Living for the One who Died for your Sake

2 Corinthians 5-7

verse-of-the-day (2)

Friday, June 23

For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.   2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

Has anyone ever done something really nice for you and you then feel like you just want to do something nice in return for that person? That is how Paul views the love of Christ. Elsewhere, Paul declares that “for one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (Rom. 5:7). Christ exemplified God’s selfless love in that he gave his life for us when we were nothing but unworthy sinners. We were not good people, or righteous people. We were sinners. But in spite of our rebellion and sin, Christ gave his life for us, and through that demonstration of love, we have been united with Christ in his resurrection and have new life inside us. Christ’s act of love and grace changed everything in Paul’s world, and it does in ours too.

 

Is the new life we have not the kindness and most generous thing anyone has ever done? Christ died for everyone so that everyone might have the chance to have true life in him. Therefore, for those who have put their trust in Christ and have received new life, the question becomes, “How should we respond to that act of kindness and love?” Do we feel like we want to do something nice in return? If we have the natural response to return kindness to our fellow neighbor for such a small favor of finite value, how much more should our response be to one who has shown the greatest kindness the world has ever seen?

 

Paul says that “the love of Christ compels us” (v. 14). He finds the rationale for this attitude in the fact that Christ’s gift of sacrificing himself on the cross is so moving and profound that it causes him to respond in humility and service to the Lord. Christ’s love is so deep and awe-inspiring that Paul describes it as a force that urges him to continue in his ministry and to live for the sake of Christ rather than his own self. The word translated “compels” means “to be pressing in” or “to constrain.” In Paul’s mind, he has “concluded” or “become so convinced” of the love that Jesus has shown him in his death that it has now become the controlling force that influences every single choice he makes in life.

 

What would make you not live for yourself but for someone else? Would someone dying in your place compel you to change your life? How do you repay someone who is responsible for saving you, for pulling you out of the death that so pervades the world and giving you a hope of a future and a joy and peace in your heart that exceeds anything the world can offer?

 

What is your response to such an act of love? Would you give up your selfish desires in response to that love? Would you live a life that glorifies and honors someone else and settle for being hated by the world? If Christ’s love compels you, ask in prayer how you should respond to the love of the savior? You might just find the most fulfilled life you never thought possible—living for the one who died for your sake.

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Cor%205.21)

Working On The Weaknesses

Romans 11-13

romans13

Friday June 16

 

When I was younger, I used to forget commitments that I had made and assignments that were due.  It was the worst feeling to fall short!  And then I would be tempted to lie to get out of the consequences of my lack of planning and that just added to my problems!  I also used to be messy and would spend lots of time looking for things.  Where did I put my keys?  I know they are somewhere!  Where is my favorite shirt?  Did I leave it under a pile of clothes?  Hours were lost just looking for things because I was not organized.  Have you ever experienced this?

 

Romans 13:10-14

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.¶

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

 

In verse 14, it says make no provision for the flesh.  At some point in my life, I recognized that I was forgetful and messy.  They were weaknesses of mine and I decided to do something about it.  I started writing myself notes, keeping a planner, and using the calendar on my phone to remind me of all my appointments and commitments.  I started to organize my things and find homes for all the various items in the house.  That way, I could put each item in its home and I would know where to find it when I needed it.  Making these changes had a huge impact on my daily life!  I took stock of my weaknesses and came up with a plan to strengthen those areas in my life and it worked!  Now, I rarely forget what I need to do and I spend way less time trying to find things!

 

I vividly remember a beaded butterfly necklace that I had and loved.  I cherished this necklace and wore it often.  My friend Rita also loved it and told me so.  I felt in my heart that I should give her the necklace but my flesh wanted to hold on tight to it.  It was mine and I didn’t want to give it away! “I’ll never find another one like it,” I thought.  But then, I considered what God would want me to do.  He would want me to give with a pure heart.  So I did!  The funny thing is, Rita was delighted and overjoyed that I gave it to her but after a few weeks, she gave it back.  She said it didn’t suit her as much as it suited me.  God was so good!  He taught me a lesson that I was meek to receive.  I was not to hold on to physical possessions that would burn one day (Dr. Joe Martin did a sermon years ago that I still remember called “It’s All Going to Burn”) but He blessed me with the return of the necklace.

 

We should take stock of our spiritual life and strengthen it!  Where is your flesh weak?  What are the things that tempt you?  If you are tempted to be greedy, than make a conscious effort to give.  If you find that going to parties causes you to sin, then don’t go.  Don’t make room in your life for sin!  If you have friends that are a bad influence, change your circle of people!  Surround yourself with people that will make you better for God and help you to look more like our Lord Jesus Christ!  “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts!” Romans 13:14

 

Ruth Finnegan

 

(photo credit: http://www.knowing-jesus.com/romans-13-14/)

No Partiality

Romans 1-3

romans 2

Tuesday, June 13

Have you ever asked yourself; “What are you storing up for yourself?”  There will be a day of judgement concerning how each of us lived our lives.  Did we store up incorruptible treasures in heaven as it says in Matthew 6:20 ““But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”  or have we stored up wrath determined by the righteous judgment of God as it says in Romans 2:5-6, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:”

 

We will all be judged and held accountable.  It is so easy to judge others; almost without thinking, we label, categorize, and take measure of others.  Oftentimes, people are cruel and harsh in their snap judgement of others.  Maybe you nudge your friend when you are on line at a store and slyly point out the haircut that is out of style or the clothes that don’t fit right.  Because of this, we can also fall into trying to please the whims of the world.  We bend and yield our convictions to be liked and accepted.  Perhaps we join in with verbal jabs or we enjoy the latest juicy gossip.  With God, there is no partiality (Rom. 2:11).  What does this mean?  Partiality as defined by Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary says:

 

 : an unfair tendency to treat one person, group, or thing better than another

 : a tendency to like something or someone — often + to

 

As it says in the first definition, we have an unfair tendency to judge certain groups of people more favorably than others.  God doesn’t do this.  He can’t be bribed, bought, or persuaded from what is right and true.  He sees us for what we are and judges us accordingly.  He knows the secret depths of our hearts, even the parts we don’t want to admit are there.  In light of this, we should recognize that what we do and how we live our lives, matters.  What we watch and put into our hearts also matters.

 

Matthew 15:18

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

 

I grew up in New Jersey and moved to New York shortly after college.  After Sean and I married, we moved to Georgia and attended the Atlanta Bible College.  I had never been to the South for any length of time and was struck by how friendly everyone was.  Cashiers would have full on conversations with people in line and they would take their time with each customer.  I liked how friendly people were but found myself annoyed and impatient when their friendliness cut into my efficiency.  Yet, when I went home to New Jersey and New York after being in Georgia for a while, I was startled by how quickly people would yell, honk, and gesture at one another.  There was a harshness to the North that I had not noticed before.  Regardless of where you’re from, God’s word teaches us how we should be.  That is what we should put in our minds and what will consequentially come out of our mouths.

 

Guard your mind and keep your thoughts on the things that are above.  Do not allow yourself to become a harsh critic of others but love and reserve the judging for God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  While you still have breath and you are alive, ask for forgiveness for the times you have fallen short and sinned, and then start again with renewed vigor.  The Bible says in Romans 2:8 that there is eternal life for those that persevere or persist in doing good seek after the glory and honor and immortality.  Let’s encourage each other to persevere in doing good!

-Ruth Finnegan

 

Defined by Love

John 12-13

john13_34-votdTuesday, May 30

How do you know who somebody is? Not just what his or her name is but who they are, on the inside? Well, they may tell you. When introducing myself at Pine Grove to visitors or guests, I always say “I’m Jake, I’m one of the pastors here.” That way people know a little something about me; namely, they know I am employed as a clergyman (whatever they may think I do.) If we talk about my hobbies, quickly board games, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek and video games come up. Each one of these shape a person’s perspective of who I am. BUT, if someone could watch over my shoulder for a day, imagine what they would know about me? They would see how I treat my family in our home, they would know what I read and what I write, they would know all sorts of things. And in the end, if they were to make a decision on who is Jake, really, it would be wise of them to define me NOT by my words but by my actions. If I describe myself as a quiet-spoken, shy introvert, my actions would CRUSH that description.
Jesus also knows that we show who we are by our actions. That is why he leaves us with a powerful and difficult commandment in John 13:34-35. A new commandment I give to you: love one another. Is there really anything new about this commandment? Yes and no. Is it new that we are supposed to love others and care for them? No, because that is what the Old Testament Law (remember that?) is all about. Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a new thing that he made up, it comes out of the second half of Leviticus 19:18. But then how is this command new? It is new because Jesus points to a new example of this kind of love. We have to love each other as Christ loved us.
Why does he make us do this? Because it answers the question of who we are. When we tell someone who we are, that we are a follower of Christ, what do those outside the church normally think? Do they think close-minded, dogmatic “truth”-deniers? Do they think racist, sexist, homophobic bigots? Do they think arrogant, hypocritical jerks? There are some who may! There are many who would say something similar to Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This does not mean that Gandhi had the true picture of Christ, nor does it mean that everyone who critiques Christianity is right! There are many who would make the claims that “Christians are X” who don’t know why Christians believe what the believe. However, there is something wrong if many people know us for something more akin to hate, than to love? After all, Jesus tells us “By this ALL PEOPLE  will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Christianity is a way of life that should be drenched, dripping, overflowing with love.
But what does this mean for us?
First, love the Christians you are around. If you are not part of a church, you should be. There are many who critique Christianity from INSIDE as well as out. But the fact of the matter is that we were never made to live this faith alone. We were always to have a community of committed disciples around us. Also, this may be very difficult. The church is a place where broken people gather. Of course we are hypocritical and faithless and falling apart. We are just like every other humans. The fact of the matter is that Christians admit to it, which makes us the only ones who aren’t hypocritical and faithless and falling apart. We are blind and because we know we are, we can see. (See Sunday’s devotion.)
Secondly, love the world. While the starting point for our love is of course the “one another” of other disciples, if we want to be like God and Christ (and we do want that) it means that our love has to be for “the world”. Just quote John 3:16. God loved the world, not just his Church, not just his sons and daughters, but the whole big messy of humanity. Love for this world is the defining characteristic of God, because “God is love.” (1 John 4, you’ll get there!) However, love can be tough to pin down. Surely love doesn’t mean accepting someone’s sin, because God doesn’t do that, but it does love the person. Love doesn’t mean allowing someone to remain in sin and call themselves a believer, but that we help them come to a better understanding of the harms of sin. It also means that we allow ourselves to be connected to and friends with those outside the church who need to hear the gospel message of Christ. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 for an interesting comment by Paul.)
This isn’t easy, but you can love others. However, it will only happen if you have experienced the love God has for you. God loves ugly, horrid, wretched sinners and CONGRATULATIONS! YOU QUALIFY! But seriously, it means that he does love you. The love of God, if you have truly experienced it, can’t help but flow out of you and into the people and the world around you. May people know the God you serve and the Messiah you follow by the love that you show. May those who don’t know Christ give praise and glory to God through your loving deeds. (1 Peter 2:12)
In Christ,
Jake Ballard

The Heart of the Matter

Matthew 21-22

matt 22

Thursday, May 4

 

Is it possible to love someone without liking them?  I have heard many people say that it is possible.  I suspect they believe that love is more of an action than a feeling, and since they are willing to act in a loving way to someone they don’t like, they believe it is possible to love someone without liking them.  That thinking never sat real well with me through the years, but I couldn’t really come up with a solid reason of why that was so.  Then one day it hit me as I was reading the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-40.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  Jesus listed three different ways that we are to love someone, with our heart, soul, and mind.

I believe that loving someone with our mind has to do with our thoughts and intentions.  True, an intention that is never acted on is pretty worthless, but I would say if you had the intention, you love that person more than someone who didn’t even have the intention.  If you desire to send someone a card to get them through a rough time, you are loving them with your mind even if the card is never sent.

If you love someone with your soul, I believe you are loving them with your life or your actions.  You actually send the card.  So in a way, I agree that it is possible to love someone without liking them because it would be a true act of love to send the card even if you didn’t like the person.

However, if you love someone without liking them, you would be missing the third part of love that Jesus referred to, the heart of the matter.  He said we need to love God with all of our heart.  I believe this has to do with the feelings or “liking” part of love.  Moreover, if we are to love God with our hearts, we should love people the same way if we are to love them in a complete way.  So yes, if you love someone, you should also like them.  If you don’t like them, you are missing one of the ways to love someone.

But what about the jerks out there that are soooo hard to love?  They may have wronged you and not felt any remorse.  They might hate your guts still today.  How is it possible to like these people?  Suppose a brother killed a sister.  Do you think the mother would still have feelings for her son?  I think it is very likely that the mother would still love the son dearly even though she would be distraught at what he did.  And that is the key; you don’t have to like someone’s actions to like the person.  It is possible to still like someone without liking what they did to you.

I want to go one step further with this.  If you are having trouble liking someone, I would strongly suggest that you need to forgive them.  If you have hard feelings toward someone, you are holding something against them, which means you have not forgiven them.  If you do not forgive them, God will not forgive you.  I encourage you to think about all of the relationships you have (school, work, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you go to church with, etc.) and identify anyone that you have hard feelings about.  If you are having trouble liking them, you need to forgive them…today.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: http://www.bibleverseimages.com/love-bible-verse-7.htm)

Goody-Two-Shoes Gets It, Too

Amos 1-3

susan amos.png

Thursday, April 13

In a couple of days, we’ll dig in to just who Amos was and why he was writing.  But as we start reading his book, I’m wondering if the same thing that stood out to me also stands out to you.

The book begins with God giving Amos a list of places He’s about to bring judgement on.  My Bible labels this section “Judgement on Israel’s Neighbors”.  He goes through Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab..and so on.

This scene reminds me of being in a class where the teacher is scolding some students for misbehavior.  The goody-two-shoes in the class is sitting there watching it unfold with a smug look on her face, watching her classmates get taken down a notch.  That’s Israel.

But then the teacher turns and points at her.  Miss Perfect herself.

Midway through chapter 2 we see God turn to Israel.  And through the end of chapter 3 He is telling her what for.

Interestingly, He says this:

“You only have I chosen
    of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
    for all your sins.”

That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?  I’ve chosen you therefore I will punish you?

It reminds me of Hebrews 12 where we’re told that God disciplines those He loves.  Proverbs 3:12 speaks the same wisdom.

Come back tomorrow to see what else God has to say as he disciplines His chosen Israel.

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

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