Will You Serve Him? – 1 Corinthians 10

Will You Serve Him? – 1 Corinthians 10

Read 1 Corinthians 10

 

The beginning of this chapter recalls the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. Even though God provided all their needs and showed time and time again that He was with them, they chose to worship idols and give in to their evil desires, rather than serve and obey God. Paul issues a harsh warning to believers to “not crave evil things as they [the Israelites] did, or worship idols as some of them did” (1 Cor. 10:6-7, NLT).

God takes sin very seriously. He is a loving and gracious God, but He is also holy and does not tolerate sin. This is why He sent Jesus to earth to die, so that we could live free from wages of sin that lead to death (Romans 6:23) and have our relationship with Him restored. However, once you have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, sin does not cease to exist. Each of us wake up every day with a choice: will we serve God or serve fleshly desires? Perhaps you have sin in your life that you need to confess to Him. Take a moment to do that right now.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to remember the sacrifice Jesus made so that I could have an abundant life, free from the weight of sin. Thank you for your Holy Spirit working inside me. Thank you that I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. In Jesus’ name, amen!

 

Samantha Rasch

 

Doubting God’s Promises – Hebrews 3

Doubting God’s Promises – Hebrews 3

Read Hebrews 3

 

Have you ever looked at the people of Israel while reading Exodus and wondered, “ How can they keep being that dumb?” It almost feels like they were purposely absent minded about the last great thing the Lord had done for them every time some sort of inconvenience stood in their way. This problem of unbelief in God and what he had said is not something so foreign to us, in fact we operate in an extremely similar fashion.

How many times can we find ourselves doubting the promises of God? Not only that, how many times do we find ourselves at a complete stand-still because we do not believe that God’s plan could taking place in our lives? As Hebrews 3:19 states, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” God had placed a great blessing before them, and they saw it as unattainable. We sabotage our walks with Christ by simply not saying, “Yes,” to the blessings he has before us. And many times we would even go as far to say that we were better off in our spiritual slavery.

Look back at your life and some of the crossroads you’ve come to. Has unbelief kept you from entering into the blessings of the Lord? Or, has blatant fear of failure kept you from pursuing what God may have for you?

 

Mitchell Ressell

Shema – Mark 12

Shema – Mark 12

Read Mark 12

Listen. That’s what the Hebrew word “shema” means. It’s the first word of a prayer from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. Jewish people having been praying this morning and evening for millennia. Over the years the entire prayer came to be known as “the Shema”. In Hebrew, the word has stronger connotation than simply hearing. To “shema” is to listen and obey.

In Mark 12, Jesus quotes the Shema to a scribe who asks which of Moses’ commandments was the most important of all. Jesus adds to the prayer by quoting another of Moses’ teachings in the book of Leviticus. He says the most important command is to love God with all that you are, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe agrees on this point, and Jesus replies, “you are not far from the kingdom of God”.

Often Jesus characterizes the Scribes and Pharisees as, “having ears to hear, but they do not listen”. When Jesus tells the scribe ‘you are not far from the kingdom of God’, he is saying – you have heard the command to love, but you are not DOING it. The Shema is a prayer that most Jesus followers are very familiar with today. We believe it is foundational to being a disciple. And yet…I wonder if we actually hear it. Would Jesus also say to us, “you are not far from the kingdom of God? You listen, but you do not obey”.

Today – let’s ask for God’s help to actually love Him and others? Let’s Shema the Shema 🙂

— Kent Liles

No “Buts” – Exodus 4

No “Buts” – Exodus 4

Read Exodus 4

 

God has called you for a greater purpose.  You will need to spend some time in prayer to find it, but He has a plan for you!  The question is, will you answer His call and trust it, or will you spend your time saying “but”?  

Moses gave this excuse: ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, “The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ”

 

…but I don’t have the credentials

…but I’m young

…but I’m old

…but I’m too busy

 

When do the “buts” stop? The enemy wants us to believe the “buts”; God wants us to follow His perfect plan for us. Press the “easy button” and let God be your guide. Maybe you feel lead to serve in ministry in some way, and feel inadequate.  God can use that – He made need your inexperience to reach someone who would be overwhelmed by someone with more experience.  You might feel that you just can’t find the time.  God will increase your available time if you follow His call on your life. God provided Aaron when Moses felt he was “not eloquent… and slow of speech and slow of tongue”.  Aaron would be the one to speak Moses’ God-given words.  God will provide the way.  No more excuses, no more “buts”.  

Father, I pray that as a church we would listen and receive the call on our hearts from you.  Whether it be salvation, serving, forgiveness or grace, we would have an desire to respond to you.  Give us the courage to follow you, to step out of our comfort zones and to stretch ourselves in ways we might never have imagined. Thank you for loving us, Amen.

 

Jamie Twaddell

Who am I? – Exodus 3

Who am I? – Exodus 3

Read Exodus 3

Who am I? That is the question that Moses asks God after God speaks to him from the bush. The God of the universe, speaking through fire, just commanded Moses to do something and Moses’ response in the ESV is, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

When I read this, my first reaction is to just scream at Moses. Something like, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? GOD JUST SPOKE TO YOU THROUGH FIRE AND THE FIRST THING YOU WANT TO DO IS QUESTION HIM?” But if I take a moment to reflect on myself, I realize that Moses isn’t being crazy. He’s just being human.

Now I have never been spoken to by God through a burning bush, but I have felt the strong urge of the Holy Spirit leading me to something that didn’t make sense. I think of the first time I stumbled upon Grace Church. I felt compelled to fill the application out for the summer internship, but the whole time in my mind I was telling myself I wasn’t qualified. Who am I that a church of thousands of people would want me around? I was fresh out of college and had no idea what God was about to do. Thankfully for Moses and myself, God’s plan was greater than our doubt.

What might God be asking you to do that seems crazy? Are you willing to follow even in your doubt?

— Jake Ikerd

The Plot – Acts 7

The Plot – Acts 7

Read Acts 7

The Natural disasters we experienced in recent weeks have provided an Ideal opportunity to reflect on the church’s response, or in some cases, lack of response to the overwhelming need left in the wake.

With his last breath, Stephen cries out to the gathered mob, “Remember why you are here! Don’t lose the plot!

It’s easy as participants of religious institutions living in a country that ascribes to Christian values, to fortify beliefs around “We are right and they are wrong.” The religious community in Stephen’s day employed similar thinking patterns. They persecuted or killed anyone that dared to critique their hallowed viewpoint. (vs. 51-53)

When religious constituents lose their ability to objectively function as a conduit of blessing, a critique must be billowed. Take Hurricane Harvey for example. Many men and women with no religious affiliation were some of the first responders. Yet, several faith communities in Houston were the last to respond.

Ask yourself, “Have I lost the plot by placing myself at the center of importance elevated above the needs of others? As those tasked with releasing blessing and provision, does the indictment of Acts 7 slice a little too close to home?

God, I pray we would be a people of first responders to a world in need rather than passive observers in a world of ease.  

— Christian Trent

Shechem – Joshua 24

Shechem – Joshua 24

Read Joshua 24

The upheaval in Charlottesville has introduced, yet again, the significance of monuments and the power of cultural icons.

Shechem is one such place mentioned over 60 times throughout the Bible. It is here that Joshua, again, calls the children of Israel to remember the enslavement of their past, and renew their commitment as a transformative force of blessing in the world. It is also on this mount, Jesus meets a woman of a despised people and welcomes her to live in the abundance of Divine inclusion and love. (John 4)

Shechem acts as a monument to remind us to not lose the plot.

Personal Application:

What monuments in your life inspire you to stay the course and hold to your true identity? What monuments should you tear down that hold you back from the Jesus way of healing and restoration?

Cultural Application:

How can we work to reshape cultural icons in society to unite rather than divide? Can we preserve a nation’s memory and remove hindrances that are destructive to healing?

Monuments are powerful things. Used correctly, they have the power to ground us, or power to keep us trapped in a false narrative of superiority.

God, I ask that you would give us wisdom to know the difference and to affirm those things that you call good and deconstruct that which causes harm. Amen.  

— Christian Trent

Force For Good – Deuteronomy 6

Force For Good – Deuteronomy 6

Read Deuteronomy 6

Freed from the slavery of Egypt the Hebrew people are entering a time of blessing and prosperity. On the eve of this assent, the people are given a stern warning to never forgot the horror they have been delivered from and hold true to their purpose as a force of good in the world. (vs. 12)

The text states there is unmerited favor being poured out on the Israelites after decades of suffering in bondage and oppression. They are admonished to not take this blessing for granted. (vs. 10-11) They are instructed to tell these stories to their children and children’s children in order that they would never become the same kind of oppressors they were delivered from. (vs. 20-25)

This message is one that holds especially true in our current age. Don’t forget the unmerited favor we have been given, despising it and in turn becoming the very type of oppression we want to see others delivered from. 1 Kings tells us of the abuse of power under Solomon’s reign and subsequent kings who lost the plot, they forgot to heed the warning of their ancestors becoming the very pharaohs they had escaped.

How can we as a people living in the greatest military-industrial-complex the world has ever seen not lose the plot? How can we continue to be a force for good in the world that lives out the Jesus story of inclusion and love?

God, I pray, may we learn the lessons of the past and partner with your restoration in the world!

— Christian Trent

Deconstruct – Exodus 2

Deconstruct – Exodus 2

Read Exodus 2

Out of a season of disruption to the flow of harmony and peace we are introduced to Moses. Born to an immigrant whose way of life was being brutally controlled by a powerful elite he narrowly escaped the genocidal intent of the ruling class only to find himself adopted by an unassuming aristocrat.

Raised privileged, raised to oppress and conquer in the name of the good of the state, the greatness of the empire, Moses could not shake a sense of responsibility to the good of all humanity. (vs. 11)

After an episode of violent protest Moses must flee the affluence of the life he had become accustomed to, seeking the solace of ambiguity. (vs. 12-15)

It is in this solace that Moses must undergo a time of deconstruction. He must allow his mind to challenge and divorce concepts ingrained in him by the empire. He must find a better way to be in the world; a way that has the good of everyone at it’s center.

Have we allowed injustice in our world to disrupt us and lead us into a time or our own deconstruction and non-violent protest against the oppression in our age? Or, have we quietly abdicated our role as agents of positive change in the world, consenting to the burdens of our brethren by our silence? (vs. 11)

God, I pray you would awaken us to the cry, the groan and burden of our generation and respond with your heart. (vs. 24-25)

— Christian Trent

Seasons – Exodus 1

Seasons – Exodus 1

Read Exodus 1

The Exodus narrative begins with a change in seasons, from a time of blessing and increase to a time of slavery and trial. “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (vs. 8)

In this season of transition we see a minority group who held the power began to fear the larger constituents of the land. (vs. 10) Driven by this fear they began to enslave, persecute and murder those under their trust. Does this plot sound familiar? Is the Exodus story simply for them back then, or are we seeing a modern day inaction of this very thing in our time, in our country?

“When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”  (vs. 16)

When seasons change and tyranny becomes commonplace and the monuments of a nation are erased paving the way for a new cultural narrative, one in which the powerful control the memory of the culture, what do you do?

And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households (provision/protection) for them.” (vs. 21)

Exodus illustrates to us the heart of the Divine which is for the poor, oppressed, marginalized. Once connected to this heartbeat, we can’t stay silent.

God, I pray for courage in this transitional season to stay true to your heart for humanity, and not lose hope but be catalyst of hope in the world.

— Christian Trent

The Race of Life – 2 Timothy 4

The Race of Life – 2 Timothy 4

Read 2 Timothy 4

It is always amazing to me to see how much Paul poured into Timothy.  Paul used his life as an example to show what it meant to follow Christ.  He ran the race of life by following Christ.

Many times in life I think we make discipleship and pouring into others much harder than it has to be.  Jesus showed us how to do it, and Paul and Timothy’s relationship is an example of this as well. They just lived life together. They walked through the good and the bad. Timothy saw Paul on the mountaintops and in the valleys, in the successes and the failures. It is simply allowing someone into your life, and in turn speaking life into them.

Let’s not make discipleship harder than it has to be. Let’s begin to pour into each other and walk together just as Jesus did with His disciples and as Paul did with Timothy.  Let’s walk, let’s run through life with each other, and focus on pointing others to Jesus. Let them see us fall and get back up, let them see us celebrate the goodness of God.  It’s not just Bible studies and figuring out how to be a better “Christian”. It is walking through life, growing in Christ together and running the race side by side. Let others see in you that the only race worth running is with Christ.

 

— Luke Lauber

Embrace God’s Peace – 2 Timothy 1

Embrace God’s Peace – 2 Timothy 1

Read 2 Timothy 1

“Ben, before you leave today can you please meet in the conference room? Thanks.” I knew what was coming. When I was let go from a job I had for 7 years, I can’t say I was surprised. It had been happening all around me. It was simply my turn in the corporate grinder.

Leading up to that moment, I found myself in a place of discontent, fearful of what the future held for Addie and Me. A job with great benefits and a steady income was comforting as a young husband with a 3 year old and one on the way. I became complacent. Instead of trusting God’s direction and prodding to leave something that I was unhappy doing, I stayed where it was “safe”. The months leading up to that meeting in the conference room, I found myself fearful of what may come. A good friend reminded me of this verse:

“2 Timothy 1:7 God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

I printed that verse hung it on my cubicle wall.  It was the last thing I removed as I left the building. God gives us opportunities to not only hear about His peace, but to embrace it. Oftentimes we look for it in the wrong places. If you are in a place of fear, remember this verse, own it, and when you are faced with a crisis, it will empower you to embrace it and grow.

— Ben Abu Saada

Let and Set – 1 Timothy 4

Let and Set – 1 Timothy 4

Read 1 Timothy 4

Paul trusted Timothy with the task of refuting some of the most aggressive and deeply embedded false teachers in Ephesus.  Paul had battled their pagan influences during his time in the city. Ephesus was not a place where people met rationally on the steps of public buildings to listen to teachers with an open mind.  The city was full of trouble-makers (Acts 19).

There are two things Paul tells Timothy to do, and both are highlighted by two similarly sounding words.  “Don’t LET anyone look down on you because you are young, but SET an example for the believers…”  

Paul does not mean, of course, that Timothy is to take offense with anybody who doesn’t like him. He means, rather, that Timothy is to be concerned and aware of how he comes across to people; he is to be sensitive to how others see him.

Paul says by setting a good example in two areas–speech and conduct–three qualities ought to come through: love, faithfulness, and purity. These are the things that should characterize all of God’s people – loving, faithful, and pure in speech and behavior.

Lord, in my speech and in my conduct teach me to be loving, faithful, and pure in the presence of my aggressors!

— Jonathan Rasch

Grace and Mercy – 1 Timothy 1

Grace and Mercy – 1 Timothy 1

Read 1 Timothy 1

In this chapter, Paul is assigning Timothy the task of accusing teachers who are giving false lessons.  Paul is concerned about myths, gossip, and the teaching of subjects that are misunderstood.  One of these subjects is the law.  Paul says that the purpose of the law is to love from a “pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith.”  He also says that the law is meant for unrighteous people: ungodly, profane, liars, kidnappers, and murderers. But wait, he also includes “sinners” in that list?  I get uncomfortable when the word sinner is in a list of appalling crimes, because I know that includes me.  I’m unrighteous too.

Thankfully, Paul is a perfect example of a guilty person who has been redeemed.  He shares his testimony of God’s mercy and grace that saved him from his own sinful choices.  He himself had been guilty of false teaching. God’s purpose for sending Jesus was to save sinners like Paul, misguided Ephesians, and you and me as well.  Paul includes a prayer that gives all glory “to God who alone is wise,” and we can share it.

Jesus, You’ve given me grace and mercy although I have made many mistakes.  I thank you for counting me faithful and using me in ministry. Your love makes my heart pure and my conscience clear. All the credit is Yours. Amen

 

— Shelly Schwindt

 

Desire Earnestly His Spiritual Gifts for Your Life – Acts 16

Desire Earnestly His Spiritual Gifts for Your Life – Acts 16

Read Acts 16

Paul urges believers to earnestly desire God’s spiritual gifts for their lives (I Corinthians 1:7).  How do we desire God’s Spiritual gifts for our lives?  We begin by asking God and believing He will do it! In John 14:13-14, Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in MY NAME, that will I do, so that the FATHER MAY BE GLORIFIED in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in my Name, I will do it.”

The secret?  It can’t be for our name’s sake or fame, it has to completely be for the glory of God, which is the hardest thing to do, because our flesh desires praise.

Paul gave us a glimpse of what that looks like in Acts 16:16-18. It’s the story of the slave girl with a spirit of divination.  For days, this young lady was prophesying with a false spirit.  Paul finally got fed up with that spirit and commanded that false spirit to leave the girl.  She was set free by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Acts 16:18, She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.”

Therefore, we ought to desire the gifts, pray with bold faith, confidence and authority in the name of Jesus.

— James Adams

Blessed to Bless – 1 Timothy 6

Blessed to Bless – 1 Timothy 6

Read 1 Timothy 6

Can you remember your first job? Mine was in high school delivering flowers for a local florist, a friend of the family. I can’t remember how much my first paycheck was, but I was so proud of that measly hard-earned money. It was more money than I had ever seen in my bank account! Of course now, working for a living, paying the bills, supporting the cause, and whatever you use your money for, do you ever ask yourself, “is it ever enough?” I feel so blessed, but all too often I feel I never have enough. I just need a little bit more. Getting closer to retirement, I ask, “how much money do we really need to retire?” I still have so much I want to do. I believe even in Paul’s day this was an obviously problem, because in I Timothy 6 he is once again giving Timothy instructions on how to live in this life without being consumed by it, especially when it comes to money. Money is something we ALL need to live day to day. But I think it’s the perspective from which we view our money that can cause us to stumble. There is a fine line between enjoying money and being a lover of money.  You may want to ask yourself, “do I love my money and my possessions more than I love God?” Has God blessed you so that you can in turn bless others with your wealth, whatever the quantity you have? There is absolutely nothing wrong with having wealth. Just be sure you don’t have your trust in it over your trust in God.

— Shelly Puryear

Jesus, Our Giver – 2 Corinthians 9

Jesus, Our Giver – 2 Corinthians 9

Read 2 Corinthians 9

Have you ever wondered why God says He loves a cheerful giver? I mean, He already said He loved the whole world, so why did have to give a special shout out to the cheerful giver? Verses 11, 12, & 15 tell us a cheerful giver produces thankfulness in others. Thankfulness produces worship because it is one of the direct lines to being in God’s will (I Thess. 5:18). The cheerful giver is one who is in God’s will. Giving freely, willingly, and bountifully is actually an act of thankfulness. Isn’t it so much easier to let go of things when we’re thankful for what’s been done? When we realize our position in the gospel, we realize the depth of what our Giver did. When the cross has settled deep in us, we are left with nothing but gratitude. Jesus was a willing giver. He sowed more than bountifully. The seed His life, the harvest our worship. Every time we give willingly, eagerly, merrily, we are affirming the purpose and power of the cross. That our lives are not our own. They’re to be poured out for Him, for others, because that was His doing. Our souls are eternal, and this world and all it’s trial is not our end. So give. Give willingly and merrily. Your time, your money, your words, your food, your space, your gifts and talents. Give and be loved, for He has a special place in His heart for those who give like His Son.

— Amy Raby

Distribution of Grace – 2 Corinthians 8

Distribution of Grace – 2 Corinthians 8

Read 2 Corinthians 8

Can you think of a time when you have received love when you didn’t deserve it? Maybe it was when you argued with your spouse about something that didn’t really matter and they accepted you anyway. Maybe it was the time when you yelled at your kids and disciplined them and were wrong about it. Maybe it was the time you hurt someone deeply and they choose to love you anyway. That is the definition of grace! It is that undeserved love when you’ve messed up. Paul opens chapter 8 with desiring for the churches in Macedonia to KNOW grace. He wanted them to understand grace intellectually, but Paul’s desire for the churches was also for them to know grace had been given to them. He wanted them to know grace had been given to them so they could give it to others. Grace was not meant to be hoarded or stocked up for a rainy day. Grace was meant to be distributed. As love to the unlovable, as blessing to the enemy, and to reach others who are not like us. It is what makes the church the church, it is what makes followers of Jesus different. Grace doesn’t make sense in our culture today. It is easy to love the lovable, but to bless our enemies confuses the general public.

— Justin Raby

Whom Should I Fear? – Luke 12

Whom Should I Fear? – Luke 12

Read Luke 12

So often the one thing that hinders us from stepping out in our relationships is the one thing we are told not to do over and over again in Scripture. We all know this word well, and it sneaks into our minds and our relationships wearing many disguises. It is a seed that produces diverse fruit. This word is fear. Fear keeps us from using our gifts to encourage the body, because it produces insecurity. Fear keeps us from sharing our faith with others, because it magnifies rejection. Fear keeps us from community, because it fosters self-sufficiency. Fear steals peace as it feeds anxiety. Fear inhibits confession and healing, because it denies grace. Verse 5 says, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him…” In fearing God, we see all other fear taken captive. In fearing God, we can freely serve others because our identity is in Him. We can eagerly share Jesus with others and grow in community, because we are completely accepted by Him. We have peace because we know He is in control, and we can fearlessly confess because we know He is gracious. Aren’t you glad Jesus feared God, His Father, more than man? All eternity was altered because Jesus feared God over man. What could happen if His followers did the same? What would happen if you did the same?

— Amy Raby

Comfort From a Different Angle – 1 Peter 4

Comfort From a Different Angle – 1 Peter 4

Read 1 Peter 4 

Have you looked around and noticed all the comforts that are present in your life? Grocery stores with more than 200 different flavors of chips,185 different smells of deodorants, nice roads, great restaurants, and cars that start every morning. In the west our entire surroundings are usually based upon comforts that we desire. Then you read a chapter like 1 Peter 4 and it talks about suffering as a follower of Jesus and suffering as part of the will of God. In this chapter we see happiness and comfort are actually a product of suffering, which is in direct opposition to our lives in the west. Verse 14 says that you are blessed, or happy, if you are defamed, taunted, or railed at for being a follower of Jesus. God has set up a system so when a  person defames, taunts or rails at you for being a follower of Jesus, He actually gets glory, and we receive gladness and joy. In our culture that is very counterintuitive. BUT Jesus is present in suffering, and it doesn’t matter what kind of suffering it is. He desires to be near to the brokenhearted, the grieving, and the hurting. So when suffering is near, what do we search for? Do we search for the one that suffered for us, or do we seek some other earthly comfort? Who are you seeking today?

— Justin Raby