A Lesson from Nicaragua: Community

 

Missions Spotlight: Nicaragua

alex davila

Alex Davila leads a small group Bible study in Nicaragua.  He also maintains a public YouTube channel and radio broadcast, sharing the Good News.  If you would like to check his website out (La Biblia y las religions: The Bible and religion), you can visit http://labibliaylasreligiones.com. He is also a perfect Spanish-English bilingual and would love to hear an encouraging message from you! 

 

Pictured above is Alex preaching at the Lima Church in Peru.  We love it when Alex accompanies us when we travel to Peru. 

 

Community is a compound word: common and unity.  This means that we are a group of people unified by what we have in common.  This is a perfect example of the Body of Christ: unity through common beliefs. Just like our human bodies are unified by the drive to survive, the body of believers are unified by Christ.

 

Sometimes, as Christians, we can get caught up in our differences.  Quarrels over wine vs. grape juice for communion, tattoos vs. no tattoos as a Christian, and Sunday school before or after the church service take place all over the nation.  Now, some of these quarrels seem silly, but you know as well as I do that feelings are hurt over simple differences in ideas.  In Galatians 5:6, Paul reminds us “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love”.  It is our faith, exemplified by our love, that counts, not the small differences (or similarities) we may have.

 

Today, I want to remind you that we have more in common with one another than we have differences.  The Church should be the tightest-knit group of people in the universe.  We should have the highest sense of morale and comradery.  Watching the Olympics gets me hyped as I see hockey teams, and ice skating duos, curling teams (yes, even curling can be exciting) accomplish big things together.  Their sense of togetherness and years of hard work to achieve a common goal awakens my drive to seize the day.  Guess what, we have GOD and His son, JESUS CHRIST living in US!!! Imagine the radical acts of love we can achieve with divine power, strength and grace living in us.   Jesus says that the world should be able to know who we are by how we love one another.  What are you doing to show your neighbor your radial love?

 

You have probably heard this verse before, but I want to take it back to its original Greek.  1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own..”. All of the times that you and your are mentioned in this verse they are actually plural which translates from the Greek into English as ‘you all’. Grammatically, this is known as the second person plural, and something our English Bibles hide from us sometimes because we do not have a direct translation for the second person plural that sounds nice in English. The closet thing we have in English is ‘you all’ or if you are in the south then ‘y’all’. Can you imagine your Bible saying “do you not know that y’all’s bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit”? Due to the mistranslation of this verse into English people usually take this verse on an individual level. The meaning of this text then becomes a verse used to support exercise to keep your “temple” nice however what the author originally intended was to mean the body of Christ is the temple. This means that how we treat each other as the body directly correlates to what the temple is like. That is a very important statement! When we are angry with or hate our fellow believers, we are desecrating the new temple that God has set up.

 

If you look at how the temple was treated in the Old Testament we see how holy and sacred it was. We need to translate the holy aspect of the Old Testament temple to the body of Christ today. So what exactly does it look like to be holy to each other? It is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Next time you want to be angry at someone remember that how you treat them affects the holiness of the temple, the place that God dwells. Reading the passage for its original meaning is much more difficult than a simple command to exercise and eat well.  It is a command on how we should be as a community. Try reading the passage in this way, “Do you not know that your community is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”. This is Paul lifting the community of believers to a higher level. I encourage you to take up that call and to bring even more glory to God’s community of believers.

 

The latter half of Acts 2 describes a true community of Christ.  The Church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread together, to giving to the needy, and all the while with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:42-47).  Let’s reach out to each other.  Let’s strive to love each other in a radical way that makes the world hunger for what we have.

 

Reaching out is exactly what Alex is doing in Nicaragua with his radio ministry.  Our love doesn’t stop within our culture, or backyard or our nation; we are an international community.  Although we can’t break bread with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we can encourage them even from afar.  Alex would love to hear from you!  Just a simple message saying hi, the church you attend, and that you are thinking of him can go a long way.  You can find him on Facebook under the name ‘Alexander Davila’.  Remember, he is a perfect bilingual, so no need to use a translator.  Radical love awaits us ❤

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

 

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No Resurrection?!

1 Corinthians 15_17

 

The next section of I Corinthians 15 we’ll look at are verses twelve through nineteen. In this section, Paul traces the implications of the claim that there is no resurrection. In verse twelve Paul asks “…how do some among you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?”. We’re not told anything about who these people are. They either could be outsiders that are influencing the church or it could be people part of the Corinthian church. Either way a group is claiming that resurrection is not a reality. This is not the first time Paul has interacted with the belief that resurrection does not exist. In Acts 17.32, the response to his preaching, that climaxed with the claim that God has made himself known through the risen Jesus, elicited a mixed response. Some believed and followed others sneered at the idea of resurrection.

Beginning in verse thirteen Paul sheds light on a world with no resurrection. To begin with first and foremost, if there is no resurrection then Christ himself has not been raised! And if Jesus hasn’t been raised then Paul’s preaching and the recipient’s faith is in vain! In other words, whether resurrection, specifically Jesus’ resurrection, is true or not, has a direct impact on how we live our lives and the manner in which we live them. Paul rebuilt his life around the risen Jesus and lived in such a manner, the recipients of Paul’s preaching reorganized their lives in light of the risen Lord. But if Jesus has not been raised, if resurrection is not possible, then we have to find something else to build our lives upon. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in history. Everything hangs on it! It affects how we live and what we believe. He continues that if Christ has not been raised then it makes him a liar and God a liar because he falsely testifies that God raised him from the dead. In addition, our faith in Jesus is worthless and we still remain in our sins. Verse nineteen culminates with if we hope in Jesus in this life only, then we are the sorriest and most pitiful people there are. A hope in a non risen savior is no hope at all, it’s a delusion and a fraud.

The implications of no resurrection are bleak and grim, but Paul says in the next verse, “but now Christ has been raised from the dead…”. The reality described in verses 12-19 is not a reality because Jesus has been raised from the dead and resurrection is a reality. However, how can we have assurance or confidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead? This was an event that happened nearly two thousand years ago. I want to share some points that can help aid our belief in the resurrection. Our faith is not validated in what we can know intellectually alone but also we’re not supposed to check our brains at the door and just believe blindly or with no reason. Some reasons to have confidence in the resurrection are:

  1. The resurrection event is the best explanation for the rapid expanse of the early church. If someone wants to deny the resurrection then the burden of proof is on them to provide a more plausible explanation for the rapid growth of the early church.
  2. The resurrection is the best explanation for the change in the disciples. Again if the resurrection did not happen then a more plausible explanation needs to be provided to explain the disciples’ rapid change in attitude and disposition. The disciples transformed from cowards to men who preached boldly with confidence until their death, that God raised Jesus from the dead. Why?
  3. The resurrection event is attested in multiple independent sources.  When a historian tries to determine whether an event recorded happened or not they look for how many times the event is attested in sources. If an event is recorded in one source only then the likelihood of it actually happening decreases, however if the event is attested in multiple sources that are independent of each other (the sources have no knowledge of the others being written) then it is more likely that the event actually happened. The resurrection of Jesus is attested in five independent sources: Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul. These accounts of Jesus’ resurrection span over fifty years (Paul the earliest source and John the latest source) written by five different men independent of each other and they all record the same conclusion: God raised Jesus from the dead.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

Actively Waiting

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11_6

Here it is – the faith chapter!  When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind!  Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming.  We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes.  When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here.  Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!

Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly.  Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises!  As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life.  What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were!  If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2?  Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?

I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you.  So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.

Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised?  Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith.  Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises.  I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were!  I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow.  And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect.  As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.

It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same!  When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait.  But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait.  I think we need to wait actively!  All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God!  We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true.  So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others?  Are we being good examples like the ancients?  Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!

-Sarah Blanchard

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

Full Assurance of Hope

Hebrews Chapter Six

Hebrews 6_19

Chapter six picks up where chapter five leaves off about elementary vs. mature doctrines.  As we talked about yesterday, the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be an elementary doctrine to go along with repentance, faith, washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  Some of these the Church of God is better trained than others.  However, the author of Hebrews viewed these all as elementary.  I am going to assume that most of you who are disciplined enough to do devotions every day are ready to go on to the more mature doctrines.

Speaking of more mature doctrines and teachings, verses four through six are quite interesting.  It states that “it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them to repentance.”  What this seems to be saying is that it is impossible to be saved, then fall away, and then be saved again.  I’m not sure exactly what I think about this, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers.  However, it is interesting nonetheless and could be looked at by all.

On Sunday when we introduced the book of Hebrews, I mentioned that one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to encourage the Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were going through some tough times, and they presumably doubted their faith at times.  The rest of chapter six serves as encouragement for them and to reassure them.  Verse eleven encourages them “to have the full assurance of hope until the end.”  We aren’t to be pretty sure of what is to come in the age to come, but we are to have a FULL assurance of hope.  We are to be confident in the faith that we have.  It’s through this bold and confident faith that we can be imitators of those who inherit the promise of the Kingdom.  We can be sure of the promises set before us because “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Heb 6:18).  We can be encouraged by this.  God has promised us the Kingdom, and he is a promise keeper.  We just have to accept the free gift.

There has been a lot of content in the first six chapters of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews has provided a lot of reason for the Jewish Christians to be encouraged.  They, along with us, can be sure of the hope that we have.  God has promised us many great things, and he is a faithful God.  We have been granted a free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  There has been a lot of talk on Jesus in the first six chapters.  We have seen Jesus being glorified repeatedly in the first six chapters.  He is our high priest.  Many times Church of God people can fail to give Jesus the credit that he deserves because they are too worried with trying to distinguish him from God.  Jesus is deserving of glory, and when he is glorified, God is glorified in him.  With that said though, many people in the Christian world give Jesus too much glory by making him equal with God.  Although Hebrews does a great job of giving Jesus the credit he is due, the author also does a great job distinguishing between God and Jesus.  There is a happy balance between giving Jesus glory and distinguishing him from God.  Overall I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the first six chapters of Hebrews.  It doesn’t slow down at all in the last half of the book.  I strongly encourage you to continue along with the reading of the devotions, as Sarah Blanchard will do a wonderful job dissecting the second half of the book.  I hope you all had a great week!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

 

To Encourage Your Faith

Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews 1 5b

This next week I, Kyle McClain, will be accompanying  you in reading the first six chapters of Hebrews, and the beloved Sarah Blanchard will close out the book of Hebrews the following week.  I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College, and I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry this semester.  I hope you enjoy this week’s study of Hebrews, and I hope it positively impacts your life.

The book of Hebrews is found in the non-Pauline epistles section (Hebrews-Jude).  Many consider the book of Hebrews to be an epistle/letter.  However, it lacks all the normal marks of a New Testament letter.  If you look at the other letters/epistles from the New Testament, they identify the author and recipients, contain a formal greeting, and offer a prayer or thanksgiving.  However, Hebrews does not include any of these.  It could better be termed as an exhortation or sermon than a letter.  You can perceive Hebrews as one big sermon series; the chapters all flow together as one.  It is a stream of consciousness; it’s one flowing word of encouragement.

There are many discussions and debates as to who the author of Hebrews is.  There’s a plethora of different theories of who it could be: Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, a random follower of Paul, etc., and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because there is no clear indication in the book or church history as to who the author of Hebrews is.  It is ok not to know who wrote the book of Hebrews.  What’s important is that whatever was written was inspired by YHWH.  With that said, we do know that the author was Jewish, very well schooled in the Old Testament and Jewish philosophy, and knew Timothy.  There also seems to be a specific audience that the author wrote this for.  The audience is a group of wavering Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were not confident in their faith and at times doubted the need for Christ.

Now let’s take a minute and step in the shoes of these Jewish Christians.  Ever since the time of Abraham, the Jews were looking forward for their Messiah.  For 2,000 years many came and professed to be the Messiah, but they all died and their followers soon died thereafter.  Then after 2,000 years of waiting another man by the name of “Jesus” claims to be the Messiah.  His story was different, as we all know, from the other false messiahs.  Hindsight, it is very clear to us that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, it was a very hotly debated topic back then as to if Jesus was the true Messiah.  It was not a popular belief among the Jewish population to believe Jesus was the true Messiah.  However, those Jews who did were scrutinized from their Jewish families, friends, and community.  All the people that these Jewish Christians knew, loved, and cared for despised and judged them.  Their lives were turned upside down.

It’s easy to point our fingers at these Jewish Christians and discredit them for their lack of faith in Jesus at times, but they were truly going through a lot.  The writer of Hebrews had a select group of Jewish Christians in mind who were wavering, and the author wrote Hebrews to encourage them and reassure them of the need for Jesus.  I hope that as we go along through the book of Hebrews that you too may be encouraged and reassured of the need for Jesus.

In Christian Love,

Kyle McClain

Increasing Fellowship with Other Christians

1 Corinth 12 19,20 revised

Has your faith or walk with God ever felt like it has fallen in a rut? Have you ever questioned whether God is listening? Have you ever questioned your faith in general? I will be completely honest; I can say yes to all of these things, but I have moved on from them, and I know God is listening, I am strong in my faith and I feel like my faith is constantly growing. You might ask what got me to this point, and truly it is my fellowship with other Christians. Being surrounded by other people who believe in what I believe and know how to comfort me and support me in my faith is so incredibly important for me, but why does God say fellowship is important, and why should it be added to your list of resolutions?

Todays’ verses are Ephesians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-31

Ephesians 5:19-21 tells us to share psalms and hymns, sing together and give thanks for everything God has done for us. These verses tell us to worship God together, not only because it will bring joy to God, but because it will bring joy to me and to those believers around us.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31. These verses talk about the body of Christ; we as believers and followers of Christ are the body of Christ and we are all a part of his church. We are all important and we all have a purpose. These verses say that no one part of the body can say that there is no need for another. Each piece has a specific purpose, and this was done intentionally. We are given spiritual gifts from God, and these verses also touch on that. Some people are teachers, some are apostles, some are prophets, some do miracles, some know many languages, some are good at administration and planning. None of these are more important than the other, they are just different and they are necessary for a fully functioning body. This is fellowship. When we spend time with other believers we begin to see their strengths and their gifts, when we spend more time with them, our own faith and relationship with God can be strengthened. When we spend more time with each other we are supported in our faith and our walk. We work as a team in many different aspects, and we know that we are not alone. Fellowship with each other is incredible important.

Now that you know the importance of fellowship and working together, you may be wondering how you can be more intentional in this area of your life. My suggestions are to attend church if you do not already. If you do, see if your church has a weekly bible study or youth group. If they do not have these ministries already, talk to your pastor about how to start one and how to organize one, you may not be the only person interested in creating more fellowship opportunities amongst the people in your community. I truly hope you have a supportive community, and if not I pray that one is given to you soon. Thank you for reading today, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.

-Jana Swanson