Category Archives: Bible

Have you learned about the real Jesus?

Ephesians 4:20-22 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

This fact of life should be revisited from time to time: Not everyone who teaches knows what they’re talking about. Likewise, not everyone who professes to speak for God truly speaks for Him.

The Apostle Paul uses and interesting phrase in this letter to the Ephesian church. He says “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” The point he’s making is that he knows the Ephesians have learned better than to live like the pagans. But what about those in the church who have learned no better than to keep living in sin?

Some will come in the name of the Lord and yet contradict His Word. Some will claim to have heard from God himself and yet present a message that goes directly against His nature. Some will even mock God with their teaching and somehow still claim to be His representative. It’s our job to discern the truth from the garbage.

If anyone teaches a gospel that contradicts the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the grave and that His work on the cross was sufficient for salvation, then they’re not worth listening to. Paul warns elsewhere that even if an angel were to preach a false gospel it should be tossed out (Galatians 1:8).

So how do we know the truth from the false teaching? It’s important to start with getting acquainted with the Bible. In it God has revealed himself and His nature. The Bible is the truth tester. If something doesn’t stand up to agreement with it, then it’s false. If you seek the truth, you will find it.

Who, or What, Can be Against Us


“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) How often do we forget that promise? Perhaps it’s not forget in the traditional sense. After all we remember what the words are, and we may even utter them quietly to ourselves, searching for some sort of comfort when things start to get tough, but, when we look around, we have a hard time really and truly grasping not necessarily what it means but how it applies to our current situations. After all, if God is for us, should it really be this hard? Can’t it just be that much easier? Why can’t it be that much simpler than it is?

That’s the struggle though, isn’t it? It doesn’t come from God’s promises but from seeing how it is actually working in our lives. The words, they aren’t all that hard to understand, but how they apply, how they can possibly be true, that’s the real difficulty that we face. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” At times it just seems like pretty much everyone or everything and the burden, it is too much to bear as we search for the purpose and meaning in it all, as we seek the answers to why it has to be the way it is when the we know God is there, but we can’t figure out how He is there.

We’re not the first to face that question. What were the words of the Elisha as the army’s surrounded the city and it seemed as if all had been lost? “‘Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” (2 Kings 6:16) In many senses we can all be like the servant who cried out, seeing the insurmountable odds, “Oh no! My Lord, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15) We don’t necessarily see the army of the living God, standing there in front of us, we don’t necessarily see the miracle of His power and glory between us and our real struggle, our real adversity, because we are so focused on all the ways everything has or can go bad, on all the ways that it has or can go wrong. Yet, what we need to be focused on is faith. After all, if it is truly what is hoped for and yet unseen (Hebrews 11:1) then our salvation and our defense is truly at hand even when it is the least clear to us.

We are reminded by the words of the Psalmist, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) More aptly we should be remember it is not just “What can mere mortals do to me?”, it is also a question of “What can this mere mortal world do to me?” No matter how many times it seems like it is there to knock us down, no matter how many times it may seem like it is there to break us, no matter how often the Devil may come to us, roaring like a lion that is seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8) God is there to heal us, to strengthen us in the love afforded to us by His goodness and mercy. (Psalm 147:3) After all, if He so loved each us, if He so loved the world that He would not even withhold His precious son from us, (John 3:16) letting his precious blood be spilled for us and for our sins then what really will He let touch us, what really will He let destroy us.

Each step of the way, in all that we are and all that we face, God really is there to stand for us. Sometimes it just takes letting go of the things that we think we know, remembering God’s wisdom and understanding surpasses even our own, and letting His invisible hand take hold of us, rising from the places we cannot see to stretch over us to protect us, to ensure that nothing that really and truly can rob us of His peace and comfort if we trust in Him will overtake us. Yes, that is a hard leap of faith to sometimes make when everything seems to be going against us, but then it is a question of how much hope do you truly put in the Lord and do you trust the promises He offers unto you as an undeniable truth for your life.

Take a moment in your day today, look at the struggles and the challenges that are weighing on you. Close your eyes, and search for God’s love for your life. It is there, and it is ready to make you more powerful than you ever thought possible if you just let it. No matter what hardship or difficulty life may offer, they fall if you stand firm in the Lord. It just takes the strength and the power He has already given to you and that you perhaps aren’t yet aware that you have. Then will you rest easy in the blessings of His promises for you.

Want and Need

What we want isn’t always what we need and what we need isn’t always what we want. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that God teaches us in our lives as we struggle with purpose and meaning, searching for a reason, wondering to ourselves if He is even listening. Sometimes we just, well we have this image in our head of the way things should be or ought to be and it becomes such a prevalent thought that we can’t picture it any other way. Other times it’s that we look around and we can’t seem to understand why it is the way it is when we know it should be different, even if we don’t necessarily know how or why that should be the case.

It’s the question of divine purpose that so often gets to us, that so often weighs us down as we know what we want or how we want it, and yet, as we do, we have a hard time reconciling it to what God knows that we need in our lives. The thing about it is that we’re not even trying to be that terribly difficult, we aren’t trying to make it that much harder, we just want to know why it is the way that it is, we want to know what the plan and the design of it is, and we don’t necessarily get why it has to be the way that it is.

The deepest questions of who we are, and who we need to be, of where we need to be, they aren’t ever questions that come simply or easily. We don’t just become people, we grow into them. Perhaps, along the way or path is changed or altered, it might be that it we are affected, even shaped by the interactions we have with others, sometimes our road is hard, sometimes it is easy, but any way that you look at it, it doesn’t just happen overnight where, one day, we are suddenly who we are at this very moment in our lives. So why would it be any different with a God who knows how we grow, how we evolve as a person, how we learn and we change with time? Why would He make the answers clear to us in a way that He knows would be unclear because it was given without any thought or consideration to who we are and how we became that person?

What God promises us isn’t an easy path, nor a simple one in any way but to our salvation through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:8) What He does promise is that, through the fires and the floods, through the dangers and the perils, He will be there for us and with us, (Isaiah 43:2) never leaving us or abandoning us. (Joshua 1:5) What He tells us is that what we need, in those times when we question the purpose and the plan of it is all, is trust and patience, because those who trust in the Lord will find His goodness (2 Samuel 7:8) and those who are patient with Him will find their strength and purpose, uplifted in His love. (Isaiah 40:31) This is the wondrous miracle of His hand in our lives even as we find ourselves questioning where He is when we want the most.

Remember, it is not our wanting that exalts us, it is God, our Heavenly Father, and God alone who does that. (Psalm 46:10) It could be, at that moment, we don’t quite get how He is exalting us, but it’s only when we put those feelings behind us, when we let go of them, in the blessings of His hope that He lets us be of one mind with Him, (Romans 15:5) to see as He sees, making more and more apparent the glorious nature of the lessons He is teaching us to become as we need to be as He makes all things possible to us through the power of His grace made perfect in Christ through us. (Philippians 4:13)

Take a moment today, and look at your life, look at what you are struggling with, what is challenging you. Take the time to look at what you have laid at God’s feet, the burdens you still feel weighing on you, and instead of mistaking want for need and putting what you want out there, say to God, “Lord, show me as You will, teach me as You must so I can be as You intend for me to be.” Let go not just of the struggles but of the wants and the desires you have in them, and make it about what the Lord, your blessed Father, intends for you and let Him, in trust, patience and hope, guide you to where you must be.

It is only then that you will find the true path to the peace you are seeking, the only way you will find the true reconciliation of your will with God’s to the glorious ends of the love He has for you as He makes it about you rather than you making it about yourself.

Meditation on the Word

Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

It’s not enough to just hear the Word.  Showing up to listen to a sermon each Sunday is only the beginning of Bible study because you can never get everything you need from a one hour (or less) message.

 

So while you listen, take notes.  Write down the things that strike you, the passages that grab your attention.  Throughout the week, take another look at what was taught.  Take the time to actually think about the Scripture and the application you can make into your own life.  How can you live out this message?

 

This is so important because merely hearing something does not mean it’s going to stick.  Understanding begins with hearing, but it’s got to be meaningful beyond the moment you hear it.  God’s Word is so powerful it’s for all times.  In any and every circumstance you face, it’s good to think about what God has to say.  Move beyond hearing and begin thinking, pondering.  Take the time to meditate on all God has revealed of himself.

 

 

 Look for this and other devotions like it in Matt’s newest Devotions for Disciples book, available soon!

Hearing the Word

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

 

It all starts with hearing.  No matter where you’re at in your faith journey, you likely began by hearing the Word of God.  Maybe it was a friend sharing a Bible verse.  Maybe it was a biblical truth that you weren’t even aware came from the Bible.  You could have even just overheard something that spoke to you.

 

God’s Word does something powerful in our lives when we hear it being spoken.  Sermons, podcasts, even songs are so effective at moving us when we experience the Word of God.  Faith begins here as the Holy Spirit stirs our souls up and we move toward responding to His calling.

 

God’s Word is so powerful that He says it will never return empty; it will always accomplish His purpose.  That’s something when you think about how misused and misquoted Scripture is.  Even when we mess it up, God uses His Word to bring about His purpose.  It should help us feel a little less intimidated to share the gospel because whether or not we get it right, God works out what He wants worked out.

What if God Doesn’t Care

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if God actually even cares.

I mean we know He does, or, at the very least, we think He does. It tells us in Scripture He does, and what are the words to that children’s song? “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” After all, if He cared enough to create us, if He made the promises that He made, assuring us that they are the same, that His love, bound to us through Christ, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) there has to be something to the idea that He actually cares. Yet, sometimes it feels more complicated than that, does it? Sure it’s the faith of a child that saves, making way the path to Heaven, (Luke 18:17) but we don’t stay children forever, eventually we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and adult problems follow us.

During those times God can seem so far distant, He can seem so far removed as we pray for a sign, for any sign that He still sees us, that He still contends with our cause, that He still cares. There are those times when, for as much as we know that He is there, we just don’t seem to feel it, at least not like we did, at least not like we should, and it’s hard. More than anything else it hurts as we just want so badly for Him to make His presence to be known, to let us know He’s still there, that He still sees us. If there is a Hell, if it is being removed from the presence of God, then those moments sure seem like they are as close as you can get to it on earth, aren’t they?

The thing about it is that, whether we feel His presence or not, whether we see His hand or not, God is there, and there isn’t a moment, a second, an instant where He doesn’t care. (Matthew 6:25-34) We know this not just because the Bible tells us that He loves us, that He is always there for us, that He cares for each of us individually with hope and grace, mercy and faith, but because He is the God who gave His only Son as the great sacrifice to wash away our sin and our guilt, to chase away all those problems big and small that would keep us separated from Him. (John 3:16)

You see, this temporal existence is the last great battlefield, and the Devil, our old adversary, he does everything he can to prove to us that Hell does exist, not just as a spiritual plane but as physical one too, and that this, right here is it. After all, if he can convince us that God doesn’t see us here, if He doesn’t see our pain and our anguish here, then is there really a God, is there really a Heaven or a Hell beyond any of this or is it just a moral argument devised millennia ago? After all, for as much as it can be made to feel as much like Hell as it can, our existence this side of Paradise can’t really be made to feel as splendid as Heaven itself, for however close we may wish or want it to be.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t understand. It’s that it’s easier for us to believe that He doesn’t see it than it is for us to accept the truth: amidst this life there are going to be struggles and hardships that seem like they are more than we can handle, there are going to be things in it that are going to cause us so much pain we don’t necessarily know what to do, and yes, God doesn’t necessarily stop them from happening. Why? Because even through them He has a plan for them, He has a lesson He teaches us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He knows nothing the Devil can throw at us is more powerful than we are when we put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just because we know something is painful now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something amazing in our future now if we let God show us what it means, just like we can’t know if God takes something painful from us now it can’t lead to a greater pain or a deeper anguish in the future. The nature of faith has to be in the trust, as we put everything we don’t know in the hands of a God who does.

Never for a moment believe that God doesn’t care. He does, and, even in your hardship He is sparing you from some greater challenge, some greater hardship, waging a perpetual battle against sin, death and the Devil for you. He is doing it in ways we can’t understand and can’t conceive, and all He asks of you is a little bit of faith as He guides you through it all. It’s here then that we realize that when we can’t see God or hear Him we need to rely on our other senses, on a greater spiritual sense to find Him. When we do, we know then not only does He care for us, but that He also carries us. It’s then that though that purpose may be lost on us for the moment, we are drawn to the greater moments nearer to eternity when all purpose is revealed to us.

Miracles Great and Small

How often, in our times of trouble, do we pray for a miracle? In our faith and our hope we often just find ourselves kneeling down, laying it all out and wishing for something, for anything that will come, wanting it so badly and for it to be enough to encompass our lives, making it just that much easier.

Why not? After all, even in his sin, even in his fallen state of anger and hate, Saul of Taurus gave witness to a miracle. The ground rumbled, and shook and any questions, any doubt he had was chased away by the booming voice of God as the heavens split and His presence and will was made known to him. He didn’t even pray, he wasn’t working in faith, the persecutor of the early Church he didn’t even realize he was in need of that divine guidance, yet there it was. So why can’t we be blinded by the glory of God to be shown the path? Why can’t His voice come like thunder from the skies to tell us the road we need to go down?

It’s one of those questions, one of those struggles we battle with. We know the verses, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) or “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”, (Philippians 4:13) but sometimes it seems as if the God who tells us to be strong and courageous, reminding us that He will never fail us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) just doesn’t hear. It almost feels as if He is waiting for us to figure it out for ourselves, removed from the situation as we plead with Him, in our faith, for a little more, for a little something, the weight of it all just bearing down on us.

God’s miracles are never far from us though. It’s just a matter of looking for them and seeing them right in front of us. Though He can, He doesn’t necessarily send angels with blazing swords to appear in front of us, nor does He split the skies to appear in His wondrous glory in front of us. Even as we want a dramatic example or an encompassing miracle that shows us the path of His divine design for our lives, it’s not the way it works.

The promise of God isn’t the promise that He will give us what we want. It’s the promise that, in His goodness and His mercy, in His love for us He will give us what we need. (2 Peter 1:3) With that, through the power of His Holy Spirit, His miracles are everywhere around us to behold, made manifest in His hope for us. (Hebrews 2:4) It’s just a matter of understanding what those miracles truly are, letting your heart and your soul, your spirit and your mind open to the fruits of His Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) the truest blessings of God’s wondrous plan and love for us.

Coming to our Heavenly Father, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ, means not only trust Him, it means not only having faith in Him, it means opening our eyes to the great and to the small, knowing that they happen all around us if we are truly receptive to the way that they come to us. With that it’s not about the lessons He can teach us or the hope He can give us when He makes things so easy for us that we can’t ignore it, it’s about the way He guides us to a better understanding, a greater understanding that only comes when we open our eyes to a world of greater possibilities through Him. It’s the reminder that, as our blessed Savior reminds us, it takes but a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain, (Matthew 17:20) and the greatest came come from the smallest.

Though He promises us His goodness, His hope and His mercy, telling us that He has plans for us and for our lives, (Jeremiah 29:11) God comes to us on His terms, not on ours. He does so because, better than we know ourselves, He knows us and what is best for us. With that He guides us and leads us according to who we are and who we need to be, we just need to keep our eyes and our hearts open to the signs and the wonders that He has all around us. Perhaps they’re not always easy to see, but they are there. What we need to remember is that coming to God in faith, coming to Christ in hope, trusting in their blessings, and their guarantees, means we are trusting in the power and the terms of the Divine, and not just our own want or desire for what that should mean.

Let your hearts behold the miracles of the living God, let your lives be encompassed by those blessings great and small. Let go of your own preconceived notions of what they should be or need to be. Once you do, you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities where the miracles you once considered small now become greater than anything you ever imagined as they give you the power to do more and be more according to the wonders of God through the grace of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s Not What I Expected


Don’t you hate it when, let’s face it, it seems like you’ve done everything right, everything that should have been expected of you, yet nothing seems to be the way it should be, or it just seems to make things harder than it should be? It’s hard when you find yourself in those times when you think to yourself “It should be like this” or “how did this happen?” when you know it should be something different. After all, you put yourself out there, you took the steps and you did everything you could, you did the most your potential allowed you to do, doing the best you could do and still, it wasn’t enough.

You expect something different, you wanted something different, that there would be at least something given for that faith and that hope that you had. All you end up finding though is that you’re tired and restless, wishing it could have somehow found a way to be what you wanted it to be, knowing that it’s anything but. It just makes you so weary that a part of you is reluctant to try again, to just give it your all again. Why would you? After all, if you did everything that could have been done, why do you just feel like you’ve failed? Why didn’t it work out the way it should have?

The truth is you’re not the first person to feel this way, watching it seem to all be different than the way it should have been. Atop Mount Carmel Elijah did as was expected of him. He stood in the shadow of the prophets of Baal and Judah’s King, Ahab, and he gave testimony to the power and the glory of the living God of Israel. (1 Kings 18:20-39) Yet, as the word reached Jezebel her answer was fierce and merciless, the prophets of her god laid slain, and she demanded blood, sending her messenger to the Elijah that he might know that his life was now held cheap and without value. (1 Kings 19:1 and 2) It would send him into hiding, fleeing into the hills, even as he cried out to the Lord, “Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors”, (1 Kings 19:3-5) a deep sense of failure overtaking him even when he did everything that was asked of him, that was expected of him, knowing it wasn’t as it should have been.

More than likely our own stories, they aren’t as dramatic as the story of Elijah, but they have the same sort of effect on us. We wonder to ourselves what’s the point of trying when trying mean these feelings, when it means these troubles, when it just causes a whole different set of struggles. We ask ourselves what’s the point of putting it all out there if putting it all out there means that we have to face challenges like this, finding that the peace we wanted, it just hasn’t come and our hope is fleeting.

The truth is not everything in life is going to work out the way that we want it to. We can do everything the way it’s supposed to be done and, honestly, the results may surprise us and not in the best ways. It could be that, for as much as we put into it, the only thing that comes out of it is hardship and even some pain. Still, that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the story. God still has a plan for your life. In His glorious hope He still has a grand and a great design for it, (Jeremiah 29:11) even as He makes us more than conquerors in the wondrous grace of our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, letting nothing separate us from His love. (Romans 8:35-37)

Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting our preconceived notions behind us, and giving ourselves up to the idea that life isn’t going to be the way that we planned it to be and yet it can be more than we planned. It’s a matter of letting what has happened be just that and looking towards a new day as a new chance to run the race in front of us. (Philippians 3:13-14) Not everything has to be the way we expected it to be, even when we did everything we could to make it that way, for it to teach us something of value, and something of worth. According to God’s timing, the deeper lessons that it has to offer will be revealed to us even if we can’t see what they are at the time. It’s a matter of living your life knowing that there is more to it than any one set of circumstances or any one situation that you may face, and that, though it may not be all you wanted it to be, there is a chance for tomorrow to be different if you never stop believing in the wonders God’s hope and love for you and your life.

Be strong and live in faith, today is but one day in your life and it could just be that it is a lesson there to teach you what you are capable of, and the way you are able to put your own inhibitions and fears aside so you can do more and be more. Find peace in that and peace will come to you even as tomorrow brings the hope of a new opportunity for you in the wonders of God’s design and plan for your life. Let not your heart be troubled, for God is there to lead you, through Christ, in grace, love and mercy, healing the wounds of your past, and giving you the strength to meet your future in all He has equipped you and is equipping you to do.

A Revolutionary Spirit

America should have never been.

In Russia the Cossacks of Yemelyan Pugachev had already been crushed even as they attempted to rise against Catherine the Great’s rule, while, in Greece, the attempt to revolt against Ottoman rule was quickly put down with a lack of support from their allies. If, by the examples of the turmoil that was laid to rest by the rulers and the empires around them, the thirteen colonies were to learn anything, it was that you do not rise against your King, especially if he ruled the most powerful of the Empires.

Yet, coming face to face with what they knew of the world around them, and seeing the challenge of what they had to do, there was no other course for them, no other path they could have taken. The cries of Revolution, though reluctant at first, rose from their lips in the courage and the faith that though they may rise and fall with the next steps taken, they were giving themselves for something greater than themselves in the dreams of liberty and the hope of freedom that it carried.

As disciples of Christ there are times in our lives when we see the world around us for all that it is, and the truth is, we should, by the examples that have been placed before us, think twice of standing by our face. Perhaps we live in the blessings of the freedom to express our faith, a blessing that is not, even in this day and age, known by all. Yet, the challenges we face, though a spiritual challenge, offer to us a warning as we see the struggles of those who speak out and speak up for what they believe in all around us. We seek to change the world, offering ourselves in hope and love to others, still, even as we do little seems to change.

During these times we need to remember there is no other course for us except to stand and to dwell in the freedom granted to us by faith. After all, to live by the Spirit that has taken hold of us, that has created a new creation in us, is to live in liberty (2 Corinthians 3:7), a blessed gift offered through the love and sacrifice of Christ. To ignore that is to wear upon us the yoke of slavery, (Galatians 5:1) forged by apathy, hatred, in the understanding that we are all bound together and that while one lives in darkness and pain, destitution and hurt, we all find ourselves in such meager estates, even if we close our eyes and ignore that dark truth.

It is to be burdened by even greater challenges as we accept the world as it is, rather than how it could be in courage and the strength, as we fail to realize even the smallest of voices can be heard around the world by how it touches the lives of those around them. After all, our freedom is an opportunity to, in love, affect change in the lives of others if we let it, (Galatians 5:13) and we put behind us the corruption of our flesh that so weakens us. (Romans 8:21)

The truest revolutions, given to the hope that freedom brings, it does not come through the roaring thunder of cannons, or through the marches of those who take up arms, it comes in the hearts and the minds of those who believe in something bigger than themselves. It comes through a spirit of charity that looks at the weak and the forgotten and asks what can be done for them. It comes through those who love for the sake of loving, and nothing more, using what they have to help the poor and the downtrodden, seeking them out to offer them hope. It comes from feeding the hungry, listening to the depressed, helping the elderly, and being a force for healing to the sick. It comes from being there for those who need you on their terms, showing them the hope and the wonder, the miracles that surround them in the miracle that you can be in their lives.

The faithful disciple meets the world as it is, and asks of themselves, regardless of the challenge that it may bring, how can I rise above the struggles it may bring, above the difficulties I know may arise, to do more and to be more in the lives of others? They do so in a revolutionary spirit that is based firmly in reality, but that can’t stop asking how they can make it better, and what they can do to bring that about in the courage and the strength to take action.

Today is a new day, given as a gift from your Heavenly Father, and, as days go, it is your chance to put anything and everything that may hinder you behind you to give yourself in hope, love and faith, guided by the blessed wonders of Christ. How will you spend it?

Guided by Love to Unity

What sort of Christian, what sort of Disciple do we want to be? How do we want our faith and our hope in Christ to be expressed? How do we want it seen by the world around us, reflected from the deeper places in our hearts and our souls?

Those should be, when we stop to think about it, relatively easy questions to answer, shouldn’t they? After all, the Word of God, simple and beautiful by its very nature, is uncomplicated when it offers us the understanding we need to dwell in the knowledge of what it means to be one of Christ’s Disciples, to follow in the footsteps and the path of our blessed Savior. (1 Corinthians 1:11) Of all the commands that came before, the instructions and the laws that wove around the most ancient of covenants, His was unadorned by ritual and ceremony, by pomp and procedure. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, (Matthew 28:16-20) showing them the path of faith and hope through a love that edifies, strengthens and nourishes those around us in the miracle that is His blessings. (John 13:34-35)

This is why He Himself, a poor carpenter from Galilee, born in the most meager of estates in Bethlehem, was viewed as so much of a threat. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from or where you had been, you were welcomed to Him. Yes, what God wanted, what God expected was important, but, in a wisdom that so often seems to elude the comprehension of men, He knew there was no rules that meant more to God than that we love Him, and that we love our one another with the full strength and full conviction of our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our minds. (Matthew 22:37-41) This was the blessing we could be by which all abundant life shined as a beacon to the world around us.

So often though we get tend to get bogged down by doctrine and the fights that it brings, we get so hung up on one or two passages in Scripture that we tend to let that define our faith more than anything else. We let ourselves become known for the things we are against as we let it serve as a wall surrounding us that keeps others out, rather than letting our faith and love serve as a door to let them in.

Now, to be clear, a proper understanding of Scripture should never be debased, nor should it be shied away from. The Word of God is meant to be studied, to be learned from, as it offers a path through its instruction to a righteous life. (2 Timothy 3:16) Yet nowhere in the Bible does it say “He who believes and is baptized, believing in all the right doctrine shall be saved.” Why? Because God transcends us in His wisdom and His hope for us even as He knows we aren’t going to completely understand or grasp it, telling us to dwell in unity with one another and turn from those who would tear us apart, who would destroy the fabric of harmony and peace between us. (Romans 16:17-18)

After all, in the end, it’s only God Himself who judges the hearts, the words and the deeds, the lifestyles and the choices of those souls that enter His Kingdom, not us. The path, if we believe the words of our blessed Savior, the Good Shepherd who guides and protects us, it is not a path that is paved through strictest adherence that abides in law, it is the path that has been paved by Him (John 14:6) in His tender mercy, His loving care, and His healing touch.

You can do more as a Disciple in the humble works of faith with a kindness to others, seeking to be a blessing in the world around you than you could ever do by hiding, locked away in a fortress of law and doctrine, shunning the world harshly for the offenses that it causes you. In that you have the capacity, through the power of the Spirit, to do more with the gift of grace that God has given you if you let yourself. It’s just a question of if you’ll let yourself, knowing that God will use you for more if your heart is truly open to love, hope and charity, and the wonders they can bring.

So again, what sort of Disciple do you want to be? What sort of blessings do you want to bring through your faith? It can be a blessing blossoming with the radiance of the truest beauty that springs forth from your soul, it’s just a matter of setting aside your pride and letting the Spirit nurture it to that point. After all, it is this love, this hope, in the principles of Christ’s blessed example that makes Scripture relevant, passing from age to age even to the present one.