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

Advertisements

Paul’s Letters

1 corin 15 58

The third division of the New Testament includes the 13 books called the Pauline Epistles – which are letters that Paul wrote.  Many of the letters are written to churches which Paul had visited or heard about during his 3 missionary journeys.  As it turns out, the issues that troubled churches 2,000 years ago, are so similar to the issues of our churches today: immorality, false teachers, disunity, the need for wise and godly leaders, and more.  The final four letters are written to individuals – pastors and friends of Paul.

Here is a general overview of each of Paul’s letters…

 

Romans – Righteousness – The Romans Road

Written to the church in Rome (which Paul had not yet visited) to explain God’s plan of salvation.  Some have called a selection of verses the Romans Road as they lay out how to be right (righteous) before God: Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1&2, 10:9 & Acts 2:38

 

1st & 2nd Corinthians – Warnings & Replying to False Teachers

Written to the church in Corinth (a large, immoral city in Greece).  1st letter warns against factions, immorality, jealousy, lawsuits, marital issues, misuse of spiritual gifts and public worship, etc.  Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, teaches us how to love supremely.  Chapter 15, the Resurrection Chapter speaks of the hope we have for a future resurrection.  In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends himself against false teachers attacking his integrity and credibility.

 

Galatians – Faith & Freedom in Christ

Written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Turkey) to correct the teaching that the new Gentile Christians had to follow the whole Old Testament law to be saved.  Instead, with God’s grace and our faith in Christ we can be free from the Law and the power of sin.  We are not free to disobey Christ or practice immorality.  We are to use our freedom to serve God and others.  See Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

 

Ephesians – One Body of Christ – The Church

Written to the church in Ephesus  which Paul had visited several times, and even stayed for 3 years during one of his trips.  Paul encouraged the church to remember they were the body of Christ, to keep Christ as the head and work together as a body does, also to stand strong against evil forces with the full armor of God (chapter 6).

 

Philippians – Rejoice!

Written to the church in Philippi when Paul was in jail.  He was thanking the church for a gift they had sent while also encouraging them to remain strong when persecuted and to be joyful in all circumstances.  The 4 chapters include ‘joy’ (or a version of the word) 16 times.

 

Colossians – In Christ Alone

Written to the church in Colosse to stress again that the church must not mix worldly and pagan beliefs with the good news of Jesus Christ.  He wrote about Jesus, the Son of God – the head of the church and the only way to God’s salvation.

 

1st & 2nd Thessalonians – Jesus is Coming Again

Written to the church in Thessalonica (Greece) which Paul had only visited for 3 weeks before being forced out by a violent mob.  Timothy had reported to Paul that the church was doing well despite the persecution – but needed a few clarifying points.  One of which was they must control their bodies in holy and honorable ways.  Also, false teachers were teaching that Jesus had already returned to Earth so Paul gave more details on what Jesus’ return would be like (which everyone would see and know) and said to keep working until then.

 

1st & 2nd Timothy – Paul’s Words to Young Pastor Timothy

Perhaps some of Paul’s last letters – one more opportunity to pass along godly council to one who would continue the work of making disciples.  Timothy had been a helpful companion on some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul had sent Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus.  Now Paul was writing to help solve some of the church’s problems, including legalism and false teaching.  He also listed qualifications for church leaders.

 

Titus – Paul’s Words to Church Leader: Titus

Titus had travelled with Paul and Timothy.  Then Paul left Titus in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) so that he could, “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” (1:5).  And, since the people of Crete were known for being liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12), that was a big job to do.  Paul described again the qualities to look for in a church elder.  He told what to preach to various people and to teach God’s people to do good (a lesson we still need today for sure).

 

Philemon – Paul Urges Philemon to Forgive Onesimus

Philemon was a wealthy landowner and the church in Colosse met in his house .  His slave Onesimus had run away – and met Paul while he was in house arrest in Rome.  Paul shared the good news with the run away and Onesimus accepted Jesus – and knew he had to return to Philemon.  Paul wrote to Philemon interceding on Onesimus’ part – asking him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a helpful brother in Christ.  We are reminded of our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive, and that all are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

 

There are so many timeless truths, warnings and nuggets of encouragement in Paul’s letters.  And they are even more meaningful when we remember they were written by the man Paul of the book of Acts, as he was teaching and preaching about the Son of God as found throughout the 4 books of Gospels and prophesied of during the Old Testament.   God’s Word has a beautiful, orderly progression to prepare God’s people for salvation and to love and serve Him and others.  And Paul’s Letters are a wonderful piece of the puzzle.

 

Keep Reading His Word!
Marcia Railton

You Are Not Alone

matt 4 4 (2)

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

Church

matt 18 20

We hear all the time that church attendance is down. It is. We could share the statistics, but we don’t need to. If you haven’t heard that, look around you. Church buildings, once central to communities, now stand empty or are used for other purposes. Restaurants, stores, and even more annoyingly, community and kids’ events are now regularly open/held on Sunday mornings without thought. But, why shouldn’t they be if attendance or business doesn’t decrease? And if you aren’t sure from observation alone, there are plenty of statistics out there to satisfy the most analytical of researcher. Home churches have increased in recent years, but even this increase doesn’t begin to make up for the decrease in overall church attendance. This certainly brings several questions such as “Why don’t people attend church?” or “Why have people left the church?”. . .but also. . . “What is the church?”

In our English language and contemporary society, the word “church” generally conjures up ideas of a building. Maybe a white building with a steeple and an organ. Maybe a cathedral, centuries-old with beautiful stained glass. Maybe a megachurch with full band, coffee shop, and million-dollar electronic equipment. Whatever the picture in our minds. . .it is generally far different from the meaning of the Biblical “church” and its references to the church family.

 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20)

“. . .let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer. . .” (Acts 1:14)

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. . .All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

In scripture, the Greek word “ecclesia” refers to the group of believers. . .and clearly the content of scripture indicates that it doesn’t matter where that group meets, but who that group is. We are God’s children united in one church, one body.  We may “attend” a wedding or funeral, but we ARE the church. If we separate from the church, the body is injured. And if we think that church is something we “do” or somewhere we “go”, then we injure the body and minimize its potential. Our church family is our most important family and within it is the way we are called to seek the kingdom and spread the gospel.  If we wonder why people don’t attend church, or don’t do more than show up for a “service” and leave, perhaps we need to look at ourselves and encourage one another to amp it up a bit with a few of these things. Actions can speak louder than words sometimes, and it doesn’t help anyone to simply bemoan the state of society and the lack of church attendance and tell someone they should “come to church”. Instead, let us share it by remembering those who led us and imitate, be on guard, be thankful, teach, admonish, forgive, share, stimulate, encourage, persevere, and prioritize. We love our church, and we love even more the hope of one day being in the kingdom in a perfect, Christ-led body together. That day is ever-approaching. Let us not give it up now.

–Brian and Jennifer Hall

For the Love of Truth

Deut 4 29

What is going to keep you in your church or in this movement – Church of God General Conference?  The nice people that go there?  The music?  The youth group?  Fuel?

If you really think about it, I can pretty much guarantee that most churches in your neighborhood have nice people in them, maybe they even have bigger bands and bigger youth groups.  But, do they have biblical truth?  Unfortunately, I have seen many people leave our movement for “better” music and bigger youth groups.  They sacrifice the truth that will save them for temporary pleasures and personal preferences.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 says that people refused to love truth and so be saved. “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,”

If people do not love truth enough to genuinely seek for it, then God will allow them to keep believing what is false.

But, God promises to be found if we truly seek Him! “… from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”   (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Is our attitude that of Daniel’s?  “… I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

Hosea 4:6 tells us that the Israelites were destroyed for lack of knowledge.

The road is narrow that leads to life, and truth and righteousness are what that road is paved with.  Most likely your church or this movement will not be able to provide all that other churches or mission’s organizations can provide, but please never forget what they do provide.  Truth is a treasure and if you have to choose between popularity, great worship music or bigger youth groups, never settle for less than that which can save you!

Don’t take the easy road and leave when something “better” comes along.  If you want different music or bigger, more active youth groups, then don’t compromise truth, just do something about it!  No organization or group will be perfect, but if there is solid truth as a foundation, you can build anything you want, as high as you want.

Here are a few more verses to consider and meditate on.  Read them and consider the result of seeking God with all your heart.  Psalms 63:1; 2 Chronicles 15:12, 31:21

Will you make a covenant to always seek God?

-Tracy Zhykhovich

 

Tracy went to Oregon Bible College and then spent 17 years in Russia as a missionary.  She is passionate for biblical truth and that is why she went alone to Russia and not with another mission organization.  Upon returning to the United States she remains very active in evangelism and global missions and continues working as a missionary through internet evangelism and partnering with indigenous missionaries that are doing mission work overseas.   She currently partners with people in Russia, Pakistan and the Middle East.  She is president of the MN Missionary Society and is a member on Lord’s Harvest International missions board, and is the co-founder of Kingdom of God Ministry & Missions.  http://www.kogmissions.com

ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Fellowship

1 Cor 12 27

We have been looking at living our life on purpose – choosing goals that are pleasing to God and then striving to live by them.  So far, we have covered the purposes of Worship and Discipleship.

 

Today, we consider the exciting fact that we are not the only disciple of Christ.  Rather, we are a part of a body of believers – the body of Christ.  It is God’s desire that we remain connected to the body of Christ in order to be more effective and to better fulfill the 2nd Commandment: love others.  This purpose can be called Fellowship.

 

Hebrews 10:25 gives great counsel to the family of God: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”   Unfortunately, sometimes the church body fails at this.  In a survey of people who have stopped attending church, 75% said they gave up meeting together because they didn’t feel like people cared if they were at church or not.  They failed to get encouragement from the body of Christ.  This should not be!   As disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to each other – to encourage, to listen, to greet, to show concern, to value the other members of God’s family.  The church is no place for cliques or loneliness.  And each one of us can be part of the solution.

 

Take a minute today to read Acts 2 (particularly verses 36-47).  Look for what the early church was doing together.  How were they creating a powerful body of believers that were on fire for God’s truth and a love for one another?   What will you do today and throughout the week to strengthen your bonds with God’s family?  They need you – and you just might find out you are better off with them, too.

 

A Part of His Body,

Marcia Railton