What’s Your “Jerusalem”?

Acts 1 8

“…you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Today we are going to consider what is your Jerusalem and how do you witness there.  The disciples were told to be Jesus’ witnesses first in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was where they were at, their home town, their local churches.

What is your Jerusalem?  That is where you should start doing the Great Commission.  The mission conference I mentioned yesterday will help, but what can you do today to prepare?

To get started it is necessary that you know and are passionate for the message Jesus gave us to preach.  You should know this message so well that it just rolls off your tongue without hardly thinking.  But how does one get to that point?  It is just like any other area of study or favorite hobby.  You must read about it, talk about and talk more about it.  We do this naturally with things that we are interested in.  How many of you know all about your favorite musician or sports team and can recite trivia any time the topic comes up?

I have found that the more we talk about things, the more we know and internalize them.  What we put in will come out. What we invest our time and energy in, shows what we love.

What did the early church do to prepare for the kingdom work they were given?  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Read Acts 2:37-47 to get a taste of the excitement and results of God’s spirit at work in the people after they heard a great sermon!  Be encouraged and dialog with other believers about what you read in the Scriptures.  This will put you on the right path to doing your part of the Great Commission in your Jerusalem and onward.

-Tracy Zhykovich

Advertisements

Read More of the Good Book

2Tim3 1617 (1)

Today’s common New Year’s resolution is to read more of the Bible. One reason people quit this resolution is that they get lost quickly, or they do not have a plan on how much they are going to read, or they are inconsistent or they do not have accountability to keep them on track. Whatever the reason people tend to start off with good intentions, but they often fall short of their goal.

The verses today are 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalms 19:9-11, and Luke 12:27-28

So why do people want to read more of their Bible? Why is it important to read the Bible? How do we stay true to our goal of reading more? How do we get started? These are all questions you may have, and they are questions that I myself have had in my life.

There are so many reasons to add “read the Bible more” to your New Year’s resolutions. Check out 2 Timothy 3:14-17. These verses tell us that we need to know the teachings and laws of God from a young age and that every word in our Bible, every scripture is inspired by God and can be used in numerous different ways. They are good for teaching and correction, seeking righteousness. Through reading the Bible we strengthen our knowledge of God which can help us strengthen our relationship with him. When our relationship with God is strengthened we are complete, and we can be empowered to do good works in his name and for his will. Another great reason to read the Bible is because knowing more about the history of our faith, the history of God, and his son and the people of God, can give us a deeper understanding of how truly amazing our God is. He is the creator of the heavens and earth, he hand-crafted every thing of this earth, and yet he chose to create you too. He took the time to create you and build his own plan for your life, and all of this is found in scripture. Jeremiah 29:11 says,” For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.” The Bible is full of stories and histories that are good for us to know, and they are good for us to draw parallels in our own lives.

Psalms 19:9-11 “The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever, Yahweh’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the extract of honey-comb. Moreover by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” These verses tell us that God’s word is more precious than gold, and it is sweeter than honey-comb. God’s word feeds our spirits, and having this fulfillment does not happen if we do not know the ordinances and the word of God. This is such an awesome gift that God has created for us. We can see his love and his caring for all of his creation through his word, and we can see his true value of us through the Bible as well.

Luke 12:27-28 “Consider the lilies, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin. Yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God does so clothe the grass in the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you, O you of little faith?” These verses tell us how much God cares for us, and will take care of our every need. We live and breathe, we take care of other people, we help our neighbors, we take care of our families and friends, we worship God and in all these things we sometimes worry if our every need will be taken care of. In these verses we find assurance that even flowers and fields which serve very minor purposes are clothed in beauty, and we are so much more and God will take care of us. This is another reason to read our Bibles. When we are worried, sad or confused we can find solace and strength in the words the Bible has for us.

Today I want you to take this with you. The Bible is a great book that is useful in many contexts. It us useful for teaching others and yourself more about your faith. It is important for learning more about God and building a stronger relationship with him. It is a great comfort when we are in need or we are stuck in worry. The Bible was given as a gift to us, and we should treat it as this precious gift. We need to spend time in our Bibles. Going forward from reading this today, I hope that you can find a way to read more. Start by reading this blog, continue by using an app that sends you a verse of the day. You may even want to find an accountability partner to read along with you, or remind you to read. Being a Christian should not be a lonely venture. There are people out there who will support in your journey to God. I hope you’ve enjoyed today.

-Jana Swanson

Not As a Human Word

MONDAY

1 Thessalonians 2-13

Please read 1Thessalonians 2. My perspective in writing these devotions is that you are reading the scriptures. Nothing I write can be as important to you as what God can say to you as you read his word.

 

1Th. 2:1   You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

 

1Th. 2:9   You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 

1Th. 2:13   We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

 

1Th. 2:17   As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 Yes, you are our glory and joy!

 

I highlighted verse 13. We can ask ourselves, “how do I receive the word of God?” Do we see it from a human perspective, or is God speaking to us.

 

Let me add one thing right now. It’s likely that most of the people in Thessaloniki heard the word rather than read it. Only about 10 percent of the people could read. That means this letter was written to be read out loud. It also suggests that we might understand it better if we study it as a speech rather than a work of literature. For example, if we focus on the written word, we might spend a lot of time digging into the meaning of each word. If we take a rhetorical approach, meaning understanding it as a speech, we focus more on the impact of the words. Those who study rhetoric think that this letter sounds like a half-time speech given to a football team that is winning but needs to be encouraged to play hard in the second half. Paul doesn’t write as if the Thessaloniki Christians are messing up, but rather as if they need to be encouraged to keep doing the things that they have already been doing well.

 

Again we ask, “Do you hear this word as the word of the Lord?” What does it look like when someone hears the word of the Lord?

 

-Greg Demmitt

What to Do with Doubt

Mark 9:14-32 (Monday)

Mark 9 24

None of Scripture was intended to be read.  Although that may seem strange to us today, the ability to read was incredibly rare.  For today, it’d be like having a doctorate.  There are a number of professor’s out there, but you don’t run into them every day.  Reading just wasn’t something most people needed to be able to do to get through their day.  The agricultural and craftsman lifestyles didn’t need to keep many notes themselves.  As a result, the writings, when they were used, were usually read aloud in a collective setting – and this is key.  Because Scripture is meant to be heard – not read!  All those with EARS, let them HEAR.

Because of this, there weren’t any of the nifty little headings that we find in our Bibles today.  It was just one long story without breaks or chapters.  So, the nice breaks that we often get around stories didn’t exist except for the past few hundred years.  For today’s reading, both of these things are really important.

These two vignettes in Mark 9:14-32 (the healing of the child and the misunderstanding of the disciples) come back to back and would have been heard that way by Mark’s original audience.  So, what I’d like you to do is try it.  Take just a second to read these verses out loud. If you’re somewhere public, just try whispering if you want.  But read it out loud and see what sticks out to you.  I’ll wait here and I’ll do it too…

[waiting]

So, how was it?  Awkward? Weird?  Probably a little.  But when I did it something new really stood out to me about this passage.  In the first story, a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus responds ‘oh you faithless people…how much longer do I have to put up with you.  Bring me the boy.’  The father, distraught over Jesus’ seemingly kinda cruel response, cries out – ‘I want to believe! Please help my unbelief!’  He wants to save his son and will do whatever it takes to save him.

The next story is between Jesus and his disciples.  He’s teaching them about what’s going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem.  But they don’t get it.  They don’t have belief/faith, just like the dad in the previous story.  However, instead of putting aside their pride and asking for Jesus to help their unbelief (lack of understanding), they stay silent.

Here, in these few verses, a man from “this faithless generation” reaches out, pleads, and finds Jesus meeting him in his unbelief while the ones who are part of Jesus’ own inner-circle remain unmoved in their faithlessness.  And this at a time when Jesus’s time with them was literally drawing short.

The problem with this is never unbelief.  The problem is how we respond to it.  We won’t have all the answers.  We will doubt and question.  Jesus doesn’t lament our struggle – it is one that he himself walked through (for he shared in all things but without sin).  Embrace the places where you are unsure.  Lean into the spots where the struggle is the most real and you are shaken like the son in the story.  Push forward and call out for a help, a grace that will fill us in our uncertainty and bring healing.

-Graysen Pack

Keep Reading!

Proverbs 1-5a
SATURDAY Weekly Re-cap with Megan Bryant
This week, we read through the last few chapters of Proverbs.  As I said at the beginning of the week, Proverbs is a collection of timeless wisdom.  We looked at pieces of this wisdom ranging from true friendship to confessing our transgressions to being satisfied with our daily bread.  And since these posts didn’t focus on every verse, I would encourage everyone to read back over Proverbs as a whole and analyze the verses not discussed on this blog.  Every time we read the Bible, we have the opportunity to grow in a new way.  We may see a verse in a new light or notice something that we may have missed before.
Let’s continue to learn and grow as we continue to read through the Bible, but also look back over what has already been read to gain new insights.
-Megan Bryant

What a Powerful Tongue You Have!

Tuesday

prov 18 21

Today’s reading is Proverbs 18.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

Have you ever thought about your words bringing life to someone else? Yet, we see this throughout the scriptures. God uses human beings to communicate who He is. God used human beings to speak and record His commandments and instructions. The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:2).

Sometimes we may not realize how important our words can be. We certainly don’t want our conversations to make us gossips, quarrelsome, and fools (We don’t want our mouths to invite a beating.) But, as the children of God, it goes beyond avoiding bad conversations and sharing God’s message. God has entrusted us with the Gospel Message.  Good News of who He is, Good News of His Son Christ Jesus and Good News of the Coming Kingdom. We are given the opportunity to communicate that message so we can connect others to God through His Son.  God entrusted Jesus with the message that everyone needs to hear.

Christ said to his disciples in John 6:67-68, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We sometimes forget that our study of the scriptures is important because we are receiving a message from God, a message that we can share with others.  I want to make sure that I get the message straight and the story right because this message “has the power of life”.

By Rebecca Dauksas

(Photo Credit: http://puttingonthenew.com/2013/11/10/proverbs-1821/)

Who is God in Your Life?

Monday

By Rebecca Dauksas

Today North America will be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse, which happens when the Moon completely covers the Sun. In the U.S., the path of the total eclipse will extend from Oregon to South Carolina.  The scriptures are filled with illustrations of the contrast between darkness and light. Proverbs chapter 4 verses 18 & 19 states, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

How blessed we are to have God’s scriptures to train us in righteousness! They light our way by giving us insight and understanding. For instance, Proverbs 17 is filled with advice on how our conduct can help us manage healthy relationships.  Notice that verse one states, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” We might say, “We would rather enjoy a dry piece of toast with peace and quiet than a delicious 7-course meal with anger, arguments and conflict.”  This statement made me think about how good it is when we can enjoy being a part of a peaceful household.  It might also help us consider how we treat our family members. Do we try to get along with our family? Do we stir up conflict and start arguments?  Making our relationship with God our first priority can help us see God’s wisdom in every relationship.

prov 17 9

Proverbs 17:9 states, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” When we apply this verse to existing healthy relationships, we see that if we want to foster love, when we are sometimes offended, we should forgive and move on. Which agrees with what we are told about love in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”  Of course, there are offenses that have to be brought into the open and dealt with, but in this case imagine that a friend or loved one says something that is unkind.  Our tendency may be to tell others, “You won’t believe what she said to me!”  Instead, we can choose to foster love by not gossiping about those unkind words. We can decide that we will not continue to bring it up when our tempers flare. We can choose to overlook it and let it go.

Notice the relationships mentioned in Chapter 17-parent, child, friend, brother, etc.

The way we relate to others gives us the opportunity to show who God is in our lives.