first.

– Madison Cisler

1 John 2 17

Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-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

Forget Not All His Benefits

Psalm 103

psalm 103 2 b

Yesterday we practiced seeing God revealed in Psalm 100.  Today you can try it again with another great Psalm – 103.  Read through the Psalm and search for what you can learn (or be reminded) about God.

What characteristics of God are you especially thankful for?  His omniscience (all-knowing)?  His omnipotence (all-powerful)?  His faithfulness?  His forgiveness?  His compassion?

Verse 12 gives a little teaser of what was yet to come in God’s perfect plan of salvation. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  At the time this was written God’s people were still living under the Old Testament law with it’s system of sacrifices and priests.  There was a plan in place for forgiveness but it required strict adherence to a detailed list of sacrifices and who could perform them for what sins.

Sin was – and still is – a big deal because it causes separation from God who can not be in the presence of sin.

And so, in the New Testament a new gift from God was given!  A new path to forgiveness – one not just for the Jews, but for all who would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Son of God!  The giver of all good gifts gave us His one and only Son – first to teach us how to live and to point us to his Father – and then to die so that we can be saved from our sins.  But God still wasn’t done gifting.  He raised Jesus from the dead.  And today he is in heaven at God’s right hand, interceding on our behalf and serving as the mediator between God and man.

Let us forget not all his benefits…and thank Him for His Son.

-Marcia Railton