September 29, 2016

Today you should read: Joshua 2

God loves the unlovely. There’s no greater proof of this than His frequent interactions with prostitutes in the Scriptures. In Joshua 2 we see spies of Joshua hide in the home or inn of a prostitute named Rahab. She not only hid them but protected them as the king of Jericho searched for them. In v. 11-13 we see Rahab proclaiming the Israelites God as the One True God and Savior. In v. 14 and 17-19 we see God’s grace for not only Rahab but her entire family despite her past and character. She is later mentioned as an ancestor of Christ in Matthew 1:5 and praised for her faith in Hebrews 11:31.

This is not the only time we se God’s great grace and love for the prostitute. From the story of Gomer in the book of Hosea to Jesus’ frequent dinner parties with them in the Gospels. You may think, why prostitutes? Just think about the stereotypes that come with this now illegal vocation. Illegal activities such as human trafficking and drugs. Sexually transmitted diseases, lust, secret liasons with husbands and abuse. Family members usually avoid or shy away from them yet God loves them. It’s why God’s love is so powerful to them. In a lifestyle that exemplifies sin and shame, they find refuge and love in a Heavenly Father who extends love, grace and forgiveness. It’s ultimate proof that our God loves those who think that they are so far away from Him that He would never accept them or forgive them. Every time we come to a story in the Bible where God extends grace and forgiveness to the sinner we should be reminded of Jesus’ own words in Mark 2:17: “I came for the sick, not the healthy, for the sinners, not the righteous.” when being criticized for hanging out with the bad people.
So who are the “unlovely” in your world that God may want you to love? The people who desperately need God’s love and will not find it in the people and places they are currently involved with. Have you been spending more time with the perceived “healthy” people when God has sent us to the “sick” like His Son, Jesus. Rahab is just one of many examples of God’s grace and love to the worst of sinners and truthfully, we’re no different in degrees of sin in God’s eyes. Consequences on earth may be different but we need the Gospel just as much as those who are “unlovely” around us. Let’s do everything we can to show them that love.

By: Erik Koliser

September 28, 2016

Today you should read: Joshua 1

Life will often lead us to significant crossroads. It could be a job offer, a relationship, an addition to the family, a financial situation… you get the picture. But crossroads will often come in the form of tragedy. Make no mistake: Joshua 1 shows us the intersection of faith and tragedy.

Verse one opens with, “After the death of Moses…” Let’s be real here — that is one of the biggest understatements in scripture. This was the leader God used in so many ways for the people of Israel. Moses was their leader and God’s servant. His death was no small thing. It shook the Israelites to the core. In fact, the Bible tells us just how hard this was:  And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended (Deuteronomy 34:8 ESV). So what now? Who will rise up and take the mantle? Maybe the person that would find this most difficult.

Enter Joshua. He was Moses’ confidant. He was his truest disciple, not just any other assistant. But Joshua was likely one of the most-grieved in the land, second to Moses’ family. He probably wanted to fold. Yet, in this tragedy, a true leader was born. The Lord encouraged Him to live by faith and trust His word. No easy tasks ahead, but Joshua was off and running and the people (mostly) followed him into the Promised Land.

When we first went through Joshua in Jumpstart a few years ago, our Lead Pastor (Tim) led us through a series of thoughts on what God told Joshua to do or to be. This summary was especially helpful for me and it will be for you too:

• Be strong and courageous (v.6)
• Fear is paralyzing. Trust – don’t fear (2 Timothy 1:7)
• Carefully obey the Scriptures (v.7-8). Think about them, talk about them, follow them
• God’s Word keeps leaders heading in the right direction (Hebrews 4:12)
• Don’t be afraid or discouraged (v.9). Discouragement destroys leadership – look to God and keep going (Hebrews 12:2)

In starting Joshua today, be encouraged. When the crossroads of tragedy and faith find you, you’ll realize that your only hope is in the God who loves you, calls you, and gives you purpose even in the most difficult of circumstances. Also, remember that there is another “Joshua” that we find in the New Testament, and He will lead us into a much better Promised Land than a piece of real estate in the Middle East. His name is Jesus, and today, wherever you are and whatever you face, He invites you to be strong and courageous. And an added bonus: He’ll be with you every step of the way (Matt. 28:19-20).

What did you learn today? What is God teaching you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

By: Todd Thomas

September 27, 2016

Today you should read: John 21:15-25

This is a passage in Scripture that we have heard and referred to a lot. I remember being in Israel a few years ago and standing where they believe the spot was that Jesus cooked the disciples breakfast.

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When they had finished, Jesus asked Peter a series of important questions. Peter undoubtedly was still recovering from the denial of Christ. Even though he had felt restoration, he had not forgotten.

Jesus asked three questions. Many believe this parallels the three denials of Peter. Remember Peter’s bold statement prior to the denials?

But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Matthew 26:33-34

Now Jesus asks the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” You said even if all fall away, I will never fall away. Do you love me more than they do? Peter responds, you know that I love you. Jesus replies then tend to my lambs, care for my flock.

Jesus asked Peter the same question two more times. Each time Peter replies with the same answer and Jesus tells him to tend to His sheep. Peter gets upset because Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him. Any of us would be.

Each time Jesus asks “do you love Me”, he uses the Greek word Agape` – meaning do you love me completely asking nothing in return. The first two times, Peter replies with the Greek word Phileo, meaning I love you like a friend; as you love me I will love you back. But after the third question, after undoubted remembering the three denials and being grieved, Peter replies with I Agape` You. I love You without reservation.

What if Jesus asked you today? Do you Agape` Me? Do you love Me without reservation – holding nothing back. What would you reply? He’s asking.

Remember what He told us in Matthew 22:37-38:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. 

By: Tim Parsons

September 26, 2016

Today you should read: John 21:1-14

In today’s passage, Jesus again appears to some of his disciples. We see that Peter is returning to what he did before beginning to follow Jesus. They were not having a lot of luck, but then, a voice emerges from the shore that encouraged them to put the net on the right side of the boat to find fish. This scene, of course, would be familiar to these fisherman, as memories of Jesus calling them to leave their nets and follow Him came flooding back. As soon as their nets started filling up, their suspicions were confirmed and they agreed together what they had suspected: “It is the Lord!”

We see that all of the disciples were excited to see Jesus as they started to move the boat to shore; but Peter takes it a step further—he jumps into the cold sea to swim to shore, desperate to get to Jesus.

What we should keep in mind today is that these men were the same ones who abandoned and rejected Jesus at the end of His life. You know that Peter denied Jesus three times after imploring Jesus that there would be no way he could ever deny Him. Jesus pursues them even after He has been sinned against by them. There are two things for us to walk away with today.

  1. We should be deeply encouraged that Jesus pursues us when we sin against Him. Even if our sin primarily affects another person, the truth is that we are ultimately sinning against Jesus, not ourselves or other people. When we sin, we are spitting in the face of Jesus, took nails in His wrists so that we might no longer be slaves to sin.  The fact that Jesus would pursue us in our mess should lead us to be in awe of our savior.
  2. Those who have been forgive much love much. Peter is an amazing example of what our response to sin should be. He had surely been mournful of his sin, but he also knew that his sin is the reason Jesus died in the first place. He accepted the forgiveness that was expressed on the cross instead of wallowing in his sin, and was used by God to share this beautiful message of the forgiveness of sin with a multitude of people.

Are you thankful for the cross today? When you sin, are you quick to run to Jesus in repentance or do you feel like you are too dirty to come near Him? The conviction of the Holy Spirit that leads to repentance is a gift from God, just as His discipline is. But any feeling that you are too soiled by your sin to be washed by the blood of Jesus comes from Satan, not the cross. How can you grow in your acceptance and thankfulness of the cross?

By: Graham Withers