The Eternal Gospel

Revelation 14

Revelation 14 6 NIV

As we approach chapter fourteen together, John sees four, possibly five, more visions, all depicting the fates of those who are allegiant to the Lamb (Jesus) and those who aren’t. In our world today, people want you to just let people believe what they believe and not challenge their worldview. However, if we trust what Revelation is telling us, it would not be loving for us to allow people to continue living in sin and falsehood. We need to speak up into the lives of our loved ones, because according to chapter fourteen, their fates will not be good if they don’t join the Lamb’s army (the Church). Ultimately, the letter of Revelation is meant to call people to repent and follow the Lamb before time runs out, and we need to do the same.

 

John sees the same 144,000 from chapter 7 that have the “mark” of God on their foreheads, standing on top of Mount Zion, looking ready for a battle. These are those who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb; in other words, these are Christians. We learn that their fate is sealed, and their future looks bright! However, John moves forward to describe what awaits everybody else…

 

An angel is seen, calling people to “fear God and give Him glory”, or repent of their ways (14:7). Another angel warns that “Babylon the great” has fallen, which will be described later on in chapters 17-19. This Babylon, in my interpretation, is a vivid description of Rome once again, as those are the only two nations to ever destroy the Jerusalem Temple. However, those that are within Babylon the great, or those that have worshiped the beast, they will drink the “wine of the wrath of God”, going through torment in fire and brimstone, just like Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 19). These people will eventually be burned up with this fire, but it will be an extremely painful experience.

 

John then uses the illustration of a grape harvest, in which grapes are thrown into a winepress and squeezed out, causing blood to flow everywhere. It is a graphic image, but a powerful one nonetheless. Those who refuse to worship God and the Lamb will face His wrath, being destroyed completely when Jesus returns. Why would anyone choose to go through this? Unfortunately, many choose to do so.

 

This message should motivate us to speak up to our friends and family about what Jesus has done. He has saved us from this coming wrath, and now offers that same salvation to anyone who would come follow after him. Of course we love our friends and family and don’t want them to go through the terrifying judgment to come. So speak up! Live out your faith today! Share the good news with whomever you come across! Jesus is coming, and we don’t have much time left.

 

Talon Paul

Filled With So Much Joy We Want to Share

1 John 1

1 John 1 2

There is an old gospel song called Wonderful Words of Life.  I have loved this song because of its lyrics:  Sing them over again to me –Wonderful words of life, let me more of their beauty see – Wonderful words of life.  Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty.  Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life – Wonderful words of life!  In 1 John 1 the life – the eternal life – is a reference to Jesus.  The disciples knew Jesus personally and knew without a doubt that he was sent from God to be the savior and teacher of mankind.  The disciples knew  God through his word and knew personally Jesus Christ His son.  The only one – as one disciple described him in the gospels  as the one who had the words of life.  He actually said (when Jesus asked if he was going to turn away also as some nominal disciples had): to whom else shall we go? for you have the words of eternal life.(see John 6:68)

Having this relationship with Jesus gave them so much joy they wanted to share it with everyone.  Shouldn’t having a relationship with the one who has the words of eternal life fill us with so much joy that we want to share it too?

The joy comes from knowing the one who is eternal life and recognizing that all of God’s ways lead to light, and life, and truth.  Those people who walk in God’s ways must emanate this same light and life, and truth.  The darkness has no part in the light.  We must walk in ways of light and not in darkness.  We must want to share that light with others.

Let’s face it there is plenty of darkness out there.  Sin is everywhere, and everyone has sinned at some point in their life.  But the life giving, light bearing news is this:  God is willing to forgive all who confess their sin to Him and cleanse them from their sins.  Through the power of what Christ did on the cross we can all be put back into right relationship with our heavenly Father God.  These are definitely wonderful words of life!  And words worth sharing, and shining in our dark world.  So maybe you will find yourself singing the familiar words :  Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty, beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life!

Merry Peterson

 

 

Go! Fight! Win!

1 Corinthians 9

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize_ Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9: 24)

Being competitive is sometimes presented in a negative light.  Probably because competition can bring out the ‘jerk’ in people.  That’s too bad, because in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling them (and us) to lean into that competitive spirit.

Paul is using this as an analogy, by the way, he’s not telling us that we are in competition with other believers.  He uses two phrases that I hope will inspire you as you run your race.

“strict training”

Athletes preparing for a big competition don’t eat whatever they want and binge Netflix all day.  What do they do instead?  They do things that will help them succeed in their goal.  (Winning!)  Paul’s goal, and ours, is “a crown that will last forever.”

How do we train for eternal life?

The word obey comes to mind.  In order to obey we need to really know Scripture.  If we want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we need to know what the Master expects of us.  And we need to do it, even when it’s hard.  Just like the athlete in training gets off the couch and goes to practice, even when he’s tired, we need to obey even when it doesn’t make sense to our human sensibilities.

“do not run aimlessly”

If you’ve ever been to a kid’s sporting event, you know that there are players that do not have their head in the game.  They are wandering around the field, chatting with friends, maybe even picking flowers in the grass.  Adorable.

Not so adorable when it’s adults in an Olympic competition and not cute when we’re talking about forever.

So many of us say that we are sharing our faith by they way that we live our lives.  But how much of that is a cop-out because we’re not comfortable evangelizing?  If we are actively sharing our faith through our life, we will be intentional in planning ways to do it.  We won’t just be going about our life, wandering aimlessly along.

I encourage you today to make a training plan.  How are you getting ready for Christ’s return?  I also encourage you to make a game plan.  How are you looking for ways to share your faith with those around you?

-Susan Landry

 

 

Paul Speaks Freely

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Acts 26

Because of his appeal to Caesar in chapter 25, Paul was guaranteed his next trial would take place in Rome. So when Paul stood before King Agrippa and other dignitaries, he wasn’t required to defend himself or give testimony. Having said that, Paul wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to witness about the works God had performed in his life–this was one of his life’s missions. So Paul, being able to speak freely, gave his most passionate testimony yet.
There are three things we should learn about apologetics (defending the Christian faith) from Paul’s final defense before he headed to Rome.

1. Know Your Stuff.

Although Festus called Paul crazy, he recognized him as a man of great understanding. Going back to his days as a Pharisee, Paul demonstrated his great zeal for truth and reason. He didn’t lose this enthusiasm when he became a follower of Jesus, he refocused it. Paul knew the Hebrew sacred writings better than anyone and was a master at reconciling the long-held truths of Scripture with his new-found recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Paul was also well learned in the other philosophies and religions of the day. This is most clearly seen in his visit to Mars Hill.
If we are going to be able to defend our faith, we must be knowledgable of both the ideas of Scripture and those contrary to them.

2. Live Above Reproach.

One of the most common critiques leveled against Christianity today is that its adherents are hypocrites. Nothing ruins credibility more effectively than saying one thing then doing the opposite. The Jews had quite a difficult time trying to get charges against Paul to stick. As has been mentioned before, Paul strived to live life with a clear conscience. So in order to discredit and disgrace Paul, the religious leaders had to contrive charges against him.
To be an effective witness and apologist for the Christian faith, we must also strive to live with a clear conscience.

3. Be Positive.

Another issue some have with Christians is that they can be too harsh when talking about their faith. Street preachers and picketers are tuned out and labeled as unfriendly fanatics (or worse) by passersby. Sadly, they are the only representatives of Christ some people every meet.
When Jesus was harsh it was with those who should known better (the religious elite). When Paul was trying to convince unbelievers of the wonderful nature of the Good News, he would do so in a positive way–highlighting things like the resurrection, the power of God, and the mercy He extends to sinners.
The truth is that there are certain tenets of Christianity that non-believers don’t like. When witnessing we should focus on the recognized positives of the faith that appeal to most people–mercy, justice, eternal life, etc. Once people start understanding things like the nature of God and morality, then we can start discussing the perceived negative doctrines of Christianity.
Paul was knowledgeable, had a clear conscience, and was positive when defending his faith and promoting the Good News. The power of the Gospel message is amazing and life-changing. If we want to further its reach and be better able to defend it, we must follow these three principles from Paul.
-Joel Fletcher

Keep At It

ACTS 18

Acts 18 9 10

Acts 18 details the cities that Paul visited on his way from Jerusalem to Greece and some of the highlights in those cities.  While in Corinth Paul again has issues with the Jewish community there and instead finds a Gentile man named Titius Justus who was a worshiper of God.  Paul also has a vision from God in which God says,

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9,10)

I understand why Paul would need this encouragement with the number of cities that he had been thrown out of after annoying the local Jewish population with his message.

What I find interesting is the fact that Paul is the first missionary to set foot on the continent of Europe and just recently we read about the first convert in the area, yet even in this “heathen” land filled with idols and false gods God is working in people’s lives and has people who worship him.  These people do not know the gospel and need to hear about Jesus desperately, but even without that knowledge they are seeking God and worshiping him. We see this today in many of the mission fields that we send people into. The people do not know about Christ, but it is obvious that God has been working in their community to prepare them to hear.  This is why it is so important that we get out there and evangelize. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Then while traveling in Ephesus in modern day Turkey, Paul runs into a man named Apollos who was a Jew that knew his scriptures (Old Testament) thoroughly and knew only the message of John the Baptist.  With only this information he was boldly speaking about Jesus and the fact that he was the son of God. He was off on some things, but he was on fire for God and was running with it.

These verses are encouraging because they show that you do not need to have everything figured out theologically in order to follow God.  You don’t need a master’s degree or years of training for him to be working in your life. Now I do think that seeking truth should be an important part of any believer’s life, but all that is needed to get started with God is faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to work in your life.

-Chris Mattison

The Best Influence

acts 16 9

ACTS 16

As Paul and his group were traveling around what is modern day Turkey they kept having messages from the holy spirit telling them that they were not allowed to preach in that area, and that they need to go farther, and eventually led them to Greece.  With this the Gospel made its first direct contact with the “Western World” in the city of Philippi. It is here that Paul converts Lydia who is the first known convert in Europe. As they were going along and preaching Paul got in trouble with some of the local officials and they were thrown in prison because of a popular uprising against them.  It was in this prison that Paul and Silas were singing praises to God after being beaten, and an earthquake came and freed them, but they stayed and preached to the jailor instead of running away. Because of their unusual behavior and their powerful message the jailor believed and his whole family was baptized.

 

Throughout this story we see that the people that Paul spends the most time with and interacts with one on one are the ones that he has the most influence on.  Lydia and the jailor both spend time with Paul and invite him to their homes and listen to his message and believe. The leaders of the city who get mad at Paul only see how his message is disrupting their business and how their culture and religion is different from their own and throw them out of town.  In my experience this seems to hold true, that the people you spend time with are the ones that you are going to impact the most for Christ. Many people will post on social media about different parts of Christian culture or parts of their Christian life, but to unbelievers seeing that, all they see is that you are different, just like the city leaders in Paul’s day.  Without being deeply involved in your life they are never going to see the benefits of a life that is free from the bondage of sin. Everybody knows that everybody puts forth their best image online and we have all seen enough stuff online to be skeptical of most of it. The best way to spread the gospel is to be right there day to day with people and praising God even in the worst of times.  This is how they will know that you are truly different.

-Chris Mattison

Where is Your Judea and Samaria?

Acts 1_8 JS

“…you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

 

Yesterday we got started in you and your home town.  Obviously, in order to be a witness, one must have something to witness about, and it is natural to start closest to home.  Take some time to read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-36.  He addressed the important doctrines (teachings) and gave the people hope.

Jesus’ disciples must be able to teach what Jesus and his apostles taught.  When we become passionate about this kingdom hope, there is no greater joy than sharing it with another person!  I was an All-American athlete and had many highs on the soccer field and on the basketball court, but nothing comes close to the high you get sharing your faith that you have in such a wonderful hope!  God’s words are alive and they not only pierce to the inner most being, but they also empower and ignite an inner flame in the speaker.

Now consider how this might help you not only share with those closest to you who haven’t heard this Great News, but how it might help you share in your Judea and Samaria, the cities and states around you.

This summer some friends and I are going to rent a space at the county fair and have a survey for people to take.  This will open things up for people to talk and we may find a genuine truth-seeker!  If you or your youth group would like more information on that or would like our questionnaire, please get in touch with me and I would be happy to pass it on!

-Tracy Zhykovich