What Rings Out from You?

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Apprentice: Learning from the Master was the theme for Family Camp 2015.  Our son suggested the theme while coming home from Family Camp the previous year.   And it stuck.  “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” I Corinthians 11:1.  We have a responsibility to be following our Master Jesus (who was following God’s will and direction every step of the way) – not only for our benefit – but to lead and guide and instruct others how to also follow Christ and become more and more like Jesus.

I see Apprentice all over these first three chapters of I Thessalonians.   When Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus he entered training to be an Apprentice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t hide away with his new-found life – taking it out every Sunday to display at church.  It was his life and breath and joy and struggle – to be lived and fought for every day – to take people to Jesus that they might become apprentices as well – learning and teaching the craft of loving, serving, following, obeying Christ and His Father.  Listen again to some of these phrases:
“You became imitators of us and of our Lord: in spite of severe suffering” (1:6)
“And so you became a model to all the believers” (1:7)
“The Lord’s message rang out from you” (1:8)
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (2:19,20)
“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (3:8)

Do you want to be a better Apprentice?

First – check your walk – are you living what you’ve learned from Jesus the Master? Do you do the work that Jesus did?  How can you follow Jesus better?  More consistently?  Does the Lord’s message ring out from you?  Do you imitate the world or do you imitate Christ and Christian role-models?
How can you reach out to others as Jesus did?  And as Paul did?  Who do you pray earnestly for night and day – that their faith will be strong?
Who will be your hope, your joy or your crown in which you will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  (3:12-13).

Marcia Railton

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Where is Zion?

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There are 24 places in the world named Zion and 55 places in the world named Mount Zion. I have noticed a few of the road signs for these towns as I travel. One is located in Indiana. This Mount Zion is only about an hour away from the campus where FUEL Youth Camp is held each summer. But the Zion or Mount Zion that we want to focus our attention on is the Biblical Zion.

The word Zion appears 168 times throughout the scriptures.  The first reference to Zion is when David and his men marched to Jerusalem and captured the Jebusite fortress of Zion-which is the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:7) Later Zion was called the holy mountain. “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6) In Isaiah 33:20 it states, “Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem.”

Zion is also used to refer to the Millennial Jerusalem in Israel where Jesus Christ will reign over the entire world. An amazing description is presented in Isaiah 2. It states, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What an amazing time of righteousness, justice (Isa. 33:5) and peace that will be! Jesus, the precious cornerstone will rule from Zion (Isaiah 28:16). Imagine the joy that people will experience as they come to Zion. Isaiah chapter 35 describes it this way, “the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” We are shown a glimpse of this beautiful scene to encourage us to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you. (v.4) What an amazing experience it will be to see the Lord Jesus Christ return, to enter Zion and experience every part of the Kingdom!

If you want to discover more about Zion, take a moment to read the 10 verses of Isaiah 35 and Isaiah chapter 63.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Be An Overcomer

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The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy (5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets).  It is here that God’s messengers gave many warnings of what troubles and destruction would come to those who didn’t repent and live a life pleasing to God.  Many (though not all) of the prophecies recorded in these books have already taken place: destruction of ancient Israel and Judah, restoration for a remnant and the coming of the Messiah.

Similarly, the New Testament ends with one book of New Testament prophecy –  the book of Revelation.  And in it we read many warnings to those who don’t repent, accept Jesus and live a life pleasing to God.  Most of the prophecies recorded in this book have yet to come: destruction of the ungodly, the 2nd Coming of the Messiah, and restoration for the godly in the Coming Kingdom.

God sends this series of revelations to John (by way of Jesus and an angel).  He writes of what must soon take place and says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3).

In chapters 2 & 3 the seven churches in Asia are individually commended for what they were doing right (hard work, perseverance, not tolerating wicked men, etc…).  And, they were then challenged to work on other issues which required repentance and renewed commitment to truth and purity (not allowing false teachers and immorality, etc…).  These words are very applicable to us today.  We would be wise to consider what we as a church are doing well, as well as what we need to repent of and change.  Each church is challenged to listen well to what the Spirit has to say to the church, and promised that overcomers would be rewarded.

Then the vision turns to the throne room of God where a lamb, looking “as it had been slain” (5:6) breaks 7 seals from a scroll unleashing war, famine, and other disasters on the earth.  A dragon and two beasts, allied against God, arise to demand the worship of earth’s people who have not been killed in the earlier catastrophes.  Seven bowls of the wrath of God (reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt) bring disasters such as darkness, the most severe earthquake ever and huge hailstones.  The upheaval destroys Babylon the Great.  Next, the heavens open and the Savior, Messiah, King Jesus, also called the Word of God, appears on a white horse ready to lead heaven’s armies in destroying evil.  For 1000 years Christ reigns on earth while Satan, “that old serpent” (20:2) is bound and kept from deceiving more.  At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released briefly to instigate a worldwide war, but never fear – it says as they surround the camp of God’s people fire from heaven will devour the enemy and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.  God unveils a new heaven and a new earth.  The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and God will dwell with men.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21:4).  There are so many more beautiful descriptions of the coming Kingdom on earth found in the last 2 chapters of Revelation.  It is truly something you don’t want to miss.  But, we know that many will, because of the decisions they are making today.

Just as Moses laid out for the people blessings and curses depending on what the people did, so too, John’s Revelation includes good news and bad news.  What will you do today to prepare for a Coming Kingdom?

Be an Overcomer

Marcia Railton

 

 

More Letters for You

 

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God’s Word has so much wisdom, teaching and blessing for us today.  We are not so different from the early church and the words that God gave the writers of the New Testament letters still very much apply to us today.  If God were to send a letter to you today –  which of His New Testament letters would he send to you?   Don’t forget to read God’s Mail to you today!

Today we will be looking at the 8 books called the General Epistles (or Letters) which make up the 4th division of New Testament books.   There is a lot of wisdom in these books.

Hebrews – Jesus is Better than…Anything!

It is unknown who wrote the book of Hebrews, though some suggest it may have been Paul.  It was written to remind and convince the Jewish Christians that Jesus is the Messiah.  It appears the Jewish Christians had already endured much persecution for their faith in Jesus – perhaps rejection by their Jewish family and friends who didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah.  Some were rethinking their commitment to Jesus and were thinking of returning to their Jewish roots and Old Testament law.  The author of Hebrews was writing to show that Jesus is superior to the prophets, angels, Moses, the priests and the whole Old Testament law.  Jesus is the NEW high priest who made the ultimate, perfect sacrifice so we could enter a new and living covenant with God.  The book was written to encourage the Jewish Christians to not give up, to persevere in their new faith and to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.” (10:23).

James – Faith in Action

This book was written by James, the brother of Jesus and a leader of the early church in Jerusalem.  The five short chapters that make up the book of James are sometimes compared to the Old Testament book of Proverbs because it contains so much wisdom.  In this letter, James teaches several short sermons on how to live a Christian life on a daily basis.  Over half of the verses contain a command or instruction for Christian brothers and sisters – such as “If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God,” and, “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  James stresses the importance of LIVING out your faith – with actions consistent with your Christian faith.  It is not enough to say you are a Christian and you love God and your neighbor.  You must DO it daily.  If Hebrews tells us WHY to become a Christian (because Jesus is better than…), then James is where we learn HOW to be a Christian.

1st & 2nd Peter – Stand Against Trouble

Written by Simon Peter, one of the disciple who, with his brother Andrew, left his nets to follow Jesus.  Peter was far from perfect (denied Jesus 3 times), but he would be the ROCK on which the church would be built – and we see that taking place in the book of Acts.  In 1st Peter he is writing to encourage the church that is being persecuted by the Roman Empire.  He writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”  (1 Peter 5:7,8).  We would be wise to remember and live by these words as well.

1st, 2nd & 3rd John – This is Love

Written by John, the disciple and close friend to Jesus who also wrote the gospel of John.  In the 5 chapters of 1st John, the word ‘love’ is used 35 times and it also reoccurs in the next two letters several times as well.  The “beloved disciple” John, writes of God’s love, and our love for God – as well as our love for our brothers and sisters.  John emphasizes that in order to love God we must obey his commands – which means loving others.

Jude – Beware of False Teachers

Written by Jude who identifies himself as James’ brother (perhaps making him also Jesus’ half-brother).  It would just about be quicker , and no doubt much better, to read Jude’s book of 24 verses than to read my overview.  He says he would have liked to write about salvation available to all believers, but instead he felt the need to warn the church of the importance of testing those in the church to see if they are saying or doing anything contrary to God’s Word.  He writes of immoral men using God’s grace as a license for follow their own evil desires.  He likens them to the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, and says a similar fate awaits them.  He urges the church to remain true to their faith and to “snatch others from the fire” (verse 23).

 

God’s got a lot to say to you because He loves you and wants to see you in His Kingdom – more on that tomorrow!

 

Don’t Let it Sit Unread in Your Mailbox!

-Marcia Railton

Paul’s Letters

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The third division of the New Testament includes the 13 books called the Pauline Epistles – which are letters that Paul wrote.  Many of the letters are written to churches which Paul had visited or heard about during his 3 missionary journeys.  As it turns out, the issues that troubled churches 2,000 years ago, are so similar to the issues of our churches today: immorality, false teachers, disunity, the need for wise and godly leaders, and more.  The final four letters are written to individuals – pastors and friends of Paul.

Here is a general overview of each of Paul’s letters…

 

Romans – Righteousness – The Romans Road

Written to the church in Rome (which Paul had not yet visited) to explain God’s plan of salvation.  Some have called a selection of verses the Romans Road as they lay out how to be right (righteous) before God: Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1&2, 10:9 & Acts 2:38

 

1st & 2nd Corinthians – Warnings & Replying to False Teachers

Written to the church in Corinth (a large, immoral city in Greece).  1st letter warns against factions, immorality, jealousy, lawsuits, marital issues, misuse of spiritual gifts and public worship, etc.  Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, teaches us how to love supremely.  Chapter 15, the Resurrection Chapter speaks of the hope we have for a future resurrection.  In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends himself against false teachers attacking his integrity and credibility.

 

Galatians – Faith & Freedom in Christ

Written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Turkey) to correct the teaching that the new Gentile Christians had to follow the whole Old Testament law to be saved.  Instead, with God’s grace and our faith in Christ we can be free from the Law and the power of sin.  We are not free to disobey Christ or practice immorality.  We are to use our freedom to serve God and others.  See Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

 

Ephesians – One Body of Christ – The Church

Written to the church in Ephesus  which Paul had visited several times, and even stayed for 3 years during one of his trips.  Paul encouraged the church to remember they were the body of Christ, to keep Christ as the head and work together as a body does, also to stand strong against evil forces with the full armor of God (chapter 6).

 

Philippians – Rejoice!

Written to the church in Philippi when Paul was in jail.  He was thanking the church for a gift they had sent while also encouraging them to remain strong when persecuted and to be joyful in all circumstances.  The 4 chapters include ‘joy’ (or a version of the word) 16 times.

 

Colossians – In Christ Alone

Written to the church in Colosse to stress again that the church must not mix worldly and pagan beliefs with the good news of Jesus Christ.  He wrote about Jesus, the Son of God – the head of the church and the only way to God’s salvation.

 

1st & 2nd Thessalonians – Jesus is Coming Again

Written to the church in Thessalonica (Greece) which Paul had only visited for 3 weeks before being forced out by a violent mob.  Timothy had reported to Paul that the church was doing well despite the persecution – but needed a few clarifying points.  One of which was they must control their bodies in holy and honorable ways.  Also, false teachers were teaching that Jesus had already returned to Earth so Paul gave more details on what Jesus’ return would be like (which everyone would see and know) and said to keep working until then.

 

1st & 2nd Timothy – Paul’s Words to Young Pastor Timothy

Perhaps some of Paul’s last letters – one more opportunity to pass along godly council to one who would continue the work of making disciples.  Timothy had been a helpful companion on some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul had sent Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus.  Now Paul was writing to help solve some of the church’s problems, including legalism and false teaching.  He also listed qualifications for church leaders.

 

Titus – Paul’s Words to Church Leader: Titus

Titus had travelled with Paul and Timothy.  Then Paul left Titus in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) so that he could, “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” (1:5).  And, since the people of Crete were known for being liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12), that was a big job to do.  Paul described again the qualities to look for in a church elder.  He told what to preach to various people and to teach God’s people to do good (a lesson we still need today for sure).

 

Philemon – Paul Urges Philemon to Forgive Onesimus

Philemon was a wealthy landowner and the church in Colosse met in his house .  His slave Onesimus had run away – and met Paul while he was in house arrest in Rome.  Paul shared the good news with the run away and Onesimus accepted Jesus – and knew he had to return to Philemon.  Paul wrote to Philemon interceding on Onesimus’ part – asking him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a helpful brother in Christ.  We are reminded of our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive, and that all are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

 

There are so many timeless truths, warnings and nuggets of encouragement in Paul’s letters.  And they are even more meaningful when we remember they were written by the man Paul of the book of Acts, as he was teaching and preaching about the Son of God as found throughout the 4 books of Gospels and prophesied of during the Old Testament.   God’s Word has a beautiful, orderly progression to prepare God’s people for salvation and to love and serve Him and others.  And Paul’s Letters are a wonderful piece of the puzzle.

 

Keep Reading His Word!
Marcia Railton

Acts – His Witnesses at Work

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The book of Acts is one of the most exciting reads you will ever come across: action adventure, good guys, bad guys, left for dead, miracles, jail breaks, courtroom drama, angry mob, shipwreck, dramatic monologues, and some of the most fascinating characters of the early church.  The author, Luke, was the same Gentile doctor who wrote what is now the 3rd gospel – an account of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Here, in the book of Acts, his story continues with the Acts of the Apostles – the story of the early Christian church age.

 

Luke opens his account in Acts with the crucified and resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples for 40 days, speaking about the kingdom of God (1:3) – obviously a topic near and dear to Jesus – so it should likewise be a topic we are passionate about.  Then, Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8). And as he ascends into the clouds, two men in white reassure the disciples that Jesus will return the same way that he rose.  And, throughout the rest of Acts, we see what happens when Jesus’ witnesses are faithful.

 

The promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they were able to do many miracles and wonders, even speaking in languages that men from all parts of the world would understand the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Most of the first half of Acts follows the disciples, particularly Peter, as they teach and preach and grow the early church.  Even amongst strong opposition the church grows, with many new believers being baptized and committing their lives, homes, finances, and families to following Jesus.  Some, like Stephen, even gave their life – as he was stoned to death for speaking the truth about Jesus, the Son of God.

 

Most of the second half of Acts tells the incredible – and true – stories of Paul.  It starts with the conversion of Saul who was persecuting Christians.  BUT – he changed and became the great apostle who went on 3 missionary journeys and wrote much of what would become the New Testament (but more on that tomorrow when we cover the 3rd Division of the NT – Paul’s Letters).

 

There are so many great passages in the book of Acts you just have to read it for yourself!  Not only are there amazing action stories, but you also get some wonderful sermon snippets and see what is most important to the early church.  You see their teachings, courage and priorities.

 

We are still waiting for that day when the clouds will part and our Lord and Savior will come down to greet his followers.  What a day that will be!  If you have read the gospels to see Jesus in action – then you are his witness.  If you have felt Jesus’ peace in the storm – then you are his witness.  May we be faithful witnesses ready for his return.

 

-Marcia Railton

The Good News Gospels

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Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?