Victorious God

Revelation 8-12

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Wednesday July 19

Seven is the number of completion, of fulfillment.  The number seven appears repeatedly in Revelation:  seven Churches, seven seals…. and now seven trumpets.  A trumpet is blown to get people’s attention- something important is about to be announced.  The seven trumpets here announce the judgment of God upon the earth.  God is about to bring this evil age to a close to make way for the age to come, when the Kingdom of God replaces fully the kingdoms of this world.
Each of the seven trumpets are blown by an angel of God followed by some great disaster.  There is hail, fire, blood, large burning rocks falling from heaven (a meteor or asteroid).  Then stars fall from heaven, the sky becomes filled with darkness, more heavenly bodies fall to earth opening deep pits in the earth which release demonic creatures.  There are plagues and wars and all manner of destruction heaped upon the earth.  Here it’s important to remember that much of this is symbolic language.  The point is that there will be calamities which bring about destruction on the earth, some are ecological, some are interstellar, and some are man made.  This Summer there’s a t.v. show on called Salvation.  The premise of the show is that NEO object is heading toward earth and is likely to cause massive death or even total extinction.  In real life, under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming there is a super volcano, which, if it erupts, would place nearly all of the continental US under a cloud of darkness that would result in massive famine.  Of course, we hear regularly dire predictions about global warming, rising sea levels, the melting of the Arctic permafrost etc…  And don’t forget the expanding nuclear arsenals of places like North Korea and Iran.  There are any number of ways that global destruction could occur.  This is a part of our human consciousness… and it was a part of human consciousness in the first century as well.  There has always been the understanding that there is much that is outside the limits of human control: drought and famine, earthquakes and fire from heaven.  These events were usually linked to belief that whatever gods that community worshipped were angry.  Destruction was linked to judgment, which was linked to human sin.  The normal response was to bring sacrifices to the gods and a promise to stop doing bad things.
In this section of Revelation, we see that the one true God is behind these disasters, but there is no willingness of the people to repent. In Rev. 9:20-21 the people refuse to repent of their idolatry, of their murder, of their sexual immorality.  The people will not link the calamities that befall them and the earth with their own bad actions that violate God’s word.
Revelation 12 gives another picture. It’s an overview of the history of the earth and it shows the cosmic dimension of the battle that’s taking place.  There is a spiritual warfare. Behind it all is this picture of evil described as the dragon, or the ancient serpent, or the devil or Satan.  Evil is making war on God’s people.  Yet, evil will be brought down and God’s people who refuse to submit to evil will be victorious.  Even though they may be killed by evil, yet will they ultimately be victorious.
Remember, when John received this vision, Christians were suffering at the hands of the powerful evil empire of Rome.  It seemed like a powerful or insurmountable monster that was able to impose his will on God’s people.  Imagine how hard it would have been to stay faithful to Jesus Christ during such a difficult time.  Yet here is a message of hope, a message of victory.  Evil and the human faces of evil will not win.  God has far more power available to him than evil does.  Those whose hearts are turned against God and refuse to repent will not be swayed by these displays of judgment and power, but those who are faithful to Jesus Christ and remain faithful, even to the point of death, will emerge victorious.
There are always events that happen in our lives that tempt us to doubt God or to turn away from Him.  These apocalyptic texts in Revelation serve as a vivid reminder that, no matter how bad things may get in the world, even for believers in God, God will be victorious.  Let us stay faithful and keep trusting God and our faith will not be disappointed.

-Jeff Fletcher

Requirements

Titus & Philemon

Did you panic a little bit when you found you had to read two entire books of the Bible today? As you have hopefully found now both Titus and Philemon are pretty short books. In fact, Philemon checks in as the third shortest book of the Bible (only 2 John and 3 John are shorter).

First, let’s talk about Titus.  If you owned a business and were looking to hire managers to oversee the company what would you require?  Would your job posting read that the applicant needed silky hair, mad four-square skills, and a deep love of chicken nuggets?  If so your company would probably not be in business for long because there would be no purpose behind the requirements you wanted. Hopefully, your requirements might be along the lines of:  must be self-controlled, honest and just.  If so you and God have those requirements in common except these are the requirements that God asks of the elders of the church which is a person who “manages God’s household” (Titus 1:7).

He also has requirements for those who aren’t elders.  In chapters 2 and 3, Paul outlines what God expects from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. It says in chapter 3 verse 1- 2 that we are, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign (which means to harm) no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Paul carries over the idea of being peaceable and gentle in the book of Philemon.  Paul writes to Philemon, who is a brother in Christ, concerning a slave named Onesimus.  It seems that Onesimus was full of passion for spreading God’s word so he ran away from his master Philemon to join Paul.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and requested that Philemon would, “accept him as you would me” (vs.17).  Paul treats both parties with grace and love to resolve the issue at hand and so once again practices what he preaches showing that he is a fully committed follower of God just as we are to be.

-Lacey Dunn

No Scamming Here

Romans 8-10

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Thursday, June 15

There are so many powerful verses in the three chapters for today but the section that really stuck out to me was this:

 

Romans 10:8-13

 

8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,

 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”

 

 

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It doesn’t matter who you are, how you look, what race you are, or how much money you have…we can all be saved!  You believe with your heart, which results in righteous or “right” living, which means you are obedient.  Then, with your mouth, you confess, you speak out loud that Jesus is your Lord.  Calling Jesus your Lord means that you obey him.  He has authority over you and your life is not your own, it is his.  Doing these things, results in salvation!

 

Bonus!!! Our God is abounding in riches for all who call on Him.  It almost seems too good!  Usually when something seems too good to be true, it isn’t true.  It is a scam.  Like when someone calls my phone from a faraway place and tells me I entered a contest and won…and they just need some vital information to process my winnings!  Thousands of dollars could be mine if I will give them my name, social security number, and birthdate.  Humph!  I don’t think so!

 

Scammers market things to you that appear like they will improve your life in some way but truly it is to rob you.  With God, the truth is that He wants you!!  Not only does He want you but He wants to give you the things that money can’t buy like peace, joy, love, and purpose.  Don’t be scammed by the world.  Too many times we have seen people in our small group get the job they have always wanted, promotion, or a boy/girlfriend, only for it to take them away from church and the family of God.  The most precious thing we have is our faith and our hope.  Make a solid confession and live righteously. If you have slipped in some area and are not giving your whole life to your master Jesus Christ, recommit yourself to him and surround yourself with strong believers.

 

God wants you more than anything and those verses above contain the necessary information for you to be with Him forever!

 

1 Timothy 2:4

“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

-Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://insta.bible/romans-109-niv/)

 

Devoted

Acts 1-2

Devoted

Sunday, June 4

What are your three favorite things that your church currently does well?  Looking at the early church, what were their strengths and weaknesses?  We can learn from the early churches in many ways, such as learning from what they did well?

The people’s actions from the early church:

  1. Those who accepted the message were baptized. Does this still apply today?  Well we see many churches and different denominations baptizing their members, but some of them sprinkle, some use full immersion while others have different methods.  The Church of God of course, still practices the original immersion practice of baptism.
  2. The people devoted themselves to the teaching and fellowship of the apostles. Are we as devoted as the people in the early church?  How do you define “devoted?”  Is it 100% of your effort 24/7?
  3. They were consistent in breaking bread and prayer. What are the standards we adhere to in this generation when it comes to prayer?  Do we allocate time each day to prayer or do we get too busy with life to take the time?
  4. The early church sold their possessions and goods and gave them to anyone in need. How eager are the people of this generation to help others?  Do we sell our belongings and use the money to help those less fortunate?  Do we offer our talents that God has gifted us?
  5. They met together every day in the temple courts. Do the people of today’s church meet every day?  Sometimes we have a hard time just getting to church one day a week.
  6. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Do we break bread together in our homes anymore?

 

Peter warned and pleaded with them to save themselves from this corrupt generation.  Does that warning still apply today?  Are we living in a corrupt world?  Do we mimic the early church or do we fall into the antics of this corrupt generation?  How devoted are we to the church? How can we become more devoted?  If we are a righteous church, and a people that follow Him, then God will add to our numbers daily as in the New Testament.

-Jason Railton

 

 

 

Defined by Love

John 12-13

john13_34-votdTuesday, May 30

How do you know who somebody is? Not just what his or her name is but who they are, on the inside? Well, they may tell you. When introducing myself at Pine Grove to visitors or guests, I always say “I’m Jake, I’m one of the pastors here.” That way people know a little something about me; namely, they know I am employed as a clergyman (whatever they may think I do.) If we talk about my hobbies, quickly board games, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek and video games come up. Each one of these shape a person’s perspective of who I am. BUT, if someone could watch over my shoulder for a day, imagine what they would know about me? They would see how I treat my family in our home, they would know what I read and what I write, they would know all sorts of things. And in the end, if they were to make a decision on who is Jake, really, it would be wise of them to define me NOT by my words but by my actions. If I describe myself as a quiet-spoken, shy introvert, my actions would CRUSH that description.
Jesus also knows that we show who we are by our actions. That is why he leaves us with a powerful and difficult commandment in John 13:34-35. A new commandment I give to you: love one another. Is there really anything new about this commandment? Yes and no. Is it new that we are supposed to love others and care for them? No, because that is what the Old Testament Law (remember that?) is all about. Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a new thing that he made up, it comes out of the second half of Leviticus 19:18. But then how is this command new? It is new because Jesus points to a new example of this kind of love. We have to love each other as Christ loved us.
Why does he make us do this? Because it answers the question of who we are. When we tell someone who we are, that we are a follower of Christ, what do those outside the church normally think? Do they think close-minded, dogmatic “truth”-deniers? Do they think racist, sexist, homophobic bigots? Do they think arrogant, hypocritical jerks? There are some who may! There are many who would say something similar to Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This does not mean that Gandhi had the true picture of Christ, nor does it mean that everyone who critiques Christianity is right! There are many who would make the claims that “Christians are X” who don’t know why Christians believe what the believe. However, there is something wrong if many people know us for something more akin to hate, than to love? After all, Jesus tells us “By this ALL PEOPLE  will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Christianity is a way of life that should be drenched, dripping, overflowing with love.
But what does this mean for us?
First, love the Christians you are around. If you are not part of a church, you should be. There are many who critique Christianity from INSIDE as well as out. But the fact of the matter is that we were never made to live this faith alone. We were always to have a community of committed disciples around us. Also, this may be very difficult. The church is a place where broken people gather. Of course we are hypocritical and faithless and falling apart. We are just like every other humans. The fact of the matter is that Christians admit to it, which makes us the only ones who aren’t hypocritical and faithless and falling apart. We are blind and because we know we are, we can see. (See Sunday’s devotion.)
Secondly, love the world. While the starting point for our love is of course the “one another” of other disciples, if we want to be like God and Christ (and we do want that) it means that our love has to be for “the world”. Just quote John 3:16. God loved the world, not just his Church, not just his sons and daughters, but the whole big messy of humanity. Love for this world is the defining characteristic of God, because “God is love.” (1 John 4, you’ll get there!) However, love can be tough to pin down. Surely love doesn’t mean accepting someone’s sin, because God doesn’t do that, but it does love the person. Love doesn’t mean allowing someone to remain in sin and call themselves a believer, but that we help them come to a better understanding of the harms of sin. It also means that we allow ourselves to be connected to and friends with those outside the church who need to hear the gospel message of Christ. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 for an interesting comment by Paul.)
This isn’t easy, but you can love others. However, it will only happen if you have experienced the love God has for you. God loves ugly, horrid, wretched sinners and CONGRATULATIONS! YOU QUALIFY! But seriously, it means that he does love you. The love of God, if you have truly experienced it, can’t help but flow out of you and into the people and the world around you. May people know the God you serve and the Messiah you follow by the love that you show. May those who don’t know Christ give praise and glory to God through your loving deeds. (1 Peter 2:12)
In Christ,
Jake Ballard

Great Faith

Luke 7-9

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Wednesday, May 17

Great faith is not always defined as a noun. I feel like in church that we sometimes believe things with our minds more than we believe them with our actions. I would argue that Jesus thought the same about some of the people he was around when he was still on earth. Except maybe a few were different. Like this one case in Luke 7 involving a centurion.
The centurion knew that Jesus could help. He could have easily stayed in his home and made Jesus come into his house by sending a servant. But the centurion, a man of honor and high authority in the Roman ranks chose not to send a servant to act upon the faith he had in Jesus, and went himself because he knew he was not worthy of having him in his house. The centurion also assumed with faith that Jesus could heal from anywhere.
Where in our lives do we need faith like the centurion had? We as believers of Jesus and his works must rely on his power from heaven to heal us just like the centurion’s servant. We also must humble ourselves and realize we need Him.
-Jesse Allen
(Photo Credit: https://andrewkgabriel.com/2009/09/07/anxious-about-the-need-to-have-great-faith/)

Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

Ezekiel 34-36

Thursday, March 30

 

“It’s Thursday.  Quit being who you were.” – Bob Goff

 

Bob Goff, the author of “Love Does”, has a weekly ritual.  It’s called “Quit Something Thursday”.  Each Thursday, Bob Goff quits something to free up time or shake things up.  He has quit having an office.  He now works on a lobster boat he refers to as the Goffice.  He quit leaving phone messages to minimize the time that is wasted with the back and forth.  He throws away furniture, and has even resigned from the board of a non-profit charity.  Now the idea is not to back out of your prior commitments and become a wild-card liability for the people around you.  Instead, the idea is to give God room to show you something new. Bob Goff suggests quitting habits that keep us from being the best we can be.  On a more moderate scale, he suggests we might quit keeping score, quit sorting through our failures, or quit believing you are who you used to be.

 

So how does this relate to our reading today?  In Ezekiel 34 the sheep were scattered because the shepherd did not care for them; the shepherd only cared for himself.  However, we learn from Ezekiel 34:2-4 that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the flock.  Instead, the shepherd “eat[s] the curds, clothe[s] [him]self with the wool and slaughtered the choice animals, but [he]did not take care of the flock. [He] did not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bound up the injured.   [He has] not brought back the strays or searched for the lost” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).  The shepherds are too caught up in their own lives, their own ideas, their own health and fortune, that they lost sight of their purpose.  If not a shepherd, where is their identity? Thankfully God takes action and tells of the time when David (David’s line) will be the shepherd and God himself will be their God.  We see parts of the kingdom here on earth now, and we wait excitedly for the return of Jesus and the kingdom on earth.

 

We, too are shepherds tending to a flock.  As Christians who are no longer on milk, we have a flock to tend to.  We have a Church who needs us to show up in more ways than to simply fill a seat on Sunday.  As the shepherd cares for the flock, and strengthens the weak, we are called to do the same.

 

So the question becomes: what are you going to quit so that you can tend to your flock? Is your plate overfilled? How will you re-evaluate your obligations so that they align with your true priorities? It’s Thursday – quit something! I am going to quit washing my clothes because it takes up valuable time I could be investing in others…kidding mom, I really do wash my clothes.  But in all seriousness, I will quit placing so much emphasis on how others perceive me, and instead trust that the identity I have in Christ will carry me where I need to go.  What will you quit?

 

“We can’t change much if we don’t quit much” – Bob Goff

 

-Amber McClain