An Unchanging God

Ephesians 1:13-14 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession--to the praise of his glory.”

Emotions. They are so annoying. One minute, I am the most joyful person in the world and within five minutes, I am convinced that no one loves me. These strong emotions make my relationship with the Lord difficult at times. After I sin, I can

easily convince myself that my relationship with God isn’t good at all. There are even some rough moments when I’m convinced that I am not really a Christian.

The problem with this way of thinking is… the Bible. Paul tells us that once a person trusts in Christ, their salvation is secure. However, my human brain convinces me that I am the one in control of my salvation, and so every time I mess up, I get scared that God’s feelings towards me change. This is so wrong. Salvation is about God’s unchanging grace towards me, not my ever-changing emotions.

Salvation is ultimately all about God’s grace and love for us. He loves us so much that he made a way for us to be together. This has nothing to do with how close to perfect we think we are, or how many people we spread the gospel to. God’s love

for us does not change. He won’t one day decide to love us less, and nothing we do can make God love us more. 

Verse 13 says, “...When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” Seals are something that no matter what happens, they cannot be broken. So sure, in life there will be hard times, dry seasons, and terrible

days, but just because we struggle does not mean God changes; he is immutable. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us this, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

We now have to begin to live lives that show others that we are marked with God’s seal. We now have the presence of God in us, and this is not something to be taken lightly. The Holy Spirit is with us so that he can help us make it to our full and final salvation. What we experience now is just the beginning of this salvation. This reality gives us a reason to keep going in the Christian life. There is so much more in store for us, so we must remember to hold tight to God’s promises, rely on Jesus' companionship, and listen to what the Holy Spirit guides us to do.


Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

The Bible is a book of connections. The New Testament authors love to make connections with the Old Testament. Particularly, they love to show how Jesus fulfills Old Testament images and stories by reenacting them, so to speak. There are so many intricate and rich ways to look at the work of Christ through the lens of the Old Testament.

When you think of the “big” salvation event from the New Testament, you immediately think of the cross. We’ve been taught again and again about how Christ saves us through his death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. As our verse from Ephesians says, he redeemed us through his shed blood, and we now have the forgiveness of our sins because of what he endured on our behalf.

When you think of the “big” salvation event from the Old Testament, you should think of God delivering the Israelites from Egypt, what is normally called the “Exodus” story. In fact, I think Paul is making a connection to that story in this verse. He is intentionally connecting the story of Christ’s death and resurrection with the Exodus story.

If you’ll remember with me, the Israelites were enslaved for 400 years in Egypt. God raised up Moses to go into Egypt and deliver them. After a lengthy showdown, many miracles, and 10 plagues, God rescued them from their slavery. God redeemed them. He “purchased” the Israelites out of their bondage to be his own possession. Before they left, there was the Passover sacrifice. The last plague was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and spread the blood on their doorpost. Due to this, death “passed over” their houses and all the firstborns of Israel were spared. They were rescued from judgment through the blood on their doorposts. After this, they were rescued from slavery according to God’s grace.

Fast forward to the cross of Christ. By faith, his blood is applied to the people of God. God purchases or redeems us from slavery to sin by Christ’s death on our behalf. Like Israel, we are passed over by God’s judgment and led into freedom through the sacrificial blood of Christ. This is the gospel of Christ, and it has ancient and thorough connections through the entire Bible.

In the work of our salvation, Christ reenacted and fulfilled earlier stories of God’s salvation. Because of this, we have a rich, multi-faceted picture of God’s grace towards his people. 

  • Eternal love

    “For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.” Ephesians 1:4


    Arrogance isn’t logical. So much of life is humbling, but we spend so much of our lives not being humble. One look at the night sky is a humbling experience. You can see the vastness of the universe and at once realize how small you are. Being sick is a humbling experience. You realize that your own well-being is at the mercy of microscopic life-forms and pathogens. Being wrong is humbling. We spend most of our lives believing that we are always right, but when we are proven wrong, we are taken down a few notches.


    Much of what happens in life humbles us, but I don’t know if any life experience or event can humble you the way this verse should. To be sure, this verse is interpreted in several different ways, and it can be argued over for days. But here’s the very truth at the core of this verse: God has always, and I mean always, loved you. God’s people have been in his mind and heart before the world ever began. Before anything existed, God knew you and me, and he graciously called us to life in him. I say “graciously” for two reasons. First, God owes us nothing. To simply exist is a gift from God. Second, you were not on God’s mind because you were awesome. None of us are recipients of God’s love because we deserve it. It’s true, God knew every detail of our lives before life existed. He knew the good things you’d do. He also knew the bad things you’d do. And nothing in your life stopped him from loving you and pouring his grace out for you and to you.


    This is humbling. To know that the God of the universe holds you in his heart and hands simply because of his love and grace. How could we ever harbor pride in our hearts? God has opened up the storehouses of his grace and mercy for us IN CHRIST. Every good thing comes to us because of him, not us. Before we did anything, God already loved us. The beauty in that is this: If we did nothing to gain his love, we can do nothing to lose his love. 


    My prayer is that we would learn to live and exist in an almost supernatural humility. May we know and remember that we are who we are, only in Christ, and only because of God’s love.

  • Called to hope

    “I pray that eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling…” Ephesians 1:18a


    Calling is a word that gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles. We say that people are called to salvation, and we say that people are called to ministry. Sometimes we have this strong impression through the Holy Spirit that God is calling to us do something specific like give generously to someone or share the gospel with a specific person. Sometimes, young Christian guys will even tell girls that God is calling them to “be together.” (Not that I have ever used that line in my past.) Whatever we mean by, “calling,” it’s a sense that God has something he wants us to do.


    Since a calling normally comes with a task or commandment, they can easily become burdensome. If someone believes they are called to a certain task, there will be times when that task is not desirable. People won’t always be easy to deal with. Confidence in your ability to fulfill the calling will certainly be lacking at times. There will even be days when you wish you didn’t have this calling. The Bible shows us that Moses and many of the Old Testament prophets felt this way.


    This can be true when it comes to following Jesus. We have been called out by God himself to belong to his family. As members of God’s family, we are brought under the Lordship of Jesus. We are called to know him, love him, and obey him. We are sinful people, and we live in a sinful world. There will be days when we don’t want to fulfill the calling of following Christ. Maybe doing the right thing will cost us more than we’re willing to sacrifice. Maybe we’re weary of being different than the people around us who don’t know Christ and sticking out like a sore thumb. Maybe life has just beaten us down, and we’re tired of getting back up.


    But the calling that comes from God to follow Christ isn’t simply a task or burden on our lives. It’s so much more than God telling us, “hey do this and do that.” God doesn’t expect us to become great or change everything that’s wrong in the world. Our calling as believers is one that comes with hope. In this simple prayer, Paul is asking that the Ephesian believers would see that their calling is accompanied by a glorious hope in a glorious God. There may be difficult days, but our hope is in a resurrected king who will bring us into a resurrected future. No matter our task, calling, or journey in life, we are a people who are called to hope.


    The next time you think about being called to something as a Christian, whatever it may be, remember that there is always more to your life’s journey than you can see. Obedience might cost, days may get tough, but you are called to an eternal, unimaginable, and solid hope in Christ Jesus. 

  • Moving Forward

    Hey there, church family! I wanted to provide some detailed updates about our student ministry as we head into the summer months. We’ve been plugging along with daily Bible updates and a TON of zoom meetings. I hope these have been helpful, but I’ve been thinking and praying about what to do next as we attempt to minister to our students and families in meaningful ways.


    Beginning the week of May 17th, we will be transitioning to weekly videos rather than daily videos. These teaching videos will be about 15 minutes long and accompanied by a discussion guide similar to our Wednesday night meetings. These videos and guides will be designed for you to do as a family or for students to do with their friends.


    We will also be shifting to a new Bible reading plan. If you aren’t familiar with ‘The Bible Project’, I’d encourage you to check out their website and podcast. They provide amazing resources for knowing and understanding the Bible. Beginning May 18th, we will follow their plan for reading the Bible in a year. You can find this plan on their website, and there is an app, “Read Scripture,” that keeps you current with the plan. The unique thing about this plan is that it comes with cool and helpful videos that truly explain the ins and outs of Scripture. Your chances of being bogged down in Leviticus will go drastically down because this resource will help the beauty of the Bible become apparent to you.


    We also hope to kick off in-person small groups the week of May 17th as well. The current plan is to host these meetings in the chapel where we can spread out and keep our “social distance.” We will also continue to make use of zoom on a weekly basis for large group catechism.


    We’ve got camp around the corner as well! Summer camp will take place in Gulf Shores, the week of July 27-31. This will be our own camp and we will have exclusive use of all facilities for the week. Cost is $125. Our first registration deadline will be June 17th with a $50 deposit due. If registering after this date, the cost is $150. July 15th will be the final day to register, pay the final balance, and submit waiver forms and insurance information. Let me know if you are interested in serving in any way at camp.


    As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions feel free to let me know. I’m praying that God will use these unique times to help our students know and love him more than they ever have. Please pray for us as well as we seek to serve and minister in the most effective ways possible.

  • God's Temple

    “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16


    Social distancing is a headache. Isolation from friends, family, and community is never high on my to-do list (maybe you introverts feel differently.) I know that it’s starting to weigh heavily on many of us. Combine that with the fears and anxieties of the whole world due to this virus, and you’ve got a recipe for loneliness, depression, and a whole host of other issues. Social distancing is hard because we weren’t created for isolation, but community. God made us social and relational beings to be with and enjoy one another and to live closely with him.


    God has always prioritized dwelling with humanity. In Genesis, he creates a world, more specifically a garden where he will dwell with his people. In Exodus, he dwells in the midst of Israel through the Tabernacle. In 1 Kings, God manifests his presence in the grand and glorious temple built by King Solomon. In Jesus, God becomes a man and lives with his people. The end of story tells us that God’s dwelling will be with man throughout eternity (Revelation 21:3-4). The Bible makes it no secret that God created people to exist in a close, loving relationship with him for his glory and their joy. And God dwells with his people right here and right now in one of the most glorious and mysterious realities in all creation. God’s presence dwells within each one of us through the Holy Spirit. We are the temple of God. As believers in Christ, we are individually and collectively indwelt by the very presence of God.


    What a mind-bending truth. What an indescribable privilege. The God of all the universe, the God of all life and love chooses to make his home in us! He dwells with people who have broken his laws and commands. He dwells with people who’ve spent the majority of their lives running from him or rejecting him. He dwells with people who can’t seem to get their lives together. God somehow condescends to us and lives within us. This is not just a metaphor or flowery language, but very reality itself.


    If this is true, and we believe that it is, how ought the temple of God to look? Should not God’s temple be prepared in such a way that shows off his glory, power, and love? Shouldn’t God’s temple be a reflection of God’s own holiness? Many times, we use this verse to motivate us to eat better and get in a better shape because we need to “take care of God’s temple,” and there may be a little usefulness to that application, but it is not the main thrust of Paul’s meaning here. This truth should make us strive for holiness. This reality ought to make us desire to look more like Jesus than our old sinful selves.


    The temple of God is a place where God is worshiped, exalted, and put on display for all the world to see. The temple of God is a place where God is prioritized above all else. So, we must ask ourselves and be painfully honest with our answers. What do our temples look like? Is God prioritized in our daily lives? Do we exist to show off God’s glory, or do we exist for our own sake? We may be far more isolated from each other than we are comfortable with, but there is nothing that can separate us from the presence of God. Let’s see the beautiful privilege and the innate responsibility we have in our lives. Let’s use the newfound time we have to prepare or repair our lives as God’s temple. Let’s pray for the Spirit to get the junk out of God’s temple and fill it with his life-giving goodness.

  • Strange times, good opportunities

    “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:1


    I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty bummed that our normal youth activities have to be altered. I look forward to Sunday nights and Wednesday nights every week. I love spending time with the students, and I love getting the opportunity to teach God’s Word to them. I enjoy the games we play, the crazy things they say (sometimes), and the energy the students bring to our church building. So, as we have to change the way we do “church,” it saddens me to know that we will be missing so much valuable time that we normally have and need together.


    But, the more I think about this strange and unique time we’re living in, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Even though these circumstances will put a strain on our church gatherings and fellowship, I believe it also presents some exciting opportunities for us to grow in our relationships with Jesus. We may not be meeting in our normal places with everyone present, but we’re going to heavily emphasize staying engaged with God’s Word and each other. Families will have a chance to slow down and spend more time at home. Hopefully this will lead to more time for spiritual conversations and family devotions. We will have to make extra efforts to follow Jesus and be with his people. If we lean in together, this could be a time of great spiritual awakening in our church and community.


    This is exactly what happened in Acts 8. God’s people were scattered because of impending persecution. Persecution and suffering are never good things, but God is too good to let bad things destroy his people and his plans for them. I’m sure that the church was anxious and fearful during these times. I’m positive that many of them were separated from friends and family that they loved. God used the scattering of his people for the furthering of the gospel. Immediately after the early church is sent running off into the surrounding areas, people who were far off began to hear about Jesus. People began to call on Jesus as Lord that never would have heard about him if his people had not been scattered far and wide by persecution. God used a strange and difficult time for his glory and the good of his people.


    We will definitely be bored, and we will definitely be frustrated by the interruptions to our church gatherings and fellowship, but we can resolve to use this time to grow closer to Christ and his church. One way we’ll be doing that as a youth group is reading the Bible together. Beginning Monday, the 23rd, we will start reading 1 Corinthians together. We will read one chapter each day together. I encourage you and your family to read this chapter in your personal time and as a group. Take a few notes, meditate and pray on a particular verse, try to understand what the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul to us. Also, follow our student page on Instagram and the church Facebook page where I’ll be posting short introductions to the readings each day. These will be designed to provide some insight into each chapter we read.


    My prayer for these next several weeks is that God would move in our hearts to make us intentionally pursue communion with him and his people like never before. May God use these strange times to do a powerful work in our family ministry and our church.



    In Christ,


  • Many rooms

    “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2


    It’s difficult to think about the lost state of our world. So many people on this planet simply do not know God and are still separated from him because of their sin. Even on a local basis, it’s a burden. We don’t have to go very far to find people who haven’t yet entered the Kingdom of God. Our friends, our neighbors, and our family members still persist in their rejection of Christ. As tough as it is to think about, we know that anyone (including us) who doesn’t repent of their sin will face the judgment of God unprepared.


    The good news is that there is always hope for everyone. That hope begins with a loving God who desires to fill up his house with as many people who want in! In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that there is plenty of room for us in heaven. He knows there is plenty of room, because he’s the one who has made room for everyone. He says, “I’m going away to prepare a place for you.” I don’t think this means that Jesus is an interior decorator or a house flipper. Jesus doesn’t need to tear down any walls or paint any rooms to get heaven ready for God’s people. This preparation is his impending death and resurrection. Jesus is going to die for our sins and rise again so that new life may come to all. By his sacrifice for the world, Jesus opened wide the gates of heaven.


    There are times when I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who haven’t yet given themselves to Christ, but during those times I remind myself of the goodness of God. He has provided a way for everyone to join his people. He has made a way for everyone to spend eternity in his glorious presence. He blazed a trail for all of us to experience the forgiveness of sin. In Christ, anyone can belong in God’s presence. You, me, our neighbors, and this whole wide world. We should pray for God to keep this hope constantly on our hearts and minds. We should also pray that God would give us the burning desire and powerful ability to share this hope with all those who need it.


    Discussion Questions: Who do you know that needs to come to Christ? How should Christians react to the fact that so many people in this world are still separated from God? How does this verse give you hope when you think about people who don’t yet know Jesus?

  • A great Calm


    “… The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39


    We spend a large part of our lives running around from place to place, activity to activity. For a lot of students, there’s the never-ending juggling of school and extracurriculars. For parents, there’s work, kids, kids’ activities, and maybe every now and then a hobby of your own. Most of us stay busy. In your busiest times, you probably daydream of finding solitude in a quiet place that no one knows about. You probably long for a day in the week with absolutely nothing to do, free from the all the going and doing that makes up your life. You’d just like to enjoy the calm.


    Sometimes, life is anything but calm. In this story (Mark 4:35-41), the disciples found themselves in the midst of a chaotic storm. It doesn’t take much guesswork to assume that they were longing for the calmer waters upon which they had originally embarked. They found themselves in a situation in which they were completely helpless. They were frightened, confused, anxious, and overwhelmed. They thought they weren’t going to make it through this one.


    Everyone goes through situations like this one. You may have never found yourself on a boat in the middle of an actual storm, but you’ve probably had your fair share of storms. If not, just wait. Some people have more than others, but everyone has them. At some point, you’ll receive the worst news out of nowhere, you’ll watch people you love suffer, and you’ll get into some situations where you don’t see any possibility for a good ending.


    Luckily for the disciples, they were in the boat with Jesus. Even though he was sleeping in this story, he was always in control of the storm. He stood up in the middle of the storm and made everything calm again. He demonstrated his power to end the storm. There was nothing the disciples could do to fix this situation, but Jesus wasn’t fazed. He demonstrated his care for them and his power to rescue to them.


    We will all go through times of chaos and confusion in life, and we long for the calm. It’s important to be in the boat with Jesus. It’s important to know that he’s always present and always in charge. To be in the boat with Jesus means to follow Jesus. All the men in the boat made a commitment to give themselves to Christ and follow him. We can’t claim his presence, care, and power through our storms if we have not confessed him as Lord and followed him as our master. We can’t expect to find the great calm we long for without being with the one who has the power to bring it to pass.


    Discussion Questions: Can you talk about an experience in life where you just wanted everything to calm down? Why do we believe Jesus has the power to bring us through the worst of storms? How can we have confidence that we are “in the boat” with Jesus?

  • Full of The Holy spirit

    “Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Luke 4:1


    We often miss the small, yet important details of a story. How many times have you been watching a movie, and you were completely surprised by a twist in it? You never saw it coming. Sometime later, you re-watch the movie and start to notice little clues here and there before the big reveal. You kick yourself for not seeing the big twist coming. If you had just been paying attention more closely, you would have been prepared for the reveal.


    The opening statement to the story of Jesus’ temptation is similar. When we think of this story, we think about Jesus, Satan, the big temptations, etc. It’s easy to miss an important detail from the beginning. As Jesus was heading into the wilderness to be tempted, he was full of the Holy Spirit. He may have been physically hungry and weak when Satan approached him, but he was strong because of the Spirit’s power within him.


    Sometimes, it seems darn near impossible to do the right thing. It seems as if temptation is always the strongest when we are the weakest. We have good intentions, and we have a strong desire to do the right thing, yet we find ourselves giving into sin so often. This is true for “small” sins we tend to not give much thought too, as well as the “big” ones that we often feel much guilt over.


    When it comes to rejecting temptation, an important detail we often forget is the Holy Spirit. As believers, we receive the Spirit when we place our faith in Christ. We are also commanded throughout the New Testament to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live our lives as an open vessel to be filled with God’s presence. There is no magic dust or prayer that will fill us with Spirit. To be filled with God’s love and power will involve a consistent life of spending time with him and with his people.


    What if we’re missing the small, yet important details when it comes to fighting sin and temptation? We aren’t called to fight our battles in our own strength. We are given the abiding presence of God’s Spirit to fill us and empower us as we seek to grow in holiness. Following Jesus is not a life of self-improvement. It’s a life of transformation worked out in us through the power of God’s Spirit. As much as obedience to God is our aim, let’s make it our aim to be filled with his Spirit.


    Discussion Questions: What was it about Jesus’ life that made it possible for him to be full of the Spirit? How can you apply his example to your life? 

  • Walking with Jesus

    “Then he said to them all, [If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.]” Luke 9:23


    Scriptures like this have always been difficult for me. I believe I can offer good biblical and theological explanations for this verse. I could possibly even sound like I know what I’m talking about. But what in the world does it actually look like for someone like me to “pick up a cross?” A cross is an instrument of death, torture, and suffering. I live in the Bible belt in the Southeastern United States. No one is trying to persecute or kill me. My life is pretty cushy and easy. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world literally feel and experience this verse on a daily basis. They carry their crosses never knowing whether or not they will be raised up on them on any given day. But it’s hard for us to identify with them.


    I know one thing for sure: we will never truly understand this command of Jesus unless we learn to daily walk with Jesus. If we do not consistently place ourselves under the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus, we’ll never truly get him or his call to die to self. There are small and daily ways for us to repent from sin and obey Jesus as Lord. There are many different ways in which we can learn to say “no” to the things that take us away from Jesus. Through the renewal of the Spirit, we can learn to fight against selfishness. If we can be faithful in these “small” moments, then we can be confident that we are learning to pick up our crosses. My prayer is that no matter what our lives are like, we can find ourselves on the path to knowing, loving, and following Jesus with our entire lives.


    I mention all of this because I’d like to issue a challenge to all of us as we approach Easter.  I’d like as many students and parents, who are willing, to join me in a social media fast for “Lent.” It’s a simple process, and there is a clear goal. We will not spend any part of our day (for 40 days) using any social media app. This means Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, SnapChat, etc. During the time we normally waste using these apps, we should remind ourselves to spend time in the Scriptures and in prayer. Specifically, I’d like for everyone to join me in reading the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Between these two books, there are 40 chapters. One chapter a day will take us all the way to Easter, and we will end our journey with the resurrection of Jesus. We can spend a 40-day period doing our best to walk with Jesus together.


    If you aren’t familiar with Lent, it is the 40-day period leading up to Easter. Throughout Christian history, it has been a time of fasting and withdrawal from earthly pleasures in pursuit of walking closely with Jesus as we approach the Easter season. It’s meant to be a time of renewed commitment as followers of Christ. You may believe that Lent is merely a Catholic ritual, but I believe it has value for all Christians. It doesn’t help us earn God’s grace or give us brownie points in heaven, but it can help us know Jesus more fully. There is no obligation from me or the church to participate in this. No one is a second-rate Christian if they choose not to participate. But ask yourself this question: is your social media use helping you walk with Jesus or hindering you from walking with him? We are commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but often times my life is better described by “scrolling without ceasing.”


    I’d love for you to join me in this process. My prayer is that we would learn to sit and wait with Jesus. My desire is that all of us would give ourselves to the daily rhythm of picking up our crosses and finding life in Christ. That will only happen if we die to ourselves.



    Discussion Questions: Why are we so drawn to our phones? Can you imagine what it would be like to be drawn to prayer? What would you expect to be different about your life if you participated in this process?

  • Where we belong

    “I have chosen you out of the world.” John 15:19


    Most of the mail we receive is pretty routine. We mostly get bills, advertisements, and the occasional letter we actually care about. Within this routine, there is one repetitive thing that never seems to end: credit card offers. Every credit card company in the United States is on a personal mission to fill up every citizens’ mailbox with an “unbeatable” offer for their card. Usually, these companies love to make you seem special. They say things like, “You have been chosen…” or “you have been selected.” It only takes a small amount of wisdom to know that these companies don’t really see anything special in us. We don’t actually belong to an exclusive club of high rollers with cool credit cards. They “choose” us just so they can make money off of us.


    As Christians, it should be of great comfort to know that we have actually been chosen by God to belong to his people. There is somewhere that you and I belong. That place is within God’s people. In his grace and power, God has taken us from the sinful kingdom of this world, and he has brought us into his kingdom. This isn’t just a place for the well-to-do or the best of the best. In the context of our passage, Jesus is talking to his disciples. These men certainly were not first-class citizens. God chooses all kinds of people to belong to his community, including people like us.


    It’s important to know where we belong because we are creatures that seek belonging. We long for people to know us, love us, and accept us. Sometimes this desire to belong can lead us to places where we don’t belong.  This is the warning from this passage. We belong to God’s people, and the world around us will at times resent God’s people because they are in opposition to God. If this is the case, we must never seek acceptance in the world. We must never look to fill our desires for real community outside of God’s people because it will lead us astray. The surrounding world stands in opposition to God and his people. If we seek acceptance in that world, then we may find ourselves standing in opposition to God.


    We belong to God. We belong to God’s people. We should pray for God’s Spirit to keep his people united, so that none of us are tempted to stray from where we belong.



    Discussion Questions: Why do you think we have such a strong desire to belong? Has there been a situation in your life where you felt pressure to just fit in with everyone around you? Where should you try to find your most meaningful relationships? Why?


    “This is my command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14

    “If you feel like it.” I bet everyone wishes they heard those words a lot more in life. I’m sure kids wish they heard it after their parents tell them to take out the trash, and I’m positive that adults wish they heard it more from their spouses and bosses! When it comes to being told what to do, none of us are big fans. 

    I’m willing to bet “if you feel like it,” didn’t come out of Jesus’ mouth too often, especially when it came to his teachings on love. Jesus commands his disciples to love one another. This is more than a request or invitation, and it’s definitely not a suggestion. He wasn’t too concerned with their feelings, but he was concerned with how they treated one another. To our ears, being commanded to love someone sounds a little off. After all, how can you control or change the way you feel about someone?

    That’s where our idea of love differs from Jesus’ idea of love. We immediately think about our feelings and emotions, but Jesus was more concerned with choice and action. In verses 13 and 14, we get a better understanding of what he thinks about love. In verse 13 we learn that love is sacrifice. Jesus commands his followers to live in such a way where they are more concerned with the well-being of others than themselves. To love someone is to put their needs before your own. To love someone is to also seek genuine friendship. Jesus calls these men “friends.” This shows us that love is more than generic nice behavior, it is a desire to genuinely care for those who are close to us and be involved in their lives.

    Often times, we find it difficult to love people. But if we took the word “command” a little more seriously, we may find ourselves more willing to love everyone who crosses our path. Jesus is Lord, and Jesus commands us to love each other. May we learn to do what our king commands.

    Discussion Questions: Can you think of anyone in your life who loves people like Jesus commands? What does it take to be a good friend, and what does that have to do with love? How would you define love?

  • The father is glorified

    “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8


    “You exist to glorify God.” That can be a pretty intimidating statement. It’s easy to hear those words as “you exist to impress God.” So, we have this picture of a very important and powerful person in the sky who is watching our life closely with a frown on his face every time we do something wrong. When we see God like that, we can get caught up in a race to perform a bunch of good deeds so we will feel at ease with “the man upstairs.” That picture of God and his expectations for our lives is more likely to produce anxiety rather than joy and peace.


    But what if glorifying God isn’t about you being the “star student” of all the earth? What if God isn’t expecting you to be on the “best human beings” list? The Bible is clear that God does have expectations for our lives. He commands obedience to his Word, and he demands our loyalty. We can never fall into the mistake of believing that God doesn’t care about the way we live. According to Jesus, this doesn’t look like a rat race to finish first on earth. It looks like a life that is lived in close relationship to him. God is glorified when we find life in Jesus.


    In this passage, the main command is to “remain in Jesus.” That means our aim in life is to know Jesus well. If we remain in Jesus, we will have life which produces “fruit.” So, when Jesus says that God is glorified by our fruit, he means that God is most glorified when we find everything we need in Jesus. That is liberating. God is glorified in us when we learn to depend on him for life. Your life isn’t primarily about what you can do for God. It’s primarily about what God wants to do in your life.


    If you desire to make much of God, and if you want your life to point people towards him, then simply make it your aim to know Jesus and find life in him. God will be glorified in your life if he is your life.


    Discussion Questions: What does it mean to glorify God? How can we best glorify God? What practical steps can we take to find life in Jesus?

  • The Holy Spirit

    “The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children…” Romans 8:16

    We may not readily admit it, but many of us struggle with loneliness. So often we wonder if anyone truly knows us, understands us, or “gets” us. Loneliness is tricky. Maybe some people have actually isolated themselves from the outside world and other people. But many times, we are lonely even as we are constantly around other people and involved in our communities. There are thoughts and heart issues within us that the people around us just don’t know or maybe even care about.


    When we are lonely, it tends to make us feel small and insignificant. This feeling can be driven even deeper when we actually start to consider how small we are. Within the scope of our country, our planet, our solar system, and the universe we are incredibly small. Biblical writers join us in this feeling. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I observe your heavens…what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?” Even the great King David couldn’t help but feel his own insignificance in comparison to God’s vast creation.


    The great news of the gospel is that no matter how small we are, we are not insignificant. We are also not alone. Paul argues in Romans 8 that Jesus has died for us so that we may receive the Holy Spirit and be adopted into God’s family. This is great news for the world, but also great news for us as individuals. In our mess and in our struggle God’s Spirit testifies with our own Spirit about who we are. This basically means that God preaches to our very souls about their own identity. God reminds us by his very presence that we belong to him as his children. His own Son gave his life so that we would be a part of the family. The gospel makes it clear that God loves us and wants us.


    This means we are never really alone. There is one who always sees, knows, understands, and cares. As followers of Christ, we have an all-knowing, all-powerful, always present Father who “gets us.” He watches over and provides for us. He has given us brothers and sisters in Christ for fellowship, love, and encouragement. He leaves no stone unturned in helping his children. He is working for our good as he advances his glory in our lives and world. We are completely secure in him.


    Discussion Questions: Do you ever struggle with loneliness? What does the gospel have to say to us when we are lonely? How is being a part of God’s family both a privilege and a responsibility? 

  • Newness of the Spirit

     “So that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the Law.” Romans 7:6

    I once heard a story about a very dumb dog. This dog would never, I mean never, do anything it was supposed to do. If you tried to call the dog with a sweet, angelic voice, it would ignore you. If the dog was tearing something up, and you used your harshest voice to warn it before you had to take physical action, it would never listen. The dog just never seemed to be able to read a room or know exactly what was expected of it. This dog refused to obey. One day, the owner took the dog to the vet. You can imagine the surprise felt by this owner when he found out that his dog was deaf! All this time, the dog was expected to obey its master, but it was operating without a basic ability to hear.


    This is sort of like us when it comes to obeying God. Often times, we know what’s right and what’s wrong. We’ve been told over and over what we are supposed to do and not supposed to do.  Yet, so often we find ourselves doing what we know we shouldn’t do. According to Paul, this is true because we do not have the ability to fully obey God within ourselves. There is something within us that is broken, and we can’t seem to make it right on our own.


    Enter the Holy Spirit. As a result of Jesus’ death, we have been brought into a close relationship with God. This relationship is closer than we can possibly imagine. We are filled with God’s own presence and power through the Holy Spirit now living within us. The expectation that God has on our lives as his children is not impossible. We have been set apart to love and serve the Lord, but we are not on our own. God now gives us the strength and ability to do what he requires of us. We now live our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit who makes us new and empowers us to look and act like the people of God.


    Discussion Questions: Who is the Holy Spirit? What normally comes to your mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? What is the Holy Spirit’s primary role in our lives? How can we be full of the Spirit?

  • Obedient from the Heart

    “But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart the pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18

    Some people have “exciting” conversion stories. Some people have “normal” ones.  For example, I have a friend who constantly used mind-altering drugs and dabbled in eastern religions just before he came to Christ. His life changed dramatically and quickly. On the other hand, I’m a pr
    eacher’s kid whose spent most of my life in church. I was young when I came to Christ, and I was a pretty decent kid by all accounts. So, my conversion experience isn’t quite as dramatic or obvious. A lot of times, we place great emphasis on dramatic stories while neglecting the more “normal” testimonies of God’s grace.


    No matter how or when you started following Jesus, a miracle took place in your heart. Whether we were good or bad people, we were all sinners. Paul goes so far as to say that we were “slaves of sin.” When we began to follow Christ, something took place inside of us. We “became obedient from the heart.” This doesn’t mean we simply started to obey God. It means that something took place inside of us that helped us receive the message of Jesus and be freed from sin. The Spirit of God came to live with us. He gave us life, light, and sight. The Holy Spirit made us new people who now have a new master.


    No matter what our story is or where we come from, we’ve been changed from the inside out by God. This will lead us to lives of obedience to God rather than service to sin. So, we should ask ourselves: have I been freed from sin? If so, we must pursue righteousness and holiness with all of the power that God has given us through the Holy Spirit.  Romans 6:23 reminds us that serving God is worth anything it requires of us because God is a good master who cares for us like no other, while sin is a cruel master that always pays us what we deserve for our disobedience.


    Discussion Questions: As a family, take some time to recount your story of coming to Christ. What led you to become a believer? How has God set you free from sin?

  • We Will Live with Him

    “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…” Romans 6:8

    Two weeks ago, I told myself that I was going to abstain from soft drinks until the end of the month. I regret to inform you that I MIGHT have made it two days without one. I seemingly make this deal with myself on a monthly basis. I know I should cut back on the Coke and Dr. Pepper, but there are just those days when I need to drink something with a little taste. Water doesn’t always cut it. I can give myself the greatest reason to not drink one, and I can come up with the best plan to stay away for a period of time, but I’m willing to bet I’ll have one in a few days.


    That’s a silly example, but I think this is how we feel about sin so often in our lives. We desire repentance, and we desire freedom from sin. But it seems like we can’t shake it at times. We examine our lives, and we see the sinful thoughts, words, and deeds that we regularly commit. Sin is a reality that is still present in our lives, even after conversion. The question is: what should our relationship with sin be like as followers of Jesus?


    In Romans 6, Paul is addressing that relationship. He asserts that we are dead to sin by virtue of being united to Christ by faith. The power of sin is dead to us because Jesus took that power and buried it with him in his death. Jesus left that power behind in the grave, and so did we. Sin may be present in our lives, but it can’t rule over us. We are new people in Christ, and we must see ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God.


    Verse 8 gives us a wonderful hope to hold onto in our struggle with sin. If we died to sin with Christ, we will live with him too. Our resurrection life has already begun, but there is a day coming when we will no longer struggle with sin. It will not be present, nor will it be powerful. If we join ourselves to Jesus in the struggle against sin, we will also join ourselves to him in the complete freedom and victory over sin and death that is coming to us.


    Discussion Questions: When is it most hard to believe that Jesus has made you a new person? Is there sin in your life that needs to be confessed, so that you can repent? How can you remind yourself that you are dead to the power of sin?

  • Grace Reigns


    “just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:21

    Have you ever read a story about an ancient kingdom with a terrible king? There are many great examples of this throughout literature, but my mind instantly goes back to the kings of Israel in the Old Testament. The majority of their kings did not honor the Lord, and it led to disastrous consequences for the people of God. The reign of a monstrous leader is oppressive for those under his control.


    In the second half of Romans 5, Paul explains that all of humanity exists under the cruel reign of sin and death. Just by virtue of being born into this world, we are subjected to the power of sin. There is no way around it. You and I are sinners, and we never got to check a box when we were born to determine whether or not we would be sinners. It’s natural for us because we are born into a world separated from God. By virtue of sin and separation, we are under the power of death. The very thing we were never meant to experience as the crown of God’s good creation. Sin and death are terrible rulers. They do nothing but add suffering to our lives and steal our joy.


    The wonderful news of Paul’s gospel message is that sin and death have been overpowered by a new ruler, grace. How incredible does that sound? Grace now reigns in our lives instead of sin and death. God’s unmerited, undeserved favor and love is now our ruler. That means forgiveness overflows to us. Our lives are no longer controlled by the consequences of our sin and our human nature, but by the goodness of God. By his death and resurrection, Jesus has assumed the throne, and those who place themselves under the reign of this ruler, will be free from sin and death while receiving the riches of God’s grace for all eternity.


    May the knowledge of God’s grace overflowing into your life bring you peace, comfort, and security. You are not defined by your worst moments, but by the grace of God. You belong to a King that exists for your good, not your destruction.


    Discussion Questions: Has there ever been a time when you felt like sin and death were powerful? When did you discover that God’s grace was more powerful? How can your family live by the principle of “grace reigns in our lives” in your home?




  • God proves his love for us

    “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

    As a parent, you probably LOVE some of the friends that your children have. No doubt that some of their friends are kind, polite, and fun to be around. But what about those other friends that you aren’t such a fan of? The kids who happen to be a little bit annoying, or maybe they happen to be a “know-it-all.” When some of THOSE friends come over to your house, you are probably just as kind and nice to them, but in a “grit-your-teeth” kind of way, and you are secretly hoping that they won’t stay the night!


    Sometimes, I get the impression that this is how God thinks about me. I know that I have a relationship with God, and I know that he has invited me to be a part of his family because of what Christ has done for me. But, there are times when I don’t feel too holy or righteous, and I think God is just kind of tolerating me at the moment. There are days when I sinfully don’t desire to spend much time with God, so why would he want to be around me, right?


    In Romans 5:1-11, Paul teaches us that we have a new relationship with God by believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ve been forgiven of our sins and included among God’s people. Because of this, we have a relationship with God that’s very different than before we believed in Christ. This relationship is one of peace (V.1), closeness (V.2), joy (V.2), and hope (V.3-5). We know we have this type of relationship with God because God has shown us how much he loves us by sending Jesus to die for us (V.8). This relationship that Paul describes doesn’t sound like God is merely tolerating us as annoying house guests. It seems as if God actually desires us to be in a close relationship with us, despite the fact that we are sinners. Jesus didn’t wait for us to clean off our shoes before we came in the house. He loved us and died for us when we were covered in our sin. This is the kind of love our God has for us. Make it a point this week to remind yourself of God’s proven love for you and your family. This will help you follow Christ with confidence, knowing that God is for you and not just putting up with you.


    Discussion Questions: When are you most likely to feel as if God is annoyed with you? How can you remind yourself that it’s not true? As a family, try to memorize Romans subheading

    5:8 together.


    Sunday Night Catechism: What does God require in the first three commandments? First, that we only worship the one, true God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence.

  • The authority of scripture

    “For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for

    righteousness.” Romans 4:3

    Have you ever been in an argument and realized that there was no evidence or factual basis for

    your argument? You slowly start to realize that you are arguing from preference, opinion, or

    emotion. I’m willing to bet that didn’t stop you from arguing! More than likely, you continued to

    argue anyway because that’s what we do as humans. We love to argue because we love being

    right, and we hate to be wrong.

    In the first four chapters of Romans, Paul is making one big argument that we can only be made

    right with God by our faith in Jesus Christ. The great thing about Paul’s argument is that it is based

    upon a higher authority rather than his own opinion. Repeatedly, Paul appeals to Scripture in order to

    make and prove his argument. Paul doesn’t believe that we are justified by faith because it

    sounds good or even because he thinks that God has changed his mind from the old days.

    Justification by faith goes all the way back to the first book of the Bible for Paul. In the next few

    verses, Paul also makes an appeal to the book of Psalms. Paul makes it clear that what God has

    done for us in Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything God has always been doing and saying

    in the Scriptures.

    Our faith is grounded in the Word of God. We believe what we believe because God has

    revealed himself to us in the pages of Scripture. We know that we have a right relationship with

    God by faith because the Bible tells us so. It’s always important to remember that when we want to

    know what to believe about God, we look to the pages of Scripture where God has made himself

    known to us. Above all, we should always look at the Bible through the story of Jesus because he

    is center of the Bible story.

    Discussion Questions: Why did Paul use Scripture to make his argument? If Scripture is our

    authority for life, how familiar should we be with what the Bible teaches? What kind of

    commitment can you make as a family to know God’s Word more fully?

  • No one Can boast

    “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith.” Romans 3:27

    “I’m the most humble person I know.” No one really likes to hear anyone else boast, but we don’t seem to mind it all that much when we are the ones boasting. Bragging or boasting comes to us quite naturally. Students brag about their grades; athletes brag about their performances; parents even brag about their kids (some more than others). There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your accomplishments, but our tendency is to take ourselves a little too seriously and attribute too much credit to ourselves when things go well for us. This is an unhealthy practice and an unpopular one.

    Paul spends the majority of the first three chapters in Romans dismantling any notion of boasting or pride in the Christian life. In chapter 1, he speaks at length about the sinfulness of the world at large. In chapter 2, he counters that even God’s people are sinful and are no better off than the rest of the world if left to themselves. In chapter 3 he concludes that everyone is equally under the power of sin, and no one has the ability to save themselves from sin. We’re all in the same boat when it comes to being a sinner, and no one can get themselves out of the boat any more than the rest of us. All of this comes to a head when Paul lays out the doctrine of “justification by faith.” This simply means that the only way any person can receive forgiveness from sin and be made right with God is through believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re all sinners. We’re all separated from God. The only way that any of this gets fixed is by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It doesn’t get fixed by our good works, behavior, or performance in life. We must look to Jesus Christ with trust and dependence. If we do this, then we will be right with God. This principle applies to everyone equally.

    If this is true, there is no place for attitudes of superiority amongst believers. No one is any better than anyone else, and if we have a relationship with God it’s only because of what God has done for us, not what we have done for him. We are all on the same playing field, and we all need God’s grace the same. We should pray for God to remind of this constantly so that we will have a right view of him, the people around us, and ourselves.

    Discussion Questions: When are you most likely to be boastful? Why do you think that is? How can Romans 3:27 help you remember to remain humble?

    Sunday Night Catechism: How can we glorify God? We can glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and obeying him.

  • Go YOur Own Way

    “And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is wrong.” Romans 1:28


    There is a danger in ignoring the warnings your parents give you. There was a time when I was a teenager when I was in a sharp disagreement with my parents. I was interested in a certain course of action, doing what I wanted to do. My parents warned me constantly that what I wanted was unwise. They lovingly tried to remind me that they were wiser than me, that they knew better than me. When we are teenagers, nothing sounds further from the truth to us. There’s no way our parents could know more than us! After much delineation and disagreement, they finally threw their hands in the air. They said, “Fine! Have it your way.” They decided to let me learn a lesson the hard way. In the least shocking turn of events of all time, I did things my way and it didn’t work out how I thought it would. I got burned. Doing things my way, getting what I wanted, was actually the worst thing I could have gotten in that situation.

    We are always so concerned with doing things our way and getting what we want that we rarely stop to think about the consequences of our actions. It is the same with humanity’s relationship with God. In Romans 1, Paul makes it clear that he is calling people to be made right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation. This calling is so urgent because the world we live in is separated from God because of its constant rejection of God. This rejection of God has dire consequences. God lovingly reminds, warns, and pushes the world to listen to his ways and live. But in our sinful pride, we think, “What does God know?” Because of this, Paul argues that God gives us what we want. He lets us do things our way, and the result is a sinful, chaotic world that experiences the pain of suffering and death.

    The gospel message is exactly what this kind of world needs to hear. The gospel announces the forgiveness of sins. God is willing to forgive us for refusing to listen to him. The gospel message announces eternal life. In Jesus Christ, we are no longer held captive by death because he will raise us from the dead just like he was raised from the dead. The gospel message also announces freedom. Paul sees a world that is enslaved to its sin. Jesus has come to set us free from this terrible reality and give us a new way of life.

    In the gospel, we get a glimpse of how kind God is to us. So often, we refuse to listen to him. Yet, he extends grace and mercy to us so that we will repent. “...God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” Romans 2:4.


    Discussion Questions: Discuss a time in your life when you got what you wanted, and it didn’t work out well. Is God patient with people? Why or why not? What kind of hope does the gospel offer to a world that is trapped in its rejection of God?


    Sunday Night Catechism: On Sunday nights, we have begun the process of going through the New City Catechism. This is a question and answer tool designed to help students learn and memorize great truths of the Christian faith. Be sure to help your student memorize the following!


    Question: What is your only hope in life and death?

    Answer: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

  • The righteous live by faith

    “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written: The Righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

    If we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we pay too much attention to what others think about us. The way we dress, the way we talk, and even the way we walk are all affected by our desire to impress other people. The movies we watch, the T
    shows we like, and the music we listen to are all affected by our desire to gain the approval of others. Most of us think and act as if we are our own person, but the fact is, we can hardly make it through a day without thinking about what others are thinking about us. We all want people to think we are smart, funny, cool, etc. and we go to great lengths to ensure that we are thought of in this way. If we aren’t careful this can lead to an unhealthy cycle of trying to be someone or something we are not, all in an effort to impress other people and gain their approval.

    One great thing the gospel teaches us is that we can’t impress God. As human beings, we are weak and broken before God in our sin. There’s nothing we can do to make him love us more or less. We don’t have to spend our days worried about whether or not we have accomplished enough to be on God’s good side. We are completely dependent upon his grace towards us. Being aware of this fact is actually the way to gain God’s approval. The book of Romans teaches us over and over again that we are made righteous by faith. To be righteous is to be right with God. To be righteous is to have God’s approval on your life. In order to gain God’s approval, we must be willing to admit that we are absolutely dependent upon his Son, Jesus Christ. We aren’t smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to gain God’s approval on our own. But, if we depend on Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection in order to be right with God, then we have God’s approval on our lives.


    We waste so much of our lives worrying about the approval of others. The good news of Jesus Christ invites us to put this anxiety behind us. In the end, God’s approval of us is what matters. He is the righteous judge who knows all, and he has the final say about who we really are. The beauty of the gospel is that we can know God lovingly approves of us as his children if we would simply trust in his Son. There are no hoops to jump through, no ladders to climb, and no people to impress. Just faith in a gracious God who loves to graciously give his approval to those who desire it.


    Discussion Questions: Whose approval do you find yourself seeking most often? Does it ever get exhausting? How is seeking God’s approval different from the approval of others? Why is it better to seek God’s approval?