Continuing

John 8:31-38 (NRSV)

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word.  I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”


By John Grimm

As of right this moment, as we are reading this devotion, we are continuing in Jesus’ word.  It takes our time to read the Bible.  It takes our effort to study the words so we can know how free we are in Jesus. 

Over the span of our lifetime, as we continue in Jesus’ word, we can live lives free from sin.

Continuing in Jesus’ word is not only a reference to making time to study the Bible.  Verse 38 points to the fact that our doing what we have heard from the Father is included in the method of continuing in Jesus’ word.  When we know Jesus’ word, we are free from sin and free to obey the Father. This obedience to the Father means we can live as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus’ word.  Through Jesus, you have given us freedom from sin.  Show us in Jesus’ word how we can do what we have heard from you.  Guide our steps as Jesus’ disciples so we can know and live the truth that sets us free.  In the name of Jesus, we can be obedient to you.  Amen.

For My Welfare?

Isaiah 38:10-20

By John Grimm

For my welfare?  We think we know what is best for ourselves.  We plan, we maneuver, and we make connections so that we can have the best life possible.  Then troubles come our way and we are at a loss.  Getting through the troubles strains us.

We then ask ourselves, is the trouble because of my own sins?  Are we the ones who caused our own souls to be bitter?  Or is the truth that someone else caused our misfortune and our problems?  Is it not that since we live godly lives, we can escape such bitterness?

When we know that we have caused our own bitterness, then we repent of our ways.  We confess our sin to God and he restores us.  We may even eventually see that God had been protecting us, despite our willful rebellion against him.  As soon as we recognize the good God was keeping us for, we thank him that he did not allow us to be punished for all time because of our rebellion. 

When we do not know the source of the bitterness in our life, we should keep turning to God.  It is through Jesus that we find salvation, even in the midst of bitterness.  It is during these times that we catch a glimpse of how much evil that God has kept from us.  Yes, going through the bitterness was for our welfare!

It is by living through bitterness brought on by our own sin or someone else’s sin that we can praise God!  Then we get to be in the sanctuary with other believers to sing and praise God for his work in our lives.  What a witness we have when those around us know of the bitterness of our souls and they get to hear us praise God.  Maybe it is during this pandemic that the bitterness of our souls is for our welfare.  It seems like a good time to praise God for getting us through these days.  What better way to shrug off bitterness than to be in the house of the Lord, thanking God for our deliverance?

God, we know who and what has caused bitterness in our souls.  It was not you.  We allowed that bitterness to grow.  Yet, you are using the state of our souls so that we may see how you are working to deliver us.  As we become content in your faithfulness, may we see the bitterness washing away and hear chords of praise coming from our lungs.  It is in Jesus’ name that we thank you for making a way for our welfare even when we could not grasp what was happening.  Amen.  And Amen!

Judgment

Romans 2:1-11 (NRSV)

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.


By John Grimm

It has amazed me the number of times that I have heard us humans saying to one another: “Forgive yourself.”

If we are forgiving ourselves, then when do we repent?  If we are forgiving ourselves, then how do we know when to judge ourselves by God’s standards?  It might turn out that as we attempt to forgive ourselves, that we discover we are self-seeking and that we are obeying wickedness rather than truth.  I imagine we forgive ourselves, or at least attempt to forgive ourselves, when we know that we are not doing any worse than anyone else.  Those other people might get caught, but we think we will not get caught and avoid judgement.

God is the judge. God judges each one of us.  Nothing we do, try, or believe escapes his knowledge.  Forgiving ourselves is right there in the categories of things we do, try or believe.  Attempting to forgive ourselves perpetuates evil.  What stops evil in our lives and those we attempt to judge?

Repentance.  It is the kindness and forbearance of God that allows us to turn from our evil and turn to truth.  When we seek for God’s glory, honor, and immortality, then we find God accepts our repentance and assists us to live eternal life.  And that, even now.

God shows no partiality.  We need not show ourselves any partiality.  Our pursuit is the good that God has for us.  We experience and know this good when we know Jesus Christ has died for our sins.  We experience and know this good when we receive the forgiveness that God has for us.  We experience and know this good when we give forgiveness to others, just as God has given us forgiveness.

God, we are too easy on ourselves and too hard on others.  It is your judgment which can be our concern for ourselves.  Thank you for aiding us in taking the log out of our own eyes as we repent of our evil ways.  As you forgive us, we can and do forgive others.  Thank you for the life we find in Christ Jesus and that you impartially give to us.  Amen.

Asking by Faith

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.


By John Grimm

Trials?  What trials?  That seems to be one approach to living through this pandemic.  We know of men and women who are no longer involved in any church, of any kind, because of restrictions placed upon churches during this pandemic.  Instead of facing trials, some men and women have tried to avoid any trial during the pandemic.

Trials!  What trials!  That’s a different approach. Yes, we have placed restrictions upon churches during this pandemic.  But in the midst of all of that, consider what God has helped us learn. We can be disciples of Christ during this pandemic through active participation in church.

Before this pandemic, I had never pastored a church during a pandemic.  I am sure that before this pandemic, you did not know how to live through a pandemic.  We can expect God to give us wisdom so that we may become mature in Christ during this pandemic. 

If we are avoiding trials, then are we double-minded and unstable in all we do?  Faith in  God was possible before the pandemic.  Faith in God is possible through the pandemic.  Once we leave the pandemic behind, we should find our perseverance is closer to finishing its work in us.

God, thank you that you have been with us through this pandemic.  When we asked you for wisdom about how to face trials caused by this pandemic, you have generously given to us!  What a joy it is to be alive during a pandemic and see how you continue to give to us!  May our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not involved in church because of the pandemic find this joy that we have from placing our faith in you.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

As Indeed You Are Doing?

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NRSV)

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.


By John Grimm

I cannot count how many times that I have read these verses.  Well, to be honest, I have heard only a portion of these verses being emphasized.  It appears that in my life I have heard many people only quote verse one and two.  What about verses three through eleven, do they matter to us?

Paul is emphasizing how we Christians are to live, remembering that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  Faith, love, and salvation are our themes as we live as children of light and children of the day.  It is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we live, now and later.  Salvation is ours in Christ now.  The day of the Lord is later, and salvation is ours also at that time.

You can be encouraged with this info.  You can build up other Christians with this news.  Paul says that is “as indeed you are doing.”  However, we know what we have been doing.  We stopped reading after verse two.  God help us!  As we live as children of the night or of darkness, we have not been able or willing to encourage one another or to build up each other. 

Will you take time today to recognize the salvation you have in Jesus?  Will you start encouraging and building up other Christians, even today? 

God, as I live in Christ, nothing will surprise me about the day of the Lord.  Yet, I have not grasped the salvation I have in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Forgive me for my slowness of living as a child of light and a child of the day.  In this day, may other Christians find encouragement and be built up in Christ by my words and actions.  In the Name of Jesus, I hope to be found on the day of the Lord, amen.

Holy Ones

Psalm 34:9-14 (NRSV)
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
    for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
    and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
    seek peace, and pursue it.

By John Grimm

Is this psalm written for us?  Are we “his holy ones”?  The answer to these questions depends upon whether we fear the Lord.  This psalm helps us define fear of the Lord.

It appears the state of fearing the Lord has to do with seeking the Lord.  It might be that as we pursue the Lord, we gain a sense of awe regarding how the Lord does what the Lord does.  On this level, we realize the fear of the Lord is what we as individuals can do.

We also notice that the fear of the Lord can be taught.  We can listen to someone who has had experience with the Lord.  The instructions for having the fear of the Lord show us two facts.  First, it is our responsibility to avoid speaking evil and deceit.  The second fact is that fearing the Lord involves physically doing good and pursuing peace.

From the whole of the Bible, we see that we are holy ones because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  As we believe in Jesus, we become holy.  It is by living in the fear of the Lord that we receive the position of being holy ones.  It appears that this psalm was written for us and that we can be “his holy ones.”  Now, let us seek the Lord and learn from those who know about faith in Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, thank you for making us your holy ones.  We had wanted for so much before we found you.  You satisfy us and instruct us in how to live as your holy ones.  It is good to know that by faith in Jesus we can be holy as you are holy.  May we be found to be your holy ones, even this day.  In the Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Building Up the Neighbor

Romans 15:1-6 (NRSV)

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.  May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


By John Grimm

Do we label the weak in our local church?  If we do, are they those who have less money than us?  How about those who are chronically ill?  Would the weak be those who are always complaining about something or other in the church?

It might turn out that as we are attempting to label the weak that we discover we are the weak.  For our labeling the “weak” may be an insult to all others in the local church!

Paul is instructing the church in Rome to not please themselves.  For when we are pleasing ourselves, do we take notice of our neighbors?  Thankfully, we have the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to instruct us on how to be steadfast in the faith God has given to us.

It is God who brought us together to be the local church.  For it is in the local church, and not denominational offices, that disciples of Jesus Christ are made.  Since God has brought us together, he knows we can have harmony with one another, rather than labels.  Through the harmony that God grants to us, we do give glory to God.  Our voices are united in praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God, we have often labeled our neighbors within our local church as being weak or strong.  Forgive us for attempting to please ourselves with lofty thoughts of ourselves and insulting other disciples of Jesus Christ.  As we read the Bible, show us how to live in harmony with one another.  We praise you for Jesus and for drawing us to faith in Jesus through the local church.  As we live in harmony, may we be found to be living in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ready to Eat

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!


By John Grimm

Over the years as a pastor, I have witnessed individuals refuse to receive Holy Communion.  I know there have been individuals and churches that taught we are not worthy to receive Holy Communion.  However, as we learn from John Wesley, what Jesus commands, we do.

Why do we need Holy Communion?  We need to receive forgiveness from God and be reminded that we have forgiveness from God.  Receiving Holy Communion often helps us to live a forgiven life.  Receiving the broken bread and the poured-out wine also helps us to forgive.  That is why some individuals refuse to receive the bread and the wine.

On occasion, it takes time to forgive someone.  We know we need to forgive.  We know we will be better for it when we do forgive.  Refraining from Holy Communion until we forgive another disciple of Jesus Christ is appropriate.  We need not delay in giving forgiveness, for we know not what tomorrow holds.  Knowing our forgiving another person affects our receiving forgiveness from God changes our understanding of Holy Communion. 

Both forgiving one another and receiving the Lord’s Supper are commands from Jesus.  We can do both.  Receiving the Lord’s Supper without forgiving one another is like eating at home.  We overcome divisions in our local churches when we recognize we are members of the church of God.  We re-member ourselves to the body of Christ when we forgive one another.  Let our love for one another be genuine as we live as the body of Christ, faithfully receiving Holy Communion and forgiving one another.

Jesus, thank you for dying for us.  You have shown us how to forgive one another.  As we forgive one another we can eat the Lord’s Supper.  Thank you for your commands which give us life.  Heal the divisions in our local churches so the world can see the Body of Christ living in our local churches.  Amen.

Satisfied

Psalm 145:10-18 (NRSV)
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
    and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.

By John Grimm

When our dogs are ready to eat, they will let us know they need food.  Even if we arrive home after being gone for a while and the dogs have been in their kennels for many hours, they want their food.  Once we feed our dogs, then they will settle down.  Not only are the dogs satisfied by our presence, but their satisfaction is enhanced by having some food in their bellies!

We have felt that our effort to rescue dogs is how God satisfies the desires of these particular canines.  We also notice God provides food for squirrels, deer, and even birds from our bird feeders!  It is a joy to hear the birds sing praises to God when the Lord satisfies them.  The animals depend upon God and those the Lord has created to care for this world’s inhabitants.

Calling upon the Lord Jesus in truth has been helpful for me.  As people read this devotion and this psalm, perhaps we all can find it is good to call upon the Lord.  We all can be honest with God regarding our failures, our sins and our needs.  The Lord is faithful and gracious.  The Lord is near to all who call upon him.  If we need to be satisfied, maybe it is time for us to call on the Lord.

Jesus, thank you for satisfying the needs of every living thing.  Knowing how the Lord’s kingdom and dominion continues from the first of creation until now, we discover how good you are.  Thank you for using us in caring for creatures both great and small.  Thank you for satisfying us in this lifetime.  Amen.

Idols?

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

Idols?  Yes, sometimes Christians do have idols.  Maybe our idols are wood with silver and gold on it, like an ornate cross or a home.  Maybe our idols are our electronic devices that we carry constantly.  As we know, our idols cannot do evil or do good.

It is possible that we can learn once again to fear the King of the Nations.  Besides, it is the Lord who made the wood, the metal, and everything else we see and touch.  We can have a healthy respect, an awe, toward the true God.  That prospect is better than continuously turning to unwise idols, of whatever design!  When a people continually turn from God, then the people, the nation, will be punished by God.

Thankfully, we can trust Jesus Christ.  For it is when we turn to Jesus, and not to idols, that we can know and enjoy the living God and the everlasting King.  Knowing that God has come in the flesh, that is Jesus, we gain much wisdom.  Fearing the Lord is better for us than honoring idols.

Almighty God, we have placed things of our own making as higher than you.  We have worshiped things instead of you.  As we place faith in Jesus, repeatedly, we find that you forgive us.  Thank you that our fear, our awe, and our respect for you grow as we continue to follow Jesus.  Help our neighbors and loved ones discover you as the living God, before any nation endures your indignation.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.