Week 13, Day 4
March 31, 2022
Scripture: James 1
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
Care for others and care for your soul.
This scripture has been a guiding light to me for many years. It’s this incredibly important challenge to be pure in heart and loving in action. It is the careful balance of helping the hurting and keeping our hearts from the corruption and pollution of the world.
I like to think of the Boardman river with this passage. My family home is the first house on the northern branch of the river. I wouldn’t recommend it, but we could drink from it if we needed!
The Boardman winds its way through Kalkaska county, off over to Grand Traverse County and then into West Traverse bay. By the time it reaches the mouth of the bay, it is so polluted that nothing lives or grows in the water there, not even muscles. The last I checked, it was some 200ft of death.
James’ call is outward and inward. Express a love for God in a love and care for others. Express also a love for God by keeping your heart pure. The river provides a nice reflection for my own life. Am I polluted by the world that love can’t grow within me? I can’t be the blessing to others I am called to if I am polluted by the world.
Jesus teaches us that it is the overflow of our heart in which our mouth speaks. I’ve always liked that for getting a good sense of my own heart. What’s in me, comes out of my mouth. What have I been saying lately?
Anyways, some things for you to reflect upon today. Love God. Love others.
Week 13, Day 3
March 30, 2022
Scripture: Galatians 6
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9–10)
Don’t grow weary.
I know that life for most everyone has had an extra layer of stress. Whether its global conflicts that weigh heavy on our hearts, the ever-increasing prices of life inflating and stretching our budgets, or just plain old sickness, with all of that and more, it is easy to become weary.
There are the obvious and difficult outside forces that are frustrating. We also have our own internal conflicts to contend with as well. Our personal feelings, frustrations, inadequacies, insecurities… it’s easy to be weary when we feel so broken inside.
Life is frustrating.
The concluding encouragement from Paul to the Galatians is for them to not grow weary. They’ve faced threats of death, outside pressures to return to old ways, and have been tempted to hide from their faith. They too have faced economic struggles, family difficulties and so much more.
How do we not grow weary?
Paul offers a surefire way for us to not grow weary:
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1–2)
We restore, we forgive, we unite and we bear each other’s burdens.
We don’t grow weary because we are never alone. Should our sin drive us out of community, there is someone to pursue and care for you. If you look out for me and care for me, and I look out and care for you, then in that economy, someone is always cared for. When people’s primary concern is other over self, everyone gets loved.
What prevents or thwarts this sort of caring economy is selfishness. It’s the pursuit of the flesh. What causes the most weariness of anything is when we look to our own needs above that of others. When we indulge in the flesh, it stops the mutual support.
When we pursue the Spirit, we are built together. We don’t grow weary in doing good. Because a life in the Spirit bears fruit of the Spirit. Most all of the fruit of the Spirit is others-centered. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness – they are focused on others.
We care for our fellow believers and lift them up through the fruit of God’s Spirit living in us.
Don’t grow weary in doing good.
Love your church well!
Grow in the Spirit.
Week 13, Day 2
March 29, 2022
Scripture: Galatians 5
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:22–26)
We have received a great blessing from God in the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is now possible to keep in step with God, through the Spirit. The works and demands of the law, and my sinful nature that have been preventative of walking with God wholeheartedly, are now set aside. I am set free from my slavery to sin and death. I now entrust my life to God through His Spirit.
My simple prayer over the fruit of the Spirit is asking God to cultivate the work of His Spirit in me. “God, through your Spirit, bring forth kindness, love, peace and joy in abundance.”
The world does not need more works of the flesh. That’s the stuff the evening news is sorting out for us. Anger, rage, discord, strife….
But God offers us a new life, the fruit of the Spirit. Embrace him and walk in step with Him.
Week 13, Day 1
March 28, 2022
Scripture: Galatians 4
“What I am saying is that as long as heirs are underage they are no different from slaves, although they own the whole estate. They are subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by their fathers. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs.” (Galatians 4:1–7)
No Longer Slaves!
Israel experienced slavery in multiple ways. There was, obviously, the slavery in Egypt. This has with it all the negative connotations we commonly associate with slavery. Labor in exchange for food and shelter, with little to no freedoms. In the case of Israel in Egypt, they grew and became an increasing threat to Egypt. Thus, Egypt made their lives excruciatingly difficult.
Israel experiences slavery in other ways though. We must be careful not to bring along with the word slavery all of the negative connotations and understand a broader concept of slavery. The Israelites were also slaves to the law. That is, they were subservient to, and under the law. That’s what Paul is speaking towards here in Galatians as a whole. What will we be subservient to? What are we bringing ourselves under and being shaped by? What are we bound to?
Israel was bound to the law. It shaped their way of life.
So there’s the negative; slavery to the Egyptians. But then there is also a slavery to the law. Both are binding and shaping. Both are used by God for their transformation.
There is yet another way in which Israel is bound. They are bound to, “Elemental Spiritual Forces.” Stoichea is “elemental spiritual forces.” That’s a little more difficult to define. But my simple translation is, “we are bound also to the way the world functions.” That’s a moving target of understanding. In the broad biblical era, it would be understood that the gods ordered and managed the world. Now, we might say, “science” is how the world works.
All that to say. Paul is reminding the Galatians, we have been subservient to the law, to the way the world works and all sorts of other influences.
But not anymore. We belong to God. WE call on Him as our Father. We are no longer slaves. Slaves to sin. To death. To the way the world works. To the forces that pull us every which way.
We are no longer slaves, subservient to these things. We are children and heirs, given the Promise of Abraham, a life with God.
So don’t fall back under the slavery to the world, shaped, bound to it and influenced by it. You belong to God through Christ. Seek Him!
We no longer bound to the world, but bound to Christ. Paul will help us see further what this means, as we embrace the Spirit of God in our life. For now, we call on God as Father, and seek his heart today.
Week 12, Day 2
March 22, 2022
Scripture: Hebrews 13
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21)
“may he work in us what is pleasing to him”
That takes a lot of the pressure off, doesn’t it? The pressure to be something great! To be something your momma is proud of! To accomplish great things for God!
God work in me, what is pleasing to you.
Pray that, all day.
God will do in me, what needs to be done, so that whatever it is I do, it will be pleasing to Him.
Let this prayer break down the shackles of shame, guilt, frustration…
And build you up, and remind you that God is at work in you, to bring Glory to Him.
That’s pretty amazing! God in you, working in you, loving you and changing you!
He loves you!
Glory to Jesus, forever and ever, amen!
Week 12, Day 1
March 21, 2022
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”” (Hebrews 12:28–29)
We are inheriting a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Every other kingdom can and will be shaken. All created order will be shaken. God is a consuming fire.
These warnings are both the stern and critical reminder for us to place our hope in the right kingdom. We have seen over the history of the world, the rise and fall of worldly kingdoms. In the present conflicts and troubles here and abroad, it is easy to see how they come and go. It is tragic and heart-wrenching to watch.
The kingdom we find our life and hope in, is established by and through Jesus Christ. It is His kingdom that reigns and the hope that we have for all of eternity.
“So worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
That’s our response. To worship God properly. We put this in perspective, if all the kingdoms of this world will rise and fall, but God’s will rise and never be shaken - well let that shape my worship, my allegiance, my commitment, my everything!
This is what Jesus intends for us when he teaches us to “seek first my kingdom and my righteousness.”
Seek what will last, what will never be shaken.
Week 11, Day 5
March 18, 2022
Scripture: Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11:22 - By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
It fascinates me that the highlight we get of Joseph’s life is not the incredible journey out of slavery, into prison, only to be one of the most powerful people in all of Egypt. No. The highlight is “he gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.”
“He spoke about the exodus.” That’s the highlight? Really?
The highlight of Joseph’s faith is that he trusted God to make good on his promises, even at the end of his life.
Joseph’s story is an incredible journey of God fulfilling and working through incredible odds, to accomplish his purposes. Today, my simple encouragement is for you to see that God is at work still. We may not know how he will accomplish his purposes and fulfill his promises, but we can certainly trust and hope that he will.
We look forward to a new exodus. We look forward to what God will do with our bones. We look towards Jesus, who is the firstborn of the New Creation.
Faith is trusting in Jesus. Trusting that the darkness will not overtake the light. Trusting that His salvation is greater than the condemnation we all face and endure.
God will accomplish his purposes.
Trust in Him today!
Week 11, Day 4
March 17, 2022
Scripture: Hebrews 10
“And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Hebrews 10:18)
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:22–23)
How much do I need to do to be forgiven and saved?
How much sacrifice to be holy?
What do I need to give to be cleansed and pure?
What do I gotta give to get myself whole again?
We may not ask ourselves those questions, but we actively function like we must work for our forgiveness and righteousness.
Hebrews argues that the need for sacrifice is washed up in the blood of Jesus. His was a sacrifice, once and for all, for all time.
Our role in this is to hold on. We hold on to Jesus, as the pioneer of our faith, the reason for our hope.
He is faithful.
Hold on to Him. He is your righteousness and truth. He makes us whole.
Week 11, Day 3
March 16, 2022
Scriptures: Hebrews 9
Happy 3:16 Day!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
We eagerly look forward to Christ’s return. Each passing day, we pray “Come Lord Jesus.” We look forward to his arrival, because he has already born the weight of our sin. Now, we look forward to the new life we can have in Him and with Him.
We look ahead with eager expectation that Christ, who has been pleading our case, in the Holiest place, will come and unite us with God.
Thank you Father for your forgiveness. Come Lord Jesus, Come.
Week 11, Day 2
March 15, 2022
Scripture: Hebrews 8
“This is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”” (Hebrews 8:10–12, TNIV)
One of the great comforting truths of the Bible is that God is interested in our hearts. God forgives our wickedness and remembers our sins no more.
This particular passage speaks to the intent of the sermon as a whole. The author is deeply concerned with Christians who are falling away, or perhaps resorting to old methods of seeking forgiveness. They are reminded that this new covenant has come and there is a better way towards forgiveness, Jesus.
It is to say, “Why would one resort to the methods and ways of the old covenant when the new and far superior covenant given us in Jesus is offering us forgiveness of sins and a new heart?” We can know God now. In ways that have never before been experienced.
While we may not be tempted to fall back into the old covenant, we can still reject a bit of what God is doing for us within the new covenant. We can resort to practices that are of no real benefit to us. How much contrition is enough contrition? What do I need to do to make up for my failures and sins?
These are steps down a path that leads us away from the blessings held out for us in the new covenant.
How does one recover from sin? How do we return to God and follow him?
Hebrews encourages us to:
Approach the throne of Grace with Confidence.
Believe in the better sacrifice, that is once and for all.
Let’s remember that it is possible now to know the heart of God. He gives us a new heart, we can know the Lord. So let’s seek him.
Throw of the sin that so easily entangles, and trust in Christ.
Praise him for his forgiveness and grace. He remembers your sins no more.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.