Monday, August 31, 2020

1 Timothy 1

 Note to reader: We are getting toward the end of the year and the maintain this chapter a day writing schedule, I need to plan out pretty far ahead, so I am thinking about 2021. Do you want these devotionals to continue? Would you prefer a selection of the Old Testament (a chapter a day, not covering the whole OT, but hitting the major stories and passages), the whole Old Testament (3 chapters a day, covered at a much more superficial level), a topical devotional (I was thinking maybe "God: A Self-Portrait," looking at a different thing God said every day), something that changes quarterly, readings that reinforce that Sunday's sermon or something else? Is 5 days a week good, or would a different calendar be more beneficial for you and your family? Do you feel like you have a better understanding of the big ideas of the New Testament? I have considered having these printed into a book form, what would you think about that? Send me an email to and let me know what you think.  

Key verse: 1 Timothy 1:5

Big idea: The goal of a ministry is love. 

The second habit in Stephen Covey's famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is "begin with the end in mind." If you start out on a project without any specific goal or purpose, it is impossible to set priorities or separate the good from the essential. But it seems like many churches operate this way. Someone likes painting, so they start a painting ministry. Someone loses a loved one, so they launch a grief sharing ministry. A group likes to sing, so the church needs a choir. A new social media platform comes out, so they need a page. There is a tradition of a weekly bulletin, so we spend time and money keeping one up. None of these are bad - indeed, all of them could have a place in a healthy church. But a church cannot do everything and if we do not know why we exist, we have no rubric to distinguish between what we can do and what we should do. 

The same problem can plague individuals and families. We can play three sports and two instruments while taking all AP classes, but saying "yes" to those things means saying "no" to others. We can spend money on a new car, a bigger house or a nice vacation as long as we understand we are choosing not to spend money on other things. None of these are bad, they are just choices. How do we choose? The secret is purpose. 

Paul explains that Timothy is not to get caught up in endless questions or genealogical squabbles. His ministry is to be laser-focused on its purpose: helping people grow in love, through a pure heart and genuine faith. This is not an astroturf love that encourages people to be superficially sweet to one another with hearts that are unchanged. This is the kind of love that comes from understanding the gospel. It comes from knowing our sins have been forgiven and trying to serve God with our lives. It comes from trust that God is going to care for us, so we do not need to serve ourselves. It is the kind of love that believes that the person before us is so precious to God that He gave His only begotten Son for them. So ministries that reach the lost, help the saved live holier lives, and develop love are worthwhile. Things that do not do that (or do it less effectively than other options) are the fat we ought to trim. Maybe in a particular church, the painting group or choir help develop the love between members. Maybe the newest, hottest social media craze lets you lead people to faith. Or maybe they are distractions. If we have a standard, at least we can begin to find out. 

Our goal as individuals and as families is the same. What is going to help me grow in love, faith, and holiness? Those are my priorities. Anything else is optional and should come in second to what really matters. When we have a clear purpose, we can choose what we will do, rather than having our circumstances choose for us. Think of the freedom you could have if you dropped all of the baggage God never intended for you to carry. 

Discussion idea: What are the three things in your life that take up the most time (other than sleep)? How well do those support your purpose? What could you trim to make more time for the things that really matter?

Prayer focus: Pray that God would give us the clarity to focus on those things which help us to grow in love. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

2 Thessalonians 3

 Key verse: 2 Thessalonians 3:12

Big idea: Our reward is coming but requires patience.

The end of this short little letter seems to make a hard swerve. We have been talking about the end of time and the return of Jesus and now we are talking about not being a freeloader? Paul warns them against busybodies, who don't work and spend all-day gossiping, living off the generosity of the rest of the church and encourages them to quietly continue living their lives for God. How did we get from A to B? Does Paul just need another cup of coffee? 

Of course, the principles are intimately related. Things are not how they will be or how they should be. Jesus is coming to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the tares but in the meantime, the world is blended. We should keep our eyes on the return of Jesus so that we have hope that God will reveal Himself and His children. Yet that does not mean we should put our feet up and sit on the porch waiting for him to come. No, we work while we wait! We stay busy about even the most mundane things, because God is the one who is accomplishing His good will through us. We eat our bread and pay our taxes, not because Jesus is not King, but because we want to serve Him until His arrival. 

Faithfulness today and a hope of eternity are not opposites. They are different sides of the same coin. Because our eyes are fixed on the horizon, we work until Jesus comes. Because we are working, we are painfully aware of how badly we need the Master to come and finish the job. So don't give up! Don't get weary! The harvest is coming.

Discussion idea: Why is it so hard for us to delay gratification? How can we work hard for rewards that we cannot see until Jesus returns?

Prayer focus: Lord, give me the balance to live in two worlds at once. Help me to faithfully work for you and yet to keep my heart and mind fixed on the day when all of this shall pass away.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

2 Thessalonians 2

Key verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:11
Big idea: The reward of rebellion is rebellion.

Isaac Newton's first law of motion says: "An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force." You knew that already. Something moving will keep moving unless or until something stops or slows it (like friction). An object which is not moving will not start moving unless something acts on it. Behaviorally, as well as physically, we have a tendency to keep doing what we are doing. We often think that we will make a change in our life tomorrow but do not realize that it will never be easier than today. 

Paul warns that those who reject Jesus now will have a last chance to accept him. If they "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," the time that they have to repent will not last forever. At a certain time, God sends a strong delusion, to reinforce them in the lies they have chosen, sealing their condemnation. This is no easy doctrine, but it is taught in several places (Romans 1:28, 1 Timothy 4:2, Revelation 17:17). There is a self-reinforcing cycle, where choosing obedience leads us to more obedience and choosing rejection leads us to more rejection. An object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force. 

Thankfully, there is an external and unbalanced force which acts on us: the Holy Spirit. He comes and empowers us to respond to the message so that we can change direction. But if we reject that conviction then eventually God quits pushing and leaves us to lie. Do not wait, trust Jesus today. 

Discussion idea: Read 1 Timothy 4:2. What does it mean to have a seared conscience? How does that relate to this passage?

Prayer focus: Pray for a heart sensitive to God's Spirit. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

2 Thessalonians 1

Key verse: 2 Thessalonians 1:11 
Big idea: Our rewardireward for the work which God does through us. 

The verse at the end of 2 Thessalonians really caught my attention. The apostle Paul's prayer is that God would, by his power, grant all of our desires to do good. 

This seems so counterintuitive. Our understanding of good works is usually based in the idea that we are, by our strength, accomplishing something which God is calling us to do. Sometimes people dream of finding the perfect will of God in their lives. But they think that God's will for them comes down to such an extraordinary level of detail that they imagine they are displeasing God if they drive a car which is the wrong color or if they eat the wrong thing for lunch. But here we get a tantalizing vision that perhaps bringing glory to God is much simpler than that. 

Paul says that we (as born-again believers seeking to please the Lord) desire to do good and that God gives us the ability to do the good thing that is in our heart. What a powerful idea! Finding the will of God is not some sort of puzzle where God is testing us to see if we can find the treasure at the end of the map. Rather finding the will of God means submitting to what He has revealed in His Word, looking forward to his coming, desiring to do good, and then acting in his infinite power. 
We  often face decisions for which there is probably not what we would describe as a single right answer. The hurricane barreling toward the coast we have to decide do we stay or do we evacuate? When deciding to get married we have to wonder is this the person that I should spend the rest of my life with. When buying a home we have to choose between different colors or furniture. Is one choice a sin?

Sometimes when we talk about how the whole Bible is inspired by God, people struggle. Because the different authors of the Bible use their own different vocabulary and style. How can it all be breathed out by God if John writes in short simple sentences and Luke writes inflowing strong Greek probes. 

Well, it's because God did not begin the process of writing Luke and John when the Apostles picked up when scratched that. When the authors picked up their pens. No, the author and finisher of the faith had been preparing Luke and John to write those gospels through their whole lives their vocabulary to their education their family of bringing were no accident. 

God shaped their desires so that what they desired to do when their eyes were fixed on him was the very think that he desires. So then they could do it through his power. But ultimately if we desire to do good,G is the wind in our sales pushing us onward. Now, this doesn't mean that God doesn't call people towards specific tasks. It doesn't mean that at certain times God doesn't shut some doors and open others to direct us to where we ought to be. But it does mean that there is a danger to overcomplicating obedience to God. Again, Paul says that the reward that we will receive is the reward that we get for desiring to do good and then God's power accomplishing that good through us. 

Discussion idea: Is it easier or harder to be given wide latitude in serving God?
Prayer focus: With Paul let's simply pray that God will accomplish the good desires of our heart through his might.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

1 Thessalonians 5


Key verse: 1st Thessalonians 5:11

Big idea: Our hope takes our eyes off ourselves and turns them to each other.

As the Apostle Paul closes his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he continues the subject of the end of time. He explains to them that there is no need to obsess about details which are unknowable because the Lord will come like a thief in the night. Rather their posture should be of constant, hopeful expectation: Jesus is coming and God’s ancient verdict will be true once again, it will be “very good.” Of course, it will not be good for everyone. For those who reject God, His return means judgment and condemnation. But for us, it is a source of joy.

Verse 5 is particularly interesting. Paul explains that because we are the children of light, the Lord will not overtake us as a thief in the night. We live in the same world as everyone else but because we have been born again, we are living in the light of day already. Our circumstances may be the same but by the grace of God, we are in a position to already see day breaking over the horizon.  Since we are children of the light, the Apostle says, we should live like it. But how? How should our lives be different? Again, it is not by a detailed knowledge of future events. It is a life that is marked by a change in priorities. It is by a transformed life.

This is where our key verse for today comes in. If we have been transformed by the gospel and have the encouragement of that hope, then we should not sit at home in self-satisfaction. We should comfort others! If the power of death and sin have been broken we should encourage one another and build each other up for God’s glory. My life is no longer my own – it is the Lord’s. Once again, the Bible confronts us with the need for the church. We cannot be who we are intended to be alone but need to be built up our brothers and sisters, even as we build them up. Brother John quoted Ecclesiastes in his sermon on Sunday night and it is a good place to end: “


Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


Discussion idea: Why has God designed us where we need encouragement and building up from other people, instead of just from the Bible and the Holy Spirit alone?

Prayer focus: Pray for the opportunity to encourage someone, specifically, today.

Monday, August 24, 2020

1 Thessalonians 4

Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Big idea: Our knowledge of God's Word gives us hope.

A lot of people think about theology as something boring and irrelevant. They see it as a list of abstract facts like mathematics or geography and their eyes glaze over at the thought. Give us something practical, they say, thinking that theology is an old man wondering how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But actually, the truths which are taught to us in the Scripture are infinitely important. The things that we know and the things that we believe shape the way that we can respond to the events of our everyday lives.

This is no more true than in the face of death. In many situations which we face we have experience to go on. Even if we haven't dealt with something personally, we may have friends or family who can tell us how they got through it. There's a certain kind of worldly wisdom which allows us to at least partially face many of the struggles of life. But there's one conflict which everyone must face which we have and can have no experience with. No psychologists or scientists can tell us about the secrets of life beyond life. No friend or loved one can tell us how they were able to conquer death and there is no book of the 5 Habits of Highly Effective Zombies. So in the face of this, the one great equalizer of the human condition, we all are ignorant. And that ignorance can lead to denial or it can lead to despair. But the Bible offers us a better way. 

Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant. Not because he wants us to pass the great pop quiz in the sky, but he wants us to not be ignorant so that we will not sorrow like those who have no hope. And Paul's solution to keep us from being among the hopeless is theology. The assurance of God's Word is the only thing which matters because Jesus alone has walked through all the horror of death and come again a conqueror. When we sorrow we don't sorrow hopelessly because we have the word of God. 

He tells us, by the authority of the Lord, that as surely as Jesus conquered death so "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." That same Jesus who died in our place and ascended up to heaven is coming again and when He comes again, He will bring our saved loved ones with Him. Of course, if God is bringing them with Him, He must have them already. There is no reason to sorrow hopelessly because they are not lost but safe in the arms of God. There is no reason to sorrow hopelessly because our separation from them is not final because we will be reunited.

So Paul's ultimate answer to the pain of ignorance is Scripture. He says in the face of death what we need is not a stiff upper lip or a science experiment, but he tells us, "Comfort one another with these words." It is the Bible! It is theology! When there can be no other knowledge we can hope in the face of the last enemy because God Himself tells us how He has conquered.

Discussion idea: If God's Word is the only source for the ultimate questions, how should we think about the areas where the world and God both offer counsel?

Possible discussion for older kids: How can someone be comforted when their loved one was unsaved?

Prayer focus: Pray that those who grieve would be comforted by the hope in Jesus.

Friday, August 21, 2020

1 Thessalonians 3

 Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 3:8

Big idea: The hope we have in the gospel brings us comfort in pain.

Paul and his companions had faced much tribulation and suffering. They had been threatened with death, imprisonment and undermined at every turn. What gave them endurance? What encouraged them when all hope seemed lost? 1 Thessalonians 3:8 tells us that it was the news that the Thessalonians stood firm. The grammar assumes that the "if" is true in 1 Thessalonians 3:8, so Paul is saying: "For now we live, since you stand fast in the Lord." What a pastor's heart! Paul and his coworkers do not despair of life - they "live" - because the church at Thessalonica is following Jesus. Paul believes their fruit shows that they genuinely belong to Christ and will be made like Him at the end. In comparison to that hope, all of the stresses and pressures of life are almost irrelevant.

Older kids: What is your biggest worry right now? If the worst happened, would it matter to you when you are 80?

Younger kids: Have younger kids hold something close to the maximum weight they can lift. Add a single piece of paper on top of it. Is the paper noticeable, compared to the weight? How do the weights of this life compare to the weight of the promise we have in Jesus?

We face many temptations to despair or doubt but we might wonder how many of them will matter in 50 years, much less 500. Do you think a slight difference in tax policy, a utility repairman arriving late, or an embarrassment will even be remembered in 50 years? Almost certainly not. Most of the things that we fret about are genuinely irrelevant. But forgiveness of sins, eternal life and certain glory for the people we love? That is an unshakable hope. So Paul could be beaten, he could be imprisoned and ultimately even executed, but he had hope and joy because his spiritual children stood firm in Christ. 

Discussion idea: Why do you think Paul uses such strong language, "now we live"? Some pastors take the philosophy that they should not be concerned if people respond or not, as long as they have presented the truth. Does this match what Paul says here?

Prayer focus: Thank God that all of our biggest fears are a grain of sand alongside His goodness and love for us. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

1 Thessalonians 2

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 2:9

Big idea: Our hope in the gospel is in each other.

When Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he writes to people who were soaked in the ideology of the world. They assumed that whenever anyone did anything for them that they had an angle. People always have something they are trying to get out of every situation - with most people, most of the time, they would be right. It seems that most people are not looking for how they can serve but how they can be served. 

But, as Paul explains, he came to them as a parent comforting a child. He came to them with love. He came to them, not like their own countrymen who sought to take advantage of them and tear them down, but with the love that comes from God. Jesus himself said: "The son of man came not to serve but to be served and to give his life a ransom for many."

Paul passed on that same kind of selfless love and service to the church at Thessalonica. So as he writes to them and they face various challenges from opposition on the outside and people trying to undermine Paul's authority on the inside, and as they try to live out the balance between the hope that they have in heaven and the desire to follow Christ in this present life, Paul tells them that he is not trying to manipulate them. His goal is not to take advantage of them, but to love them. 

So what is in it for Paul? He tells us at the very end of the chapter: the joy and the crown that he seeks is the Thessalonians themselves. What he wants is not something that they can give him or some benefit he can gain from them. It is simply to have them with him when Jesus returns. The greatest hope that he has is not something material, not something of prestige or influence but simply to have them made complete in Christ and stand with him. 

As parents raise their children, they ought to have the same kind of attitude. John the Apostle wrote: "I have no greater joy than to see that my children walk in the truth." He mean those he had led to Christ but his point is certainly not less true in earthly families. The goal is not the stuff we can get from our family. The goal is the relationship we can have with them, by God's grace. 

In every dimension of our lives today, we have to resist the temptation to take advantage of others. We have to resist the temptation to always ask ,"What can I get?" and instead ask "Who can I serve?" Whoever we have fellowship with is a precious person made in the image of God and bought with the blood of Jesus. Surely that connection is worth more than anything this world could ever offer. 

Older kids: Have you ever done something kind for someone in hopes of getting something in return? Has someone ever done something like that to you? How did that change the way you thought of their kindness? How did that change the way you thought of them?

Discussion idea: Why was Paul concerned the Thessalonians would think that he had his own interests at heart? How is the integrity of the gospel at stake in that situation? 

Prayer focus: Pray that God would help us to have the same kind of selfless love that he has for us and that Paul had for the church. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

1 Thessalonians

 Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Big idea: Our hope is that the One who was taken from death will take us from wrath.

What is hope? In modern English, it means that we want something to happen. But the biblical Greek word is defined as: "the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment."[1] It is not something that we wish will happen, but something that we expect to happen and are looking forward to with excitement. It is in this sense of the word hope that we hope Jesus will come again and rescue us from our sin and the judgment to come. It is something we can expect, because He is no dead idol, but the one who died in our place and rose again on the third day. That is the kind of hope which is transformational. 

There is always a temptation to extremes. Perhaps we see faithfulness in this life as so important that we give little or no thought to the return of Jesus and our deliverance from this world. But perhaps we are so obsessed with Heaven that we fail to obey Jesus on Earth. But the Thessalonians apparently overcame that trap, at least when Paul wrote this letter to them. They were living out in faith, love, and hope, because they expected that Jesus would come again and rescue them from the wrath of God against unrighteousness. They could endure when they faced struggles because they knew that there was a champion who had conquered death, ascended to Heaven and would return.

As we read through 1 Thessalonians, we will see the power of hope to transform our lives. We do not serve God out of fear, but out of joy that we are His and He is ours! Jesus is coming and our temptations, our tribulations, and even our triumphs are all given meaning by that hope. There is no need to be beat down and discouraged all the time because our Savior is in Heaven and is coming back to Earth on the greatest rescue mission in history. 

Discussion idea: Do you tend to gravitate to the extreme of earthly mindedness or heavenly mindedness? How are they inseparable, when rightly understood?

Prayer focus: Ask God to help you to keep one eye on the work and one on the sky as you serve Him today with joy and hope. 

[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 319.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Colossians 4

 Key verse: Colossians 4:6

Big idea: Our witness is inseparable from the fullness of our life.

Several years ago, I took the CDL test to drive a church bus. I have forgotten a lot of the rules about air brakes and traffic codes but one question has been burned into my memory. "What is the best way to make sure you have both hands on the wheel in an emergency?" Answer: always have both hands on the wheel. It is the kind of observation which ought to be too simple to make, but is a very helpful reminder. You never know when disaster is going to strike, so the only way to be ready is to always be ready. If you let your guard down because you do not expect a crisis, then you will never be prepared when it comes. 

The spiritual parallel is obvious. We face certain crises in life, but the kind of person who will be prepared for the great test is the one who has been faithful in the small things all along. Jesus said that the one who is faithful in little is also faithful in much and our ordinary experience bears that out. Colossians 4:6 applies this to something even more ordinary than driving: speech. Do you want to be the kind of person who is abe to speak to those who need Jesus in a way that is winsome? Do you want to not lose your temper at the critical moment, when someone's very soul is at stake? Paul has a strategy: "let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt." If you always speak graciously, with the preserving influence that comes from being the salt of the earth, then you will know how "to answer every man."

Older kids: Have you ever tried to cram for a test? What works better, a habit of hard work, or trying to push through at the final moment? 

Younger kids: How are your manners? Do you think about saying 'please' and 'thank you' or is it a good habit? How can doing things all the time help us to do them when it really matters?

Very few people can really be said to have speech that is always with grace and seasoned with salt. Most of our conversation can better be described as "salty" in the modern slang of irritable and sassy, rather than the biblical sense of our speech being set apart as an offering to God. But if we are Christians, everything we say should have the savor of the Lord about it. We cannot say that we will be negative and foul mouthed about our coworkers, our politics or other drivers and yet be gracious in our speech about the gospel. If we are serious about our witness, our mouth must belong to the Lord 24/7. 

Discussion idea: What percentage of the things you say are gracious? Does your family agree with your estimate?

Prayer focus: Pray that the gospel would be so ever-present in our minds that we would see every word we speak as a means to the end of God's glory. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Colossians 3

 Key verse: Colossians 3:9-10

Big idea: The fullness of the Christian life replaces the emptiness of sin.

Sometimes, you do not really have to make a decision between two things. Peanut butter or chocolate? Why not both? Not every choice is mutually exclusive. But some things are. You cannot go both up and down or east and west at the same moment. Sometimes to get one thing, you must reject another. This is true in the way we spend our time: choosing to spend an hour watching TV means choosing not to spend that hour reading. Staying an hour late at work means choosing not to spent that hour with your family. In Colossians 3, Paul makes clear that this is true about the Christian life. To put on Christ, we have to take off the old self. There is no serving Jesus as Lord while following the inclinations of sin - there must be a transformation.

It should not be hard to trade an empty bag for one loaded with treasure or a dead fly for a faithful dog. But when it comes to turning our back on sin, we seem to struggle. We want to hold onto both, like trying to write new wedding vows that let you be married, but also keep your options open. It is absurd. To the extent that we have our mind fixed on the things of this life which can never satisfy us, we do not have our mind fixed on Jesus who can. It is a game for fools and there are no winners.

Do not miss the order, though. Paul does not say that we should choose to put on Christ and take off Adam over and over again until our score is high enough. He says that if you have been raised with Christ, then you have already undergone this transformation. When you trusted Jesus as your Savior, you were clothed in His righteousness and the old chains of sin were removed. So live like it! 

Discussion idea: Make a chart with two columns: "Put off" and "Put on." Work through the passage and list the things that Paul puts in each category. What are some specific reasons it is impossible to live on both sides of the line?

Prayer focus: Paul does not say that we should put off the old self, but that we already have. Pray for the strength to live out what God has already accomplished.   

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


 Hi everybody, I would like to apologize that we have not had any devotional this week. I am on vacation with my family and expected to have some time to write in the hotel, but it has not materialized yet. I will try and play catch up when we have time, but there may not be any posts this week. The devotionals on are just lightly edited versions of ones already run here (6 months ago), so they are prewritten and still running, if you would like to read those. 

Another recommendation is George Morrison, an 18th century pastor. His devotions are among the best ever written:

Thanks for your patience. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Ephesians 5

Key verse: Ephesians 5:18
Big idea: The gospel gives us access to the Holy Spirit. 

There are no substitutes for presence. Someone can send a card, call you on the phone or give you a gift, but when you love them, there is nothing as good as being together. If we have learned nothing else from the coronavirus pandemic, it is probably that. We need to be together and need the strength that other people provide. So what is the greatest gift God can give us? Himself. He gives us many gifts, but nothing more precious than choosing to live with us and in us. The gospel gives us access to His Spirit, to empower and direct us. 

The people we are around have a profound impact on us. Some people bring out the best in us and others bring out the worst. The intensity of the effects of people vary; some people touch us only superficially and others reshape us. But God is of course more intense than any human. Paul here compares the influence of being filled with the Spirit to drunkenness: like someone drunk has lost control of their lives to alcohol, the influence of the Holy Spirit completely reshapes our decisions and mindset.  But unlike alcohol that smothers our best selves, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be the people we were born to be.

Older kids: Who in your life brings out the best in you? Do you have any friends that undermine your attitude or your good habits? 

Those filled with the Spirit sing in their hearts to the Lord, encourage one another, give thanks to God for everything, and submit to one another. It is a life totally transformed in our relationship with God, other people and our overall attitude. The closer our relationship with God goes the more transformed we are. 

Discussion idea: How does the presence of the Holy Spirit empower you to do more than you could ever do on your own?
Prayer focus: Ask God to help you demonstrate the influence of the Spirit in your life. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ephesians 3

Key verse: Ephesians 3:10
Big idea: The unity of the church reveals the glory of the gospel. 

Paul was a Jew, yet he sat in jail because he refused to quit carrying the gospel to Gentiles. Despite the deep cultural prejudices he had been raised under, he sat in jail with their best interests on his mind. It was a mystery. His message that the Jews and Gentiles should be one body and share the inheritance and the promises of God was incredibly strange. But it was a central part of God's plan. Jesus' redemption of the world is pictured by Paul as having three parts. First, He created a new humanity in His death, by becoming the second Adam and breaking down the barriers between us. Then, He rose again from the dead to present this new humanity to God. Finally, He ascended to Heaven to be enthroned and awaits making His enemies His footstool, ending the rebellion in the heavenly places when the new heavens and new earth are formed. 

The united church is a living sermon. It proclaims to the world that the God who is strong enough to overcome social, political and racial barriers is the same God that overcame the barrier between sinful humanity and a holy God. It proclaims to the angelic powers that God is a reconciling God and what He is beginning, He will complete when He puts Satan under His feet. When we are who God intends for us to be, serving one another in love, we proclaim His wisdom and glory by our very existence! So Paul says to these Gentiles, "faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory." The face a Jewish man would suffer for Gentiles was glorious: the wisdom and power of God on display. It is in our love for one another ("with all the saints") that we can begin to understand the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen!

Discussion idea: Why do churches so often fail to cross the cultural barriers that the gospel overcomes? 
Prayer focus: Ask God for the opportunity to demonstrate the unity we have in the gospel.