Law Keeper Vs Follower of Jesus? – Luke 6

Law Keeper Vs Follower of Jesus? – Luke 6

Read Luke 6 

More times than I can count, I follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Jesus came to fulfill the law and free us from the punishment of the law, which was death. The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day were so concerned about attempting to keep the law, they missed their opportunities to be on the right side of His-story.

How often do we miss opportunities to show the love of Jesus to others or show compassion to others in the name of “following the law?”

Luke 6:6-11 is a perfect story of how Jesus demonstrated the greatest and highest way of being a follower of Him instead of “keepers of the law and traditions.” Jesus broke several laws and customary practices according to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Jesus was guilty for eating and healing a man on the Sabbath. How many times have we judge or condemned someone in our hearts because they did things different from how mom and dad taught us? When Jesus was questioned for His actions, He said; “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

What Laws and Traditions do you need The Son of Man to be Lord over?

We love, because He loved first. We live, because He died and lived. We’re righteous because He bought us with His blood, therefore we’re righteous. The law is dead! Jesus is the law! Selah.

— James Adams

Keep It Simple – Luke 5

Keep It Simple – Luke 5

Read Luke 5 

At the beginning of chapter five, we get a glimpse into one of Jesus’ first interactions with his disciples. It was not uncommon during this time for rabbis to gather students and teach them the Torah (books of Moses). But Jesus does something different. Notice who he gathers and where he gathers. The crowd that gathered was so big that he was forced to the edge of the seashore. This reminds me of Genesis 22:17 where God promises Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Here is Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, standing on a seashore with his disciples. It a beautiful picture where we can see God’s promise coming true.

Second, notice the people Jesus gathers. When Jesus called, he called the fishermen and the tax collector and the regular ole’ average Joe. They were nothing special, but when they encountered Jesus it changed everything for them. For Peter, he went from fishing for fish to fishing for men. He found his true purpose in Jesus and his life was flipped upside down. When Jesus called you, you stepped into your true purpose and calling. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that we no longer live for ourselves but for the One who died for us. Sometimes with our busy schedules we forget what we are meant to do. We forget what life is about. So, today let’s take a step back, keep it simple like Peter, and just Follow Him.

— Jared Lupo

Tempted, Not Defeated – Luke 4

Tempted, Not Defeated – Luke 4

Read Luke 4 

“For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.” Heb.4:15

In Hebrews, we are encouraged that Jesus was tempted in every way we are and yet was without sin. In the beginning of Luke chapter 4, we see the evidence of this temptation. You may be struggling to see how the temptations Jesus faced are the same temptations you face today. I doubt you are reading this while thinking about turning a piece of your landscaping into an afternoon snack.

I wonder though, do you typically feel tempted when you are most vulnerable? Have you ever been tempted to put convenience, wealth, or power ahead of God? Have you ever heard a small voice in your head trying to twist scripture to justify your sin? I would bet most, if not all of our sins fall under one of those categories. These are the exact temptations Jesus faced when the devil met him in the wilderness. Jesus was vulnerable to being tempted for food because he hadn’t eaten for 40 days. Jesus was offered the power of the entire earth. Jesus was challenged to test God by the devil twisting scripture.

This can be so encouraging for us as followers of Jesus. He overcame and so can we. He was tempted in the same ways we are and is our perfect example. We will be tempted, but we can overcome!

— Jake Ikerd

What Shall We Do? – Luke 3

What Shall We Do? – Luke 3

Read Luke 3 

John the Baptist role was to prepare the way of the Lord. His life was a street sign pointing people to Jesus, the Savior of the world. As people encountered him, they would ask him this question, “What shall we do…to those who have much, give to those in need? To the tax collector…don’t take more than you should? To the soldier…don’t use your power to intimidate and rob others of their money?” I wonder if you or I asked this question to John the Baptist. What shall we do? To mother, father, son or daughter, what shall we do? To the poor, rich, powerful and weak, what shall we do? To the holy, sinner, beggar, harlot, what shall we do? Each of us has a story or identity when we come into contact with the good news of Christ. We are confronted with the call to leave changed. To leave new and better than what we were before because this is what encounters with God look like. I ask you as you to consider what John might say to you if you ask these questions, what shall we do?

— Russell Schultz

Jesus’ Complete Obedience Became The Pathway To God – Luke 2

Jesus’ Complete Obedience Became The Pathway To God – Luke 2

Read Luke 2  

Who was Jesus?

Fully God. Fully human. Fully dependent on God the Father.

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7

Most people think of this verse when they think of the birth of Jesus. The scene is set: Jesus’ parents in a stable, a wooden manger as baby Jesus’ crib, shepherds are led to the stable by angelic hosts, wise men traveled for days with gifts, and stinky animals everywhere.

Why did Jesus have to come to the world in such a humble way?  How many times have you felt broken, alone, desperate, betrayed, mischaracterized and misunderstood by others? Isaiah described Jesus as a man despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. No form nor comeliness, no beauty that we should desire him.”  The good news is He did not sin!

Jesus’ obedience to become fully human, taking on every possible hardship known to men was to demonstrate his full commitment to the human process, emotions and experience. The baby in that stable gave up His kingship, beauty, power, perfect fellowship with God to be our ultimate price for every sin and struggle we face. Selah.

— James Adams

Sharing the Mystery – Colossians 4

Sharing the Mystery – Colossians 4

Read Colossians 4

 

“to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (vs. 3-4)

Paul is asking the church to pray for opportunities to share the “mystery of Christ”, or the gospel.

One of my main objectives as a Jesus follower is to clearly communicate the gospel to those who are “outsiders”. Ironically, it also seems to be the most difficult thing I do as a Jesus follower. Spiritual practices, disciple making, church attendance…not a problem. Sharing Jesus with the lost…not so much.

Apparently, even the great apostle Paul had the same struggle, hence the prayer request. He makes a similar request of the church in Ephesus (Eph.6:18-20), when he asked for boldness to speak the mystery of the gospel.

So, what’s the secret? When fear says don’t share the gospel, how do we overcome? Two things that Paul mentions here:

  1. Prayer — ask God for boldness/courage and opportunities to clearly speak the gospel
  2. Obligation — “I ought to…” It’s what we MUST do, it is necessary. Paul said that he was “an ambassador in bonds”, he was chained to this obligation. In another letter he puts it this way, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

The simple reality is, if we don’t speak the gospel as we ought…the lost won’t hear. Aren’t you glad for the boldness of the one who spoke the gospel to you?

 

Kent Liles

Have You Let God Equip You? – Ephesians 6

Have You Let God Equip You? – Ephesians 6

Read Ephesians 6 

 

In the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he reminds us that the struggles we face in this life are not physical struggles, but rather spiritual struggles.  Thankfully, we have a God who equips us with spiritual armor in the struggles we face each day.  Too often however, I leave my spiritual armor at home.

I’m reminded of a college friend, who for a season, during their morning time with God they imagined putting on the armor of God. Taking the time to consider each piece and how they would need it that day.

  • Do you realize God has equipped you for whatever you will face today and every day?
  • Have you been leaving behind the armor and weapons he has given you for protection in these spiritual struggles?

After encouraging the church to put on the armor of God, Paul asks the church at Ephesus to pray for boldness for himself as he shares Jesus with others.  That’s right! Paul, the legend himself, needs boldness.

It is normal to be shy, nervous, or unsure when sharing your faith, but It is not ok to allow feeling shy, nervous, or unsure to keep us from sharing our faith.  Let’s follow Paul’s example and ask God for boldness as we share Christ with others.  God is faithful and will equip us with not only spiritual armor but also with boldness in your time of need.

 

Russell Schultz

Our Confidence in The Gospel – Galatians 1

Our Confidence in The Gospel – Galatians 1

Read Galatians 1

 

In this chapter of Galatians, Paul highlights the importance of the gospel — the message that Jesus came to the earth, died on the cross for our sin, and rose again from the dead.  It is the one true gospel.  It is the only gospel.

He goes on, in verses 6-10, to talk about how we can trust the gospel.  It is so trustworthy that Paul says, even if an angel from heaven preaches another gospel, they are to be accursed. Paul is baffled by how those in the church at Galatia were responding to the gospel.

Some in the church had turned away from the gospel of Jesus.  They started listening to others tell them that they needed to add works to the gospel in order to please God.

This is so often how we respond to the message of Jesus.  We hear it and accept it for our salvation.  Then we want to add rules and works to the gospel.  We can sometimes forget the grace of the gospel that saved us, and instead, substitute rules and law as the way to find favor with God.  We make following rules the litmus test for our identity and worth.

The fact is that our worth is solely found in the gospel of Jesus and who we are in Him.

Let’s live that way this week.

 

Brian Gann

The Power of Forgiveness – Genesis 50

The Power of Forgiveness – Genesis 50

Read Genesis 50 

The “meat” of this chapter is found in the middle. Following the death of his father, Jacob, Joseph’s brothers are fearful that Joseph will be angry at them for all the wrong they had done to him in the past, and they beg him to forgive them. Joseph shows kindness to them and uses this opportunity to give glory to God. He reassures them that he will provide for them and their children.

Wow! How powerful is that?! These are the same brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery many years ago – and now he shows he has completely forgiven them for their evil deeds against him. Not only that, but Joseph recognizes that God allowed him to go through all the awful things he endured so that He could later put him into a position to help others (including his brothers and their families!). Joseph trusted God so much that he forgave the ones whose horrible act was the incident that began many years of hardship for him in Egypt.

One definition of forgiveness is “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).” Is there someone you need to forgive today? Or perhaps someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness? Do that today and trust God to help reconcile that relationship. There is power in forgiveness.

— Samantha Rasch

Blessings for Betrayers – Genesis 45

Blessings for Betrayers – Genesis 45

Read Genesis 45

The holiday season is usually a time where families get together and find time to invest in each other’s lives. It is also a time where many families find themselves separated because of quarrels, disagreements, and blatant selfishness. You are possibly one of those people; either hurt from betrayal or the one doing the hurting. I want to encourage you to use this season as one for reconciliation with those that you have wronged, or to use it as a time of healing and forgiveness for those who have wronged you.

Genesis 45 is a perfect example of what this looks like. Joseph’s life was a huge sob story. He was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, and distanced from his family in the matter of days, then jailed unjustly in Egypt. Even despite that, the Lord brought him into a place of favor and leadership and used his circumstances as a blessing. This blessing was not only for all the land of Egypt, but also for his betrayers. We can sometimes feel like we are dealing out justice by excommunicating the people that hurt us, but we are actually choosing something detrimental to our growth in Christ. Not choosing to be the stewards of blessing as God would have us be is a direct obstacle of reconciliation.

I encourage you to find someone that you have had a falling out with and seek out healing in that relationship. God brought you into your blessings so that you could share them with not only those close to you but also with those who have hurt and betrayed you.

— Mitchell Ressell

Forget and Fruitful – Genesis 41

Forget and Fruitful – Genesis 41

Read Genesis 41

The life of Joseph is fascinating…particularly in regard to him being a ‘type’ or picture of Jesus. Like Jesus; Joseph was unjustly accused, sentenced with two others – one went free upon Joseph’s word and one did not (two thieves), rose from prison and certain death to sit next to the king and rule over the land with grace and mercy, providing sustenance to a world in famine – those he once served, now “bow the knee” to him. Great stuff!

However, what stood out to me as I read chapter 41 today, was what Joseph named his two sons: Manasseh (‘Forgetful’) and Ephraim (‘Fruitful’). Manasseh reminded Joseph that God had made him forget all the hardship he had endured, and Ephraim reminded him of how God was blessing him…even in affliction.

God has done the same thing in my life. He has blessed me with forgetting. Not that I can’t remember the losses and heartbreaks that life has given me – but through God’s grace, I have been able to move forward as if I had forgotten them. They are not crippling me emotionally, or keeping me from growing spiritually. At the same time, God has made me fruitful…even in times of affliction. By God’s mercy, I am the recipient of love, joy, and peace. I am partnering with Him in eternal purposes to be a blessing to the people around me. In fact, like Joseph, I can see how God has used my affliction to bring blessing in ways I could never have imagined otherwise.

What has God allowed you to forget by his grace? How is God, by his mercy, making you fruitful?

— Kent Liles

He is With You – Genesis 39

He is With You – Genesis 39

Read Genesis 39 

Marshmallows and hot cocoa, sitting by the fire, cuddled up and cozy… sounds like the start to a great Christmas song, right? This is one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season. It makes me feel comfortable, secure and happy. My ultimate form of security is knowing that God is with us- Immanuel. Immanuel is a name that we seem to use most often at Christmas time. It literally means “God with us”.  

Joseph had so many ups and downs and many moments that could have broken him. What kept him going? What helped him not give up hope? Immanuel. God with us. This is repeated over and over numerous times in this chapter- “the Lord was with Joseph”. The Lord is with you. This time of year could be a difficult time for you, but the Lord is with you. You may be struggling with something right now, but the Lord is with you. He is with you in your best and worst moments and He will never leave you- He is with us always.  

I don’t know what season of life you are in right now, but be encouraged by this promise- God is with you, just as He was with Joseph.

— Jamie Twaddell

From The Pit – Genesis 37

From The Pit – Genesis 37

Read Genesis 37 

Have you ever felt like God told you something that sounded ridiculous? Have you ever heard someone say that God told them something that sounded ridiculous to you? Now imagine if the person telling you this was your own brother! I think anyone that grew up with siblings may be able to sympathize just a little with Joseph’s brothers. Maybe you wouldn’t throw your sibling in a pit, but could you imagine if your little brother or sister told you that you would bow down to them one day? Well, that’s the beginning of the story of Joseph.

Now, Joseph’s brothers were clearly in the wrong when they threw him in the pit. However, I think we have to ask ourselves, would Joseph’s story have played out the same way if they hadn’t? Would Joseph have been able to reach the place that God had for him if he hadn’t started in the pit?

As you continue to read the story of Joseph, keep in mind that the pit is where his story began. Maybe you are experiencing a pit of your own right now. Maybe you feel as though you have been betrayed or left behind. Possibly something you have loved has been taken away from you. Whatever pit you may currently find yourself in could be the beginning of God’s plan to do something amazing in your life. Joseph’s story takes him from the pit to a palace. Are you ready to stay faithful so God can take you to your palace?

— Jake Ikerd

Coming Home – Romans 5

Coming Home – Romans 5

Read Romans 5

The holidays are for many a joyous time surrounded by family, friends and festivities. However, that is not always the case for many of us. Years back, my parents divorced. In the wake of this, it was very hard for me to want to celebrate the holidays. Christmas became a painful reminder of how nothing would ever be the same.

The concept of reconciliation is a foreign one in modernity. Few people talk in these terms anymore outside of religious communities. Hence why the power of the act is lost on most.

In the ancient Greek the word for reconcile is “Katallage,” meaning to exchange. It was most commonly used in the context of monetary exchange.

What the years have taught me is that reconciliation is not getting things back to the way they were but literally exchanging it for something better.

I think this is the heart of the Jesus message. He came to show us a new way to live in the world. A way that exchanges all the old ways of doing something for an entirely new and better way. The verb of katallage is allásso. In classical Greek allásso itself was used to express changing shape, or color, or appearance.

The Jesus way is catalytic to sustained transformative change. It takes all the broken things and replaces them with something new, clean, bright. It’s what gives us a new reason to come home, a new reason to celebrate.  

— Christian Trent

Righteousness of Faith  – Romans 4

Righteousness of Faith – Romans 4

Read Romans 4 

Getting right with God should always be our main goal. The apostle Paul is trying to teach us to rely on our faith in Jesus Christ as the only way for justification. Romans 3:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Let’s break it down:

  • But to him who does not work…” – We must first realize that we cannot do anything for salvation, it is a free gift.
  • but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly…” – Christ died for us, so therefore He is the one who justifies the ungodly (us).
  • his faith is accounted for righteousness.” – We must trust in Jesus who died in our place and paid our debt. Our faith in Him is what makes us righteous.

At the beginning and end of each day, reach out to God in prayer and thank Him for the free gift of Jesus Christ and the debt He paid for us. God is not asking us to do anything in the way of works. In fact, He tells us we cannot work our way to heaven. The servant spirit we gain is manifested from the faith and belief that we have in Jesus. The good we do is a testament to our faith in Jesus Christ and the glory and honor we want to show people that we give back to God. Our serving spirit is nothing special if we do not give all glory and honor to God and share that with those around us.

— Doug Heim

Feelings of Guilt – Romans 3

Feelings of Guilt – Romans 3

Read Romans 3

We have all at some point felt guilty or bad for falling short of God’s plan for us. We all have a conscience and eventually we have to deal with the decisions we make. The reality is we are all guilty before God because we have all broken His law.

There is nothing we can do that will make up for the sins we commit aside from asking for His forgiveness and accepting His free gift. We are all accountable to God for our sins and Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price in our place for those sins.

Our hope is found only in Jesus Christ and the fact that He loved us so much that He died for our sins so that we may be reconciled to God. Romans 3:21-24 sums it up well:

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

— Doug Heim

Do Your Actions Show Your Faith? – Romans 2

Do Your Actions Show Your Faith? – Romans 2

Read Romans 2 

It seems we live in an era when people are very quick to judge others by their statements, affiliations or simply the way they dress, act or where they live. This is nothing new; it has been happening since long before our generations were even thought to be an existence.

Paul tells us in Romans 2:10-11, “But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

If we would just spend a little more time in prayer for one another and less time judging each other, we would get to see the blessings of God in extraordinary ways. God wants us to seek Him first and foremost and He tells us He will handle the judgement of us all. For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Start each day with a short prayer for all humanity to turn to God for peace, comfort and most of all salvation through faith by His free gift.

— Doug Heim

The Just Shall Live By Faith – Romans 1

The Just Shall Live By Faith – Romans 1

Read Romans 1

Why is it so hard for people to just trust in Jesus with pure faith? Has anyone ever said to you, “How can you believe in someone or something that you have not physically witnessed?” For me, the question is wrong. I would ask “How can you NOT step out on total faith and believe in the GOOD that Jesus represents and the LOVE He shows us everyday?”

Why do we choose to believe in evil (satan) over good (Jesus)? We cannot see the air we breathe, but we know it exists and it allows us to live. Jesus is our true Savior and the only Savior for us. He allows us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him if we only call out to Him with faith.

Romans 1:16-17 sums it up for me pretty well:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

— Doug Heim

As The Lord Commands – Exodus 40

As The Lord Commands – Exodus 40

Read Exodus 40

The first 15 verses of Exodus 40 were the specifications for how Moses was to set up the tabernacle. The amazing part of this chapter is the 16th verse, where it says, “Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded Him.” Though this verse is very easy to overlook, when we take a moment to truly read it and evaluate our lives in perspective to it, how well do we do everything just as the Lord commands it? We tend to not follow His commands in detail, and one of the best ways to combat our lack of obedience is knowing where our holdup lies. Many of us will fall into one of three categories: The Lazy, The Fearful, or The Ignorant.

The Lazy are those that know what to do, but see it as too hard or too inconvenient to actually put feet to obedience. The Fearful are those that also know what to do but are afraid of where obedience will take them, or what obedience will ask them to do. Lastly, the Ignorant are those that literally don’t know what the Lord is asking of them. They tend to operate in the sense that the Lord has no expectations of them.

Once you know where you stand, dialogue with the Lord on steps to take towards obedience. Obedience is one of the greatest ways that we show love to the Lord (John 14:21), so it should be vital to every Christian’s walk!

— Mitchell Ressel

God’s Beautiful Design – Exodus 39

God’s Beautiful Design – Exodus 39

Read Exodus 39

Exodus 39 is written with strangely precise detail. Everything from the color of the thread to the material of the garments had been specified by God. Why did God care so much about the smallest details of priestly clothing?    

When an Israelite encountered a priest, the rich imagery screamed “God has delivered you, God cares for you, and God will continue to deliver you”. For instance, in verse 14 we read that on the breast piece, “There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.” The breast piece (and the rest of the priestly garments) were crafted so that everywhere the priest went, people were reminded of God’s goodness.

This is a fantastically interesting concept, because as it says in 1 Peter 2:9, we are now God’s priests!  Just like in Exodus 39, God is lovingly crafting us into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) so that everywhere we Go, people are reminded of who God is!

This has huge implications. This means that who we are declares who God is!  We are like a city on a hill, shining God’s spirit and presence! God has designed us so that everywhere we go, we show people that God can take sinners like us, and transform them into something beautiful. Let Exodus 39 remind us of God’s beautiful design for our past and future.

— Andrew Schumann