In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said.… And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:1–3, 30–31)
When God created the world, he was pleased with what he made. It was good. He created something out of nothing, which is hard for us to understand. God needs nothing and is truly self-sufficient. Yet he made the earth and everything in it, demonstrating his power and creativity.
He was particularly excited about the first people he made, Adam and Eve. “God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them.” (Genesis 1:26–28).
God created Adam and Eve differently than all the other creatures. He created them in his own image. What do you think it means to be created in God’s image?
Imagine what it was like to be Adam and Eve! No insecurities, achy muscles, or tired brains to slow them down. And God gave them the coolest jobs: naming the animals, exploring the garden, and enjoying his creation with him.
Obeying God was good for Adam and Eve. They were perfect and fulfilled. They weren’t lonely or insecure. Every need was met. They lived with purpose in the best relationship with God and with each other. God clearly told them the consequence of disobedience: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Choosing God is choosing life!
Taylor, S. (2017). Brand New: A 40-Day Guide to Life in Christ (pp. 16–17). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Pic from Wakefield Bible Church... Pastor Mark.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Ps 119:9–16).
The Bible is the word of God. We can trust it! It was true when it was written, it is true today, and it will be true forever. The Bible is the standard for Christian faith and action. When we aren’t sure if a belief or action is true, we should look at what God says in Scripture. God never contradicts himself.
“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).
Christians need to know the Bible, to study and memorize it. Psalm 119 calls the Bible a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. In showing us who to follow, it guides who we are and what we do. It builds up. It corrects us. It trains us in the way we should go. God’s word is powerful. It’s not empty, but instead it accomplishes what God desires.
The Bible teaches the history of God’s people and the history of the King and Savior, Jesus Christ. This history is for all believers, even for us today. The Bible shows us who God is and what he has done, still does, and will do. It also shows us who we are and how we should live. Because Christ has already won the victory over sin, death, and the devil, we know that this victory will be ours!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
Is God's Word a light unto your path? What verse or verses have had the most impact on your life? What verse do you struggle most with putting into practice?
Taylor, S. (2017). Brand New: A 40-Day Guide to Life in Christ (pp. 12–13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Recently, we began an exciting new journey through Scripture with the students of Marshall Baptist Youth about what it means to be a follower of Christ… what it mean to be a DISCIPLE.
We started by looking at the call of the first disciples to simply follow Jesus by faith on a lifelong, relational journey. Now, these teachings seem quite elementary for those who have attended church most of their lives; however, we read how Jesus spoke to His followers and gave them quite a challenge. Jesus told His Disciples (us) to “take up your cross daily and follow me” and unpacked the concept that discipleship isn’t an option—discipleship is for every believer, not just the “super religious.” As Christians, our lives should be marked by a total surrender to God’s plan for our lives, not just our own personal desires for which we aspire and exhaust much energy.
Dr. Luke pens the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23–27)
Matthew puts it this way, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38–39)
We were and should all be challenged by the passages that remind us that we live in an upside-down Kingdom and that we must lose our lives to find them. Throughout November, as you process those things for which you are thankful, think also about what God has called you to—think also about what it means to be a true DISCIPLE by asking some tough questions:
Many blessings and much love as you chase after and embrace Jesus.
From MBC Newsletter; Inspired by The Life; YM360, and Andy Blanks...
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal 4:7)
"Have you ever said, “It’s my life. I’m free to do whatever makes me happy”? After a while, whatever you choose to pursue--popularity, alcohol, relationships, living selfishly, or trying hard to be perfect--becomes something that controls you instead of you controlling it. Soon the choice doesn’t feel like a choice at all. Instead of being free, you’re a slave.
Before we commit our lives to Jesus we are slaves to sin. Even if we try to be good, we still aren’t free. Freedom is an illusion. We are tangled up in our sin, and it is impossible to set ourselves free.
When we commit our lives to Jesus, we are freed from our slavery. Only God brings real freedom. He frees us from everything we’ve been controlled by. Only God—who is absolutely perfect and all-powerful—can make us his children and save us.
Jesus forgives us. Jesus heals us. Jesus makes us whole. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see instant change. The more you know God, the more you will become the person God created you to be. He knows what your purpose is, what is best for you, what you are good at, and how your experiences will be used in the future. He will help you get past what holds you back. He will make you whole." (Taylor, S)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Jn 8:31–36).
What are some things you have been a “slave” to? Describe what you think it means to be a “slave to sin.” What will the truth do? How does it feel to know that you are God’s child whom he has set free?
Taylor, S. (2017). Brand New: A 40-Day Guide to Life in Christ (pp. 10–11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Eze 36:26–27).
...If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Ro 10:9–10).
If you believe Jesus died and rose again to forgive you and to give you true life, if you have asked him to forgive you, if you have asked him to be the Lord and Leader of your life, then celebrate! You have begun an incredible journey with the Lord of the universe... the Master Designer of all that exists. No longer do you have to worry about whether you’re good enough for God or anyone else, because in Christ you are God’s own child! You matter... You are important... You are loved! Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When you feel alone or when you experience guilt and shame, you can turn to God instead of running away from him. You are forgiven!
A relationship with God is bigger and better than any other relationship or anything you can buy or possess. It’s permanent and it will change you more than anything else in your life. It's a lifelong journey of adventure.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (Jn 3:16–21).
What are you excited about in your adventurous journey with God? What scares you about your journey with God? Why did Jesus come to earth? How do Jesus’ words in this passage comfort you?
Taylor, S. (2017). Brand New: A 40-Day Guide to Life in Christ (p. 7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:13–16)
Tasteless salt and hidden light are good for nothing! Salt arrests decay in our world, and light banishes darkness. Salt is hidden, but light is visible. Both are needed in the world, and both must give of themselves in love and service.
"It is not easy to be a dedicated Christian. Our society is not a friend to God nor to God’s people. Whether we like it or not, there is conflict between us and the world. Why? Because we are different from the world and we have different attitudes." (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 21–22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
As we read the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, we find that they represent an outlook radically different from that of the world. The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin, especially if you “get away with it.” The world is at war with God, while God is seeking to reconcile His enemies and make them His children. We must expect to be persecuted if we are living as God wants us to live. But we must be sure that our suffering is not due to our own foolishness or disobedience. We must seek to be different.
From this passage, we need to see that Jesus' Words were echoing the words and callings of those from old--words and callings throughout the Old and New Testament--words, attitudes, and actions for us today. God has called us to follow Him in a special relationship because of Jesus and His love. Just like God called Abraham into a special relationship with Him, we need to follow God wherever He calls us. God reminded Israel throughout scripture of the relationship He had with them because of Abraham and His love for them.
We must let our light shine to not only reflect the promises of God, but to help the world see how to have an unconditional love relationship with God. Are you hiding your light under a bushel? Are you helping to add flavor to the lives of those in your circle so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good? In the days ahead, let us be a reflection of the image Jesus and His love, and light the path for others to see.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. 13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. (Deut. 10:12-13)
My YouVersion reading today sparked my attention to share with you the simplicity of our call as believers. Often we ask, "What does God expect from me?" Here Moses gives a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember. He stressed that the law was not merely an outward ritual of sacrifice and festivals; but a heart attitude and a lifestyle of respect, love, and service for God.
Here are the essentials: (1) Fear God; (2) Live in a way that pleases him; (3) Love him; (4) Serve him with all your heart and soul; and (5) Obey his commands.
Too often we complicate faith with man-made rules, regulations, and requirements. We begin to attach the world's definition of "successful faith" to God's plan. Are you frustrated and burned out from trying hard to please God? Do you feel guilty because you cannot seem to keep up with the "religious" requirements that others deem necessary for you to be in right standing with God?
In Deuteronomy 11, God directed this call to the essentials most forcefully at the older Israelites who had witnessed first-hand His mighty acts along the way from Egypt to Canaan. Even the Children were held accountable. Failure to love, obey, and serve God would bring God's curse on both the people and their land. (Deut. 11:16-17)
Are you concentrating on His real requirements? Real peace is found "only" by the way of... Respect, Follow, Love, Serve, and Obey.