Spark of Hope

1 Timothy 1—6

No matter how geeky it may sound I will forever love a quote from Hunger Games. President Snow (bad guy) tells the game-maker Seneca Crane about his view of hope.  He says, “It is the only thing stronger than fear.  A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.”  Evil operates with this thought process.  Satan will condemn you for every past mistake yet God offers hope, mercy, and grace. Paul recounts in chapter 1 that he was once a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (vs. 13) but he then goes on to say, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1:14 NIV Before he was Paul he was called Saul and was a murderer of the church. Had he listened to evil he wouldn’t have believed in the hope of the grace that God gives and we wouldn’t have much of the New Testament that we have today. Yet because he didn’t believe in containing the spark of hope that God gave him he went on to spread God’s word and do wonderful things in His name.

Don’t let what has been done in the past prevent you from reaching your full potential as a child of God.  God desires to give you hope, mercy, and love.  He is preparing a Kingdom for you even now!

-Lacey Dunn

Battle to the Death

Galatians 4-6

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Tuesday, June 27

There is a life and death battle going on inside all of us.  In one corner we have the flesh and in the other corner we have the Spirit.  It is a battle to the death.  One will win; the other will die.

The desires of the flesh are listed in Galatians 5:19-21.  They are sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery (excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures); idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  We all have some of these desires and verse 21 says that if we give into these desires we will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Thus, if our flesh wins the battle, on judgment day you will be sentenced to death.

However, Galatians 5:24 states that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Galatians 5:16 says if you walk by the Spirit, you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.  I am sure most of you have heard of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I think many people look at the fruit of the Spirit as a list of good attributes that we ought to try to attain, but that is not what this verse is saying.  It says the FRUIT of the Spirit are these attributes, meaning you will automatically receive these attributes if you live by the Spirit.  You don’t have to try to be more patient; you will automatically be more patient because of the Spirit that is in you.  You will be more loving due to the Spirit and so on.

You will want to ask to be filled with the Spirit so you can be more loving because Galatians 5:14 says the whole Old Testament Law can be fulfilled by loving your neighbor as yourself.  Think about it.  If you crucify the selfish desires of your flesh and love others instead of yourself, you are fulfilling the whole Law.  You are not required to fulfill that Law, but it is pretty awesome to think we could do that by just living for others instead of ourselves.

Galatians 6:8 says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  We will reap what we sow.  The next verse (6:9) then tells us to not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t grow weary.  Verse 10 then adds that while we have the opportunity, we should do good to all men, but especially to those that are of the household of the faith.  Paul admits that it is not always easy to do good to all people.  You have to sacrifice your own desires to use your time and resources for others, and to make it even more difficult some people are not very deserving of your help and not at all grateful for the good you do for them.  It can be very tiring continually sacrificing for others even if they do appreciate it, but remember not to grow weary and you will reap the reward.

It sounds difficult to crucify all of your fleshly desires and live for others instead of yourself, but are you really sacrificing that much if the reward you get for doing this is eternal life in the Kingdom?  You will actually gain a WHOLE LOT MORE if you can stop living for yourself now in this short lifetime and live for others instead.  Seems like a REALLY EASY choice to make; crucify your fleshly desires and live by the Spirit.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: http://www.dailylifeverse.com/posts/2014/11/galatians-5-25)

Power in Weakness

2 Corinthians 11-13

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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)

How Generous Are You?

2 Corinthians 8-10

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Saturday, June 24

 

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.           2 Corinthians 9:6

 

Paul has been talking about a collection of money that the Corinthians had promised to gather and prepare for the poor believers in Jerusalem, and he has sent certain brothers to come retrieve it and bring it to Judea (9:3-5). The collection was to be a free-will offering of monetary gifts for a relief aid to subsidize the needs of the saints in Jerusalem who were suffering.

 

To put his point bluntly, Paul uses an agricultural metaphor to convey the principle he desires his readers to understand. If little is sown, little will be reaped. If much is sown, much will be reaped. Now what is Paul teaching here. Is it that giving away a little money will result in you getting little money in life. Or giving away much money will result in receiving much money. Not at all. While Paul is openly encouraging the Corinthians to give of their abundance to help the needy believers in Jerusalem, his axiomatic metaphor is intended to set the premise that whoever does not want to give should not expect to receive, but whoever is generous should expect to receive generously. It is a simply matter of reciprocity that Paul is getting at.

 

According to the wisdom of Proverbs, the person who is willing to give will prosper and do well, and the person who is stingy and selfish will end up falling into poverty.

 

Proverbs 11:24

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

 

Proverbial wisdom is designed to demonstrate a general principle or prescribed attitude that its readers would do well to adopt. It should not be viewed as enforcing a formulaic approach to life. Even Jesus taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The choice for the free-will act of financial giving will result in blessings and provisions in your life. James also employs this principle of sowing and reaping when he says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:18).

 

If we think that our giving of time, energy, or money is simply that—time, energy, and money—we will miss the way that God will turn that generosity back upon in like measure but perhaps in a different form than we think it might look. And also, often times in even exceeding degrees than the level of our demonstration of love in giving.

 

Be generous and give willingly and cheerfully, and trust that God will continue to provide your needs and bless you for your generous heart.

 

Proverbs 22:9

Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.biblepub.com/downloads/wallpapers/preview?w=2corinthians-9-15-asv)

Living for the One who Died for your Sake

2 Corinthians 5-7

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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)

Is it Eternal or Eternally Useless?

2 Corinthians 1-4

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Thursday, June 22

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.            2 Corinthians 4:17-18

 

Each day is a new day to live, work, and accomplish new things. Everyone has goals and ambitions for what they would like to do and achieve. But it is important to remember that all our earthy success and money and goods are not long-lasting—they are not eternal. As C. S. Lewis remarked, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” Now, is it true that money and goods and other physical things are completely “useless” in all respects? No, not exactly. But what Lewis is getting at is that when it comes down to what really matters—only eternity matters. And as such, only those things which will last for eternity are of any true significance.

 

Paul exhorts his readers to realize that everything we suffer and go through in this life is just the precursor to the beautiful glory that is to come. There is a glory that is “beyond all comparison” waiting for God’s people. Everything that is in this world is perishable and will be destroyed one day when a new heavens and earth will be formed in its place (2 Pet 3:11-13). And the glorious, resurrection bodies and heavenly city of Jerusalem that God has prepared for his people surpasses any imagination of such glory that we could ever have (Phil 3:21; Rev 21:10-11).
But while on this earth during the present age, what do we get from all the hard work we labor in? The author of Ecclesiastes has a rather pessimistic outlook on all the hard work of life.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:15-16

As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?

 

What do we get for all our “toils”? Ultimately….nothing! It would be a terrible mistake to make prosperity, success, or fame the goal to which you set you eyes in life. These things have no eternal value, everything we have earned and accomplished in this life will come to nothing in the coming age. 1 John 2:17 says, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

 

The popular slogan, “Live for Today!” has both truth and error in it. While we don’t want our mind to be anxious and preoccupied about tomorrow that we forget to live in the moment and enjoy what is happening in our lives “now,” the problem is if all a person ever does is live for the “here and now.” Life is ultimately not about the “here and now” but about the destination of where everything is going. If we never raise our eyes to the horizon, then we will never gain an eternal perspective on life and understand the final objective to everything in life.

 

We must work and live in this world, but that is only what we are doing now. Life is not only about “now” but also about “then.” And “then” is what is truly important and eternal. So while we “toil” in this life, let us keep our eyes on the horizon and realize what actually is the true meaning of life. It is not what we see, but what we do not see. The unseen is eternal. If we live by faith, and not by sight, we will come to know the everlasting glory that is beyond all compare to anything in this world. Look to the things that are unseen and the spiritual reality of the life we have in Christ, awaiting the “riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: http://slideplayer.com/slide/6811229/)

 

Keep at It!

1 Corinthians 14-16

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Wednesday, June 21

 

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.      1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Do you ever wonder if what you are doing for the Lord is having any effect at all? Ever wonder if your efforts are having any impact, or if they really matter? Sometimes it might feel like we are just “spinning our wheels” doing things for the Lord because we are not seeing any noticeable difference.

 

What can happen is that we set our expectations as the sole metric for gauging whether we are being successful in our endeavors for the Lord. It is almost as if when we don’t see the fruit we are looking for, we conclude that we must not be doing a very good job. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

Back in chapter 3 of this letter, Paul described how he viewed himself as contributing to the spread of the gospel as one among many workers laboring for the Lord. He saw his labor as only one part of a system comprised of many other laborers, which all culminated in the advancement and increase of the gospel message as God caused the labor to bear fruit.

 

1 Corinthians 3:6-8

I planted, lApollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

 

It wasn’t Paul’s personal effectiveness that mattered; it wasn’t how good he was at winning souls to the Lord, or building up and strengthening believers on his own effort alone. What mattered was how his efforts were part of a larger picture of the way the Lord is at work in what he has called each person to do in order to bring others to faith or to help them grow in their faith. And most times, one’s efforts do not produce visible fruit immediately but take time to cultivate and grow in a person’s heart. That is why Paul saw himself as part of a system where soil is prepared, seed is sown, and the earth is watered and then from that comes the growth of a seedling that must be nurtured further so that it can grow tall and strong and bear fruit.

 

Therefore, we must never discredit how important the work is we do for the Lord no matter how insignificant it might seem in our eyes. God has need of each of us, and he calls us to serve him in specific ways that are unique. But we have to remember that our labor is not the end-all-be-all. We might be performing the first stage of preparing the soil, or we might be watering a seed that was sown by someone else long before our time.

 

Paul declares that our labor in the Lord is not in vain because every act that we do in love and with humility and meekness is an act that the Lord can use to produce growth in that person that ultimately glorifies him. So don’t be quick to judge that what you do for the Lord is not working if you don’t see the results you think you should expect to see. Continue serving and giving and be proud to be a worker in God’s vineyard, knowing that your work all contributes to the Lord’s harvest and the glory of his kingdom.

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.dailylifeverse.com/posts/2016/03/1-corinthians-15-58)