September 16 – Grace – Saving Grace

Read Ephesians 2: 1-10

Some of the best stories I hear about include a rescue and victorious ending. That is what we read here in Ephesians. It is more than a story or an account of someone else. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, it is our story. It is a story where our despair and death is turned into a victorious redemption and resurrection.

In verse 1, Paul reminds individuals in the church in Ephesus that they lived in a dead state.  That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s so true. It is the same for us. We lived according to our cravings (v. 3) and fed them. What cravings and thoughts have you gratified? That kind of a life is a sad and empty existence, and yet we may have temporary happiness.

We were deserving of wrath (v.3). You may be taken back by this last sentence. Wrath is expressed by an angry judge or an authority that has the power to punish wrong. Our holy and sinless God has the authority to extend that to us. The God of the universe and our hearts is perfect! He desires to have a relationship with us. He created each one of us for that exact purpose.

He created us to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with us.  We chose to follow the “ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (v.2)

Now, the Victor enters with a triumphant message of redemption. This in true for each one who chooses to place their faith and trust in Jesus and His powerful love. Our gracious God knew what we needed and provided it through the death, burial, and resurrection of His only Son Jesus.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin- it is by grace you have been saved.” V. 4-5

This all has a wonderful purpose. We have been rescued and brought to spiritual life. It is a gift! Have you received it? If not, ask for it by faith! If you have, are you seeing your life as a handiwork of God and engaged in good works that He has prepared for you? (8-10)

Each day and moment we can walk in His purpose and plan for our lives if we choose to and live out the Amazing Grace that was extended to us and covers our sin. Live it loud and share it boldly!

Celeste Kern

Taking it further

What is saving grace? Check out this GotQuestions response here!

Here is another great resource regarding saving grace!

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September 15 – Grace – Getting what you don’t deserve

Read John 1:14-17

Grace.

If you’ve been around church for any amount of time, you have heard of the word “grace”. Growing up, my dad always told me that simply put, grace is getting something that you don’t deserve. More often than not, it was after I did something stupid and I would be forgiven or given another chance. There are many times in my life where something good has happened to me and I think to myself, “Man, I don’t deserve this.” There are so many times where I got something that I didn’t deserve.

Now when it comes to our relationship with the Lord, Romans 3 is very clear in telling us that none of us are immune to sin and a couple chapters later we learn that that sin brings about physical and spiritual death. God is very clear on what He calls us to do and what we are to avoid. No matter how much we may try, we will never match the standard of perfection God has for us.

“For the wages of sin is death…”

In a completely just world, we, as sinners, would be deserving of death and eternal separation from God. However, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us of all our sins and restore us to good standing with God. In John 1, John speaks to the value of our relationship with God and the part that grace plays in it. Because of our relationship with God, we are in a position to benefit from grace.

Throughout this series, it is our prayer that, while we study different aspects of grace, you would realize the magnitude of the grace that God has for us. Seemingly all we can do is have a spirit of thanksgiving for what God did for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5).

Personally, I can agree with Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15 about being the worst of sinners. To some extent, I think it is healthy for all of us to share this view that we are in no way deserving of God’s grace. As you read through this series in the coming days, allow your appreciation for the Lord to grow as you read a little more about the length that He went to offer you salvation.

If you’re anything like me, all we can do in return for this great gift is to accept it and live our lives as a beacon of hope to a dark and unbelieving world.

Jake Lawson

Taking it further

Click here for another reading plan on Grace!

Check out this Andy Stanley article on Grace here!

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September 14 – Names of Jesus – Victorious One

Read Revelation 3:21

What does victory look like?

A victory is when you defeat or beat an opponent. A spiritual victory is when God defeats the evil one, Satan. God is THE only being powerful enough to defeat and have COMPLETE victory over Satan. This is why we call God the Victorious One. Jesus is committed to His promises. He will carry out a victory every time against Satan.

The perfect example of victory in the Bible is shown through the story of David and Goliath. Samuel 17 demonstrates an overlooked man, David, who sets out to fight the giant, Goliath. David was the underdog in more ways than one. He had no sword, was not respected for the job and he was small, but still spoke to the Philistine, Goliath, about coming before him to fight in the name of the Lord Almighty God. David chose to fight Goliath in battle with a stone and a slingshot. Not only did he go into battle, but he came out victorious.

“This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel..” Samuel 17:46

At this time David had defeated Goliath and continued on in Samuel 17:47 to claim, “the battle is the Lord’s.” David believed the whole world would know there is a God in Israel from a victorious battle. Goliath was defeated and God had won. David had a full understanding that God was the Victorious One and God worked through him. He knew God would work in miraculous ways despite his fear.

David could not have been victorious on his own. He needed the power of the Victorious One to win against Goliath for a greater purpose. Life often presents challenges which seem impossible. God is the only form of victory in our lives when it comes to finding peace, healing of sickness and mental illness, freedom, and more. God chose to be the Victorious One because He has greater power than we do alone.

Take time today to reflect on the times God has been victorious in your life.

Did you see God’s victory immediately or was His victory a process over time?

Pray for God to win and be victorious over every heart who needs to know Him.

Pray every heart grows closer to God, the Victorious One.

Thank God for being the Victorious One over every obstacle in your life.

Monica Foutty

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • In what way does this specific name bring you peace?
  • How have you experienced victory from the Lord in your life?
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September 13 – Names of Jesus – Lamb of God

Read John 1:19-34

The Lawson family is a baseball family. Ever since I was a little boy, it has always been my dream to be a professional baseball player. I love the sport of baseball so much it’s crazy. It was in 8th grade however that I came to the realization that I could put a ball in a hoop much better than I could hit a baseball. Even though I stopped playing the game, my passion has continued to grow. There are times, however, where I think to myself what it would have been like for my dream to become a reality. I would be a superstar with a hefty multi-million dollar contract. People would cheer and chant my name as I walk up to the plate. What if? Now I would consider myself to be a very humble person. However, it doesn’t stop one from dreaming. If I was a big deal in the baseball scene, part of me would want to act like it. So much for humility!

If there was someone who had every right to be full of themselves, it was Jesus. Here He was, God in human form. He had the ability to do whatever He wanted. He heals people, raises the dead, walks on water and turns water into wine. Even so, there was no humbler person that Jesus. While He could do all of those things, He didn’t lord it over people. This is illustrated in John 1 when John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”.

When you think of a lamb, you don’t usually think of “power”, “king” or even “Almighty God”. However, John 1 contains the only mentions in the entire Bible of “Lamb of God”. Isaiah equates Jesus like a “lamb led to a slaughter”. What does it mean that Jesus is called “Lamb of God”? What significance does that have? What impact should it have on my life?

One of the things that have impacted my relationship with Jesus all the more is that He is personable. He isn’t just a vengeful and reckless God. Instead, He’s quite the opposite. While He was present at creation, was the promised Savior of the world, performed incredible miracles and even rose from the dead, He very much wants to have a personal relationship with you.

What does it mean to you that Jesus, being God, willingly went to the cross for you as a lamb is lead to the slaughter? In John 1, John the Baptist created an image of humility for Jesus. It’s beyond incredible to me that Jesus would do that for me.

 Jake Lawson

Questions to consider

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • How does it make you feel that Jesus would willingly die for you when He had the power to avoid it?
  • How is this name of Jesus going to influence the way you talk to people who don’t know Him?
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September 12 – Names of Jesus – Prophet

Read Mark 6:1-6

Jesus showed up in his hometown with his 12 best friends. He began to teach. His authority was from God, not other humans.

He was a hit, impressing practically everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”

But in the next breath they were finding fault with him: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?”

(Mark 6:1-3 MSG).

Even after all the miracles of healing which Jesus worked, he still was not accepted even in his own town. As he taught in the synagogue there the audience was amazed how this ordinary man, whom they knew as a carpenter could attain such wisdom. They rejected him.

Why? Perhaps they did not know what he had done. Perhaps they were jealous. But they did not welcome him even though he was a prophet and the Son of God. At a later time he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.”

A prophet is a spokesman for God (Exodus 7:1 and John 4:19). The teachings of Jesus apply to us today:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”.   Mark 10:45 NIV

(Jesus was a servant)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6. (Jesus is the only way).

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”.  Matthew 6:33

(Our priorities are important).

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”.   Matthew 5:16 NIV

(Our daily attitude can positively affect others)

“… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”. Mark 12:30

(The greatest commandment).

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.

(A great way to live).

Tom Weckesser

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • Where did Jesus receive His authority and why is that so important?
  • Based on the shared definition of a prophet, how can you be one today? Who can you bring closer to Christ?

 

 

 

 

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September 11 – Names of Jesus – Messiah

Read Matthew 16:13-20

Have you ever been sightseeing and find yourself overwhelmed with the history of a certain location? This happened to me 7 years ago when I was fortunate enough to be a part of a group that traveled to Israel. We saw incredible sights the entire week, many of which you find yourself just in awe being anywhere close to the site of historical and biblical events. One day, we traveled to Caesarea Philippi. Up until that point, I had heard about it and knew it was in the Bible having to do with Peter confessing Christ. However, a new perspective swept over me when you’re actually standing on the same rock in the same location Jesus was all those years ago.

This hole in a cave was a pagan center of worship. People would sacrifice animals and throw them down into the hole which was believed to be the entrance to Hell itself. The magnitude of being at that exact location was overwhelming. There were carvings in the wall that portrayed the sacrifices that took place there. Definitely an eerie feeling.

It was at this location that Jesus took His disciples and asked them who people say that He was. The disciples gave him some generic answers like, “John the Baptist”, “Elijah” and even “Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. This wasn’t the answer Jesus was looking for.

“Who do you say that I am?”

You may be reading this and think that you know who Jesus is. Perhaps Jesus is someone that you talk to when things get rough. Maybe, your only knowledge of Jesus comes in December when you hear the Christmas story read. Do you really know him? Do you know what He has done for you and wants to do through you even today?

When Jesus asked the disciples directly who they thought He was, Peter responded by saying:

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter was confessing that Jesus was who He said He was. Through all that he had experienced during his time with Jesus, Peter was confessing that Jesus was the anointed Savior of the world. Upon hearing this, Jesus said, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (the grave) will not overcome it.” It is unclear if Jesus was referring to the literal rock they were standing on or on the truth that Peter just confessed.

Regardless, who do you say Jesus is? Do you say that He was a good guy? Do you say that He was a guy who said a lot of controversial things and performed miracles? Or do you say that He is the anointed Savior of the world? Will you allow Him to occupy that place in your life? Do you know for a fact that, even today, He can save you from your sin problem that is putting you on the fast track to Hell?

Will you confess that Jesus is who He said He is? Will you identify Jesus as Messiah in your life? Imagine all that He can do through you if your foundation is the same truth Peter confessed!

Jake Lawson

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • What are the consequences of not putting Jesus in His rightful place in your life?
  • How have you benefited from Jesus being #1 in your life?
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September 10 – Names of Jesus – Alpha and Omega

Read Revelation 22:1-21

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

In this last chapter of the last book of the Bible, you find this last description of eternity and the last recorded words of Jesus. Having recorded numerous “I am” statements of Jesus in his gospel, John, here, writes one final declaration of His identity in verse 13 and cited above. Jesus describes Himself with three parallel pairs of words, each conveying the same concept:

  • The Alpha and the Omega
  • The First and the Last
  • The Beginning and the End

Likely, you understand that alpha and omega are letters of the Greek alphabet. In fact, alpha is, not surprisingly, the first letter, while omega is the last. Jesus is essentially saying that He is the A and the Z…and everything in between. He is the full alphabet. As the living Word, He is, even, the One who gives meaning to the letters of life.

As Alpha, He existed at the beginning (Jn. 1:1)…or even, if you can fathom it, before there was a beginning. He is the one who called both the three dimensional world (Gen. 1) and the perpetuity of time and eternity (Heb. 1:2) into existence. From nothing, He made heavens and earth, day and night, sea and dry land, sun and moon, fish and birds, wild animals and livestock, and man and woman. Colossians tells us that “all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). Indeed, it is “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 18:28).

As Omega, Jesus has made all provisions for an endless eternity. He is the “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8). He will return in the air at the rapture to take believers with Him (1 Thess. 4:13-18). He will return to the earth at His second coming (Rev. 19) to reign for 1000 years (Rev. 20). At the close of that millennium, Jesus, as Omega, will unveil our eternal home in the context of a new heaven and a new earth.

Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, has purpose in your creation and in your destiny. Praise Him!

Steve Kern

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • In what way does knowing that He is the beginning and the end bring you peace?
  • How can you use the truth of this name of Jesus to reach the lost around you?

 

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