Holy and Honorable and Radically Counter Cultural

1 Thess 4 4.png

I Thessalonians 4:3-8

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Paul was writing this to Christians in the first century. He was calling them to live holy lives (set apart for God) in a culture where there was a great deal of immoral behavior that was accepted by society, but which went against God’s standards. Paul contrasts the believers call to live a holy and honorable life that is vastly different from the “passionate lust” that marked the life of the pagan. He warned that God would punish sexual sin and that to reject Paul’s teaching on this was to reject God.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a young person or a new believer to navigate sexual morality in this age today. It’s gotta be tough. It was tough enough for me as I was a child of the 60’s and 70’s and there was plenty of confusion in society then, but at least the Church still gave a clear and for the most part unified message of what right and wrong was all about. But today, young adults are bombarded with images and messages about sexuality that are far different. So much that the Bible clearly speaks of as a departure from God’s path is considered normal by today’s society. To even question such things as premarital sex, homosexual activity, homosexual marriage, serial monogamy etc… is to be considered narrow, judgmental, or even a hate monger. So young people and those who become followers of Jesus Christ later in life face challenges in understanding and adapting to a Biblical world-view regarding sexuality. Exactly the way it was in the first century when Paul wrote this letter.

I note that Paul says that each of us must “learn to control [our] own body”. It’s a process of learning. There are difficult lessons to be learned. As most of us who have had to learn something new realize, learning is a process which takes time and seldom happens without mistakes. Those believers who are more seasoned in their walk with the Lord should remember this, and while teaching faithfulness to God to young and new believers should remember that is it is a process and be patient with those who are still learning. And even be patient with ourselves, for learning something so radically counter cultural is never easy and we are all capable of making mistakes. Truth must always be mixed with grace.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

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My Friend Grace

Ephesians 2_8

Do you have a friend that is there for you? A friend that continues to text you even though you don’t text back till like three days later? Do you have that friend in your life that loves you even though you’re not always the best friend back?

I do, her name is Grace. She is the very best friend I could ask for. Grace is the kind of friend that is intentional, loving and always there for you. She is the type of friend that continues to reach out to you and loves you no matter what. She has taught me so much about what it means to be a friend.

When I think about Grace’s friendship I’m reminded of God’s Grace in our life. God is very intentional about his relationship with us. He loves us unconditionally even though we don’t deserve it. God gives us this wonderful gift of salvation and forgiveness despite our flaws and downfalls. This gift of grace allows us to realize our human weaknesses and failures but know that God still loves us and desires us to have a relationship with him.

I’m so grateful for my friend Grace’s continued, intentional friendship despite my flaws. In the same way I’m so thankful for God’s Grace in my life.  

Ephesians 2:8

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

Peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

The older I get, the more I realize I’m an exact replica of my mom. We like the same movies, we think (and overthink) the same things, we’re both textbook ISFJ’s, and we both spend hours looking at houses for sale that we’ll never afford. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” If we’re children of God, we should strive to be like God, reflecting His character. When people see us, they should see the love of God in our lives.

In the face of conflict, it’s hard to be love. We often want to be right more than we want to be love. Jesus, however, is the perfect example of how to be love in the face of conflict. We often overlook that he was a human just like us; his challenges, even 2,000 years ago, are a lot like our challenges. This week, we’ve tried to answer how Jesus resolved conflict to give us insight into how to deal with our own conflicts.

Jesus resolved conflict with great urgency. Stop running away from conflict no matter how overwhelming or scary the problem may be. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; instead, deal with it directly and quickly.

Jesus was a persistent diplomat. Jesus gave us a three-step plan to dealing with sin and conflict within the church. First, go to the culprit alone, then bring another trusted member or two of the church with you, and finally bring the conflict to the church as a whole. We don’t have the power to save people, but we can be patient, loving, persistent, and cover them with prayer.

Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. Jesus preached that if someone hits you, don’t hit back; instead, turn your other cheek. We have the chance to be love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. Sure, they might not deserve grace, but neither did we.

Jesus disciplined out of love. Ah yes, Jesus flipped tables and even fashioned his own whip. Love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes, it’s a harsh slap to the hand. As brothers and sisters, we’re supposed to refine each other so that we may all follow Jesus a little closer every day.

Jesus embodied forgiveness. Just as you have experienced the joy and freedom that forgiveness brings, give that same joy to someone else. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Jesus submitted to God’s will even when it was hard. Jesus’ submission led him to the cross. God has prepared a cup for you, too, representing His will for your life. Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

My prayer is that you feel encouraged and equipped to tackle the conflicts in your life with love just as Jesus did.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Lose-Win

whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me

Yesterday, we talked about Jesus’ procedure of dealing with sin inside of the Church, but what are you supposed to do when someone who never claimed to be a Christian sins against you? Jesus’ answer to that question may surprise you. Have you ever heard of a win-win conflict resolution approach? Well, Jesus’ approach is more of a lose-win. As followers of Christ, we give up our right to hurt people who hurt us. Instead, Jesus calls us to treat each conflict as an opportunity for grace—an opportunity to show God’s love to someone who has maybe never experienced it.

In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus describes his upside-down approach to dealing with conflict, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus defies logic, saying that if someone mistreats you, give them grace, but Jesus doesn’t just talk about grace, he embodies it. The outcasts, the troublemakers, and the “rough around the edges” are the people we often ignore or set aside, but these were the kinds of people Jesus spent his time on earth interacting with. These were the kinds of people Jesus died for. These were the kinds of people we were before we were adopted into God’s love. Just as grace transformed you, grace can transform the people who hurt you.

If we want to be a reflection of God’s love in the midst of conflict, we must first trade in our pride, our need for justice, revenge, or being right, for humility. In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Today, be intentional about being love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. If someone hurts you, give them more grace than they know what to do with. They don’t deserve grace, but neither did we.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

How Did Jesus Resolve Conflict

make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy

At the grocery store, if someone’s cart is blocking the Reese’s Puffs, I’ll pretend to be intensely interested in the Raisin Bran until my fellow shopper moves their cart. Even the tiniest of confrontations makes me uneasy. I hate conflict even more than I hate Raisin Bran. I don’t like to make waves, ruffle feathers, or stir the pot. Can anyone relate?

Conflict is simply the clash of wants. Conflict isn’t inherently bad. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but it’s natural. Since God created everyone with different and unique interests, passions, and ideas, our wants aren’t always going to align (in my experience they usually don’t). Because conflict is inescapable, we should learn how to resolve it in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God.

God calls us to be peacemakers. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” We’re supposed to make EVERY effort to be at peace with EVERYONE? That seems like a tall order, and it is. God never said it would be easy, but He said it would work.

Jesus is our perfect example of a peacemaker. Without sin, Jesus dealt with conflict head on. We place Jesus on a pedestal (as we should, I mean he literally saved the world), but we sometimes forget that he is a human, too. Hebrews 4:15 says, “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.” Jesus understands how difficult dealing with conflict can be. The Teachers of the Law and Pharisees were constantly trying to trip him up, one of his best friends betrayed him for a few dozen pieces of silver, and he was arrested and crucified for a crime he didn’t commit. Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. There’s a lot we can learn from our soft-spoken, table-flipping Savior.

One of Jesus’ first lessons about dealing with conflict comes from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus highlights the urgency of resolving conflict, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” This week, as we explore how Jesus resolved conflict, remember that there is great urgency in settling the conflicts in our lives. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; deal with it swiftly and directly.

Is there unspoken tension between you and a friend? Is there an action you need to seek forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive someone for a wound you haven’t dealt with yet? What can you do today to bring peace to a rocky area of your life?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

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

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