Waiting – Patiently

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Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Waiting, especially for a response to prayer, is always hard. How often have you asked God for guidance, only to be met with silence?  It is hard to be patient when others around you are succeeding. How do you respond to the times the answer to prayer is “Wait”? God will always help those who call on Him, sometimes He is waiting for us to be obedient.

Often when we are unsure of the direction God has for us, we seek help from other Christian friends.

Reflect on a time an answer to prayer was “Wait.” How did you respond? Do you have a trusted friend or mentor to help you be patient as you wait for God’s direction? Take some time to pray for them. Work on being patient as you wait on the Lord.

-Susan Johnson

 

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Introductions

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I love meeting people especially at Christ-centered events. I have never been afraid of hearing, “so tell me about yourself.” So imagine my amazement when a family member said they dreaded activities where you get-to-know each other. In a circle of strangers, they draw a blank when they are asked to tell one thing about themselves. Of course, my response is totally different. “Only one thing?” I want to hear about everyone and let them learn about me.  I love to meet new people and learn about their lives. I genuinely enjoy the company of others and feel energized from spending time with others.  Some might say that I am extremely extraverted.  Of course, we have all experienced some awkwardness or tension when we are meeting someone new. We want to put our best foot forward so we make a good impression.

I love the way that some of the New Testament Writers introduce themselves. The book of 2 Peter begins with this, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”  Paul begins his letter to Timothy in this way. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Timothy 1:1) They know who they are and they are all about being God’s children and Christ’s servants.

As Christians, my hope and prayer is that we are as solid in our identity in Christ.  We have been adopted into God’s family, we have become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Roman 8:17), we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10) and we are loved. These are just a few aspects of our new identity-who we are when we accept Christ.

Sometimes we begin to focus on one aspect of our lives and define ourselves in this way. In our minds we let that one area define us. You know we begin to think of ourselves as a student, a jock, a gamer, a hipster, an arty intellectual, a hard worker, a prep, a dancer…sure we may have something that is unique and special about us, but most important we are the children of God. We are followers of Christ. Just like the New Testament writers, lets make it obvious that we are servants of Christ Jesus our hope.

-Rebecca Dauksas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 YEARS!

 

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I think I was in my Elementary school cafeteria when I first read the phrase “You Are What You Eat”. Of course, the posters placed in the cafeteria wanted us to realize that it is important to eat nutritious food in order to be healthy and fit.  At the time I probably had tater tots and homemade pizza on my tray. Not sure what I thought about being a Tater Tot.

As we grow up, we understand that what we eat is vital for disease prevention, growth and good health. Because we know this, we try to determine what our every day eating habits should be. In the same way, we need to be discerning about what we feed our minds.

We are constantly taking in what is around us and as Christians, it is important to put only the best into our hearts and minds. In Philippians 4:8 we are told what should occupy our thoughts. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So we need to be intentional about what we are thinking and how we are spending our time. This week I saw that the average American spends 7 years and 8 months of their lives watching TV and 5 years and 4 months on social media (Mediakix). What might seem like an innocent time-killer could actually use 16 years of our lives. So how would the Apostle Paul instruct us to occupy our time? In Colossians 3, we are told, “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So there we have it. Everything we say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. Let’s truly rely on God when we pray to “give us today our daily bread” because hopefully we are becoming that daily bread.  We Are What We Eat.

-Rebecca Dauksas

You Are Not Alone

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I just returned from FUEL2018 “Mission” – a great event for youth which brought together students and staff from many states and Canada.  It was better than a week of vacation or band camp or soccer camp or working that good old summer job.    And what made it so powerful was our connection through God’s Word.

I enjoyed reminiscing about a missions trip I had taken with other staff members years ago – a trip in which our mission was to teach about God, His Word, His Son and His Coming Kingdom.  I enjoyed the worship music which helped us praise our Creator (which we read about in Genesis) and remember the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior (as recorded in the gospels).  The general session teachings, classes, workshops and family group times brought Godly men and women speaking God’s Word and how it had impacted them and those they knew.  They spoke wisdom from the Scriptures on who God is, what He desires from His children, who His Son is and how to grow a personal relationship with Him.

And, then we all went home.

Perhaps in some small way we can feel the emotional let-down of the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven and then asked themselves – what next?  They had been so close to God’s representative – his own Son – and now they were separated?  How would they continue learning, growing, acting in his name – without his bodily presence and audible words there to guide the way.

So, too, we can feel a little lost and let-down upon leaving such a spiritually pumped up place as FUEL.  But, remember, you are not alone!

Stick close to your Christian brothers and sisters and mentors.  Get into church this morning – and throughout the year!  Listen well to God’s Words through your pastor and SS teacher and worship leader and youth leader.  Ask questions, look for connections, serve the church body, talk to the lonely, encourage the weak, invite a friend, share what inspired you at FUEL, and then make an opportunity to meet up with some faithful followers sometime this week to encourage and strengthen one another.  In a section sometimes titled “Call to Persevere” the writer of Hebrews gives these directions: “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24,25).  Don’t try being a lone-ranger Christian.  You need the body of believers – and they need you!

And, just as you wouldn’t dream of not eating again until you were back on Manchester’s campus next July, don’t waste away from a lack of God’s Word!  Keep serving yourself daily portions of God’s Word – for this is your source of spiritual food and nourishment.  You are not going home alone when you are going home with God’s Word.  It is here He reveals himself, His love for you, His precious Son, His plan for the ages, His goals and dreams for you, and the Mission He has given you.  It is here he shares all truth and how to be wise against deception and evil.  You can not protect yourself from falling for false worldly Gods if you do not know the true God in His Word.  It is here you learn of His all-mighty power, holiness, wisdom, presence, mercy, forgiveness, as well as His fatherly (good) discipline when needed to help you stay where He wants to bless you.

This blog/email list of daily devotions is one way we want to encourage you to stay in God’s Word every day.  God’s Words are the Best Words.  Every week you will read daily devotions written by someone in our FUEL family who is passionate about God – and YOU – and wants to help keep you connected to Him through a deeper understanding of His Word.  Thank you to Aaron Winner who wrote during FUEL on the MISSION we have!  The week before I wrote on an overview of the Old Testament, so this week we will continue on with an overview of the New Testament.  So, come back tomorrow ready to jump into the gospels!  You can be thinking about . . . what do you most appreciate about Jesus?   What is your favorite miracle?  Favorite parable?  See you tomorrow!

You are Not Alone,

Marcia Railton

Leave the Boat Behind

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Many of you who subscribe to this blog are currently on voyage towards your “Mission” or FUEL 2018.  Sadly, I have been left behind (electively) for the first time in almost 20 years, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to man the deck and steer the course for your inspiration from the scriptures.  My hope for those attending FUEL 2018 is to place a mark on your map, so you can begin navigating your day. Those of us not attending or those who don’t even know what FUEL is, I hope to remind you of the called Christian’s day-in-day-out commissioning that sets us on a life-saving and life-giving course, not only for ourselves, but for all who have set sail seeking the truth.

 

To provide some context for our key text today, Matthew 2-4 shows us the preparation of Jesus for His ministry and purpose.  He was born with distinction, baptized to be righteous, and tempted to be proven. He is now ready and worthy for his calling to share a game-changing gospel to both Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2).   He begins sharing this good news, specifically, looking for disciples to come follow Him. The events that unfold in Matthew 4:18-22 are shocking to most of us. Jesus calls a set of brothers to follow him, and they actually do it.  And then it immediately happens again. WHAT!? Now to be fair, we are not given a lot of context. It is possible the conversation with these fishermen was longer than “Come, and follow me and I will send you out to fish for people,” but keep in mind, this is before the miracles of Jesus — when he was baptized, tempted, and sharing the gospel like us.  If Jesus spoke any other words or had a reputation, it was regarding two things: repentance and the Kingdom of God (v.17).

 

Now, it has been said the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat and day they get rid of it.  It would be disingenuous to say all boat owners feel this sentiment, but the majority do. Why? The infatuations and pleasures brought by owning a boat quickly are outweighed by the unforeseen investments, burdens, and maintenance.  Andrew, Peter, James, and John could very well have been content, but were undoubtedly ready to disembark because they were looking for something better. These four men left their nets, boats, and fathers and immediately followed Jesus. I know. You are scratching your head — “It doesn’t happen like this; people today don’t actually leave their stuff, work, or family behind to follow Jesus.” It actually does.  Quite a bit in the Bible, but as I have seen with my own eyes, quite a bit today WHEN there isn’t contentment with leaving people on sinking vessels.

 

We do not have to perform miracles to create this type of rapid response to the gospel, only share the message that removes the burdening responsibilities “owning” a boat. What is that message?  “Come, follow Him, ” in this many words or more, not merely left to a cryptic metaphor with our actions. Additionally, we must be ready to verbalize our answer to the hope we have, the faith that makes us live differently (1 Peter 3:15).  These words are our net, our bait, our way of setting the hook for conversation; otherwise, we are just fishermen, waiting for a fish to hop onto the shore (which is pretty ineffective). No matter what we catch, those who share our message and praise it, those who hate our message and curse it, or those who are seeking our message and find it, we are His fishers of men who continually cast our message of the Kingdom of God, seeking and searching for those who are ready to leave the boat behind.

-Aaron Winner

In His Word

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GOD’s Story is the best story.  GOD’s words are the best words.  If I want to live my life to please Him, I must be grounded in His Word, for that is where I find Him, where I learn about Him, and where I begin to grow my relationship with Him.  The world is full of false gods and it becomes so easy to be led astray by what the glittery, selfish world offers instead of taking ahold of the solid promises and expectations God lays out in His Word.  I believe Satan is pretty happy to see people who enjoy calling themselves Christians who spend very little time in God’s Word.

Can you imagine a person who loves Marvel – wears Marvel, spouts Marvel trivia, plays Marvel games, etc …… but has never seen any Marvel movies – not even a trailer.   It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it!   So too, is the Christ follower who doesn’t look to the book that Christ followed – ridiculous – and even dangerous – for himself and for those who would follow that poor example.

If we know God’s Word is important… what gets in the way?  Time, of course, is the number one answer.  But, not a very valid one.  We all find time to do what we really want to do – including perhaps a few movies or TV shows every week to unwind, some “brain games” (ie-device time) to keep us mentally sharp, some physical activity to keep our shape (or lose our current shape), but how do we remember to do the daily upkeep for our most important spiritual life?

I think sometimes our problem is that is just seems so overwhelming to open the big book.  Where do I start?  What if I don’t understand it?  It is such a big book!  This week we are going to do an overview of the importance of God’s Word – as well as providing an outline for how the book is laid out.  Where do I find the stories of Jesus?  Of Moses and David?  What makes the book of James different from Esther?   Where in the world is the book of Habakkuk – and why is it there?

Today – read as much of Psalm 119 as you can (go ahead, I challenge you – read the whole chapter).  Be looking for what good comes from God’s Word (and his laws, statutes, promises, commandments, which are all found in the gift of God – the Bible).

 

God bless you as you seek Him in His Word!
Marcia Railton

Lukewarm Caterpillars

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A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Koryta Hall