Pastor Jesse's Weekly Devotional
The “good life” doesn’t always look like one might expect. The examples of a good life that we experience from a cultural perspective are not always as “good” as what is portrayed. Often, people are still unhappy or unfulfilled despite having wealth, power or good looks. Having those things is not intrinsically bad… but they are not a magic source of joy or purpose.
The teachings pf Jesus sometimes seem like they would lead to the exact opposite of a good life. He talks about sacrifice, poverty, loneliness and even persecution. Yet, people refer to his teachings as Good News.
How can the seemingly backward teachings of Jesus lead to a good life when the things of the world like money, power and beauty fail to bring lasting joy?
The Apostle Peter writes this to believers, “… you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:23-25 NLT)
Beauty doesn’t last.
Money can be gone in an instant.
Power can be lost or taken away.
Life itself is short.
Jesus offered a way of life that leads to an everlasting existence. To experience that life, he simply asked people to believe and to leave behind the things that would be lost anyway. All the things that Jesus asked us to sacrifice are things that cannot be taken beyond the grave anyway. The “good life” that Jesus invites people into is an eternal life with God. If someone asked you to give up your 30-year-old rusty car for a brand new car that never got old, you would do it immediately. The exchange that Jesus offers is so much better than that!
Are you ready to trade in your old jalopy of a life for something much, much better? All you have to do is ask. That old ride can’t get you where you want to go anyway.
In the later years of his life, John the disciple wrote, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (1 John 5:13-15 NLT)
May you experience the Good Life.
~ Pastor Jesse
My friend Mike used to say, “You can’t have everything… where would you put it?”
We are experts at collecting stuff… and having stuff isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, stuff can be incredibly useful in life and in our service to the Lord. The trouble begins when our stuff has us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of our anxiety.” (The Cost of Discipleship)
I’ll never forget the time I had a brand-new car parked in a large parking lot… a big trailer came rolling across the lot pushed by the wind. I watched helplessly as the trailer scraped across my two-week-old car. I was sick. I had become emotionally invested in my stuff. It had me.
The thing about following Jesus is that he calls us to a life where we are attached to Him, not our stuff. The Gospel of Luke records, “… Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:27-28 NIV)
The Gospel’s don’t give us any background, but Mark and Matthew also give us this account. It was a life changing moment. A tax collector, who would have been wealthier than the average Jewish citizen of the time, got up and left everything to follow Jesus. His things didn’t hold him back when the invitation from Jesus came.
Is there anything holding you back? If you hear the voice of Jesus inviting you to follow Him today… would you go? If our stuff has us, we won’t have room for Jesus.
~ Pastor Jesse
June 15, 2022
The Christian way of life is a sacrifice to be sure. Jesus even promised that his followers would suffer… “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first… Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you… They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.” (Selected verses from John 15:18-21 NLT)
The Apostle Paul wrote, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 NLT)
If it’s true that Christians will suffer for their faith… why would anyone want to be a Christian?
First, we should acknowledge that nearly everyone suffers. We each experience hardship, setbacks, and even tragedies in our own ways. Life is complicated and sometimes hard. It might be easy to see someone who is wealthy and successful and assume that his or her life is perfect or easy… but we have no idea what is going on underneath. You might see someone that seems to have a perfect family with no hardships, but we have no idea what goes on beyond public view. The reality is that every person and every family faces challenges. Hardship is not unique to Christians.
Secondly, everyone is destined to die. Our physical bodies do not live forever. There is an important distinction though… Jesus promises, “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 HCSB) The penalty for sin is death, but the way of Christ leads to life!
In addition… suffering as a Christian is not meaningless. Apart from knowing God, for those who simply live in unbelief, tragedy and suffering bring only pain and sadness. For those who place their faith in Jesus, grief, hardship, and even oppression is redeemed. Take note of what is written in Romans five, verses two through five, “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Suffering is not unique to Christians, but those who follow Jesus have a hope that is far greater than any hardship faced in this life. We may be persecuted, we may face trials, we may even be ostracized by those we love… but ultimately, the reward in the life to come far outweighs the temporary trial we endure now.
May you also find reason to rejoice as Jesus invites you to follow the path of the cross.
June 8, 2022
Jesus taught that it was of utmost importance to love our neighbors. He wants his followers to be in relationship with their neighbors and pay attention to the needs of those in their community. Loving our neighbors requires that we do more than just think about them or pray for them… it requires action on our part. The beautiful thing is, when we give to help out those in our community, God provides an ample blessing to provide for our needs as well! Read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christ followers in Corinth,
“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-13)
A friend of mine once said, “It is impossible to outgive God.” The more we give cheerfully to the work of the Kingdom and to blessing those in need, the more God will provide so that we can continue to be generous. Paul even calls this type of generosity a ministry!
What are some ways that you might be able to be generous this week? Can you give of your time or effort to help a neighbor in need? Do you know someone who is struggling that might be blessed by a financial gift? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and be prepared to follow His leading. The result… God will receive the Glory!!!
June 1, 2022
We all have something in common. Whatever political, religious, or social group we fit into, we have all been wrong at some point. We have messed up. Some of us could fill books with the stories of our mistakes. Some mistakes are just that, simple mistakes that are innocent and don’t cause harm… but some of our offenses run much deeper. We have caused ourselves and others harm by our choices or behavior. Scripturally speaking, we have sinned.
In Romans 3:23, we find these words, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT)
In 1 John 1:8, we read, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. (NLT)
We can’t escape the fact that we all have sinned. We all mess up.
But… our journeys don’t end there.
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church in Colossians, he declared, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
When we accept Christ as our Lord and we confess our sins, we are forgiven! We are no longer identified by our mess ups or brokenness. We can be certain that God forgives us.
Unfortunately, we often still accuse ourselves or allow the opinions of others to make us feel judged. We essentially continue to live under the weight of our sin… even though we have been forgiven. The charges against you have been dropped! If you have confessed your sin, you are no longer accused.
The Word asserts, “Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior].” (Romans 8:1 AMP)
You can be certain… if you have confessed Jesus as your Lord… you are forgiven.
My challenge this week, as you continue your journey, is for you to forgive yourself. Let go of the accusing words that others may have lobbed at you. Let go of the person you used to be and claim the new life that Jesus has offered you. As you pray this week, speak out loud the names you have called yourself or others have called you when you messed up. Give those accusations to God and ask Him to refresh your mind and heart. Ask Him for help that you may see yourself the way He sees you!