Image of God – Colossians 3

Image of God – Colossians 3

Read Colossians 3

Sometimes we form an opinion about a circumstance, or a person, after just a glance.  In many ways, we are conditioned to make quick decisions.  We spend our days making decisions and judgments about one thing or another.

We can do this with people too. We look at someone’s clothes, car or home and draw opinions.  We look at the color of someone’s skin, their religion, their nationality, and draw an opinion… without any knowledge of them at all.

Paul references this in Colossians 3.  It is within a larger discussion of who we are in Christ, and how we should follow Christ.  He tells us to put off our old attitudes, thoughts and actions, and put on the “new man”: new attitudes, thoughts and actions.  He encourages us to live to honor the image of God, in whom we were created.

In verse 11, Paul makes a profound statement.  He says that within Christ, in this image of God, there is no Gentile or Jew.  He challenges us to live in such a way that we look and act in a way that makes us more like Christ, and view others in that light.

Lord, help us to see others in light of the gospel of Christ and in light of your image.  Help us to not view others in light of economic status, race, religion, or anything else, besides who they are in You.

— Brian Gann

All Access Pass – Ephesians 2

All Access Pass – Ephesians 2

Read Ephesians 2

Do you ever wonder why you were born where you were born, live where you live, and why you were given “more” opportunities than most of the world?

In Western culture, it is easy to become callous to all we have. We can go through our day with an expectation that all our needs will be met. We live with a comfort that most of the world wishes. Most of us go through life in a “bubble of sameness”, surrounded by people that look, act, and believe like we do.  While I can fall into the same trap, I believe the Lord is calling us out of our comfort zone and to be intentional about taking the Gospel to EVERY people group.

“And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit and to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:17-18)

Throughout the entirety of Scripture, we see God’s heart for the nations. In Ephesians 2, we see that it is by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we are made new. Because of this truth, we are to boldly preach the good news of Jesus to the world. If you look around you and everyone looks the same as you, believes the same as you, and lives the same as you, then there is a probability you are a little too comfortable. Get out and share the Gospel with EVERYONE.

— Chris Fetters

Unity in Christ – Galatians 3

Unity in Christ – Galatians 3

Read Galatians 3

Galatians 3 is a sweet reminder of how following Jesus has to do with our faith in Christ instead of our works.  Paul uses the phrase “justified by faith”: simply put, we are made right with God through our belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.

Have you put your faith in Jesus or are you trying to be good enough for God?

Maybe you believed in Jesus long ago but you are still trying to prove to God how much you deserve His love or earn His approval.  This is the beauty of Jesus; He is the one who transforms us through our faith in Him.  Maybe today you need to stop trying harder and start believing more in the God who gave His life for you.

Galatians 3 ends with the unity of believers in verse 28:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”

Because following Jesus is about faith in Jesus, there is no place for arrogance about our own appearance, ability or achievement.  This allows us to look at anyone who follows Jesus and see the good things God is doing in him or her, regardless of our differences.

How does God want you to see your brothers and sisters in Christ who are different than you?

— Russell Schultz

The Simplicity of God’s Grace – Romans 10

The Simplicity of God’s Grace – Romans 10

Read Romans 10

In Romans 10 we find that the apostle Paul is addressing the issue of disbelief in the gospel. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we say that we believe something is true, but we refuse to embrace it because we want our tradition or beliefs to not be aligned with the truth…but rather the truth aligned to our traditions.

Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. (Romans 10:1-4)

Zeal and enthusiasm for God is not in itself a bad thing unless it is misdirected and confuses how people can come to peace with God. Adding to the simplicity of God’s grace can only confound and confuse. There is NOTHING that can accomplish the law apart from Christ.

Lord, help me to see when I am adding to God’s grace through my own created “good things”. Let YOUR righteousness reign in my belief.

— Ben Abu Saada

The Elephant in the Room – Acts 6

The Elephant in the Room – Acts 6

Read Acts 6

The Church isn’t exempt from racial/ethnic divisions. Yet the Church has the only basis to address them (see Galatians 3:28).

Acts 6 describes a time of racial division in the Church:

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. (Acts 6:1 NKJV)

At the time, the church at Jerusalem had grown from “small church” (around 120) to “megachurch” (over 2000) to “gigachurch” (over 10,000). People were growing spiritually too. They were called “disciples” (i.e. “learners”).

Unfortunately, God’s blessings broke their systems. There were too many needs. Widows slipped through the cracks.

The growth also revealed ethnic tensions. The “Hebrews” were Jews from Judea and Galilee who spoke Aramaic (the language of the locals/Jesus.) The “Hellenists” were Jews from other lands who spoke Greek (the language of trade/empire). The “Hebrew” Jews felt superior. The “Hellenist” Jews felt excluded.

How would you have felt if you, as a church member, felt injustice based on race/ethnicity? How would you have felt if you, as a church leader, heard of racial/ethnic injustice?

The church leaders didn’t deny, ignore, or procrastinate. They addressed it. They asked people to pray and nominate seven Greek-speaking Jews to address the needs.

Dear God, give me the eyes and compassion of the apostles, not to deny the existence of racial/ethnic issues, but to address them. May Your Church be unified in Christ.

— Tim Howey

 

 

Amazing Grace – Luke 19

Amazing Grace – Luke 19

READ LUKE 19

The first part of Luke 19 tells the story of Zacchaeus, a rich and notorious tax collector. At that time in Israel’s history, tax collectors were looked down upon and considered to be sinners of the worst kind because of their dishonest practices. In fact, when Jesus called out to Zacchaeus to tell him that he would be staying at his house, people grumbled and said of Jesus, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Here is the thing about God’s grace though – it came (through Jesus) to redeem us all because we ALL have sinned (Romans 3:23-24). No person is better (or worse) than another in God’s eyes, nor is anyone more (or less) deserving of His amazing grace. His grace is for all who choose to receive it. As a follower of Jesus, may I live with that truth in my heart every day so that I may extend His grace to others who need it just as much as I do. Take a moment to thank Jesus, right now, for His amazing grace!

— Samantha Rasch

All Of Us Fail – Philemon 1

All Of Us Fail – Philemon 1

READ PHILEMON 1

The call to grace that Paul gives both Philemon and Onesimus is one far easier observed than done. Each needed to show grace to the other even though they were in very different situations. Onesimus was to be gracious to the owner that was placed over him, and Philemon needed to be gracious to the life that was in his care.

How often are we in these similar situations? All of us have someone we report to, or that reports to us; if not a boss, parent, or teacher, and ultimately God. For those that are our leaders, do we choose to extend grace to them when they give us tasks or in the ways they treat us? For those placed in our care, do we choose to be gracious to them, understanding their value and serving them in leadership? In both cases how we should choose to respond when the other fails us is in graciousness; considering them as not infallible but as a valuable receptacle of the glory of God.

Here are three takeaways for all of us.

  1. Submit to the leaders over us despite our feelings about them and give them the grace to fail.
  2. Treat those who are placed in our care as brothers, not slaves, and give them the grace to fail.  
  3. All of us fail. If we run from our master or we are the master, we fail.

— Mitch Ressel

Messenger of Grace? – 2 Cor. 12

Messenger of Grace? – 2 Cor. 12

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 12

Would you ever consider a messenger of Satan to be a good thing? If the knock on life’s door was a delivery man from “Hades Ex” with a package labeled ‘pain and distress’…would you receive it? Maybe you would if you knew what was really inside the package. It doesn’t make sense, but sometimes God wraps his gift of grace in a package of affliction and has it delivered by demons!  

Sometimes we forget how desperately we need grace. Grace saves us and sustains our life. Grace is to our soul what air is to our lungs! Grace is the power of God doing in and through our lives what we are unable to do on our own.

Paul says he takes pleasure in distresses – why? He realized God was using them as a conduit for grace…the one thing he desperately needs. God desires to overflow our lives with grace, but often we’re not in a place to receive it. We’re too strong and self-sufficient. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. Our strength/pride may be blocking us from the very grace we need to live…really live. Messengers of Satan become necessary agents to move us from a place of strength to a place of weakness…because grace is given to the weak/humble.

Is there distress, pain, or hardship in your life right now? Before you ask for God to take it away, consider that He might be using it to bring you to a place of weakness…so that He can give you His life changing grace.

— Kent Liles

Jesus Chose Me – John 1

Jesus Chose Me – John 1

READ JOHN 1

The gospel of John is often recommended reading for a new Christian- a great introduction to who Jesus is. This week I found myself needing to read in John – a funny God moment considering I read it prior to knowing it was my “devotion assignment”. I was reminded that Jesus chose me to have a relationship with Him and it is so easy for me to get wrapped up in everything that I am doing for God, but not spend quality time with God. Is my to do list more important than spending time with the One who existed before time began, who came to earth as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”?  

He saw me, just as He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, and He chose me.  Jesus wants a relationship with you too. He calls to you, just as He called each of His Disciples, “follow me”. Take time today, no matter how busy your schedule, and spend time with Him.

— Jamie Twaddell

Grace Is Enough – Matthew 20

Grace Is Enough – Matthew 20

READ MATTHEW 20

In the first half of Matthew chapter 20, Jesus tells a parable of a man and his vineyard. When I read this parable, I think of myself as a young christian. I remember that I often thought about the idea of waiting until I was closer to dying to receive Jesus. It seemed like that would be the best of both worlds. I would get to do whatever I wanted all my life and then still get into heaven.

Much like the laborers who worked from the beginning of the day, I would get frustrated that people got the same reward for accepting Jesus shortly before they died as I would get for following him for many years. I believe Jesus would reply to this way of thinking similarly to the way the owner of the vineyard replies to his disgruntled workers. I imagine him saying something like, “Is this reward not enough for you?” In other words, “Is grace not enough for you?”

But the reward is enough. It’s enough because whether you have been sold out in your faith for as long as you can remember or you accepted Jesus yesterday, you don’t deserve grace. No amount of “labor” for Jesus could ever pay back this reward. Knowing how much we are forgiven, could we ever say it is unfair to “only” receive grace?

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9

—Jake Ikerd

Sleep Well at Night – Proverbs 6

Sleep Well at Night – Proverbs 6

Read Proverbs 6

It has been said that a proverb is an obvious truth; a truth perhaps that we do not always apply to everyday life as a matter of convenience. In Proverbs 6, Solomon calls us “Son” meaning “family” or “dear friend”, in order to make us comfortable with his numerous admonitions, reminding us of those obvious foundational truths. If we strike a foolish bargain with another, crafting the deal with misleading words, then we are clearly called to correct our foolishness and preserve the relationship. More importantly, we are to “deliver ourselves” with humility and meekness, as a captured animal would to a hunter. Verse 4 instructs that we are not to sleep until we make the situation right. Frequently in chapter 6, we are warned against allowing ourselves to sleep before following through on an obvious truth. In other words, peaceful sleep, rest for our flesh, is far more effective in restoring us when we have “cleared the slate” of foolish behavior.

Later, beginning with verse 16, we are given the six things which the Lord dislikes. How interesting that a proud look leads that list! God clearly calls for us to practice humility with others, correcting foolish mistakes with sincere regret. Then, sleep comes like a fresh breath of air, strengthening us for a new day.

Are there relationships that you need to approach with humility? Do you have air that you need to clear in order to rest and refresh your spirit?

— Jill Eldridge

Containers Wanted – 2 Kings 4

Containers Wanted – 2 Kings 4

Read 2 Kings 4

As the mother of two teenagers, I frequently find empty food containers in the refrigerator, pantry, trash, etc. It seems like there is never enough food to keep them full as they grow. I often ask, “Where is the bottomless box of cereal or gallon of milk?” Many times, the answers come from what I call “God Math”, His miraculous providence when worldly methods fail.

In 2 Kings 4, Elisha encourages a recently widowed woman to depend on God’s math. Facing the loss of her sons in order to pay her family’s debt, Elisha asked her to trust God’s plenty: Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” v. 3-4. God faithfully filled each jar until there were no more to fill, allowing the family to pay the debt and stay together.

How often do we limit God’s full blessing because we only give him one small container to fill? As we reach out to those around us, sharing His message of love, are we pouring into only one or two containers or trusting Him to fill all the containers we bring?

I encourage you today to trust God to fill all your jars and allow Him to bless your life.

— Jill Eldridge

Can You Hear Me Now? – 1 Kings 12

Can You Hear Me Now? – 1 Kings 12

Read 1 Kings 12

A commercial frequently seen on television is built around the question, “Can you hear me now?” It is designed to make us question if we are connected to an efficient and productive service. In chapter 12 of 1 Kings, the great King Solomon, who asked only for wisdom from God, has died and his son Rehoboam is made king. When Rehoboam is confronted with those his father had kept under a heavy yoke, we are pleased that the young king consults the elders, his late father’s advisers, for guidance. However, not pleased with their advice, Rehoboam consults his young, inexperienced, contemporaries and they advocate a heavier yoke be levied in order for Rehoboam to appear more powerful and more successful. A great rebellion is created, complete with golden calves, sacrifices and corrupt priests. God’s messenger Shemaiah speaks to Rehoboam, advising against fighting Israel. “They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord, and returned to depart, according to the word of the Lord.” v.24

Like the young King Rehoboam, we choose the voices we heed, the advice we follow and the wisdom that frames our decisions. We determine daily to whom we are connected, whether our connection is efficient and productive and ultimately, we watch those decisions play out. In the midst of it, that Voice, whether uttered aloud or whispered in the wind, calls us to obedience, to restraint, to the wisdom of the Lord. Can you hear Him now? Can you feel His touch? Are you listening?

 

— Jill Eldridge

A Psalm of David – Psalm 25

A Psalm of David – Psalm 25

Read Psalm 25

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. (Ps. 25:1-2)

David is known as a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22) This does not mean that he was perfect, far from it. David committed several horrible acts due to his own selfish desires. How is it then that God can say, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do”?

Although David’s life was a portrait of great successes it was also characterized by miserable failures, even though in his heart he always longed to please God. At times he experienced the protection of God when He “delivered from the paw of the bear and the paw of the lion”, and again in his battle with Goliath.

David also knew the depths of despair brought on by sin, but through it all David’s desire was to love God with all his heart, soul, and strength. He repeatedly said, “I will delight myself in your commandments, which I love. My hands also I will lift up to your commandments which I love”.

As David matured we see a growing sensitivity to sin and an increasing awareness of his need to appropriate the promises of God’s pardoning grace. He also recognizes the importance of seeking God for direction and protection.

What about you? In spite of your shortcomings, are you pursuing God with all your heart? Let that be our prayer for today.

— Jim Brown

Persistent Humility – Luke 18

Persistent Humility – Luke 18

Read Luke 18

Luke 18 gives many examples of what persistent humility looks like and why it is valued by God. Humility is not being weak as some within our culture have labeled it. On the contrary, humility is power under complete restraint. Jesus demonstrated this truth, God becoming man, born as a baby, living a life of no reputation. The very power that created the universe contained in frail human flesh (Phil 2:5-11).

Persistent humility is not passive, it is intentional. It is relentless in its pursuit to see God come and release justice, healing, restoration (Lk 18:7). This kind of humility realizes its power is in its dependence (Lk 18:14).

Persistent humility works in partnership with the purposes of God. It is active agreement with who God is, who we are to Him and His restorative work on the earth. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes (2nd Coming), will He really find faith (agreement with His Ways) on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)

Persistent humility is the bedrock that enables us to agree with the ways of God and work as agents of change to bring the transforming work of God into every context of our lives.

Ask, have I been working in partnership with God’s restorative work by actively pursuing humility? Ask, am I the Pharisee or Tax Collector rather than someone displaying humility?

God, I pray, increase persistent humility in our lives that we may be agents of your Good News on the earth! Amen.

— Christian Trent

The Shepherd and the Flocks – John 10

The Shepherd and the Flocks – John 10

Read John 10

God uses the story of the Shepherd and the Flocks to show us that he is our true shepherd. He wants no harm to come to us, His voice is what soothes us, and He will always lead us to pasture and then safely back home. He warns us that there will be people who try to sneak into the flock. In John 10, He reminds us that “anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” There will be many “thieves and robbers” in our lives. These people look only to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), but we must always remember to look to the shepherd to take care of us. Jesus is our shepherd and God sent Him down to earth to lead us, to sacrifice His life for us, and then to be our key into heaven. That is exactly the story John 10 tells us. This story is to remind us that we are simply sheep, and the Lord is our shepherd. Jesus wants to take care of us, He loves us with everything that is in Him, and He only wants what is best for us. It is important that we always remember to thank Him daily for the sacrifices He has made for us, and continue to look to Him daily for His guidance in our lives.”

 

Tyler Jacobs

The Lord Told Me… – Jeremiah 23

The Lord Told Me… – Jeremiah 23

Read Jeremiah 23

When I was younger I didn’t really understand the meaning of Exodus 20:7, which says “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” I had originally thought that this vanity was a person saying, “Oh my God!” or “Christ!” in a derogatory way. Then the Lord took me on a journey of meeting a lot of people who said, “The Lord told me,” and “The Lord said,” when in fact the Lord had not, and I began rethinking the definition of that vanity. This brought me to areas like Jeremiah 23 in scripture.

 

Jeremiah 23 is a good re-evaluation scripture for every believer who says “the Lord told me.” Verse 31 says “Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’” This is written in the context of prophets who either have misinterpreted the word of God or fabricated false prophecies. We as believers are not perfect in our hearing, nor are we infallible in our ability to discern. In knowing that, we should be all the more cautious when saying that the Lord told us something. This does not mean we never hear from Him, and it also does not mean we should never say anything in His name. What it does mean is that we should be careful and evaluate our intentions before speaking on behalf of the Lord.

 

Mitchell Ressel

The Good Shepherd – Ezekiel 34

The Good Shepherd – Ezekiel 34

Read Ezekiel 34

Leadership of others is an extremely important position. God often calls upon us to lead others as a shepherd would his flock of sheep. Ezekiel 34 provides excellent proof of how God views the role of caretakers of his people. Here are a few samples of what makes a good shepherd:

  • They search and find their sheep when they are lost (34:12)
  • They feed their sheep (34:13)
  • They provide a place of rest (34:15)
  • They seek out lost sheep who stray from the flock (34:16)

 

When I read passages like this, I often find myself asking the question, “how well am I caring for the people God has placed in my care?” Whether you are a “pastor” of a local church or a parent or a disciple, this is something we can all apply.

 

We see in Ezekiel 34:8-9 God calling upon the shepherds who do not care for His flock but instead have abandoned it. We are called to seek out those who are lost, to not simply let them be consumed.

 

For those who have been hurt by a “shepherd” in your past, God also gives assurance that He is the “Good Shepherd”. He is the perfect pursuer of His people. “I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.”

 

Prayer: Lord, I pray that I would be a shepherd who seeks the lost. A shepherd of your people caring for those you’ve given me to care for. Thank you for your perfect example of caring for your sheep.

 

Ben Abu Saada

The Love of God is Folly – Isaiah 53

The Love of God is Folly – Isaiah 53

Read Isaiah 53 

Wow, this passage, such a picture of true love. It fascinates me that God created humanity knowing that someday He would have to give His Son to bring it back to Himself. He knew ultimately He would have to give absolutely everything if He created Adam. My mind always just has to ask … why?

 

Why go through all of this, you could have never made a single human, never gone through the pain of humanity rejecting you, never gone through coming to earth to end up giving the ultimate sacrifice; your life. The betrayal Jesus’ heart went through, the frustration he must have gone through… feeling like an outsider when all He wanted to do was show humanity the beauty of what is really going on. He took the wrath that we so righteously deserved and took it on Himself.  All He had to do to stop it all was not create Adam.

 

Yet, He still did. True love doesn’t make sense; it seems foolish looking at it from the outside. “L’amour de Dieu est folie” is a French line some people say on Easter which means, “The love of God is folly.” This passage shows the foolishness of God’s love. So today, rest in the foolishness of this love, acknowledge His love over all of your life and by His grace and power go out and show that love, that foolishness, that sacrifice, to someone else.

 

Luke Lauber

Lost – Luke 15

Lost – Luke 15

Read Luke 15

Several years ago my family took a trip to Disney World. We were so excited to be in the “Happiest Place on Earth”. The first day in the park was going amazingly well. The weather was beautiful, we were catching all the rides and attractions. When we exited the train ride, my four year old son did not see us turn left. He turned right and kept walking. I thought my wife had him, she thought I had him. The crowds were crazy.

I will never forget the fear we felt with the realization that he was lost. Nothing else mattered. We were willing to do anything to find him. Even though we had other kids, he mattered enough to drop everything and search for him. That was our singular focus. When we found him we were overjoyed!

Luke 15 gives three accounts of someone being focused on finding what was lost and the celebration that ensued when it was found. A shepherd finding a lost sheep (v.1-7), a woman finding a lost coin (v.8-10), and a father finding a lost son (v.11-32).

In each situation, Luke reminds us that this is what God does for us. He pursues us until we are found and turn to Him. Each time someone commits their life to Jesus and accepts Him as their Savior, it is just like finding something that was lost. A celebration takes place in heaven.

Lord, help us seek for the lost in the way you seek us.

 

Brian Gann