Romans 14:7-9 - A Lens of Love

Romans 14:7-9 - A Lens of Love

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
— Romans 14:7-9 ESV


Paul starts and ends the this passage asking the question “why do you pass judgement on your brother?” Specifically in verses 7-9 He says “if we live” or “if we die” that “we are the Lord’s.” Our walk with Christ does not affect our seat at the table. He has made a seat for each of us and He doesn’t take it away from us because we “messed up” or reconnected with old habits. We are His. And I think this is where Paul wants is speaking to us to see our brothers and sisters from that vantage point. 

This matters to us because we are constantly around people. People fill our classes, our dining halls, our families and our daily life. We are constantly surrounded by our brothers and sisters. Some were raised differently; others college experiences are different; and Paul uses the example that some even eat differently than us. But we all have one thing in common. That we are all His. It doesn't matter where we come from or the meal that is in front of us what matters is that we are all have a seat at His table with Him.

We don’t simply get to take our seat at the table and then judge the ones sitting around us. We get to sit at the table and look around with His lens— a lens of love. He loves us because He loves us. And we get to love others because He loves us. So my challenge for you is to look at the people in your life who are hardest for you to love. Whether that is a roommate who was raised differently or a professor who gave you a bad grade or that woman at the grocery store who seems to always be angry — view them as His.Ask Him to reveal to you how He sees them. 

pray

God, I thank you for who you are. Thank you that each of us—no matter where we are— are yours. You know us and you love us. God, I ask that you would give us the grace to see the ones around you at your table with you. God would you come and give us a new perspective of your children and our siblings in Christ. 

- Gibs

Romans 13:13-14 - Overcoming Sin

Romans 13:13-14 - Overcoming Sin

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature
— Romans 13:13-14 NIV


The message is simple; surround yourselves in Christ rather than in sin.


Let’s be honest, this can be a lot harder than it sounds. But look at what the verse shares—“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime…” The reason this statement is so important is because you don’t hide things in broad daylight. During the day, your actions are known and seen and accounted for. However, when the night comes it’s a lot easier to hide and cover up what we are doing. When we hide our struggles and our mess, it will always have power over us. If we want to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus, then we must bring the dark things to light. This is essential for our growth and freedom from sin.

The beautiful phrase “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus” reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. After living life burdened by sin and its destruction, the son returns home and encounters his father. Instead of shame and punishment, he found his father lovingly embracing him. The father says to his servants “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.” The father wanted to give his son the best possible thing to cover him, which would be his own robe. In the same way, the Father chose to give the best possible thing to cover you, which was His Son Jesus. 

relationship over perfectionism

I know that sometimes I can approach or respond to sin too casually, as if it’s insignificant. But as I look at those times when I seek to gratify my own sinful desires, I cannot ignore the destructive effect it has on my heart and my life. God wants to lead us towards himself and away from sin because sin brings oppression while God brings abundance. Hear me out, the purpose of life is to be in relationship with God, not to avoid sin. He is all about our relationship, not my religious perfectionism. With that being said, I pray that we all understand that sin is a big deal. When we understand the severity of sin, the grace of God becomes all the more mind-blowing.

If you are currently struggling to overcome sin, know that God has clothed you and covered you with His Son. Victory and freedom are yours in Christ. As you seek to live for Christ instead for yourselves, prioritize vulnerability and honesty so that nothing hidden has power over you.


-TIm

Romans 13:8-10 - Love Conquers All

Romans 13:8-10 - Love Conquers All

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
— Romans 13:8-10 NLT

We’ve all heard it before, “love conquers all.” Paul reminds us here that we should owe nothing to anyone. We should be free from debt. This goes back to the previous verses stating that we should pay what we owe, whether it be taxes, salaries, honor, or respect. The only debt we should have left is to love one another. Because of God’s love for us, He sent Jesus to rescue humanity from the power of darkness and bring us into relationship with Him. In the same way, as believers, we should love one another. In 1 John, 4:7-8, John says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” We didn’t deserve His Grace or His mercy, but because He loved us we received both. 

What I think is so cool here is that Paul says that this kind of love we extend to one another literally fulfills the rest of the law. Love fulfills the intent of the law because all things can be summarized and fulfilled by love. Love will never harm another, therefore it meets all the requirements the law sets. If we love, we will not murder. If we love, we will not steal. If we love, we will not covet. The love Paul is talking about here equips and enables us to love one another in a genuine way. God loves us in a genuine way. He is love. He can give us this love for one another. 

a practical step

Examine the areas in your life (read: people in your life) where you aren’t loving as yourself. Who came to mind? Ask God to give you His love for them. The song below is one that I heard yesterday and immediately thought of this passage (thanks God). Listen to it and meditate on the words. 

 

pray

God, thank you for loving me even when I’m at my most unlovable. Thank you for loving me before I loved you. Help me to love others in this way. Let Your love flow through me and touch those around me. Amen. 

- Clare

Romans 12:17-21 - The Opposite of Revenge

Romans 12:17-21 - The Opposite of Revenge

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
— Romans 12:17-21 MSG

In this passage, Paul is encouraging us to love everyone around us, regardless of whether or not we like them. We think that sounds pretty easy-- "Okay, yeah, I'll love everyone. Sure, I can do that." And I start going through people in my brain, my friends, my family, all the people I work with--and then all of a sudden I get to a name that I'm not exactly fond of and my feelings about loving them somewhat disappear. My thought process looks a little like this "Do I have to? Am I really called to love them? They'll be fine if I don't. They hurt me. They were mean to me. I don't like them!" That pretty much goes on for a few minutes even though God's answer never changes. I always want revenge--if someone does something to hurt me, I'm quick to try and do the same to them. I want them to understand how I feel, or how they made me feel. But, in this passage, Paul doesn't just urge us to do the opposite--he calls us to it.

We love to 'get even'. But let's be honest, what does that even mean? When we are hurt, we don't want anyone to ever feel the way we feel - but then all of a sudden when revenge is on the table, we jump at it! Revenge is the easy way out of conflict. It's easy to hide being hurt behind getting even or revenge, but what's hard is loving the person that hurt us. But, as Christians, that is what we are called to. We are called to turn the other cheek and let God have His way with the whole situation. We have to give up control and trust that God is just and will do what He sees fit.

The only way to undo hurt is to love. So, I'm going to challenge y'all to love really those people who have hurt you in the past or given you no reason to love them. Love makes the enemy's job really hard. It is hard for him to get close and do anything if we are full of love and the Holy Spirit.

pray

Ask God to give you His eyes for His children. When you see the people around you as God's children, it makes everyone easier to love and serve.

God, I thank you that you are a just God. That I get to let things fall into your lap and that I can trust you to take care of everything. I ask that you would teach me how to see people as you see them. That you would give me your heart, eyes, and ears for all those around me and that you would teach me how to love and serve them. And I just ask that you would protect me from thoughts that are revenge seeking--that I would be quick to forgive and even quicker to love. Thank you God. Amen.

 

Romans 12:9-13 - A Lifestyle of Love

Romans 12:9-13 - A Lifestyle of Love

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
— Romans 12:9-13 NIV

I’m going to switch things up for this blog. I want to start out with a question. What do you want to be remembered for? Really, ask yourself what do you , (insert name here), want to be remembered for? Do you want to be remembered for your love for the Falcons? Do you want to be remembered for always being down for a late night cook-out run? Do you want to be remembered for you intellectual knowledge of American history? Or do you want to be remembered for the way you love?

I think all of those things are great. I love cook-out. I cheered on the Falcons (too soon?) and I’m all about learning more history. But that’s not my identity. And it’s not yours either. In Romans 12:9-13 Paul introduces to us Love—not the feeling, but the action. He talks about what Christ-like love looks like and how do we practically love like He does.

genuine love

We are to love genuinely. Love isn't meant to be fake or to be made up. Love must be sincere. We can sincerely love others by clinging to what is good, honoring one another, serving God, and being faithful in prayer. These are all things Paul tells us we can do—today. It doesn't matter where you are spiritually or how old you are or what your past has looked like. We all have the ability to love like He does.

I loved reading this passage because it has no exceptions. No one is disqualified of our love. Just like we aren't the exception of His love. So even that teacher who gave you a C- on your history paper and you deserved a solid B+— you still are instructed to love them. Even when your mom is being “naggy” with you— you still are instructed to love her. And even when your roommate doesn't clean the dishes you are still instructed to love them. Paul never said it would be easy all the time, but we are instructed to live a lifestyle of love and we can get the perfect illustration of that by seeing how Jesus loved.
 

pray

God, thank You for the way that You love each of us. Thank You that You show us the perfect illustration of love. Would You increase our desire to love others. That that would be the thing that we would want to be remembered for.

 

Romans 8:37-39 - God's Love

Romans 8:37-39 - God's Love

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:37-39 NIV

Read the whole chapter here.

Although I will be focusing on verses 31-39 (and more specifically the section that is quoted above), this whole chapter is very powerful and encouraging. With that said, if you have the time, then I would definitely suggested reading the full chapter. Otherwise, let's dive into what we have here. To understand why the "No" starts off this verse, we have to look at what question it is in response to. If we look at verse 35, we see Paul asking what separate us from the love of God, then he rhetorically asks if trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword would be the thing that would separate us from that love of God. The simple answer to that question is Paul's "no."

I'm glad that Paul elaborated on his answer. He told us why none of those difficult things that we experience in life would separate us from God's love. Paul tells us that we are to identify as conquerors of all of those things through Christ's love for us. Because God sent us Jesus to die on the cross, but even more because Jesus rose from the grave conquering death, we have access to life and more importantly access to the love of God. What does this mean to us? It means that we get to live a life that is better than the circumstances we are in.

In some of life's toughest circumstances, it is easy to feel like God is distant or even that maybe we have slipped up and separated ourselves from God. We look to our circumstances to determine God's position toward us. Sometimes we exchange the question "Is God pleased with me?" with the question "How is my life going right now?" I think when we do this we lose sight of how great God is. In this sense, I am using great not only in saying that God is very good but also saying that God is very big/vast. God demonstrates His love by standing with us in our tough circumstances. God's love give us hope. God's love gives us peace that's unexplainable. Even if you don't feel like it, or maybe you don't think it's true in a particular moment. We have this passage to hold onto as hope that we cannot be separated from God's love.

pray

Take a moment to thank God for sending Jesus to give us life and make us conquerors of our circumstances. Thank him for a love that we can't be separated from. Now take some time just repeating these verses to yourself. If you're able, I challenge you to memorize these verses in your reflection.

 

Romans 6:1-2, 7 - A Life Of Abundance

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Romans 6:1-2, 7 - A Life Of Abundance

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? … because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
— Romans 6:1-2, 7 NIV

In this passage, Paul is preaching to the Romans about how God’s grace will always abound more than sin will. But this raises the obvious question - if God’s grace will abound, should we keep sinning? Fortunately, Paul is straightforward about this and tells us, “by no means!”.

So Paul tells us that we are free from sin. This means that we no longer have the desire to continue sinning - this doesn’t mean that we will have no sin struggles anymore. We will have sin struggles until Jesus comes back because we’re human. But because Jesus died for us, we no longer have to live trying to perfect ourselves, but instead we are given God’s grace to empower us to make good choices instead of sinful ones.

It’s important to make the right choices instead of continuing to stay in our sin, because we honor God in this way, but also because we cannot live a life of abundance while also choosing sin.

My encouragement to you would be to be still with God and let Him search your heart and convict you of any sin you’ve been choosing. Ask Him to help you trust Him more to move your heart away from sinful desires and into life abundantly.

pray

Lord, help us trust You to move our hearts from sinful desires to desire for You. Move us into life abundantly. We love You, amen.

 

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Romans 5:6-8 - Unconditional Love

Romans 5:6-8 - Unconditional Love

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:6-8 NIV

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” One of the most wonderful statements in the bible. This truth is radically different from the religious pursuit of earning or reaching salvation. This truth is the revelation of God’s love for us. An unconditional love that rescues and restores us when we are helpless on our own. A pure love that is not dependent on what we have done but solely on who God is. An eternal love that brings us out of darkness into light, from death into life. This love is His gospel.

The fact that we were sinners did not diminish God’s love towards us. His love has never depended on what we do. While God doesn’t approve of all of our actions, He fully approves of you. This won’t ever change. There will inevitably be those moments in life when we mess up or give into temptation. During these moments, shame wants us to believe the lie that we have lost some of God’s love. Shame wants us to feel that we have lost our place with God. When we believe shame, we feel too dirty to approach God in prayer or we feel like we have to wait a few days before we can get back to where we once were with God. But this is not an accurate portrayal of God’s love for us! There is never a moment that God questions His love for you.

In His love for us, God will convict us of our sin, but He does it by love not through shame. When we sin, God desires to restore us back to Him not make us feel the shame that pushes us away. Those moments that you mess up, listen to the love of the Father that calls you back to Him and choose to throw away the lie that you are no longer good enough to be close with God. You are secure in God’s love, and you never have to doubt it.

pray

I pray that the truth of God’s love for you revealed in this passage settles deep in your heart. I also pray that you know that this love isn’t just for those who follow Jesus. This love is for everyone. Look for the people in your life who don’t know this love, and pray for them to receive it.

- Tim del Risco

Hebrews 9:14: The Blood of Jesus

Hebrews 9:14: The Blood of Jesus

 “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Hebrews 9:14 ESV


The week before spring break of my junior year of college was in no way a good one. I was in such a funk thinking about the uncertainty of my future that I told my roommate, “I feel so inadequate. I don’t see myself as worth knowing in any way.” Those were big words coming from a guy who struggled to open up back then. But they were true. I felt like I’d been trying my whole collegiate career to convince myself that I was worth having someone be my friend, but with no success. Fast forward to spring break where I was in Selma, Alabama learning from and working alongside a church there. We took a lunch break that Tuesday and went to a noon prayer service at a Charismatic Episcopal church… if you know anything about denominations, then you know it might be the only one of it’s kind on planet Earth.

            Our team walks in and sits down to take part in the proceedings. There were two priests burning incense while another gave a homily, all while Hillsong worship music was playing in the background (please just try to imagine how bizarre this was). Then, after a benediction was given, all the priests came down from the alter and stood on the floor at the front and all the other members in attendance stood up. They started taking prayer requests and encouraging each other, then everyone’s attention was directed at our team. It wasn’t long before people in the crowd began to prophesy over us (if you don’t know what that is, go read 1 Corinthians 12-14). These were people who had never met us before and they were telling us things about ourselves that they shouldn’t have ever known unless God told them. Then, this one guy walks up to me, looks me in the eye and says, “You have this feeling of inadequacy. And that feeling is right, because you need to know that your adequacy comes from Jesus.” Needless to say my jaw was on the floor, but more importantly my life was forever changed.

Why was my life changed?

Because for the first time I fully realized that I don’t get to determine my worth. I realized that my value and worthiness is determined by God. How so? In John 3:16 Jesus said He was sent into this world to save it because He loves the people in it. How did He save it? He bore our shame and sin on the Cross. He was brutally disfigured and horrifically murdered as a criminal and He did it all because He wants us to know the love He has for us. Imagine how slick the Cross was with the blood of the Son of God. It’s impossible for us to climb it to where He was because that was His enthronement. He was exalted in His humiliation. You see, we find ourselves when we lie down at the foot of the Cross and realize what has been done for us as the blood of Jesus pours down onto us. You have to be covered in it. Every day. Otherwise we start to think that we have to save ourselves from a litany of evil and disastrous thoughts/actions. The blood of Jesus reminds us that we’ve already been saved.

            When we are covered in the blood of Jesus not only does it remind us that we are worth knowing and loving, but it allows us to live the life God has called us to live. Not only are our consciences purified from dead works (because now we truly believe that we are loved and known), but we are free to serve and partner with the living God. We begin to get the blood of Jesus over everything we touch. We leave trails of blood everywhere. And that’s how it should be. This world is desperate for something beyond itself, and we can offer it the blood of Jesus that heals, saves and brings abundant, eternal life in freedom from sin. If you don’t know what it means to be covered in Jesus’s blood yourself, then go seek out someone that you trust and who loves God and talk to them about it. There isn’t a moment to waste. Eternity starts now. 

pray

God, I ask that we would be drenched in your Son’s blood. I ask that when you see us, that you call us clean because Jesus’ blood makes us spotless in your eyes. Help us to believe that us being covered by your Son’s blood means that we are worth being known and loved by You and other people. Help us to truly understand what Jesus has done for us. Amen

-Adam

Hebrews 4:15: It's Personal

Hebrews 4:15: It's Personal

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Hebrews 4:15 NIV


In order to understand this verse we must understand the significance of Jesus being our great high priest. A priest is someone who is ordained apart from the law and appointed from among men. Jesus through God became man in order to suffer death and serve as our high priest. When the Lord became man He was not just some Earthly King who lived a comfortable life. He was born of a manger, befriended sinners, and sought to meet the needs of the least of these. He not only saw people at their worst but He lived among people at their worst. This didn't make Him exempted from temptations and sin. Because He was man, he felt the same weaknesses and temptations, yet still lived a life without sin. Jesus has true compassion for us because He related to our struggles. Though, His victory from giving in to those temptations is why we can put out trust in Him.  

jesus is personal

Jesus is personal. He was never intimidated by your struggles, sins, weaknesses, or fears. He is for you and there is no part of you that He doesn't know. No matter how big or small you believe your struggles are, what you go through matters to Him. You are not untouchable and you are not the exception. Jesus' purpose was to meet our needs, overcome our weaknesses, and transform us into more like Him. His compassion towards us is what should motivate you into trusting Him with every part of your life. Because He is relatable, because He is empathetic, and because He is victorious, putting your confidence in Jesus is what leads you towards holiness. With Him your past shall be redeemed and restored. 

When you are worried about school, finances, relationships, or your future what is your first response? Sometimes we sit and dwell in our misery, but Jesus as your High Priest means that He was set apart for you to personally go to Him. When you feel hopeless in your sin, the best thing you can do for yourself is to invite Him in and allow His compassion to transform you. I challenge you to ask Jesus these questions: Who do I believe you to be and What do you have to say about my weaknesses? Whether that looks like writing it out in a journal or praying in your time alone with Jesus, listen and give Him a chance to speak to your struggles. His victory was meant for you too.  

pray

Jesus, thank you for all that you are. Lord I ask that you would protect me from my temptations, and meet my needs knowing that you know them better than I ever could. Above all I ask that you would make me more like you. Amen.        

- Sarah C

Hebrews 4:12: A Double-Edged Sword

Hebrews 4:12: A Double-Edged Sword

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 NLT


There’s a lot here. Let’s start with this: Have you ever felt like The Bible is kind of outdated? Like it’s irrelevant today? Paul is pretty clear in this verse – the word of God is alive and active. It was active then. It’s active today. It is not a text that “dies.” As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever.” It will always be the truth. It stands forever. 

Great, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

What exactly does Paul mean when he says the word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword?” Well I’m imagining that a double-edged sword is probably pretty sharp. It “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” .. that’s pretty sharp. This means that one of the things God’s word is supposed to do is penetrate very deep.  like a double edged sword through tough layers. Next Paul says God’s word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Judge does not mean “condemn” here, it means “assess.” Scripture penetrates to the deepest places of our hearts  and assesses what’s there. Is it good or bad? 

What’s the purpose here?

God’s purpose in cutting to the innermost parts of our hearts is to bring us healing, not to leave us wounded. Sin left untreated in our hearts will be fatal. If we aren’t convicted by scripture, how will we know where we need to be changed? Listen as you read scripture today. What are you feeling? Is God highlighting sin that needs to be changed? 

Hebrews 3:4-6: Persevering in Faith

Hebrews 3:4-6: Persevering in Faith

For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

Hebrews 3:4-6 NLT


These few verses are pretty confusing out of context. They sound nice, but what do they really mean? As you read throughout Hebrews, you see a consistent theme of the supremacy of Christ—Jesus is superior to the angels, Jesus is the Great High Priest, etc. The author mentions the roles of Moses and Jesus in the house of God. Moses was a servant in the house, but Jesus is the head of the house. This is another example of the author highlighting how significant and superior Jesus is in comparison to anything else. 


In verse six, the author tells us what it takes to be a part of God’s house—courage and perseverance. As we read in chapter 2, the author addresses people drifting away from the faith. So this truth of courage and confidence in Christ is the solution to drifting away. We all make mistakes, but when we persevere through trials and keep our hope in Jesus, we live in the abundance of being in God’s house. 


Persevering in faith can look a lot of different ways.

We face disappointments throughout life, and it feels like the world is falling apart. Persevering in faith looks like trusting the goodness of God even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
We all struggle with sin. Persevering in faith looks like repenting and believing that God fully forgives you.
We experience both complacency and passion towards God. Persevering in faith looks like choosing to draw close to God even when we don’t feel like it.

Whatever the situation might be, God has proven himself to be good, faithful, and worth following. Above all else, take courage in the character of God, especially when circumstances become difficult. He’s worth it. He’s better than you think.

pray

God, you are the giver of every good thing, and you are superior to every circumstance I face. Thank you that you are my Helper and my Shepherd. Help me to take courage and remain confident in you, even when it’s hard. Lord I believe, help my unbelief. In Jesus name, amen.

- Tim

Hebrews 1:3: A Picture of God's Character

Hebrews 1:3: A Picture of God's Character

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down, at the right hand of the Majesty on high” 

Hebrews 1:3 ESV


This verse is all about Jesus. In this passage, the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was all that is God - the God that is in charge of the whole universe and the God that took care of our sins – here on Earth. God revealed himself and his glory to us through Jesus! 

a perfect depiction of God's character


After years of people having no direct access to God, suddenly there was a perfect depiction of God here with us in Jesus. God loved us that much to send a living and breathing person to us so that we might be able to understand his nature a little more. Then, that same perfect and divine version of himself was crucified so that we could FOREVER be able to access God unlike the people before Jesus ever had.

Not only did Jesus come and die so that we could be free from our sins, but he came so that we could have an example of what following God looks like. Jesus lived in our broken and crazy world and lived a pure and holy life, devoted to loving and serving God and others. By doing this, he revealed to us how we should live.

The whole story of Jesus says tons about the character of God that we get to experience today. When he sent his Son to Earth so that we may know him more fully, that shows that he is both thoughtful and radical with the ways that he loves us. When Jesus was crucified, it demonstrated a love that is powerful. Powerful enough to forgive all of our sins, give us direct access to the Father, and to change our story forever.


Let the story of Jesus really affect you. Meditate on it. Read more about it. Think about just how wildly amazing it is. He didn’t have to send his son Jesus, but he did. He thought we were worth it! We get to live in that today!

pray

God, thank you for sending Jesus to Earth to live and die so that I may have full access to you. Thank you for what you taught us about life and your character through your Son. Help me to live a life that looks more like Jesus. Amen. 

- Sarah T. 

Gratitude Series: Choosing Gratitude

Gratitude Series: Choosing Gratitude

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 ESV


Paul is writing to encourage the church to keep going, and teaching them how to do that well. Part of this advice is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. He gives them these three actions to perform knowing it will set their minds on truth. He invites them to celebrate, to talk to God, and to give thanks in all circumstances. We are also told to give thanks in everything in Ephesians. That is a rather hard concept for me to grab hold of. Because when I am in a really hard place my last natural response is to give thanks. But I think that is the point. 

Regardless of what our natural reaction is to what life throws at us, Paul is inviting us to give thanks anyways. To choose thankfulness. To wakeup on the really sucky days and instead of drowning in self-pity or expecting the day to go like the last 50 have, to remind ourselves who we are and who God is. To be thankful that our God is good, that he is for us, that his love endures forever, that he saved us, that he is bringing us deeper and deeper into righteousness. I don't think Paul is expecting us to be thankful that our car is broken down, or that we have ben abandoned by people or unloved by the world, I think he wants us to set our eyes again and again on God. Realigning our hope with who God is instead of where we are- this way we can be joyful and thankful regardless of our season because our God never changes. 

So for me, it's as difficult and as simple as speaking out loud, "God, thank you that (insert truth here)". Simple because I'm speaking out what I know to be true of God and difficult because that simple action hurls my soul through the reality that I may not actually believe it... But with every breath I start to. For me right now it's "God thank you that you are good". The more I align myself and my soul with who God is, the more I really do believe it. Choosing to be thankful when I want to throw a 4 year old pity party .. or am .. really helps with that. When things are awesome thankfulness is a natural response - which is amazing and so so fun- but it is much more meaningful and more lasting work when you don't want to do it. Choosing thankfulness will instill in you a resilience, hope, and joy that is rooted in who God is- so it can't be moved. That's worth it. 

pray

Whatever it is that has been bogging you down recently, try and think of who God is over your situation. Now take that truth and thank God that He is who he says He is. He is God over your situation. Pray, "God, thank you that you are good. All the time, no matter what You are good. Teach me how to remember who you are and how to choose gratitude even when life is the worst. Teach me how to rejoice and praise you when everything works out! God instill in me a deep knowledge of your goodness that will push me to praise and thank you everyday. Thank you that I have an insanely large list of things to be grateful for. Open my eyes to all of the ways your kindness has touched me. Come and encounter me today. I love you, amen."

- Merrick

Gratitude Series: Vocalizing Your Gratitude

Gratitude Series: Vocalizing Your Gratitude

How many times do you think about doing something and 5 minutes later it slips your mind?

So many times I have the thought in my head, "I should do this", and then seconds later I have forgotten and am on to the next thing. Sometimes I forgot to pay rent on the first of every month (thankfully there is a three day grace period). Sometimes I look at a text and tell myself I will text the person back later only to never actually text them back. I think this is how it is for us sometimes when it comes to thankfulness. It is something we think about in our head but very rarely follow through. Most of the time when we do vocalize our thankfulness it is in very obvious situations in which we know we should. Like at Christmas when you get a present, or when you go home and mom and dad slip you some gas money and a few groceries. Like when you take communion at church and have nothing to say to God other than "thank you". It is very easy to say thank you in those moments because it is the appropriate response, but I think we miss out on so many opportunities to say thank you in every day life.

where do I start?

There are probably many people in your life who you could thank for something they have done for you or given you. The people who have influence over you would be great people to thank. That might be a mentor or some sort or a parent. You have friends in your life who probably deserve a thank you for sticking with you throughout life and being a constant encourager. Take time to think about people in your life who deserve a thank you, and take time to vocally say thank you to them over the rest of this break.

Voicing thankfulness also doesn't stop with people. You can also voice your thankfulness to God. Yeah, you might feel a little weird driving in your car or sitting in your room thanking God, but hey, why not give it a try? If we can vocalize your thankfulness to other people, I also think we can vocalize our thankfulness to God.

In either way, challenge yourself to vocalize your thankfulness, especially when it isn't easy. Should you still say thank you to the Chick-fil-a cashier when they give you your sauce, drink, and table marker? Definitely. But there are so many other opportunities to vocalize your gratitude other than that. There are so many other people in your life who you should say "thank you" to.

pray

To end, you can pray this:

Jesus, I thank you for what you did for me on the cross. Thank you for your love for me. Thank you for the people you have surrounded me with my entire life. As I voice my gratitude to them for who they are, I pray that you would encourage them and build them up. Place in me a thankful heart, and help me to voice my gratitude to you and the people around me more often. Amen.

- Nick

Gratitude Series: Gratitude as a Weapon

Gratitude Series: Gratitude as a Weapon

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 

Ephesians 6:10-17


As you have seen throughout this series of blogs, gratitude is a big deal in the kingdom of God & a prevalent theme found in scripture. Gratitude is incredibly powerful – so, today we are going to talk about how to use gratitude as a weapon!!! Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us about the spiritual battle that we fight as the enemy comes against us. This passage gives instructions on how to ‘put on the armor of God’ – and while it does not specifically cite gratitude, this passage highlights the reality that we are equipped, as children of God, with a variety of weapons to fight back when the enemy lies to us, tries to steal from us & discourage us. This ‘armor’ is essentially the tools that God has given us to live free & abundant in the midst of spiritual attack, struggle and hardship.  

However, a weapon is only a weapon if it is used. A sword that is not being wielded by someone is not dangerous. It cannot wage war. If we do not engage with gratitude, if we let it remain an idea of faith rather than an action, it cannot be a weapon. So, the first step is to pick it up is to choose to be thankful. To choose gratitude when we are happy & joyful – when everything is going well & in our favor, when we are at our mountaintop. And to choose it when we are discouraged, when our circumstances are too hard to handle, when we are down, when we feel hopeless, when we are in the valley. Every single time you say thank you to God, you are fighting back, you are waging war against the ways that the enemy is trying to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). 

When we choose gratitude, we are saying that we know who God is & trust that he is moving. When we say thank you, our focus shifts from what God ‘isn’t doing’ or what we lack to what God is doing & all that He has given us. This is incredibly powerful – to say thank you in all circumstances is your greatest weapon against discouragement. Gratitude enables us to live the life God has called us to live regardless of our circumstances, gratitude opens the door to abundant life continually, it creates joy, peace and perseverance. Gratitude enables us to enjoy the life, the people, the purpose that God has given us fully & freely.

a practical step


So, how can this look, practically? Here are a few thoughts:
1. In the morning, before you even get out of bed or look at your phone, tell God 5 things you are grateful for. Start your day in a posture of gratitude.
2. When something hard happens, pause & ask God what you can thank him for. Remember the ways you are grateful so that you protect yourself from spiraling into bitterness because of what you are experiencing. Gratitude & mourning can & should coexist.
3. Tell other people that you are thankful for them & why. This type of choosing gratitude wages war on other’s behalf – when you thank them, you are fighting for them to remember & be affirmed in who God created them to be.

pray

Jesus - Thank you for dying so that I could be set free and live an abundant life. Show me how to use gratitude as a weapon, how to be thankful in all circumstances and how to choose gratitude every day! Thank you for _________!!!! (Just spend the rest of your prayer time intentionally thanking him)

- Megan

Gratitude Series: Gratitude vs. Fear

Gratitude Series: Gratitude vs. Fear

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” 

Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV


In this passage we see that Habakkuk's crops were not growing and his animals were gone. How was He going to provide for himself or the people around Him? In the midst of all of this Habakkuk rejoiced in the Lord. When reading this scripture, a natural human response would be to fear. To grow scared. To try and control the situation ourself. To put our trust in other humans. To become anxious. But Habakkuk rejoiced. It says “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” He saw all that was wrong YET He rejoiced in the Lord. He chose to be joyful in God. To look beyond. Instead of focusing on what He wasn't grateful for he chose to turn to what He ultimately was grateful for—God. 

It is easy during this season to be grateful. The holidays are creeping up on us. We get to see family we haven't seen in a while, we get to throw “friendsgivings” and we turn on Christmas music starting Thanksgiving day (or maybe before)—there is a lot to be grateful for, right? But what if we don't have that. What if we are in a season like Habakkuk— where things aren't growing around us, we are lonely and we feel like we are failing. Guess what? We still get to walk into thanksgiving. When our gratitude is rooted in Jesus rather than our circumstances things will start to shift. That heavy anxiety will be cast out by His perfect peace. That situation that is causing fear in our hearts, we get to bring that to Him and let Him overcome fear with His love. By putting our gratitude in Jesus—whether that be what He is doing in you currently or holding on to the victory He won for you on the cross— we usher in His presence. When we are unconditionally rejoicing in who He is we are constantly reminded of the ways that He is moving. When we thank Him for what He is doing—big or small— that continues to give us perspective and clarity of who He is. When our eyes are locked in on Him our hearts will naturally flow out of gratitude. The fear and anxiety will transform into greater trust of who He is, who He says you are and what He is doing in your life.

So my challenge is wherever you are- give thanks. If you are in a season like Habakkuk or not, we get to rejoice. Because He is good (period.) Whether you can list one hundred things you are grateful for or one— rejoice that He is God. That He is good.

pray

God, we say thank you for who you are. Thank you that you are God and that you are good. Would you come and focus our eyes on you this break. That we would look beyond circumstances and at you. Transform our hearts to be more like yours. 

- Gibs

Gratitude Series: What is Gratitude?

Gratitude Series: What is Gratitude?

As we enter into the holiday season, "thankful" becomes a very prominent word in our vocabulary. There is literally a holiday named for this feeling that overwhelms us this time of year. While Thanksgiving as a whole is a gateway into declaring what we are thankful for, we often overlook it's better half: Gratitude.

what is gratitude?

Gratitude is the action that comes from thankfulness. Being thankful is so important, because it unlocks the feelings we have inside for the things that make us who we are, but gratitude and gratefulness are where we show this kindness to others. True gratitude leads us into a place of humility that can further push us into community with those we love, strangers, and God. Understanding that gratitude is an action is important, because we have to surrender our own needs to care for others through genuine love and kindness. 

There are many things that we are thankful for in our lives, and most of the time we genuinely mean what we say when we are thankful. Imagine how different our lives could look if we lived in a place of constant gratitude for the things we have been given, how we are loved, and the relationships we invest it. As move further into this season of thankfulness, begin to think about what your life can look like when you surrender yourself and live a life of gratitude. 

pray

Father,
Thank you. Thank you for what you have given me and how you love me. I am grateful for the choice to love you and the overwhelming love I receive from you. I ask that you help me walk in gratitude in everything that I do. Surrendering all that I am to serve you from the bottom of my heart, giving you everything that I am. Use me to love others and show them their place and value in my life. Help me honor the ones I love by caring for them like you have cared for me. God, I ask that you would be the one who I model my life after by living a life of thanksgiving and truth.
you are good. I am loved by the one who created everything and you chose to create me. Thank you, Jesus. I love you. 

- Kelly

Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

 

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

            Galatians 5:22-23

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love… For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.””

            2 Peter 1:5-7,11


 

 

            Why shouldn’t I?

If I desire something, shouldn’t I satisfy that desire? These are the questions that inevitably come to the forefront of our minds when we’re faced with making a decision. They rest in our subconscious and assert themselves as we choose to do certain things throughout our day. We often view self-control as prudish and having to say no to good or fun things. But what if I told you that having self-control isn’t God keeping you from something good, but protecting you from the very things that will destroy you?

 

When saying NO brings freedom

 

            God wants to set us free from the bondage we put ourselves in. Not only that, but He wants to keep us from continuing to put ourselves in bondage over and over again. I believe there’s a reason for why Paul lists self-control last amongst the fruits of the Spirit. Mainly, that once God grows in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, He gives us self-control to continue to walk in these by resisting the temptation to lose all inhibitions and go back to our former ways. Self-control isn’t flashy, nor is it often “fun”, but it brings freedom by saying NO to the very things that put us in bondage and YES to God and the fruits He grows in us.

            It’s important to know that in Galatians 5:19 Paul lists the works of the flesh and he says in 5:17 that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”. There is a big difference between works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit. Works can be accomplished instantly to satisfy an urge or desire, but fruits have to be grown and nourished in order to survive. In other words, doing the works of the flesh is EASY, whereas having the fruits of the Spirit grown in you is a painful and sometimes arduous process. Self-control helps you to say NO to the things that might be easy but ultimately steal your joy, peace and love, and say YES to the things that might be hard to see but bring eternal life.   

 

Receiving & Practicing Self-Control

 

            Self-control is itself a fruit of the Spirit, so it’s not going to come just like that. It takes two things: 1) Abiding in the presence of God to nourish the fruit and 2) Actively choosing to have self-control in situations where it’s easy to give in to the desires of your flesh. You have to ask God to grow this fruit in you and then allow the Holy Spirit to help you in making the small decisions. Many times the insurmountable circumstances in our lives tell us that we can’t win this war we’re in, but God gives us self-control through His Spirit that allows us to win the battles in the trenches and ultimately the war.

            And here’s some truth: God’s already won the war. Our lives are all about His victory unfolding on Earth and us becoming aware of it. When you look at the scripture from 2 Peter 1, you see that self-control is part of a progression towards more of God’s love in our lives and Him ushering us into His Kingdom. So why does self-control matter? Because you have the chance to honor God with your small decisions. Because it’s by God’s strength that you get to say no to the things that satisfy instantly, and yes to the things that satisfy eternally. Because He’s already won the war and now you can go win your battle.

pray

God, Grow in us the fruit of self-control and by your grace help us to practice it. Help us to choose you over and over and over again, because you’re the only One who is eternally satisfying. We love you God, come and help us.

Amen

- Adam

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Gentleness is often a fruit of the spirit that gets the most overlooked. When we think of gentle, normally we think of those who are weak, passive, or walked on. However, gentleness and submissiveness are not the same thing. God trusts those who are gentle in love. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” Gentleness is the humble and meek attitude of wanting to help other people instead of wanting to be superior to them. Jesus handled people in their sins with gentle care but also loved people so much that He wanted what was best for them. He was never shaken, and always steady in God’s will. When we think, speak, and act out of place of gentleness, we are putting our heart is in the right place to be used the way God intended. 

gentleness is powerful

Gentleness is powerful. God has all the power in the universe, yet when we mess up He comforts us with gentleness to lead us back on the right path. Think back to a time when you may have felt hopeless. Whether that hopelessness looked like losing a loved one, feeling stuck in a bad relationship, or not measuring up to what was expected of you. What propelled you out of hopelessness? If I could guess, it was probably gentleness. It was someone that spoke considerate words to you, someone that gave you grace when you messed up, or someone that just tenderly cared for you. Gentleness matters because it displays humility and self-control. When we act gently towards others, we are communicating that our love for them outweighs our own pride. Not only will you love others better when you act in the spirit of gentleness; but God also promises that you will find rest for your soul. 

When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be better for us than even Himself, He in part said that because the Holy Spirit is what makes us more Christlike. Therefore, in order to have the fruit of gentleness we must pray and ask the Holy Spirit to make us more like Him because He is the only one who can. By doing so, we are saying no to our self-seeking flesh, and yes to walking in God's abundance. Asking Jesus for gentleness and being obedient to what He says will affect the way you relate to others, the way you correct others, and the way you treat others because you will be more aligned with God's heart.        

pray

Jesus, thank you for your outrageous love for me. Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit so I can be more like you. Allow me to act with gentleness like you did so I can love others the way you first loved me. Amen.  

-Sarah C