Facts of Life

Matthew 10

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Ok, so I am going to age myself this week.  An old sitcom that was popular when I was young had a “catchy”/ jingle that would get stuck in my head every week when it was on.  The Facts of Life.  The chorus was:

You take the good, you take the bad,

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

 

There’s a time you got to go and show

You’re growin’ now you know about the facts of life,

The facts of life.

 

When the world never seems to be livin’ up to your dreams

And suddenly you’re finding out

The facts of life are all about you, you.

 

It takes a lot to get ’em right

When you’re learning the facts of life. (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life.

 

If we we all think back and think about how we thought our lives would be, we would probably admit that things are nowhere near what we had dreamed if we are honest with ourselves.  In our reading today (Matthew 10) Jesus was speaking to his disciples and charging them to go out and share the gospel to the world.  He knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The disciples had a long and challenging road ahead of them.  In fact, sharing the message and living for him would be one of the hardest things the disciples would ever do.  It was the disciples “Facts of Life” message from Jesus.  As we consider our relationship with Jesus, we might find times that make us angry, confused and end up with doubts and hurt.  What I take from these verses is the challenges may be great- and they are.  We may have teachers, family members, coworkers and friends that challenge, mock us or walk away from our lives. But the reward is greater.  

Let’s focus on what Jesus says in verses 21-23.  The Message Version says: “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family.  There is a great irony here:  proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!  But don’t quit.  Don’t cave in.  It is all well worth it in the end.  It is not success you are after in such times but survival.  Be survivors!  Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”   

So don’t cave in! Don’t be discouraged.  As the song lyrics state:It takes a lot to get it right when you are learning the facts of life. The fact is Jesus loves you and desires your commitment, love, praise and life.  He wants you to face these challenges in life and the end result is the ultimate prize. It does take work and the road may not always be easy but he is there and his love and promise is worth it.

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-Emily Moyer

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Perseverance in Suffering

2 Thessalonians 1-3

What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.”  In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering.  They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.

Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution.  Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other.  If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.

Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe.  It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day.  The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.

-Lacey Dunn

Thrown to the Lions

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Daniel 5-6                                            

In Chapter 6 of Daniel something very devious and disturbing occurs. After being selected as one of three administrators over Babylon by its new king, Daniel found himself in the crosshairs of the other overseers of the kingdom. They were jealous of the favor Daniel was finding in the eyes of Darius and that the king wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.  This jealousy led to a conspiracy to get rid of Daniel. But how could they entrap such an upright guy? 

The satraps and administrators devised a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to God against him. They convinced the king to enact a law that would prohibit prayer of any kind to any person or god, other than Darius for thirty days. The punishment would be certain death, in the form of being thrown into a pit with hungry lions.

Daniel, in response to the ridiculous edict, went home and did the same thing he did everyday: prayed. He prayed three times everyday, not to Darius, but to the God of the universe, Yahweh.  In the middle of his prayers, a group of satraps and administrators went to Daniel’s house and caught him in the unlawful act. They turned him in. Despite trying everything he could, the king had no choice but to order to have Daniel thrown into the Lion’s den. 

The next morning Darius rushed to the den to see if Daniel was still alive. Not only was he alive, he didn’t have a scratch on him. God had spared him. He sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. The king was overjoyed and had Daniel pulled out. And, in a clear case of poetic justice, the men who tried to entrap Daniel are thrown to the lions to meet the same fate they had planned for Daniel.

The big point I want to draw from this particular story, and in this book as a whole, is Daniel’s consistency despite the changes in the world around him. Daniel lived his whole life in a place that was not his home, lived under the reign of several different kings, and he had people who were jealous of him and wanted him dead. Despite these things that were out of his control, Daniel was steadfast in his devotion to God and unwavering in his commitment to living right. 

The world we live in is constantly changing. Every four to eight years, we have a new president. What is popular today will be forgotten tomorrow (silly bands anyone?). What was socially acceptable a decade ago, is now taboo. What was once taboo is now celebrated. Society is in flux. Our devotion to God must not be. We may never live in a time when it is illegal to pray, but we do live in one where it is unpopular and becoming more so ever year. Our foundation must not be the shifting sands of the culture, but the Rock that never changes. It may get you thrown to the lions, but you’ll be in the favor of the one who made those lions. 

– Joel Fletcher

The Resolution that Stuck

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Daniel 1-2 

The book of Daniel is probably my favorite of the books we call the Prophets. It is filled with exciting stories (like the fiery furnace and lion’s den), captivating prophecies, and one of the best biblical examples of a godly man.

In the first two chapters of Daniel we begin to learn a lot about his character. The first story in Daniel begins in 1:8, which says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Daniel was a part of a group chosen by king Nebuchadnezzar to be groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were chosen from the tribe of Judah. The group was assigned to eat food that apparently was against the food laws outlined in law given to Moses. Instead of doing the easy and safe thing, Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself with the decadent, tasty food. After some reluctance, the official in charge of Daniel agreed to let him and his friends eat his own diet. 

At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions to start doing something good (like work out more or read Bible more) or give up something bad for them (like fried foods or too much TV). What seemly happens every year though, is that after a few weeks or, if you’ve done well, a few months, you give up on your resolution and start back on what you were doing before. Keeping resolutions is hard, but Daniel kept his. Not only that, but he and his friends looked better after ten days of vegetables and water than the other guys on the diet of choice foods and wine.

Daniel’s resolution stuck and for this he was rewarded. God gave he and his three friends knowledge and understanding and Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams. They found favor with the king and entered his service. This led to the second story in this great book, the interpretation of the king’s dream.

What will be a constant theme through the first half of this book is Daniel’s devotion to God. This is what led him to resolve himself not to eat the defiled food and, even when faced with opposition, to keep that resolution. This devotion will keep him praying even when it’s illegal.

Daniel was devoted to God above all us. We should be, too. It won’t be easy. We may face opposition. We may be thrown to the lions. But in end, it will be well worth the struggles. As the great songwriter Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody.” Why not let it be the God who will set up a kingdom that will never end? (Daniel 2:44) Resolve yourself to be devoted to the God who won’t let you down.

– Joel Fletcher

Ending on a Hopeful Note

 Today we are wrapping up the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel is, at times, quite difficult to read. Perhaps not as bad as Leviticus, but it is definitely one of the tougher Prophets to get through. The first two thirds of the book is about judgment (not a very happy subject). But you’ve made through that and arrived at the uplifting stuff about Israel’s restoration and their place in the Millennial Kingdom.

In Chapter forty-seven we read about a river that flows from the temple. When the water pours into the Dead Sea, it turns the salt water fresh. Fish will be in this river, and fisherman will stand on its shore, casting their nets, catching many different species of fish. Trees will grow along its banks, bearing fruit monthly. “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

In Chapter forty-eight, the final chapter, we read about the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. A special portion of this land will be set apart for the LORD and be given to the priests and in its center will be a sanctuary for the LORD. There will also be a city, with twelve gates named after the tribes of Israel; this city will be called “the LORD is there.” Yahweh is there.

As has been already mentioned, Ezekiel is writing this book in a tumultuous time for the Israelites. They are in a hopeless state. Feeling forsaken and wondering if God will ever restore His people. The last fifteen chapters of Ezekiel offered the Israelites hope that God would indeed restore them. Ezekiel ends on a hopeful note: a city in the middle of the Promised Land named Yahweh is there. Those who were in a land that was not their own, suffering under the hands of great oppressor would have certainly been uplifted by such a promise from a God who shows He won’t forget His people.

We, too, serve that God who doesn’t forget and doesn’t break His promises. Even when you’re in the deepest, darkest, depths of depression have hope. Even when the world is crumbling around your feet, and it seems like it will never get better, know it will. Even when your doubts overtakes all other feelings you have, believe God is stronger. He has a plan. He’s made a promise. And He keeps His promises. One day we will be in God’s Kingdom and Yahweh will be there.

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Our Refuge

Psalms 31-34: God our stronghold, our refuge.

“The LORD is the stronghold of my life –

of whom should I be afraid?” – Ps. 27:1b

Imagine you are in a battle, with your enemies pressing you on every side. You need a place to regroup, get rest, and then continue fighting. Where would you seek your refuge?

This scenario might be hard to imagine for most of us, who have never fought a battle, but David, who wrote several of these psalms, knew exactly what it was like to be pursued by an army. In many of these psalms, he refers to God as his refuge, fortress, and stronghold. God is the place where he goes to receive rest, to be rescued.

One of the main attractions to visit while in the city of London is the Tower of London. This structure, that was built over the past millennia, was designed in such a way that it would prevent attacks from arrows, canons, and more. The base of the White Tower even has walls that are 15 feet thick!

Though the strongholds that David was referring to may have not been built like medieval buildings, the purpose of them would be the same. They were designed to be impenetrable. To be a safe place amidst the arrows, swords, and fighting. A refuge that David could come to for peace in the turmoil of a fighting life.

We, like David, can come into the refuge of God’s fortress. God can be our stronghold! When we follow God’s direction and trust in him, we have walls shielding us that are much thicker than those of the Tower of London. Praise God who protects even in the turmoil of this life.

-Cayce Ballard

The-Kid-Who-Knows-Everything Answer

Job 18-21

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Sunday, December 18

A teacher poses a challenging question in his class.  Most students begin to ponder, some begin to turn and whisper, some cross their fingers and hope they are not asked to contribute.  Not a single hand goes in the air.  The teacher repeats the question; this time, he says in a different way.  It doesn’t help.  Thoughts become more frantic.  Anxiety increases.  Some students begin to avoid eye contact.  At the moment that it seems that the teacher will start combing the class for a response, a lone hand ascends into the air.  It is that kid who knows everything. Thank you, that kid who knows everything! The teacher calls on her, and you are saved from having to answer the question.  All’s right with the world; you now can rest easy.

 

I have seen this scenario played out many times as both a student and a teacher.   No matter how difficult the question, it seems there is always one person in our lives who is prepared to answer it.  Whether it is at school, in your family, your circles of friends, or your work, there is always that one person (who very well may be you) that you turn to that has the experience, knowledge, or wisdom it takes to figure out life’s most difficult questions.

 

A passage in today’s text is like “that kid who knows everything.”  It  is the all-encompassing answer that holds God’s key and fundamental truth in which we can fix our hope. It stops us from over-thinking, stifles our anxiety, and helps us to take on, not avoid challenging situations, like:

 

  • When you are having trouble making sense of the world around you
  • When you feel like your prayers are not being answered
  • When you seek  “the reason” THIS is happening to YOU
  • When you lose someone or something you dearly love
  • When justice cannot be found
  • When we lose our health or happiness
  • When we face many other examples from Job 19:7-20

 

This is Job’s answers and ours:

 

Job 19:25-27 – “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him  with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”


It is not resignation.  It is not a cop-out.  It does not mean you stop seeking, studying, or pursuing.  It is the assurance and peace which you can rest and be guided in while you are waiting.

-Aaron Winner