Thrive

john 10 10

Life can be tough, and it can seem like we are facing an uphill climb every day. It can feel like we are going through the motions, and we are just trying to make it to the next weekend, day off, or vacation. We are going through life, and we are just surviving it. I don’t think we were meant to live this way. God wants to live in us and work through us, He wants to give us life. There is an abundance of life in Jesus Christ, one that brings joy, peace, patience, and kindness. We weren’t made to survive – we were made to Thrive.

What does it mean to thrive? When you Thrive in life, you prosper. You grow. You flourish.

Here’s some references of thriving in the Bible:

“I made you thrive like plants of the field. You grew up and matured and became very beautiful. ” -Ezekiel 16:7a

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 4:11-13

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10

God wants us to have an abundant life. He gives us courage and strength because His Son, Jesus Christ, overcome the world. We are called to thrive like plants in the field! We need to Thrive in our faith and Christian deeds. We need to root ourselves in Christ, and trust God’s plan for our lives. Even when times get tough, we should seek God and point others to God. We should let God be the gardener in our lives and THRIVE.

I don’t know where you are in your walk with Christ. But I do know that our Heavenly Father is calling you to Himself. God is constantly calling you to know Him and to make Him known. Start digging into God’s word and let Him show Himself to you.

Don’t just survive life – Thrive in it.

Brenan Dominguez

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Stand Up For Christ

psalm 118 6

So far this week, we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, why it’s important to worship through singing, and that we all have a purpose. Today we will be discussing the importance of standing up for Christ.

In today’s society, topics such as religion and Christianity are shunned. Some people avoid speaking on the topics and others try to intimidate or harass those who do. This is known as persecution. Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Some even to the point of abuse or death. Christians are being persecuted for worshiping God, believing in Jesus Christ, reading the Bible, or even speaking or practicing the teaching of Christianity.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable mentioning topics about Christianity? Do you feel like you will be in trouble or scrutinized? Those are feelings and thoughts of fear.

“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” -Psalm 118:6

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me,

And delivered me from all my fears.”

-Psalm 34:4

We should not let fear overcome us. We should put our faith in God and He will take care of us. He will definitely take care of us if we are glorifying Him, sharing His Word, and standing up for His Son, Jesus Christ. God wants us to stand firm in our faith and proclaim the message of the Gospel.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” -John 14:6

By proclaiming the Gospel message and sharing our faith we are standing up for Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through Him. We need Jesus in our lives. We need to follow Him. We need Him as our friend.

We need to stand up for Him. I love the hymn titled “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”

The first verse sings “Stand Up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss; From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”

The last verse ends with “To him that overcometh A crown of life shall be; He with the King of glory Shall reign eternally.”

Do you want to reign and live with Jesus Christ eternally in the Kingdom of God? I know I sure do!

We need to stand up for Christ now, so we can stand with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom which will be established on earth.

Today I encourage you to not fret, worry, or live in fear. God is for us. Jesus Christ died for us. And now we need to live for Him! Share the Gospel message, live a life that represents Jesus, and stand up for Christ!

-Brenan Dominguez

More Letters for You

 

2 peter 3 17

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

Meeting the Mission

john 10 27

Throughout this week,  we have laid the groundwork that leads us from the call to the kingdom.  We considered how Jesus sought those who were seeking something better, and how those men recognized the call, the voice of their master (John 10:27).  Next, we considered how the heavens declare our salvation, and the continuing metaphor we have in the heavens declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19) and His salvation plan for mankind.  Knowing this, we applied this knowledge to God’s presence even in the darkest points in our lives – in the highest heavens he is there, but also in the deepest chasm (Psalm 139:8). His Spirit is promised and available to those who ask to receive it.  When we accept Jesus into our lives, we not only receive the Spirit of God, but also the weight of the cross – not our sin, which Jesus has paid for once and for all – but the daily responsibility to carry the name of the Lord with us wherever we go. Finally, we looked at how faith should be our great motivator.  It assures us when we don’t see God working the way we desire that he is working all things together for those who love him (Rom 8:28). The culmination of this hope comes when we arrive home. We will not be returning, but experiencing for the first time the place we have been called, where the light has been leading, where the Presence of God is close and real, where the cross paved a way for us, and the plan, having all who have believed and waited, rewarded together (Heb 11:39-40).

It is a beautiful story unfolding before us, but right now, we’re in the middle.  The part in between being called and being home. So where does our mission begin?  It begins with prayer. Prayer is our conversation with God, admonishing him, asking for repentance, lifting up concerns, and seeking his will.  Paul tells us that we should pray repetitively or without ceasing (2 Thes 5:17) constantly thanking Him, seeking His word, and listening for His voice.  It is the best way to align ourselves with his will for our lives. These are everyday acts of spiritual warriors, the same as someone who runs or lifts every day in preparation for a marathon.  In Acts 9, Saul is blinded when He sees Jesus Christ standing before him on the Road to Damascus, but it is Ananias, a man most likely practicing his faith in his hometown, that is called to a great mission.  Risking his life to go before the Christian persecutor, he speaks to him, ““Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” With these words, the course of Paul’s life and Christianity are forever changed.

For some of us, our mission will lead us to a foreign country, a great stage, or into a dramatic change of circumstance; however, we are all called to be faithful, seeking opportunities for God to use us as a vessel to speak peace and hope into the lives of those around us in the present; Many lives are lived, fearing God and keeping his commandments, in hometowns before neighbors, coworkers, or fellow students, a task that is can be ironically harder. We continually pray for those who are within our reach and influence, attuning ourselves to the will of God.  When we are faithful, we most assuredly will be ready for the harder things God calls us to as we will reach out and unabashedly share His Kingdom, leaving behind our ego, leaving behind our reputation, and even leaving behind our lives – in a moment or daily, knowing our mission is met.

-Aaron Winner

Thank you, Aaron for writing this week!  We did miss you at FUEL, but we are thankful for your continued commitment to God’s mission in your life.  Aaron recently shared his newest recorded song: How Great You Are.  Thank you for pointing us to the One who is Great!

Broken

my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever-4

When suiting up for battle, the biggest lie the enemy tells you is that you’re too broken to be loved by God. The whispers in your head that you are damaged goods, scuffed and bruised, attempt to overpower the innate value that you have because you are God’s child. By trying to hide your brokenness, you fight for the wrong side. Brokenness isn’t meant to be hidden, but embraced.

Scars become stories. Think of the physical scars you have—all those little gashes and scratches tell of what you have been healed from. Scars no longer hurt; instead, they are signs of victory. Just like your body repairs your physical wounds, God has healed you from your brokenness and sin. He has picked up your shattered pieces, brushed off the dust, and glued you back together. Your brokenness is a sign of victory. Jesus conquered death, and in doing so conquered your sin. When you weep and wallow in your brokenness, you send Jesus right back to the grave.

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. When a piece of pottery is dropped, it isn’t thrown out. Instead, it is restored and made even more valuable. This, in essence, is the gospel. You were crushed under the weight of your sin, but God, through the sacrifice of His son, pieced you back together. Where you see your life shattered to pieces on the ground, He sees restoration. If the Creator of the entire universe embraces your brokenness, you should, too.

Moses killed a man. David had an affair. Jonah ran away. Rahab was a prostitute. Noah got drunk. Paul murdered Christians. God could have left these details out, but He didn’t; He transforms broken people and puts them on pedestals to bring glory and honor to His name.

Let’s take a closer look at the story of Rahab, which is found in the second chapter of Joshua. Rahab had lived a promiscuous life as a prostitute, yet God redeems her. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites searching for the Promised Land, sent two spies to the city of Jericho, hoping to conquer the land of Canaan. When the officials of Jericho tried to hunt down the spies, they found safety in the home of Rahab. When the officials come knocking at Rahab’s door, she hides the spies on her rooftop under stalks of flax. This same woman who used to live a life of sin and shame helped save God’s chosen people. This same woman who used to live a life of sin and shame is an ancestor of Jesus, God’s own precious son (Matthew 1:5).

When the enemy stares into your eyes and tells you that you are broken, embrace it, knowing that your brokenness doesn’t define you; your Savior does.

~Mackenzie McClain

Surrender

mackenzie day 2

Shouting “surrender!” into battle may seem counterintuitive, but I am not suggesting that you surrender to your enemy; instead, surrender to your God. To surrender means to choose a place of vulnerability, giving up control, to give authority to a different power.  In a country where you’re told to control your own destiny and to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, surrender does not come naturally. You must understand that letting go and letting God is not weakness; instead, it takes great strength.

If you want to see God work in your life, you first have to give him something to work with. Today, we are going to read about a man who chose a place of vulnerability so that God would be glorified. The whole story is found in 1 Kings chapter 18, so give it a read, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a quick summary.

Israel is in the midst of a three-year draught as a punishment for their idol-worshipping, until God tells Elijah that it’s finally time to confront Ahab. Elijah arranges for Ahab to gather 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He says to the people of Israel, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah, being the only prophet of the one true God left, challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a competition. The two teams set up altars and placed a bull on top. The god, Baal or Yahweh, to answer with fire will be declared the one true God.

As the 450 prophets call out to and dance for Baal, Elijah taunts them, saying maybe Baal is busy or maybe sleeping. The prophets of Baal grow more and more frustrated, so Elijah calls them all to his altar. Elijah, surrounded by all these people that oppose him, has surrendered all of his control to his God. He surrenders himself even further as he created a trench around the altar filled with water. Elijah has no intentions for personal gain, but has instead surrendered everything into God’s own hands, which he knows are much more powerful than his own. God, of course, delivers and sends fire to the altar. All the people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—He is God! The LORD—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Then comes the icing on top, God sends rain.

That same God who sent fire to an altar drenched in water and made it rain after years of drought is the same God who is fighting on your side. Surrendering isn’t so scary when you’re leaving it all in God’s hands, which are far more capable than your own. This year, let “Surrender!” be your battle cry.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hands will eventually see God’s hands in everything.”

~Mackenzie McClain

Live a Changed Life

Luke 12

Be PreparedforHis Return

In the Old Testament God set up the Jewish religious system through Moses as a way to set them apart.  By the time of Jesus the Israelites had turned away from God so many times it gets hard to count, and they had turned the law into something unrecognizable from its original intent and had given into greed, hypocrisy and selfishness.  Jesus spent much of his time on earth battling and rebuking the Pharisees who epitomized all of the flaws with the Jewish religious system of the time.  Knowing that the church will have a strong Jewish culture with these traditions and tendencies and that they will be persecuted after he is gone, Jesus gives the advice found in Luke 12.

First in Luke 12:1-3  he warns them against hypocrisy because that is the quickest way to errode the witness and testimony of the church.  Similarly for us today, if we want to reach those around us for Christ, then we have to be consistent in our actions and words.  If you are a different person on Sunday than the rest of the week, or if your friends outside of church are genuinely surprised that you are a Christian because they cannot tell by your actions, then you need to evaluate your heart.

 

Then in Luke 12:4-12 he warns them to fear God more than the world and the government and people who are persecuting them.  We are also given a promise that when we boldly stand up for Jesus despite the physical consequences he will stand up for us before God.  As believers in Jesus we cannot stand idly on the sidelines.  Now that we have the knowledge of our sin, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and requires us to live a life set apart we have to make a choice and stand up for it every day.

 

In Luke 12:13-34 Jesus warns his disciples against greed, and being bad stewards of the things that God has given us.  Of those who are given much, much will be required.  This is true for riches as well and talents and abilities.  If we knowingly put ourselves before the Kingdom and spend all our time and talents on ourselves and buying worldly items and position and popularity then we will be held accountable for those actions.  If we are living a truly changed life for the gospel then we should be using our money and talents to further the gospel in any way we can.  If we put God first in this then he will take care of our physical needs as well.

 

Finally in the rest of the chapter he tells them to be watchful for his return, and to not grow complacent.  The entire Old Testament led up to the ministry of Jesus and everybody in Israel knew the scriptures and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not interpret the events correctly, and their hearts were not ready.  Similarly we have been given a promise of the return of Jesus in the future and need to be always ready for his return.  We cannot grow complacent in our Christianity.  We cannot let sin creep back into our lives and we cannot allow our passion and fire for the gospel to dwindle.   We should also be familiar with the prophecies of his return so that when they start to be fulfilled we can be prepared for his return.  We do not want to miss out like many of the Israelites of Jesus’ time did.

-Chris Mattison