YOUTH DEVOTIONAL – NT BLOG
 
 

#253 – Losing what is Gained

 

2 John; 3 John

 

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.  Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son. – 2 John 8-9

 

Maintaining a healthy weight has been a life-long struggle for me.  Somewhere in my elementary years I went from a healthy weight to overweight.  I lost a fair amount of weight the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I kept that weight off mostly until I entered college, then I gradually added weight until my 30s when I stepped on a scale. I realized I needed to make a concerted effort to lose weight, and I eventually lost about 40 pounds.

Over the next couple years, I kept a close eye on my weight.  I weighed myself daily and if my weight crept up a few pounds, I’d make sure I ate better for a few days and corrected the upward trend.  But eventually, I started taking my new eating habits for granted.  I stopped weighing myself every day.  I overestimate how much exercise I was getting and underestimated how much food I was eating.  I let my guard down.


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#252 – Love > Fear

 

1 John 4:1-5:21

 

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” – 1 Jo. 4:16-19

 

Have you ever been sent to the principal’s office? 

I was sent to the principal’s office only once in my school career (elementary school). A friend of mine and I got into a fight (like fist-fight) over an argument about the rules of a playground game we had made up.  (Stupid, right?)  Well, we had already recognized it was stupid and that would have been that if my friend hadn’t caught me with a punch in my mouth before the fight was over, causing my lip to bleed a little.  The teacher saw, asked what had happened and next thing we know my friend and I were walking side by side down to the principal’s office. 

Here’s the thing: as we were walking, we were laughing.  I don’t recall exactly what was said that made us laugh, but for us, the whole issue was already done with.  All was forgiven.  We weren’t afraid to visit the principal’s office; you could say that our love for each other (though I doubt either of us at the time would have stated it that way) had overcome the fear of punishment.  And part of our comfort was that we knew Mr. DeWitt, our principal, was fair.


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#251 – No More Blah, Blah

 

1 John 2:15-3:24

 

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” – 1 Jo. 3:16-19

 

When I was a Freshman in college, I remember (very vividly) late one night when the guys in the room next to ours were being much too loud.  We had gone and asked them once or twice to quiet down to no avail. One of my roommates got particularly frustrated, went and pulled out a hammer from his little tool kit he had and said, “No more ‘blah, blah’!  Bonk, bonk!” (He wasn’t serious about going after them with his hammer.  Don’t worry. He was just venting his frustration.) This became a bit of an inside joke for us the rest of the year.  If someone was talking about doing something without actually doing anything, one of us would say, “No more ‘blah, blah’!”  And another would reply, “Bonk! Bonk!”  Don’t just talk about it.  Do it.

And this is what John is encouraging in the quote above.  You can’t love someone simply by saying the words.  You need to back it up with actions.  He uses the very real and very challenging example: if you’ve got enough (money, food, whatever) and you see someone else living without, do something about it!  This really cuts to the quick.


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#250 – Childlike Honesty

 

1 John 1:1-2:14

 

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.  But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 Jo. 2:4-6

 

“That lady’s fat!” I once heard a toddler cry out.  “She’s not fat, she’s pregnant,” the parent corrected.  The sometimes brutal honesty of young children (who have not yet learned to filter their comments or think about other people’s feelings) can be jarring.  But we all have points in our lives when we need a friend who will speak the unfiltered truth to us.  Tell it like it is.  Especially as we’re growing up, that one person who pulls us aside and sets us straight can make all the difference in the world.  And sometimes it is older people (who for various and sundry reasons) stop pulling their punches and gets very direct and honest.

John is just that kind of friend.


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#249 – 5-Minutes Ago

 

Hebrews 13:1-25

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas.  – Heb. 13:8-9

 

“That is SOOO ‘five-minutes ago.’” 

(My memory is forever burned with the sound a 1980’s “Valley Girl” saying this. Ironic, I know.)  This exclamation of dissatisfaction with someone else not keeping up with the cutting edge of culture is perhaps an exaggeration, but it reveals something about us humans.  Americans, especially.

Being unchanging is often seen as a bad thing.  Being in a rut.  Being boring. Doing things the same way all the time. Having the same hairstyle or clothes. Listening to the same old music.  House decorations.  Political views.  Worldview. There seems to be a high priority in American society about keeping things fresh, keeping things new.  Mixing it up.  Breaking out of old patterns. 

Of course, a lot of that comes from the consumerist society in which we live.  Commercials are always trying to get us to try something “new and improved.”  It’s a constant onslaught of advertising to make you feel like if you don’t have the newest and the best you are missing out. 


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#248 – Discipline – Oh Joy!

 
 

Hebrews 12:4-29

 

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Heb. 12:10-11

 

Have you ever been disciplined?  Are you disciplined?   (Those are two very different questions, aren’t they?)  “My father DISCIPLINED me” vs. “She is very DISCIPLINED.”  One has a negative connotation and the other is more positive.  The first you may think of (as I do) as punishment for wrongdoing.  The other a self-motivated intentionality.  A troublemakers needs to BE disciplined (by someone else), but a US Marine IS disciplined (self-correcting).  Here’s the rub… the first definition is to inspire the second.

I think we need to look at this word “discipline” with a fairly broad definition, because it is all too easy, I think, to read this passage about God’s discipline (which is based on and quotes Prov. 3:11-12) as just punishment for doing wrong.  Disciplining a child can and does require corrective measures.  From “time-outs” to groundings, taking away privileges to requiring additional chores, and all the like (and yes, I think physical punishment was also in mind), there is a time and a place for “consequences.”  But discipline is also about training correctly. The Greek word used here includes chastisement, but it also is about training and teaching.  A father is disciplining his son when he encourages daily right behavior.  A mother is disciplining her daughter when she tries to instill daily positive habits. In reality, all parents are constantly training their children by what they say and do…ALL THE TIME (a scary proposition, I know). 


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#247 – Go ahead and Fall

 

Hebrews 11:1-12:3

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Heb. 11:1 (NKJV)

“…let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. – Heb. 12:1-3

 

Knowing the irony of today’s metaphor after yesterday’s “Jump, Don’t Fall” post… Today I’d like to talk about a stereotypical exercise of acting and team building.  The trust fall.  One person steps up onto a chair or short platform, turns their back on the group, who are in two lines, their arms interlocked across the space between them, and then the person falls backwards into their arms.  I’ve led this exercise a number of times, and responses fall into one of three categories (no pun intended): 1. The person who just goes up and when told to go, falls backwards with no hesitation.  2. The person who waits, nervously looks around, and with great trepidation falls backwards, often screaming.  3. The person who refuses.  I like to stand in front of the person about to fall and have them look me in the eye before they go.  And every person I’ve ever led in a trust fall has been caught.  All of them.


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#246 – Don’t Fall, Jump!

 

Hebrews 10:19-39

 

 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Heb. 10:31

 

As I’ve read through the Bible in recent years, I’ve been highlighting it various colors.  This isn’t unique to me – there are a variety of ways of “color coding” the Bible.  My system is fairly simple and does not color every verse.  Yellow is for anything directly related to God.  Green is for anything we are to do (or when someone has done something in obedience to what God had told them to do.)  Red is for anything we are NOT to do (or when someone was NOT obedient to God). Blue is for prophecy – whether predicted or fulfilled.  And purple is for hard teachings.  Things that we hear and we think, “hmmm… I’m not sure I like that.”

Sometimes a hard teaching requires some investigation into history to unravel the meaning.  Sometimes a hard teaching is about digging into the larger purpose behind it. Sometimes a hard teaching means we need to expand our idea of who God is.  Sometimes we must just make sure we understand the context in which it was said. And we must realize that we won’t all agree on what is a hard teaching.


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#245 – Spiritual Surgery

 

Hebrews 9:11-10:18

 

“…according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” – Heb. 9:22

“And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” – Heb. 9:27-28

 

A number of years ago I had my gall bladder removed.  (There’s sentence I never thought would start a blog on the New Testament!)  It wasn’t something I chose to do for fun, but because I had developed gallstones and they were causing me pain.  Like all such surgeries, it was not elective, but needed for a purpose.  Without the surgery, my gallstones could have eventually killed me.  Like people every day across the country that have surgery for all sorts of reasons (appendicitis, heart disease, cancer just to name a few), surgery is needed because there is a serious, life-threatening problem that needs to be fixed. 

Our reading in Hebrews today talks about another event that happened because there was a serious, life-threatening problem that needed to be fixed.  Sin.


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#243 – Separation of Church and State

 

Hebrews 7:1-28

 

“Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. 17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied, 

‘You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.’” [Ps 110:4] – Heb. 7:16-17

 

Did you know that God ordained the separation of church and state?  Well… not really.  Not in the way that most Americans would describe it – the government being completely secular and the church having nothing to do with government. But what God did do is separate the roles of KING and PRIEST… except in two people.  In order to understand this, we need to take a dive into the Old Testament again and look into the Priesthood and the establishment of a king. 


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