The Righteousness We Cannot Obtain

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent? Who can live on your holy mountain? The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart… ~ Psalm 15:1-2.

Psalm 15, at first glance, may not seem depressing, but it is. Unlike other psalms around it, David is not crying out in pain and anguish because of attacks from his enemies. Psalm 15 is a song about dwelling with God.

Something, David says, only the blameless can achieve.

Psalm 15 might not seem depressing until you start to think about that word: blameless; and other words and phrases like it: practices righteousness, does not slander, does not harm his friend, keeps his word whatever the cost.

David is describing who can dwell with the Lord on his holy mountain, but is he describing me or is he describing you? Not if we’re being honest.

We’re not blameless. We cannot achieve the righteousness of which David writes. We are imperfect people who stumble and fail. Gossip and lies, even “little white lies”, come from our lips. Bitterness against a neighbor lingers in our hearts. We don’t always keep our word, even when the cost is low. We all have our sins.

So, how then, do we dwell with God?

On our own, we can’t.

But that’s the point of the Gospel. That’s the point of God’s grace.

God sees us in our failures and sins and he offers us a righteousness that comes from outside ourselves. We cannot achieve it but we can welcome it as a gift. God gave us Jesus, the one person who walked this earth who live a blameless life just as the psalm describes.

Second Corinthians 5:21 reminds us of the great truth that if we trust in Jesus, then his righteousness becomes our righteousness. In him, our way is blameless; because in him, our sins have been judged and paid for.

So, who can dwell in the Lord’s tent or on his holy mountain? Those who trust the grace that God offers through Jesus.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Growing in Forgiveness

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

Then Peter approached Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”

How many times will we let ourselves be hurt? How many times will we let ourselves be wronged? What is the limit to our kindness?

These seem to be the questions Peter had in mind. Jesus had taught his followers what to do if someone sinned against them. Not thinking of exceptions when an offense is so great that law enforcement authorities need to be involved, the answer for normal offenses is to go to the one who hurt you and seek reconciliation.

But what happens if the same person hurts you again? And again? And again?

According to Jesus, you keep on forgiving.

This is, after all, the grace that God extends to us. When we trust in Jesus, he forgives all our sin, past, present, and future. He gives us a new heart so that we desire, and grow in our desire, to not sin against God. Yet, we are not yet perfect. Our sanctification is not yet finished. We still have moments of rebellion against God, moments where we spurn his grace.

And he keeps providing grace.

Jesus’ point to Peter was not to keep a list. Don’t bear in mind a former offense when considering a current one. People will fail you. Some people will fail you over and over and over. Keep providing grace.

This is not an easy thing, though. Again, because we’re not perfect. So, how do we grow in forgiveness?

First, we should remember the grace that God has shown to us. After answering Peter, Jesus tells a story about a man who was forgiven much who then goes out and refuses to forgive someone else. The unforgiving man is rebuked by his forgiver: “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (18:32-33)

This is a reminder that the sum of a person’s offenses against us pale in comparison to our rebellion against God. Think about how much God forgave you and it will spur you to forgive others.

Second, we should pray for hearts of greater grace. When we struggle to forgive another, the answer is to turn to the Author of Forgiveness. Where we are weak, he is strong. Pray and pray more until you are able to find yourself forgiving.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ Matthew 16:13-16

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Matthew 16:13-16
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (Christian Standard Bible)

Father, the world today still wonders who Jesus is. Some say a great teacher. Others say a prophet. Still others say a myth in the imagination of history. By faith, though, we answer like Peter. Jesus is the Messiah, your Son, our Savior. Help us to know Jesus for all he is and all you have done through him. Help us to not lose sight of your glory shining brightly through him. Help our imaginations soar with high thoughts of the reality of our Savior-King.  Amen.

Scripture verses taken from our Daily Bible Reading Calendar which you can find here.

Praying the Bible ~ Matthew 6:2-4

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Matthew 6:2-4
“So, whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  (Christian Standard Bible)

Father, give us generous hearts. Give us eyes to see the needs and open hands to share what we have. Give us hearts to give to others as you have given to us. Give us wisdom to meet the needs we can with the goods you have provided. Father, give us humble hearts. May our giving not be for show or recognition. May we not give for the praise of others or our own self-congratulations. May we give selflessly with a quiet generosity that knows no bounds and seeks no praise. Amen.

Scripture verses taken from our Daily Bible Reading Calendar which you can find here.

A Fruitful Tree

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

How happy is the one… [whose] delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither… ~ Psalm 1:1-3

Bearing fruit is an important metaphor in Scripture. In John 15, Jesus talks about how we only bear fruit if we remain in him and if we don’t bear fruit then we will find ourselves on the outside looking in when it comes to God’s Kingdom.

Fruit bearing is about productivity. But what kind of productivity? If we take Paul’s teachings from Galatians 5 as instructive, then the fruit the Christian life is to be primarily concerned about, the fruit of the Spirit, is growth in Christ-like character.

This is what we know, theologically, as sanctification. God saves us and God changes us. His Spirit is at work within us, transforming us to be more like Jesus, to be more like the men and women God intended for us to be before the fall into sin.

Where does this fruit of character come from?

Psalm 1 tells us that God’s word shapes this fruit in our lives. This should not surprise us, as Jesus also linked abiding in him to his word abiding in us (John 15:7).

What we need to grow in spiritual fruit is a regular, fruitful (if you will) intake of Scripture. Psalm 1 does not simply speak of reading the Bible or hearing God’s word read, both of which are important to our spiritual formation. The psalm speaks of delighting in the word, meditating on it day and night.

Through the Bible plans have value and I think every Christian, as soon as they are able, should read though the whole Bible in a year at least once; but delighting and meditating are more than reading through a plan. It is thinking deeply on God’s word, taking joy in the word, and treasuring God’s word in our hearts (Psalm 119:10).

Some practical ways we can do this include: Praying through God’s word by reading a verse or two and speaking to God what comes to mind; journaling our thoughts on God’s word; memorizing Scripture; taking a moment to think about what we’ve read and how it applies; or talking to another person about what we’ve read.

Such a list is not exhaustive and there are more ways to dwell deeply on God’s word. However we choose, we need to reach deep into the streams so that we might grow to be like a firmly rooted tree, fruitful in every season of life.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Sunday 1.5.20 (Missions Sunday)

This Sunday, we’ll welcome the Routons, a missionary couple in Haiti who will share about their ministry. We hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Onward video study in youth room

Songs for Worship
He Has Made Me Glad / The Sacrifice of Praise
I Stand Amazed
There Is a Redeemer
Ancient Words
We Have Heard the Joyful Sound

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The Holy Spirit and Fire

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself with baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – John the Baptist, Matthew 3:11

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He had a particular ministry–he would cry out before Jesus publicly stepped onto the scene, and call people to return to God in preparation for the Messiah (Savior-King) to arrive. One feature of his ministry was baptism, the immersing of a person in water.

Baptism continues to be a rite which declares one’s faith in Jesus for salvation, both in obedience to Jesus’ command (Matthew 28) and as a symbol of dying to one’s sinful ways and being reborn to new life in Jesus (Romans 6).

Yet, while John baptized for repentance, the commitment to turn from a life of sin, he spoke of a greater baptism, a spiritual baptism that Jesus would bring. This was a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

To be immersed into the fire has one of two results: To be cleansed or to be destroyed. In Matthew 3:12, John warned that the “chaff” or those who refuse Jesus will face the fire of destruction, a judgment of God against their rebellion. Those who belong to Jesus, however, experience a fire that cleanses.

In his first letter, Peter talked about our faith being refined as through fire (1 Peter 1:7). The refining process of gold and silver is intense. Fire is introduced, hot enough to melt the metal, and with time as impurities float to the top they are scraped away until what is left has been purified.

This is how the Holy Spirit functions in our lives. By faith in Jesus, we receive the Spirit as a gift. He gives us a new heart and he starts the life-long process of shaping us, using God’s word and our life experiences, to be more like Jesus. This process the Bible calls sanctification will one day result in our glorification in eternity–we will be like Jesus in our character with no flaw of sin or hint left of our rebellion against God.

When we trust in Jesus, he immerses us in the Holy Spirit, the very one Acts 2 described as coming on God’s people like tongues of fire.

If we reject Jesus, then John’s words in Matthew 3 stand to us as a warning. But if we receive Jesus, then we experience one of the greatest things we could: The gift of the Holy Spirit who, like fire, will refine our lives.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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