That Same Spot

The same spot

Read Acts 3:1-10

Every time I go to the store they are always in that same spot. Always holding a sign, and the majority of them never looking very happy. Not that they have any reason to be happy. They are obviously standing there for a reason that probably doesn’t make anyone want to smile.

You drive along past them, and then it happens, a waterfall of guilt, distrust, and pride hit you all at once. First, the guilt because you feel bad that you could have spent a few dollars less and helped them.

Second distrust because you don’t know what they would do with the money. Maybe they spend it on drugs. Perhaps they are an alcoholic that needs money to fill a bad habit. They possibly could just be a person with a sign and a less than honest mindset.

Third pride because now you are thinking to yourself one of two things you are justifying your restraint to give them money because of reason number two, or you are proud of yourself for turning around and giving them money or food. Either way, they probably will be there tomorrow.

I have heard of many different ways to handle the homeless and the poor, but only one way sticks out to me. That is, speaking life into someone’s situation. Jesus was the best at this, and he taught his disciples to do this too. In Acts 3 in the first scene that we see is Peter and John walking up to the temple during the hour of prayer. As they are going about their business, this crippled man, that is always in the same spot starts begging them for some money. Once he gets their attention, and Peter and John realize what is happening, Peter answers this way, (Acts 3:6) “I do not possess silver or gold but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!”. And the man began to jump and praise God.

Peter and John could have easily ignored or found money to give this man, but instead, they spoke life into his situation, and a miracle happened. Now I am not saying that every situation you encounter will end up like this one. However we have something that money cannot buy, and that is a message of a great kingdom, and of a great king, that is much greater than all treasure.

Here is my take away, next time you find yourself in this situation and you are NOT ALONE, ask that person if you can pray with them, or take interest in their life, so that you may speak life into their situation just like Peter and John. You might find that they will no longer be in THAT SAME SPOT.

Jesse Allen

 

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A Lesson from Nicaragua: Community

 

Missions Spotlight: Nicaragua

alex davila

Alex Davila leads a small group Bible study in Nicaragua.  He also maintains a public YouTube channel and radio broadcast, sharing the Good News.  If you would like to check his website out (La Biblia y las religions: The Bible and religion), you can visit http://labibliaylasreligiones.com. He is also a perfect Spanish-English bilingual and would love to hear an encouraging message from you! 

 

Pictured above is Alex preaching at the Lima Church in Peru.  We love it when Alex accompanies us when we travel to Peru. 

 

Community is a compound word: common and unity.  This means that we are a group of people unified by what we have in common.  This is a perfect example of the Body of Christ: unity through common beliefs. Just like our human bodies are unified by the drive to survive, the body of believers are unified by Christ.

 

Sometimes, as Christians, we can get caught up in our differences.  Quarrels over wine vs. grape juice for communion, tattoos vs. no tattoos as a Christian, and Sunday school before or after the church service take place all over the nation.  Now, some of these quarrels seem silly, but you know as well as I do that feelings are hurt over simple differences in ideas.  In Galatians 5:6, Paul reminds us “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love”.  It is our faith, exemplified by our love, that counts, not the small differences (or similarities) we may have.

 

Today, I want to remind you that we have more in common with one another than we have differences.  The Church should be the tightest-knit group of people in the universe.  We should have the highest sense of morale and comradery.  Watching the Olympics gets me hyped as I see hockey teams, and ice skating duos, curling teams (yes, even curling can be exciting) accomplish big things together.  Their sense of togetherness and years of hard work to achieve a common goal awakens my drive to seize the day.  Guess what, we have GOD and His son, JESUS CHRIST living in US!!! Imagine the radical acts of love we can achieve with divine power, strength and grace living in us.   Jesus says that the world should be able to know who we are by how we love one another.  What are you doing to show your neighbor your radial love?

 

You have probably heard this verse before, but I want to take it back to its original Greek.  1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own..”. All of the times that you and your are mentioned in this verse they are actually plural which translates from the Greek into English as ‘you all’. Grammatically, this is known as the second person plural, and something our English Bibles hide from us sometimes because we do not have a direct translation for the second person plural that sounds nice in English. The closet thing we have in English is ‘you all’ or if you are in the south then ‘y’all’. Can you imagine your Bible saying “do you not know that y’all’s bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit”? Due to the mistranslation of this verse into English people usually take this verse on an individual level. The meaning of this text then becomes a verse used to support exercise to keep your “temple” nice however what the author originally intended was to mean the body of Christ is the temple. This means that how we treat each other as the body directly correlates to what the temple is like. That is a very important statement! When we are angry with or hate our fellow believers, we are desecrating the new temple that God has set up.

 

If you look at how the temple was treated in the Old Testament we see how holy and sacred it was. We need to translate the holy aspect of the Old Testament temple to the body of Christ today. So what exactly does it look like to be holy to each other? It is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Next time you want to be angry at someone remember that how you treat them affects the holiness of the temple, the place that God dwells. Reading the passage for its original meaning is much more difficult than a simple command to exercise and eat well.  It is a command on how we should be as a community. Try reading the passage in this way, “Do you not know that your community is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”. This is Paul lifting the community of believers to a higher level. I encourage you to take up that call and to bring even more glory to God’s community of believers.

 

The latter half of Acts 2 describes a true community of Christ.  The Church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread together, to giving to the needy, and all the while with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:42-47).  Let’s reach out to each other.  Let’s strive to love each other in a radical way that makes the world hunger for what we have.

 

Reaching out is exactly what Alex is doing in Nicaragua with his radio ministry.  Our love doesn’t stop within our culture, or backyard or our nation; we are an international community.  Although we can’t break bread with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we can encourage them even from afar.  Alex would love to hear from you!  Just a simple message saying hi, the church you attend, and that you are thinking of him can go a long way.  You can find him on Facebook under the name ‘Alexander Davila’.  Remember, he is a perfect bilingual, so no need to use a translator.  Radical love awaits us ❤

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

 

Aliens on the Road

Psalm 119

psalm 119_5

Time for a little sci-fi.  Pick your favorite alien creature (Yoda, an ewok, a Klingon, ET, Alf, any others).   Imagine for a moment that your alien has just acquired the keys to your car.  This alien has a complete knowledge of the history of the automobile and knows everything there is to know about the inner workings of the car: how the intake manifold operates, how to replace an alternator and when to flush the transmission.  There is only one piece missing from this alien’s extensive knowledge base as he turns the key and pulls out into traffic in your busy town: the rules of the road.   Red lights, speed limits, and yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians means nothing to this alien.  He is a danger on the road, to himself and others, because he is not aware of and following the guidelines for safe driving.

In the same way, today there are many aliens on the road of life.  God created life as well as the rules to go with it.  He gave us rules for a safe, smooth-flowing, God-honoring life.  But there are a lot of “smart” people who are ignorant of these rules.  They might know all about the body and how it works, but they don’t know and apply the rules God gave for keeping the body heathy and holy.  Similarly, our alien knows how the brakes work, who installed them, how to replace them, and even how to come to a smooth complete stop; but, without a clear understanding of the rules of the road he doesn’t know when to properly use them and when not to.  And in many other instances, worldly knowledge, without a firm grasp of God’s Word, leads to problems.  As Paul said, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Corinthians 3:18,19a)

And it is easy to be deceived.  Especially when there appear to be many more alien drivers on the roads than wise followers of God’s rulebook.  When everyone else speeds through the red lights it can seem like it might be okay to try it ourselves – maybe we begin to feel like we are missing out on something. And that is just one of the great times to read Psalm 119.

The 119th Psalm – the longest chapter in the Bible, with 176 verses, is ALL about the importance of God’s Word and His commands.  It is fun reading to see how many verses you can find in those 176 that DON’T have a word pertaining to God’s Word, commands, promises, precepts, decrees, statutes, law, etc… There aren’t very many.  If you come up with a number a verses that doesn’t include one of these, or similar, words leave a comment and we can see if others agree with you.

I love that the longest chapter in the middle of God’s Word is about the importance of knowing and applying God’s Word and commands.  Without God’s Word all of us little aliens drivers would be lost – and causing much pain and damage to ourselves and others along the way.

Here are just a few of my favorite verses in Psalm 119 but go ahead and read the whole chapter for yourself sometime today and find your favorites.  It will take a little longer than reading the average Psalm, but there is always a blessing when we make time for God’s Word.

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.  I am a stranger on earth;  do not hide your commands from me.”  (vs. 18 & 19 – See that alien driving down the road?  Remember that even aliens can learn new ways.)

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things. (vs. 36,37a – stay fixed on God’s Word, not on what the aliens value or call entertainment)

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word.  You are good and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”  (vs.67-68 )

“I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.  It is time for you to act, O Lord; your law is being broken.” (vs. 125,126 )

 

 

Stay in His Word,

Marcia Railton

New Year’s Resolutions

Luke 19_3a

Luke 19:1-10

As we are entering into the third full week of January I want to think about how you have begun your new year. Did you make any resolutions? Why or why not? Have you already broken your resolutions? If so, what made you let them go so soon? If not how are you staying true to your goal?

This week I am going to talk about some common New Year’s resolutions amongst Christians, their biblical founding and some strategies to help us keep these resolutions. My hope for you this week is that you take a moment to evaluate where your relationship with God is, where you would like it to go and how you are going to get there. If you did not make any resolutions or goals for 2018, that is okay, but maybe after reading this you will consider refocusing certain things in your life.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions in general are people wanting to be healthier, people wanting to save more of their money, getting better grades, maybe even trying to get a new and better job. These are all good, but so many people lose sight of their goals within the first 3 months of the new year, for a multitude of reasons. They made their “rules” too drastic, or they did not make their goal focused enough, or they did not have any accountability. These are all reasons people ditch their resolutions. Some common resolutions amongst Christians, in regards to their faith are to read their Bible more, go to church more often, pray more, etc. Again, even people of faith abandon these goals more often than not, because they want to do everything on their own, or they want to be absolutely perfect and when they are not they feel like they failed. All of these feelings are valid, but do not let them hold you back.

My first challenge to you if you are wanting to deepen your faith and your relationship with God, is to seek him and his son. Seek Jesus. This is the first topic of the week. Seeking Jesus. I want you to go ahead and read Luke 19:1-10.

Luke 19:1-10 is all about Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see”- Right? That is not the only thing we can take away from this passage. Zacchaeus was too short to see Jesus over the crowd, but why did that matter to him? He most likely had heard the stories of Jesus and the people he had helped and the lives he had changed. Zacchaeus probably wanted to know what all this “salvation” was about, and how he could live eternal life. His entire knowledge and experience of Jesus prior to this day depicted in Luke was through the accounts of other people. If your faith is struggling or you feel lost, ask for other people’s stories. Ask people to share how they grew to know God, ask other people how they rely on him, and you may receive the help you need and some amazing relationships along the way.

Another thing to take away from this account is this; are you afraid to look silly for Jesus? We are called to not be of this earth, we are called to be different and not follow the ways of the world. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, everyone knew who he was and the power that he had. Not only was he powerful, but he was extremely wealthy. Here was this man of high power and esteem, and in order to see Jesus he climbed a tree. That would look a little silly. How silly are you willing to look in order to see Jesus? I hope the answer means that you would fall on your knees before him, or praise God whenever you are compelled to do so. The opinions of others do not matter, your relationship with God is far more important.

To have a relationship with God, and to truly seek him and his son out is much more simple than we make it. Many times we feel like we need to be perfect in order to come to God and ask him for help, or to come to him and thank him, but that is not the case. He sent his one and only son to the world to die for us while we were still sinners. He put that salvation plan in motion so long ago, because he wants us to come to him in every time in our lives, good or bad. God wants us to come to him in our darkest hours, but also in the best times.

-Jana Swanson

First Things First

psalm 100 3

What are your three most thankful things? Go ahead – name them.

At the top of that thankful list — even before family, food and friends  (some of God’s best gifts, indeed) — should sit the giver of all good gifts – God himself.

As a parent, when I give one of my children a gift I definitely want them to enjoy it!  I love seeing the joy on their faces as they receive a gift they will enjoy.  And I am happy I could give them that joy.  But it is never my intent that the item I give would replace the joy I want them to receive with me.  And perhaps that has happened far too many times for our generous Heavenly Father.   His children appreciate and remember the gifts given – but forget the giver.

If He has slipped from the tippy top of our thankful list (or was never there), perhaps it is because we have neglected getting to know Him as we ought to.   Who is Our Gift Giver? Do you know Him well enough to truly give Him the thanks due to Him?  Isn’t it easiest to be thankful for those we hold most dear and know the best.

Verse 3 in Psalm 100 (the Psalm we suggested you post in your home this week and read often and work on memorizing) says, “Know that the Lord is God.”  What makes Him God?  And a God like no other?  What characteristics does He have which makes Him so deserving of our thanks and praise?

What are some of the best ways to get to know God more and more?  Sometimes a great church service, Sunday School or youth group meeting will leave you feeling like you know God better than you did the day before.  And that is a great start.  When there is a person we want to get to know more – we spend more time with them.  A relationship with God can not be a healthy, growing relationship if it is built on just one or two hours a week.  But He gave His Word – a most precious gift – so we can get to know Him, what He likes, what He doesn’t like, His past, His plans for the future, and His family.

He gives us so much.  Don’t forget Him.  Keep Him first on your thankful list.  Spend time getting to know Him more and more.  Dig into His Word.

-Marcia Railton

Thankful Thinking

Sunday

psalm 100 1

Have you ever been disappointed or irritated by someone you perceived as being ungrateful towards you?  Perhaps someone didn’t seem to truly appreciate a gift you gave – or the gift of time and talents that you sacrificed on behalf of others.  Of course you didn’t do the act purely for the thanks you would receive.  But, never-the-less, it feels good when the thanks comes . . . and something is missing when it isn’t there.

I wonder if God sometimes feels like something is missing in my relationship with Him.  Is He ever disappointed that I failed to acknowledge a gift He gave – or several.

This week we are going to be preparing our hearts and thoughts – not just for a holiday – but for living a grateful life.   And one of the best ways to do that is through Scripture.  Psalm 100 is one great example of a passage that “shouts” thankful heart!

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
 Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

 

It’s short enough to read several times a day.  Post it where you can read it often, and see if you can have it memorized before the end of the week.

And then be watching for His goodness and gifts.  When you spot them, give Him thanks.

-Marcia Railton

Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer