Missing the Messiah – Still?

John 5 23 b

John 5

Welcome back for the last time this week!  Thanks for sticking with me this far… just one left before you get to hear from someone MUCH cooler than me!  Let’s take a look at John 5.

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-9: It’s weird to me how this story is glossed over so easily when I think of this chapter and all that it carries.  Jesus cured a man who had been unable to move for nearly 40 years!!  That is huge!  And yet it took me three times of reading this chapter before I decided I should even write about it!  That by itself got me thinking… as someone who grew up in the church, how many of the amazing things that Jesus has done or that the Bible tells us do we gloss over because we’ve heard it multiple times?  For me, that answer is uncomfortably high.  I want to always be amazed by the things Jesus has done, even if I’ve read the story more times than I can count.  I think a huge way of getting to that point is simply to pause.  If this story is familiar to you, take a moment and pause.  Read through it again and try to find something new to you.  If you haven’t read this story often, make sure not to rush through!  Take your time and think about the emotions that would have surrounded this story in an effort to get a deeper understanding of its message.

Thought #2 – Vs. 16-30: So, because Jesus was doing what he was sent to do… the persecution starts.  Because the people didn’t listen to prophets before him, because they were just a little too full of themselves and self-righteous, they missed out on the Messiah and all of the amazing things that he was about to do.  These weren’t even the people you’d expect to miss someone as important as the Messiah!  These were Jewish leaders, people who were intelligent and should have been the most aware of Jesus’ coming.  And yet they missed it, because they were too wrapped up in the law of how it was supposed to look on the Sabbath.  How often do you miss out on something greater, maybe even to the point of intentionally driving it away, because you’re too wrapped up in how it looks on the surface?  Now I am not saying that we should ignore the laws we have, but I am saying that we should be more focused on living a Godly life versus living a life that makes others think we’re living a Godly life.  It is so easy to get sucked into the social media craze that includes Bible verses, pictures in your Sunday best with a quote from the pastor, etc. or in a prayer group that is really a place to gossip about others in the church openly without shame.  None of those things by themselves are wrong necessarily, but more often than not, they can distract us from the true purpose of being a believer in today’s world.  We are called to spread the message of Jesus Christ, and social media can be a very useful tool in that.  We are called to pray for one another and help hold each other accountable.  But all of these things must be done in love, and accompanied by a genuine faith and following of Christ.  Have you gotten sucked in to the less-than-realistic believer mentality that keeps things focused on the surface level?  How can you work to move past that and create a deeper, more genuine faith in Jesus?

Thought #3 – Vs 39-40; 44-47: This is more a continuation of Thought #2 than an individual thought.  Here we see Jesus speaking about those who have put their faith in something or someone other than God.  It’s not that these people he is referring to have put their faith in something unholy, unclean, or sinful, and that is the toughest part for me!  These people are putting their time and effort into studying Scripture, and the words of prophets who speak truth.  And yet, Jesus says that they “refuse to come to [him] to have life.”  In my experience with the COG, we tend to have much smaller church bodies that are very close knit.  I love this!!  BUT, I have seen and heard where that can create problems.  People in authority start to hold more weight than what is being taught, and churches can struggle when certain “higher-ranked” members have opinions or do things differently than what the church is meant to do.  These members are good people, but they are not God.  As a church, as a believer, we must put more faith in God than we do in our own personal congregations and churches if we want to experience the life Jesus Christ can provide through the Father.

Well thank you all for finishing Romans and starting John with me!  I hope that something along the way was beneficial to you; I know I gained a lot from getting to write these 😊

~Sarah Blanchard

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The Harvest

John 4 36

John 4

Hi everyone!

I hope you were able to find another person to discuss some of yesterday’s questions and got to think deeper about our passage.  Let’s get started on today!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-25: Like most of the gospel stories, you are probably pretty familiar with this passage of Jesus revealing himself for the first time to a Samaritan woman.  There are a few things that go in this story that are worth taking note of: women usually did not get water at the hottest part of the day, and the fact that a Samaritan woman was there, plus the fact that we see she had multiple relationships that may not have been approved of most likely means she was an outcast within her community.  Beyond that, she was a she.  As a man in the culture at that time, Jesus really wasn’t expected to have a conversation with her.  The significance of this is that Jesus told her that he was the Messiah first, despite her social status.  This represents how Jesus came for all people, not just the Jews and not just those who were already considered righteous.  He came for the outcasts like this woman and gave them an equal opportunity at what he is providing.  I think it’s important to note here that the woman believed that a Messiah was coming and recognized his importance (vs. 25) before experiencing Jesus.  The first step is knowing, and then experiencing.  People won’t be able to experience God’s power, or at least not recognize that it is from God, if they don’t first know.  Our job as believers is to make sure people know about God’s power, not make them experience it.

Thought #2 – Vs. 34-38: The fields are ripe for harvest!!  Jesus is telling his disciples to get out there and go get it!  He’s already done the hard work; the salvation is ripe for the pickin’ (because that’s definitely something that people say…).  BUT, we still must go out and pick the field, friends.  It’s already there, ready to go, ready to bless us, but without that process of accepting it, it doesn’t do anything for us.  A lot of you have probably already “picked the field” for yourself.  You’ve accepted that free gift and that’s amazing!!  But you also have the opportunity to share that gift with others.  Remember, our job is to simply share and make sure people know about this endless field we have to pick from.  Our job isn’t to force people to take this gift, but to show them how we genuinely love and appreciate it!  Who do you see in your life that needs a guide to this field full of salvation?  Are you going to share with them the endless gift you’ve also received?

Thought #3 – Vs. 39-53: People believe and come to know Christ when he is shared with them.  Without hearing of him first, the many Samaritans that became believers would not have let Jesus into their homes to speak to them (vs. 41).  Without first hearing of Jesus’ miracle, the royal official never would have asked him to heal his son, which ultimately led to an entire household of believers (vs. 53).  If these people had not first heard about who Jesus was and what he could do, they never would have had the opportunity to experience him the way they did.  We have to first share Christ before people can truly experience him.  Those who have already experienced him have a duty to continue to spread their own experiences with Christ so that others may have the same opportunities.  The Samaritan woman was not of high standing, yet she was able to share her experience with Christ and because of that brought many more Samaritans to believe as well.  The royal official was in a place of high standing and shared his experience with Christ and because of that brought many more people to believe.  You can be in any position and still spread the message of Christ successfully.  Remember, how can people truly experience Christ if they don’t first know about him?

When I read through this chapter and even when first writing up this devotional I was not expecting it to turn into a message about spreading the gospel.  But the more I spent on this, the more this idea continued to come to me… so at some point I decided that maybe I was supposed to share it! Hopefully this is what you needed to hear or be reminded of today, even if you didn’t realize it either!

Have a good rest of your day!

~Sarah

Reflecting on John 3

John 3

John 3 17 (1)

Hi there!

Today’s chapter could take an entire week of devotionals if you ask me!  I highly recommend having a Bible in front of you when going through today’s post.  Because of how much I found within this chapter we are going to have a slightly different format today… I am going to give the verse and then give the reflection question without too much of my own words to add to it.  Take today to really pause and think about your own thoughts instead of just mine, and I will do my best to take a backseat and be more of a guide than a driver.

 

 

Vs 3-8: How does this idea of being born again through baptism play into your life?  If baptism is a decision you have already made, are you still reflecting that “rebirth” in your life?  If you have not made that commitment, how do Jesus’ words impact your expectations for salvation?

Vs. 11-12: Do you fall into the category of those who hear of the amazing things God can do, and yet still do not believe that He can do them?  Do you think you’re missing out on some of the things God has because you don’t accept the “basic” or “earthly” teaching?

Vs. 16: We all know this verse well, but take a few moments longer to stop and think about what it means without just speeding through it.  It’s a popular verse for a reason!  What meaning does it hold for you?

Vs. 17-18: According to these verses, think about the purpose for Jesus in the world.  How can you take and apply that into your own life and relationships?  Does this change how you want to interact with the people that you are surrounded by?

Vs. 19-21: Are there any things in your life you are leaving in the dark?  Why?  What does it mean for you to be vulnerable and seen plainly in the sight of God?  How does that make you feel when reflecting on your own life?

Vs. 26-30:  John very easily could have taken a lot more credit and gained a large following for himself here.  How does his response of becoming less so that Jesus can become greater and sacrificing his own personal status relate to your life?  Is giving God the credit or putting other people’s missions/needs ahead of your own something that comes naturally?  We can all guess what the answer here should be, but it’s much harder to act on that and make a change in our own life.

Vs. 33-34: The “it” here is referring to Jesus’ testimony.  Now that we are in the time post-resurrection, do you feel people, believers specifically, still struggle to accept the truths that Jesus preached?  Go beyond just what Jesus preached about the Kingdom, and think about what he has said about who God is, or what He has done, etc… If people do not accept Jesus’ testimony, what does that mean about their relationship with God?

Vs. 36: This verse is very similar to verse 18, so clearly the message is important!  When an author repeats an idea it usually means to take special note of it.  Why would the author repeat an idea like this?  Is it a theme you see extending beyond just the book of John?  How do you feel your life reflects the truths in this verse?

I hope some of these questions made you think a little bit longer today!  I encourage you to discuss these ideas with others and get their perspective on it as well.  If you can’t find anyone… I’d be happy to share some of the answers and ideas I have floating around in my head.  In my opinion, these kinds of things are always better when you have the opportunity to talk with another believer!

Have a fantastic rest of your day!

~Sarah

 

At the Wedding

John 2

John 2 5

Good morning everyone!  (Or afternoon, or evening, depending on when you get to this!)  Let’s take a look at John 2, a much easier chapter to dig into compared to yesterday’s in my opinion…

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-12:  The author here writes about Jesus’ first miracle; turning water into wine at a wedding.  We’re all probably relatively familiar with this passage, and most are probably aware that when Jesus answers his mother with “Woman” it does not mean disrespect in Greek like it might in today’s world (and if not, now you know!).  There is so much in this little story that we don’t know, such as who was getting married, why Jesus and his mother were attending, what the reactions were of the people who saw Jesus perform his first miracle, etc.  Despite reading this multiple times, I did find something new to think about this time through.  This time I saw that Mary already had faith in Jesus’ abilities before he had proven anything to her.  While we also don’t know much about Mary, we can pick up a few characteristics or insights into her life from the little we read.  For example, Mary’s faith has always relied on the idea about not needing to see to believe.  She has always had a deep trust in God, and in His power, and isn’t afraid to boldly ask for a miracle, at least according to what we can read in the Bible.  She has probably experienced God’s power in the most personal way of any human on earth, and I think it shows.  In this story, she doesn’t even really acknowledge Jesus’ response, but simply tells the servants to obey him.  What a mom thing to do… give a direction and not listen for any ifs, ands, or buts about it!  Mary knew what Jesus could accomplish before even seeing it happen, she had no doubts in God’s power that was within Jesus.  We are lucky enough to live in the present day where we have very easy access to a Bible that lays out all the miraculous things done in the past by Jesus.  I think we take that for granted!  I know in my own life I do not always fully trust in God or in His power to work in my life, yet I have 66 books’ worth of examples of how He has already done amazing things with that power!  How can you shape your faith to be a bit more like Mary’s – trusting God’s power to do the work needed even if we can’t see the outcome yet?

Thought #2 – Vs. 13-23:  I love this story about Jesus clearing out the Temple.  Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of people getting in trouble when I know they are doing wrong… I was definitely that kid in elementary school that ratted out any misbehavior immediately.  But beyond that, I think this story also makes for some great analogies and comes up with a lot of good thoughts!  In this story we see Jesus experiencing what can be termed a “righteous anger” towards the people who have dirtied the Temple.  He wasn’t just freaking out, or getting angry with people for messing up, he was upset that they were tarnishing the Temple of God in such a public way.  They knew very well what that Temple was for, and yet they chose to set up shop for a personal gain that did nothing for them in the long-run.  So Jesus clears them out in a very active way!  Later on we see Jesus compare this Temple to himself (vs. 21) and that got me thinking about how our bodies as temples for God sometimes need a good clearing out.  I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or anything like that, but I’m talking about an active removal of the things that aren’t supposed to be there.  This can be a wide variety of things… fear, sin, poisonous habits or relationships, you name it.  Sometimes we need to experience that same righteous anger in order to be motivated to clear out our life and get back on track with God.  Do you see any areas of your life that you feel need to be cleared out so you can be back on track with God?  What are you doing, or what can you do, to actively clean yourself out?

I hope our questions for today bring about some quality reflection time!  I know they got me thinking!

~Sarah

Dig Deep

John 1

John1 29

Hello again!  This week we will be going into the slightly-confusing-at-first-glance book of John.  My hope is that you either find something new from my thoughts today or are just reminded of the truth you already know!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1 – 18: Do you ever want to find the person that wrote this book and say, “You know, you could have written this much more clearly for us and a lot of doctrinal debates would be very different…”?  Because I sure do.  But then again, much of the confusion that comes from this chapter surrounds translation issues and reading out of context, which I’ve noticed our world today does quite often.  To truly get at what the author of this book is trying to say, it is critical to go back to the first translations.  When looking at verse 1, we see “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  And thus starts many doctrinal debates right with that tiny little word ‘was’.  But if we go back to the Greek, we see that the “Word” here is ‘Logos’, a Greek word meaning “plan.”  That little translational difference dramatically changes how people may interpret this first verse.  This entire book is such a great reminder to always dig a little bit deeper.  As someone who is part of the COG faith, I’ll be honest in saying it can sometimes get tiring to feel like I constantly need to defend my beliefs.  And sometimes it’s a little scary because I’m afraid I’ll be proven wrong.  Over the past two years or so, I have been very motivated to dig for truth in Scripture.  At first, it was a little nerve-wracking and truthfully just plain exhausting.  But as I continually found passages of Scripture that aligned with what I believed to be true, I found such joy in the process of digging!  It was so encouraging and grew my faith as I grew in confidence of the God that I believe in.  When having discussions with other Christians with different perspectives, it is important to come with an open mind and heart.  It’s also important to be comfortable answering difficult questions with “I’d like to look into that more, can I get back to you?”  Don’t rush the process, detectives don’t solve a case in a day!  Sometimes after difficult conversations with others I would find myself praying later that day for wisdom in how to respond, and BOOM, someone somewhere would lead me straight to a Scriptural reference or two to help.  You will find an answer if you’re willing to DIG.  Have you become tired or afraid of defending your beliefs?  Have confidence in our God; find joy in the process of digging into Scripture with an open mind to seek truth!

Thought #2 – Vs. 46-51: Jesus is a little sassy, and I love it.  In these verses Nathanael has no faith that Jesus is the true Messiah.  When he does believe, Jesus basically tells him, “Oh my friend, you haven’t seen anything yet.  I’m just getting started.”  I wish that I could have been there to witness that!  It would’ve been a perfect “oooooh snap” moment.  The best part is, Jesus has every right to say these things!  He is the true Messiah, and he was about to do some absolutely amazing things that would radically change the entire world FOREVER.  We are right in the midst of the Easter season, and these verses come at a great time to remind us of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth.  I can’t even imagine being alive during Jesus’ time on earth and how COOL that must have been!  To witness miracles, to witness him simply being the promised one that I had been hearing about probably since I was born!  And he was just getting started!  I wonder if Jesus’ followers at that time were just as confident as he was when speaking to Nathanael, or if there was still some hesitation and doubt.  As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, pause and reflect for a moment.  How do you react when faced with doubt about truths within Scripture?  Do you stand up with confidence as Jesus did, or do you question like Nathanael first did?

Thanks for sticking with me during this longer post!  I look forward to continuing John with you in the next few days.

~Sarah Blanchard

    

Wise About What is Good

Romans 16

Romans 16 19.png

Welcome back!  Hopefully yesterday’s question brought about some quality reflection time after reviewing the passages.  I hope today’s thoughts do the same as well!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-16: Wow!  I’m impressed that Paul remembered so many individuals within the church and took the time to greet them all.  I am very fortunate to be part of a small church, and I LOVE the fact that I know everyone by name there.  But, I don’t feel that I truly know every individual that is in my congregation.  Certainly not well enough to greet personally if I were writing a letter from someplace far away!  We recently lost a very prominent, “behind-the-scenes” member at my church.  I knew him well enough to know the amazing impact he had on our church, but not more than outside of seeing him Sundays and Wednesdays.  His funeral was packed with friends and family members, and it struck me how little I truly knew about this man that I had basically “known” since birth.  This, along with these verses, got me thinking; How well do we really know the people inside of our own church body?  Clearly Paul thought it was important to individually know those within the body, as he even brought up some deeper connections he had with them as a reminder and personal touch.  How awesome do you think those believers felt when Paul called them out in a positive way?  They were probably encouraged, and motivated to keep on doing the good things they were already doing.  My aunt Susan likes to say, “If you see something good in someone, say it!!”  People love positive recognition for things they do.  And generally speaking, they’re not going around asking for it!  I challenge you, along with myself, to seek out those deeper connections within your church so that you are able to call out the good in those around you!

Thought #2 – Vs. 17- 19:  There are some pretty strong words used by Paul here.  He calls out some people and intentionally tells believers to keep away from them because they are not serving Christ.  Excuse my Minnesotan here, but… Ufda.  I would NOT want to be one of those people!!  Despite this slight shock of criticism, I love how Paul finishes his little warning with a praise and a reminder: “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”   We are to rejoice in our obedience, and in the obedience of other believers.  But we are also told here to be wise about good things, and innocent about evil things.  How can you be wise about the good, and innocent about the evil?  I think first you must recognize the difference.  We can still be innocent about evil things without being naïve to the world.  We can also be very easily pulled into a deeper and unnecessary knowledge of evil if we’re not careful.  We need to know enough to stay away, but not enough to compromise our innocence.  How can you grow your wisdom of good things to increase your obedience?  How are you keeping your innocence of evil while still being aware of what it is?

I hope these questions got you thinking from maybe a new perspective on our texts today!  Tomorrow we get to start the book of John together!

To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ!

~Sarah Blanchard

Because He Accepted Me

Romans 15

Romans 15 7

Hello friends!

I do not necessarily have a set style of writing when it comes to devotionals… so (un)lucky for you, you get to listen to my general thoughts on the chapters this week!  I will list a few of my thoughts that are a little less common or obvious on each chapter and pose some reflection questions that will hopefully get you thinking deeper about what we’ve read this week.  My goal is that something I think of, you hadn’t thought about and you’re willing to dig deeper into the idea.  So, let’s look at Romans 15 according to Sarah’s brain, shall we??

Thought #1 – Vs. 1 – 12: There are some great verses in that small chunk that carry big meanings and can be so relevant to our lives!  Focusing on verse 7 specifically, I think it can be very easily manipulated to satisfy an individual’s personal agenda.  “Accept each other… ” that means you can’t tell me what I’m doing is wrong.  Because maybe it’s wrong for you, but it’s right for me.  How many times have you heard that or said that yourself?  I’ve definitely used that excuse!  And while that statement may not always be abused, or even inaccurate, we need to use discernment when bringing that idea up.  When we finish out that sentence, “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you, SO THAT God will be given glory”  we see more clearly into the message Paul was trying to get across.  If we are accepting others as Christ accepts them, we are not letting them do whatever they want.  We are loving them enough to correct them when necessary, pick them up when they need, and not leaving them even when they mess up.  Let’s be honest, interacting with people can be difficult.  Accepting people who are difficult, is difficult!  But yet we are called to do so.  And why are we doing this?  SO THAT God will be given glory.  We don’t have to try to accept people when it’s hard for any other reason other than to bring God glory.  When you interact with difficult people in a positive way, what is your thought process behind it?  Are you doing it with a self-righteous attitude or genuinely trying to bring God glory?

Thought #2 – Obviously we know that prayer is important, but seeing yet another example of how Paul truly and genuinely believes in the power of prayer is very motivating to my own prayer life.  Not only does Paul live out a strong prayer life, he encourages others to join him and asks that they pray for him.  He clearly truly believes and trusts in the power of prayer.  Are you fully utilizing the power of a praying body of Christ?

Thought 3# – Vs. 30: Final thought for today… Sometimes you need to be refreshed by the presence of like-minded believers!  FUEL, Family Camp, ReFUEL, Refuge, Christian Worker’s Seminar…. These are all great places to be uplifted, encouraged, and refreshed.  But, just as Paul writes, I think it makes a difference in the attitude you come with.  If you are not looking forward to meeting with like-minded believers with joy and anticipation, are you being held back from refreshing company?

I hope some of these ideas were able to make you think a little deeper about our text today!

“May the God of peace be with you all.” Romans 15:33

~Sarah Blanchard