Show a Little Love

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13_1

Hello again everyone!

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard

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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

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

Ultimate Act of Empathy

Thursday

Hebrews 4-15

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If empathy can be summed up as “feeling with people,” as Brene Brown put it on Monday, then Christ and his life represent the ultimate act of empathy.

In each of our lives, we have all fallen short.  It’s an unfortunate fact of existence.  We are all going to mess it up and be messed up.  And it’s not just us – all of life and creation feels the effects of the broken world we live in.

Yet the world and life is still good and we give God praise for each day.  Why?

It is because we have an intercessor who knows – not just intellectually – deep down in his bones what it means to suffer under the weight of human tragedy.  We have a high priest who has walked through the deepest shadows of despair and born the burden of bodily pain in his own flesh.  And because of him, there is hope.

Hope that there can be life on the other side of horror.  There is joy beyond the pain.  There is calm beyond the storm.

And it isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky kind of hope either.  It isn’t a hope that only awaits us on some future ethereal plane.  It is a hope that is born out and brought into the midst of this life through the continued work of Christ in the community of faith.  It is hope that is birthed in the acts of empathy that we continue to pursue each and every day.

We can approach not just the throne of grace with confidence, but the altars of pain and brokenness with healing because we can extend the grace that has already been extended to us.

Today, may you receive the grace you need and may you pass along the love that overflows from the heart of Christ.

-Graysen Pack
Hebrews 4 16

Requirements

Titus & Philemon

Did you panic a little bit when you found you had to read two entire books of the Bible today? As you have hopefully found now both Titus and Philemon are pretty short books. In fact, Philemon checks in as the third shortest book of the Bible (only 2 John and 3 John are shorter).

First, let’s talk about Titus.  If you owned a business and were looking to hire managers to oversee the company what would you require?  Would your job posting read that the applicant needed silky hair, mad four-square skills, and a deep love of chicken nuggets?  If so your company would probably not be in business for long because there would be no purpose behind the requirements you wanted. Hopefully, your requirements might be along the lines of:  must be self-controlled, honest and just.  If so you and God have those requirements in common except these are the requirements that God asks of the elders of the church which is a person who “manages God’s household” (Titus 1:7).

He also has requirements for those who aren’t elders.  In chapters 2 and 3, Paul outlines what God expects from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. It says in chapter 3 verse 1- 2 that we are, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign (which means to harm) no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Paul carries over the idea of being peaceable and gentle in the book of Philemon.  Paul writes to Philemon, who is a brother in Christ, concerning a slave named Onesimus.  It seems that Onesimus was full of passion for spreading God’s word so he ran away from his master Philemon to join Paul.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and requested that Philemon would, “accept him as you would me” (vs.17).  Paul treats both parties with grace and love to resolve the issue at hand and so once again practices what he preaches showing that he is a fully committed follower of God just as we are to be.

-Lacey Dunn

Power in Weakness

2 Corinthians 11-13

if-i-must-boast-i-will-boast-of-the-things-that-show-my-weakness-esv9891

Sunday, June 25

Have you ever felt on top of the world because everything was going your way and there wasn’t a problem in sight?  I felt like this quite a bit when I was younger because all of my needs were met and I just didn’t have very many hardships.  Life seemed easy.  I have fond memories of my youth and I thank God for the way he blessed me back then.  However, when times are good, it is easy to forget that we still need to rely on God.  When all of our needs are met without even thinking about them, it is easy to lose track of who is taking care of those needs for us.  When life is sailing smoothly, it is hard to remember how much we need God because we think we can take care of ourselves.

I’m sure some of you can relate to this, but there are probably many others that grew up with much more difficult lives than I had.  I can also say that real problems did eventually find me and life doesn’t seem nearly as easy as it used to be.  I don’t think God causes all of the problems in my life, but he obviously allows the difficulties to occur.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Have you ever wondered why God would let you get a bad cold right before a big exam?  Why would He let you get in a car accident and break a leg?  Why would He let you lose your job when He knows you have a family to feed?  Why would he let someone steal your phone?  Why would he let your house burn down?  It is easy to question how much God cares about you when your life is full of problems.

Paul could have definitely questioned if God was on his side or not.  In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul listed his hardships:  imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, received 39 lashes from the Jews five times, beaten three times with rods, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, a night and day he spent in the deep, frequent journeys in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren, labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure, and the daily pressure on him of concern for all of the churches.  Why would God allow Paul’s life to be so ridiculously difficult???  This is Paul we are talking about here!  He was an extremely important piece in God’s plan to spread the gospel, yet God let all of these bad things happen to him.

Paul was also given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from exalting himself.  He prayed three times to have it removed, but the answer to his prayers was probably not what he expected.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Paul responded by saying he would rather boast about his weaknesses so that the power of Christ would dwell in him.  He actually said he was content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake because when he was weak, he was strong.  This seems to make no sense at all, until you dig a little deeper.

When life is good, we tend to depend on ourselves more.  When life gets tough, we realize we aren’t as capable as we thought.  When life gets really tough, we can give up and throw ourselves a pity party or we can reach out to the most powerful being in the universe and ask Him for grace and a whole lot of power.  Remember, “Power is perfected in weakness.”  However, we need to come to the realization that the power is not our own power; it is POWER from God.  So be content in your weaknesses and all of the difficulties life will throw at you like Paul was so you can experience what true power feels like.  Ask God to fill you with His power and you will see that none of your problems are too big for God to handle.  Power can be perfected during the tough times you are experiencing.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: https://www.primobibleverses.com/topic/II%20Corinthians%2011)

Some Hope for Your Hopelessness

Lamentations 2-3

lamentations 3

Friday, March 17

 

Lamentations 2 is recounting God’s anger, and in chapter 3 Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God is not listening to him. However, in spite of complaining, he does acknowledge that God gave the people grace in not dishing out as harsh a punishment as they deserved.

 

Despite the melancholy nature of the book, this portion of Jeremiah contains one of my favorite passages in all of scripture (ch. 3, v. 21-24):

 

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

This verse is displayed in our living room, scripted on a photo that we captured of a radiant sunset over Alaska’s Kenai Fjord during our honeymoon. I appreciate the daily visual reminder that God is always faithful, and that each day is a new start complete with His fresh mercies!

 

With all that Jeremiah was facing, I am encouraged that he still dared to hope. Have you ever dared to hope? Right now I am facing a difficult situation with an ailing loved one. For many months, I’ve experienced an exhausting cycle – hopelessness followed by a rush of hope (that has instead usually turned out to be a false alarm), followed by hopelessness, and then another chance to hope. And just when I tell myself that I am not going to hope again, I am presented with another opportunity to hope that I just cannot deny because life without hope, is, well, hopeless. Sometimes hope is all that keeps us going. Hope helps us cope with the difficulties in life. So will you “dare to hope”?

 

Ultimately, our hope as believers is in Jesus Christ and our future in the Kingdom with God. The meaning of my daughter’s name inspires my soul every time I think of it. Her first name is Maranatha, which means, “Come, Lord Jesus” (but most people know her as Mara), and her middle name is “Hope”, which we chose because the coming of Jesus our Lord is our hope as believers. Jesus knows that we will have trouble in this world, but he reminds us to “take heart! I have overcome the world!” Now THAT is something worth our hope!

 

Pray about what it is that God may be calling you to “hope” for. (Think about the injustices that came to your mind during yesterday’s devotion and how you hope the situation could be different). What actions do you need to take to allow yourself to hope? How can hope drive you to make a difference?

 

-Rachel Cain

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/lamentations/3/22-23)