Vacation – June 25

Text: Romans 8 (Read it here)20160625

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

(Romans 8.1-2, NIV)

More than Conquerors
Author: Matthew Killough

Conquer is not a word that we use much these days. I can’t remember the last time my neighbor mowed his yard and shouted loud enough for all to hear, “And that, my friends, is how you conquer Bermuda grass!” Perhaps you have over heard your co-works brag at the Keurig coffee maker, “I conquered those TPS reports like Genghis Kahn, SERIOUSLY!” However, at my office we just don’t hear that word much. Now, we are all very familiar with winning. Sports teams and participants are conditioned to win at almost any cost. The ability to win has even become very lucrative, as professional athletes across the globe are often millionaires.

So when we read Paul’s words to the Romans that we are “more than conquerors” we think we know what Paul is talking about: it must be winning. I beg to differ! Trust me, no one knew more about conquering than the Romans. Of course you know all about Julius Caesar conquering the known world and how his nephew, Octavian, brought peace to the Roman Empire through roads and the Roman army. But did you know that the Greek word that Paul uses for “conqueror” is actually made of two words: hyper and nike. Of course hyper means “above, beyond, more than.” And nike simply means “victory”. So when Paul uses the Greek word for conqueror he is literally saying that in all things we have a hyper-victory. However this victory does not mean the destruction of our enemies. Paul goes on to say that the hyper-victory is the fact that nothing: neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you feel estranged from God’s love? Has someone or some situation left you feeling as though God cannot reach you? Instead of knowing the victory that Paul proclaims in Romans chapter eight, you wonder if you were ever a conqueror at all. Let me assure you that these things are temporary. Even when we feel as though we are too weak to pray the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us (8:26). This is the glorious victory that overcomes the world!

Questions:

How scary is God to you? Can you think of a time in your life—perhaps now—when you feared that God would punish you or was perhaps anxiously waiting for you to make a mistake so he could smite you? How did you arrive at this conclusion as to the nature of God?

How does Paul’s statement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus contrast or compare to your thinking in the previous question? How reassuring is this fact to you as you try to live your faith? In what ways do you still try to include a “but…” to this statement, as in, “There is no condemnation, but…”

How does the knowledge of God’s salvation coming through the power of his Son, not through your own power, alter how you attempt to live a life for God? In what ways does this actually make your life easier, and yet at the same time, a more powerful witness to God’s power at work in your life?

Vacation – June 18

Text: Ephesians 3.14-21 (Read it here)20160618

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

(Ephesians 3.20-21, NIV)

Appealing to a Higher Power
Author: Matthew Killough

Who is the highest power you can appeal to? Who is the highest power you have ever appealed to? Growing up in Grants, NM boasting about a higher power was a common occurrence when I was a young child. This was largely due to the fact that Grants was full of extended families. Here is what I mean: a group of children would be playing in the neighborhood when one child would hurt another, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. Then the threats would begin, “My brother is going to beat you up… he is on the high school football team!” The other would fire back, “My cousin can beat up your brother… he has a purple belt in karate!” Back and forth it would go until someone would claim their cousin was a Navy Seal or Chuck Norris!

In Ephesians 3:14 – 21, Paul appeals to the highest power in the universe: the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. However, Paul does not appeal to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine to have him inflict pain or suffering on us. On the contrary Paul’s appeal is to strengthen you with power through his Spirit because God’s has glorious riches. Also, this appeal is not just a simple trivia fact… no, no, no… it is so we may know how wide and long and high and how deep is the love of Christ. Indeed, this love is a love that surpasses knowledge. With this power at work in us God is glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.

So if you are anxious today, appeal to a higher power: no, not your boss or your spouse or even your local government. Rather appeal to the father. Instead of being anxious, allow Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith. Focus on being rooted and established in love rather than being tossed back and forth by waves and blown here and there by every wind that comes along. This Paul’s hope for you, as well as all Christians who read his letter to the Ephesians.

Questions:

How often do you pray that others may be “strengthened with the power of God?” If you do not typically pray this, why do you think you do not? Why do we find it easier to pray for specific illnesses than it is to pray for God’s power to work in people? Think of someone for whom you can pray this prayer for and do it now.

Describe a time when you have felt completely filled with the power and fullness of God? What sort of things transpired to create that moment? How much of this relied on your own actions and how much on situations you found yourself in that you knew was God at work?

What is the most amazing, unbelievable, awesome thing you can think of? Have you ever seen this in real life? What is the most amazing thing you have seen in real life, with your own eyes? Now, what is your reaction to knowing that God is able to do even more than what you have seen or even more than you can imagine?

Vacation – June 8

Text: Ephesians 1.3-14 (Read it here.)20160608

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.
(Ephesians 1.13-14, NIV)

Who Adopted Us
Author: Matthew Killough

Well, there they were: five rambunctious puppies jumping, biting and playing with one another in the floor.  My two boys could hardly contain themselves, “We get to pick one?  Are you for real Dad?”  Yes, I assured them I was for real and that day we would choose one of the little critters to become part of our family. I’m not certain how much it meant to the dog that we adopted him and took him with us that day, but it meant everything to the kids.  Of course the first lesson we learned was to not squeeze the puppy so hard that his eyes began to bulge!  I’ll be honest it was little embarrassing in the beginning.

Paul is almost embarrassing in the language he uses to describe God’s love for us that led to our adoption into HIS family.  Notice some of these: has blessed us in the heavenly realms (3), he chose us to be holy and blameless (4), in love he predestined us for adoption (5), he lavished the riches of his grace on us (7), in him we were chosen (11) and we were given a deposit to guarantee our inheritance (14). That is a lot of love!  That is love that is only given by the creator of the universe to his creation. It is no wonder that Paul ends this passage of encouragement by saying: “to the praise of his glory.”

As you read this passage take time to think about being chosen.  Take time to think about being adopted.  Take time to think about being loved by a God who loved you so much that he made plans to bless you by making you member of his family before the creation of the world. How does that make your soul feel?  Can you let your guard down now? Can your mind be at peace? God’s love transforms our lives by giving us the peace and security that he intended for us to have even before he created our world.  This is the God whom we serve, a God who loved us first with an embarrassing love.

Questions:

In the original Greek, today’s section is actually one sentence. As you read through this sentence, what sort of statements does Paul make about being included in Christ? What does it say about God that he “chose us,” “predestined us for adoption,” and “included [us] in Christ?”

Think about groups to whom you belong or have belonged, for instance a social club or civic club. What did (or do) you have to do to become a member of these organizations? How much of the emphasis on inclusion within the group is on the existing group versus how much is on you, the one coming into the group? How does God’s selection of you relate to the way you are called into groups?

Have you ever been excluded from the “cool kids,” or from some group that you longed to be a part of? How does this exclusion cause you to act differently than you would if you knew you were a part of that group? How does knowing God has chosen you cause you to be more at peace with your life and cause you to act more in confidence, versus wishing you were a part?

Proverbs 8 – August 8

CC Image courtesy of Mark Herpel on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Mark Herpel on Flickr.

Proverbs 8
Author: Matthew Killough

How do you count your wealth? In dollars? In real estate? In stock options? In collectables? We all have an unfortunate flaw: we think the things we own are worth more than their actual value. The writer of Proverbs has been reminding us that one thing is worth more than others. In case you have not been paying attention this one thing is wisdom.

“Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:10 – 11

Here is where popular thinking has it all wrong! Wealth is not measured by the balance in your 401(K) but by the wisdom you have gained in life. Who is the “go to” source for all this wisdom-wealth? None other than the creator of the universe! Even better, God is not stingy with his wisdom. James writes “If you any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5). So stop spending so much time worrying about your retirement account and pay more attention to your eternity account. Collect wisdom.

Proverbs 23 – July 23

CC Image courtesy of Henti Smith on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Henti Smith on Flickr.

Proverbs 23
Author: Matthew Killough

Proverbs 23 is in the middle of a section labeled, “Thirty Sayings of the Wise”. Over the thirteen sayings in chapter 23 we find wide variety: from gluttony to discipline to the dangers of drunkenness, the author has many warnings. Of course all of these are good advice but the one that has caught my attention is saying number eight:

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust in your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for the they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

There is perhaps no better advice for the overworked American than this admonition to not “wear yourself out”. The pursuit of wealth has crushed too many men, women, families and churches in our world. As your work week winds down consider thinking about what matters in eternity. Will your wealth place you in favor with God? Read Luke 12:13 – 21 to get Jesus’ take on the matter.

Proverbs 4 – July 4

CC Image courtesy of 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

Proverbs 4
Author: Matthew Killough

What is the most you have ever saved in order to purchase something? Did you save enough to buy the latest electronic gizmo to wear on your wrist? Did you save enough to take your family on a dream vacation? Did you save enough for a new car or even a house? There are literally millions of stories of people who have saved money to purchase what they desire. Some of these stories seem insignificant and many are surprising. The vast majority, however, are about purchases that will soon lose most of their value. That gizmo on your wrist is nice now but it is worth less than half of what you paid a year from now. That dream vacation: over in just a few short days.

The author of Proverbs 4 gives alternate advice: the thing you should pay the most for is simple: wisdom. Make no mistake the cost is high according to Proverbs 4:7, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding.”

So consider making a prudent investment that benefits all aspects of your life life: consider getting wisdom. Also, remember what your grandmother always told you, “You get what you pay for!”

Proverbs 9 – June 9

CC Image courtesy of COMHOMFLT on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of COMHOMFLT on Flickr.

Proverbs 9
Author: Matthew Killough

There are times in life when two voices sound remarkably similar. Decisions are made between choices that seem to have few discernible differences. “What does it matter?” often seems to be the final deciding factor. Of course, as we grow older, we understand that this is not true. Choices do matter. The advice you listen to when making choices matters even more.

As Proverbs 9 brings the section of “Instructions for my Son” to a close, the writer makes another attempt at reminding his son: Wisdom and Folly both call; which will you follow? Both Wisdom and Folly sit at high points calling out: “Let all who are simple come to my house!” Both offer a feast. One feast leads to death. One feast leads to life.

Decisions that lead to life naturally come from the Creator of life. The wise recognize his voice. They know their choices matter. Fools say, “What does it matter?” and make decisions that lead to death.