May 1 | Reputation

Text: Colossians 1.3-6

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Colossians by telling them their reputation precedes them and is having a powerful effect, “. . . we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people . . .” (Colossians 1.4). God uses their reputation to forward his Gospel message all over the world!

A reputation of faith and Christ-like love has a magnetic effect, turning the heads of those apart from God. Receiving God’s love and sharing it with those around us (“Plumbing Theology”) is God’s plan to spread his good news of salvation. Amazingly, God has actually staked his reputation to our love for one another—how we love and how we receive God’s love is extremely important.

As you welcome God into your day, take a moment to pray for Ada Bible Church. Ask God that we might have a reputation of faith and love going out into Grand Rapids, drawing many people to receive his love and gift of salvation. Pray that we’ll be known as people who say, “Please Disturb.”

April 30 | Love One Another

Text: 1 John 4.7-12

This weekend, guest speaker Matt Heard introduced the concept of “Plumbing Theology.” Instead of being “buckets” that collect and store the love of God for ourselves, we are commanded to be “pipes,” allowing the love we’ve received from God to flow through us to those around us. And according to the Bible, letting his love flow through us will be our defining characteristic as Christians. In fact, it’s by loving each other that the outside world will know who we belong to: Jesus.

This sounds simple, but rarely is. Loving like Christ loved is often complicated, inconvenient, and costly. Being so difficult, there’s really only one way we can actually love each other like this—we must first experience the love of Christ ourselves. We can only give that which we’ve received.

Jesus’ love for us was not nebulous or even overly sentimental. Instead, Jesus saw our needs and leveraged all of his resources to meet them. It’s this model we look to as we love one another. While we certainly don’t have the capacity to meet the needs of everyone around us, we always have the opportunity to show selfless and costly love to somebody.

This leads to this week’s One Big Question. . . Am I willingly experiencing God’s love to the point where I can give love away? Discuss this in your circle: your small group, a trusted friend, or use it to begin a family conversation at the dinner table.

April 29 | Receive Love

Text: Ephesians 3.16-19

It’s often much easier to give a gift than to receive it, especially when the gift is extravagant or expensive. Things like pride, shame, and embarrassment can make receiving such a gift almost unbearable.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul prays for his friends that they would “have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3.18). Interestingly, Paul prayed for power, which leads to understanding of Christ’s love. He prays this because receiving God’s love is not easy.

God expresses his love for us by making us new in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this demands that we see and own our mistakes and run to his arms for restoration and redemption. Receiving God’s love requires humility and steadfastness, although it’s often easier to hide behind a wall of self-sufficiency and moral platitudes.

God’s blessings in our lives begin by understanding and receiving his love. When we do, our words carry life, our love has weight, and our worship has a fire fueled by the very love of God himself. Conversely, without receiving and reveling in God’s love through Jesus, we’re a tree without fruit: we look like a Christian, but without the blessings and benefits.

Today, as you consider how you receive God’s love for you, take a moment to read this blog post from Kristi Huseby, who serves on staff at Ada Bible Church. Use this post to learn how to receive the extravagant love of God and live vibrantly in his mercy.

April 28 | Salvation

Text: Romans 5.6-11 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).
A pivotal point in the life of every Christian is recognizing his desperate condition before God. The Bible tells us we, as sinners, are actually enemies of God and, as a result, objects of God’s wrath. Admittedly, these are tough words. But without seeing ourselves as utterly broken before God, it’s impossible to understand and accept his gift of salvation.
You see, God—in his great love for us—made a way for our sin and offense to be forgiven: his name is Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross he made forgiveness possible for everyone. But this salvation is a gift and must be received. We receive by believing and placing our faith in him.

When we believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the payment for our sins, God actually places the burden of our sin on Jesus and substitutes Jesus’ right-standing with God on our account. Legally, this transaction is called “justification.” In Paul’s words, “we have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5.9). By believing in Christ, we receive the full and incredible acceptance of God!

As you read these words today, you may recognize that you’ve never placed your faith in Christ as the payment for your sin. This is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. If God is working in your heart, please contact us at btw@adabible.org. We’d love to talk to you about taking this next step in your relationship with God by believing in him and receiving his salvation.

April 27 | Equation

Text: John 13.34-35

In one of Jesus’ final conversations with his disciples, he gives them this powerful command, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples…” (John 13.34b-35). While the command seems simple, most of us can attest it isn’t easy to live on a daily basis.

This past weekend, guest speaker Matt Heard taught us that this command contains three parts and can be seen as an equation. First, we experience Christ’s love. Second, we express to others that love which we’ve received. Then, as we exhibit his love, the watching world around us is impacted for the cause of Christ. The equation looks like this:

Experience Christ’s love + Extend Christ’s love = Exhibit his love to a watching world.

When we experience Christ’s love and extend it towards others, the world takes notice and is drawn to Jesus. As you open your hands and welcome God into your week, take a moment and commit John 13.34-35 to memory. Let these verses become a foundation for why we’re to love each other.

April 24 | Holy Spirit

Text: Galatians 5.22-26

Serving our brothers and sisters in Christ provides a great opportunity for God’s Spirit to produce his “fruit” in our lives: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). Demonstrating compassion, unlike anything else, provides spaces for the Spirit to develop these characteristics only he can produce.

This is an important point to remember: we don’t (and can’t) produce these qualities on our own. As Pastor Manion said, “We have outside help.” Only the Holy Spirit can produce them in those who are surrendered to Jesus. As we spend time in The Chair, and as our relationship with Jesus grows, these fruits will be produced: “I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).

To help you remember the fruit God desires to produce, write Galatians 5.22-23 on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Pray for God to develop these characteristics as you demonstrate compassion to others.

April 23 | Word and Deed

Day 4 | 1 Peter 3.15

Two specific activities defined the early Church: telling others about Jesus and serving others. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4.33-34). They didn’t just preach and they didn’t only meet needs—they did both and did them together.

Typically, we’re good at one or the other of these. We can either comfortably talk about our faith or are willing to jump and lend a hand whenever needed (probably most of us). But both are the highest priority. When we serve, we need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15). What we say is as important as what we do.

As you consider the next time you’ll meet a need, prepare—in advance—to “give an answer” as to why you’re serving. This will take time and planning to do well. One way is to simply engage those you’re serving in a conversation. As you listen, be open to the Spirit’s leading to speak of God’s grace. Be prepared to share your “story” from Day 2.

April 22 | Complicated

Text: Acts 5-6

Demonstrating compassion gets complicated. We’re not sure exactly what to do, our motives may be questioned, others will take advantage of us, and people may not change and make better decisions. Situations requiring our compassion are almost always challenging and often involve difficult people. As we step into compassion, we need to be prepared for its “messiness.”

It was “messy” for the early Church as well: a couple lies about the money they give (Acts 5.1-11) and there’s a huge disagreement, ultimately racial in nature, over the distribution of aid (Acts 6.1-7). As Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion reminded us, the early Church didn’t get it right all the time and neither will we. But we still do it, even if imperfectly.

Compassion can be exhausting and frustrating. It often won’t turn out the way we want. But that’s OK—God has it under control. Our responsibility is to reflect God in the process as we make loads lighter.

This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . Who are you looking out for? If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It’s the same question we asked last week. We think, if answered honestly, it’ll take more than a week to figure out. So take your time and prayerfully consider who you need to look out for, recognizing it could get complicated.

April 21 | Fueled by Grace

Text: Acts 4.32-37

In the earliest days of the Church, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, we see the difference between “have to” and “get to.” With the significant needs of fellow believers in Jesus right in front of them, “…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales…and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4.34-35).

Responding to the grace they’d received from God, those who had the ability demonstrated that grace to those in need. Because someone “looked out” for them, they did the same for someone else.

As recipients of God’s generosity and grace, it wasn’t a situation where these believers “had to” assist the needy: they “got to” help them. We get the sense because they recognized the helplessness from which God saved them, it was only natural they do what they could to alleviate the helplessness they saw with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Understanding the helplessness from which God has rescued us motivates us as we “get to” help others. Grace fuels our compassion.

To better understand God’s grace in your life, and to be able to tell it well, write your story. Spend some time on this and really think it through. Condense it to one paragraph (three minutes speaking). For help, especially if you’ve never done it, go here.

April 20 | Compassion

Text: Psalm 145

Our compassion for each other is rooted in God’s compassion. We’re to be compassionate, primarily, because God is compassionate. When we identify with those who are suffering—and move to alleviate that suffering—we’re not only reflecting God’s character, we’re showing the world how God acts toward us.

Israel’s second king, David, highlighted this aspect of God’s character, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145.8-9). One of seven places in the Old Testament where this statement appears, God is adamant that his people know he is compassionate: “To the suffering, the weak, the foolish, the despondent…he feels for them, he feels with them” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 3, p. 378).

God’s compassion was just one of many reasons David exclaimed, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise you for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145.1-2).

In the same way David was driven to worship by God’s compassion, so should we. Listen to Elevation Worship’s “Mercy Reigns” as you begin what may be a very busy week. Welcome God into it by worshiping him for his compassion.