Unveiling the Past, Present and Future…And Then Repent!

Monday, July 17

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Revelation 1-3

The final book of the Bible is known as the Book of Revelation.  It is also known as the Apocalypse.  Apocalypse mean “unveiling”.  It has the idea of that which was hidden has now been unveiled or brought out into the open to be seen.  There are other passages in the Bible that contain apocalyptic material (parts of the book of Daniel and Ezekiel are two) but this is the only book of the Bible that is fully apocalyptic.
Revelation can be a little confusing (ok, a lot confusing).  A big part of this confusion comes from the challenge of pinning down the proper timeline.  It contains material that was past, present and future to the writer, John, who wrote toward the end of the first century.  The angel who gave this revelation to John said: “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”(Rev. 1:19).  There are different “schools of interpretation” that see Revelation as mostly focusing on John’s time period (end of first century in the Roman empire), others see it as being fulfilled progressively over the past 2000 years of the Church, and others see it as still to be fulfilled in the future.  This is compounded by the use of symbol and imagery that fill the visions of Revelation.  A lot of time can be spent trying to discuss and debate these issues, but for our purposes I’d like to focus on basic principles found in Revelation that can be of value to our lives as followers of Jesus today.
In chapters 1-3 a focus is on letters written to seven Churches throughout Asia.  John is writing to them as a pastor who at the time was living in isolation on an island in the Mediterranean sea.  He can’t be physically present with his churches, but he is with them in spirit and wants to encourage and instruct them, to help them stay strong during a time when many believers were suffering persecution by the Roman empire.  Imagine what it would be like to try to encourage Christians today living in places like Pakistan, or Egypt, or Sudan or Syria, where Christians were being killed because of their allegiance of Jesus Christ rather than to Mohammed.  What kinds of encouragement would Christians whose family members, friends and fellow believers were dying for their faith need to help them not lose faith?
In the Roman Empire during John’s time of writing it was required by law for citizens to declare allegiance to Caesar by publicly declaring Caesar to be Lord.  Jewish people were largely exempt from making such declarations (but not always).  Often Christians came under the umbrella of the Jewish exemption, but now always.  Thousands of Christians died as a result of religious persecution during the early Roman empire.  John writes to offer encouragement to keep faithful to their commitment to God and to Jesus Christ in the midst of such persecution.  The challenges we face today may not be the same type that first century Christians faced, yet we still have challenges, struggles and temptations.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain words of exhortation and correction to the various Churches to which John is writing.  Each Church had many good things happening for which they were praised, but several also had not so good things going on for which they needed to be corrected.  One of the common themes of each letter to each Church was a call to repentance.  To repent means to turn around or change direction.  To the Church at Ephesus, John said that you have “lost your first love.”  They were just going through the motions of their faith, without the passion.  Perhaps you can relate to that.  Anyone who has been a Christian for a while has to be aware the danger of “just going through the motions” and losing their passion for God.  John is trying to get them fired up again.  John says: “repent” and do the things you did at first.  Most Christians, start out enthusiastic… they read the Bible a lot, they pray a lot, they tell their friends about God and their faith a lot, and they consciously seek to get closer to God and do things to please God.  But over time, they lose the passion, lose the drive… become complacent.  John says- get back to the love and passion you first had for Jesus.
Maybe this is you.  If it is… let it be a wake up call.  If this isn’t you, then keep reading through Revelation 2 and 3.  Look at what is said to each of the seven churches.  Is there anything that rings a bell?  Is there anything there that applies to you?  I’m guessing there is.  Read it… and then repent.
-Jeff Fletcher

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Just What I Needed

Hebrews 5-7

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Sunday, July 9

Every so often, I open my Bible and turn to a random book and start reading. I know that whatever page that I turn to that there is a lesson that I specifically need to learn. Interestingly enough, I found that the devotionals that I chose to write on about a year ago were the books of the Bible I needed to read now.

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I wish I could say that I grew up in the Church of God- Abrahamic Faith, attended Sunday School, and went to church every single Sunday. A lot of my friends have grown up in the church, gone to state camp, Family Camp, Southeast Camp, and on retreats throughout their entire life. Growing up, I felt like I wasn’t spiritually fed and was still like an infant in my faith. Hebrews 5 explains that many people should be teachers of scripture yet they are still learning the basics rather than expanding their knowledge of what God wants to teach them.
I decided to attend FUEL for the first time about ten years ago to learn more about the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith and just what it meant to be a Christian. I wasn’t disappointed. Hebrews 6:13-15 states: “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” I love our church because I know that we are a part of this promise.
Hebrews 7 talked about how Melchizedek (who is known as a priest forever) and Abraham (the father of the chosen people) were two men who were faithful to God and followed Him because they had confidence that God would fulfill His promises. None of this would have happened without an oath. “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Jesus is known as the high priest who is able to mediate between us and God since he sacrificed himself giving the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the people. Hebrews 7:28 states: “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” I don’t know about you, but I am extremely thankful that Jesus saved us from our sins.
It is important to understand that God wants us to obediently devote time in our every day lives to offer up prayers, work hard for His glory, and wait patiently for His promises. So take some time today and pray that God will provide confidence in you and that He will teach you something new.
-Cynthia Fyfe
 
(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/hebrews-7-our-better-hope/)

Let’s Talk About Temptation

1 Corinthians 10-13

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Tuesday, June 20

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Let’s talk about temptation. Everyone is tempted, and everyone has succumbed to temptation at some point in their life, and probably numerous times. I will be the first to admit that fact in my own life. The first thing Paul does is acknowledge the universality of temptation—temptation is ubiquitous. Temptation is a common experience for all humankind. Some people might think that they are experiencing a unique type or degree of temptation, but Paul overwrites that attitude by confirming that no one is alone in experiencing any form of temptation, for every possible sort of temptation has been shared by other individuals.

 

We all struggle with temptation, that is the common thread that unites the human race. But unlike individuals who do not trust in God, the experience of temptation for believers can be different. Those who believe in God are not in a position of helplessness.

 

Some people have told me about their experience facing temptation, “I couldn’t help it. It was too appealing. I got tired of resisting. I just couldn’t stop myself.” The idea that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent sin is calling God a LIAR.

 

Paul says, “God is faithful!” What is God faithful for? He is faithful to: 1) limit the power of the temptation in your life, and 2) provide strength to endure or a possibility to remove the temptation. These are two promises of God when it comes to facing temptation. Either they are true or God is a liar. The problem many people face is that they doubt God is able to actually help them overcome temptation. They feel like it is all a matter of the will to resist temptation, and when their will weakens (as everyone’s does at some point), they feel like they just couldn’t continue to stand against the temptation and decide to just give in.

 

Satan is constantly battling for our mind and to entice our flesh. Elsewhere, Paul describes this battle in terms of “the schemes of the devil” and the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16). To combat these threats, Paul encourages believers to equip themselves with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17) in order to stand firm against the devil and his tactics and influence. While Paul describes a set of defensive armaments to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil in Ephesians 6, his point in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that of trust and reliance upon God to keep one’s foot from slipping and falling into sin.

 

It takes a resolved heart and mind to build the confidence that God will come through and be there in your time of need. Furthermore, there are two practices that can be of great help in overcoming temptation: 1) knowing Scripture (like verse 13) can turn the tables in the struggle against temptation, and 2) prayer.

 

If you are able to bring to mind what God has revealed about a particular temptation, it has the power to release the grip of the temptation to the point that you can endure it or eliminate the cause of the temptation altogether. That is the reason Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It has the ability to defeat thoughts, attitudes, and desire that contend against the knowledge and will of God and to free a person from feeling like there is no other way out.

 

Secondly, prayer is always helpful and necessary when facing temptation. Temptations can come from our own desires or as a spiritual attack from the devil. Whichever it is, we can go to God in prayer asking for strength and wisdom to allow his will to prevail and to help us bring our body into subjection to what is godly and be led by the spirit away from the temptation. James writes in his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5).

 

If you struggle with a certain temptation, ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you. And remember that we all have temptations, and nothing is new that we might encounter. God has seen it all before, and he has helped people through it all before. He promises to help you too, if you will but trust him and look to him for deliverance from it.

 

God is faithful, but do we have the courage to let him prove it?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/niv/1%20Corinthians%2010.13)

Don’t Be That Guy

Obadiah and Jonah

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Sunday, April 16

Don’t worry, God hasn’t forgotten.

Obadiah is the shortest book among the minor prophets, yet it’s message is anything but minor or insignificant. To grasp the content of Obadiah we have to go through a brief history lesson. History was my favorite academic subject in school, so other history nerds, you’ll enjoy this. Also, understanding the historical context of the books of the Bible is one tool used in hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret biblical texts). In other words, to be responsible interpreters of the Bible we should always attempt to reconstruct the historical context of the passage.

Though Jeremiah attempted to convince the people of Judah to surrender to the invasion of Babylon of 586/587 BCE, they refused. The context and content of Obadiah is situated in the aftermath of the destruction and exile brought on by Babylon. Verse 1 tells us that God gave Obadiah a vision concerning the nation of Edom. Edom is the cousin nation to the people of Israel. The patriarch of Edom is Esau and Jacob is one of the patriarchs of Israel. From the time of Jacob and Esau being in the womb to long after their deaths, they and their people have had rocky interactions, including the one described in Obadiah. Verses 2-9 describe judgement and wrath awaiting the nation of Edom, however we’re not told why until verse 10.

The first line of verse 10 says “Because of violence to your brother Jacob…”. Then from verse 11-14 the phrase “on the day/in the day” shows up nine times! When Babylon ransacked Judah, the Edomites, the cousin nation of Israel, just stood on the sidelines watching and did nothing. God is telling the Edomites they will be judged for what they didn’t do “on that day!” They didn’t come to the aid of the Israelites and instead enjoyed and gloated over their doom. Obadiah is writing to those who have been left behind to encourage them and remind them that God has not forgotten the wrong done to them.

There are two lessons we can take from Obadiah. First, just as God had not forgotten the wrong done to his covenant people Israel, likewise God doesn’t forget the wrong done to you. We serve a God who takes action in the present. And even if a wrong is not vindicated in this present evil age it will certainly be reversed at the return of King Jesus. Second, we see that God equates ignoring justice and not taking action as doing “violence”. Are you someone who shies from standing up for what is right? Do you stand by idly while injustice occurs? The New Testament places a great emphasis on taking care of other believers in the body and being there for them. Do you do this? Edom didn’t take care of their family and it displeased God greatly. Shoutout to God for having a significant message tucked away in a tiny unsuspecting book.

 

 

Don’t be that guy: The Story of Jonah

            The story of Jonah we have all heard in one capacity or another. Whether it be in Sunday School, a sermon, or just having a superficial awareness of Jonah and his short yet interesting story. The four chapter story can be summed up fairly easily: Jonah is called by God to bring Nineveh, a great terrible city, to repentance. Jonah then runs away but is swallowed up by a great fish-spewed back onto land and again given the charge to preach repentance to Nineveh. He preaches and Nineveh repents and as a result God does not smite the Ninevites. Meanwhile, Jonah stews about how they were saved not demolished.

Consensus about the purpose of Jonah among Old Testament scholars is that there is none. There are a bevy of interpretations concerning the purpose and point of the book. However, there is one thread that stuck out to me the most that connects the story of Jonah to our own contemporary world. We see Jonah as someone who knows the true God and thus is part of the people of God. God gives Jonah a mission to preach repentance to the Ninevites, so that they may turn from their life of pagan idolatry and a life without knowing the true God, to living lives in a manner that is reflective of the truth of the God of Israel, the one true God. But Jonah isn’t down with this plan and flees the opposite direction.

In a parallel manner, you and I have been called to evangelize to those who do not know the truth of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Be honest with yourself, as a disciple of Jesus, do you share the gospel with those who do not know it or have not accepted it? We can think of many reasons why we can’t or we shouldn’t, but is this being faithful to the call Jesus has given us? It’s uncomfortable, I get that. It can be awkward, you’re absolutely right. It’s scary, exactly. But let’s not be Jonah and run away from the message we have been given to proclaim.

Pray for boldness, confidence, and opportunity. Get the gospel message embedded in your heart and mind so that you know where to take someone when you dialogue with them. You got this, you can do it. Don’t be Jonah, be faithful.

-Jacob Rohrer

Bio: ABC (Atlanta Bible College) grad.  Ohio native. Kingdom citizen

 

Reconciliation

Hosea 1-4

hosea 2

Sunday, April 9

Weird names.  Sketchy goings-on.  Terms like “sacred raisin cakes”.  The book of Hosea is kind of like that weird relative you avoid, but then find out that they actually have some interesting things to say.

Hosea offers us some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching images of God’s love for us in all of Scripture.

Have you ever watched a movie where someone gets cheated on?  Maybe you even know someone in real life that has experienced this.  A husband or wife finds out that the one who promised to love them, to never leave them, has found someone new.

“I made a mistake,” they may say.  “You’re not the one for me, I’ve found my soul mate and I’m leaving.”

As hurtful as that is, can you imagine how much more hurtful for a wife to tell her husband that she loves him, but spends her weekends sleeping with not one, but many, other men.  It’s beyond comprehension that any marriage could survive that, or that any husband would put up with it.

But that’s exactly what God says He does.  And can you guess the part we play in this story?  It’s not the faithful husband, I can tell you that!

Hosea shows us that God tries many things to get His unfaithful spouse (us) back when we walk away.  Do you see him doing any of these things in your life?

Verses 2: 6-7 show us that sometimes God blocks our paths when we start to go astray:

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’

Sometimes God ‘allures’ us.  He brings flowers, and lavishes gifts and affection on us.  Wooing us to choose Him again (2:14).

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.

Can you feel God’s shoulders slumping, His head dropping, as the hurt of being cast aside washes over Him when he says (2:8),

She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

Ultimately, God shares the dream of every abandoned spouse…reconciliation.  “One day,” the scorned wife thinks, “One day he’ll come back to me and be mine again.  One day he’ll wake up and see what he’s given up…”

God says (2:23):

I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

For myself.  God wants you for himself.

Friend, you don’t ever need to wonder if God loves you.

-Susan Landry

Susan is a teacher turned homeschooling mom turned blogger.  She is married to her favorite person and they live in balmy Minnesota with their two sons and their dog, Scout (who is the sweetest and most desperately infatuated mama’s boy on earth).  Her favorite Psalm is Psalm 84; and her favorite passage of Scripture overall is Job 23:8-10 (because it reminds us that even when we can’t see God…He sees us).  She knows that she is blessed far more than she deserves, and seeks to follow Jesus’ example of spreading grace and truth.

 

Even If You Don’t

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Daniel 2-3 

There’s a new song from Mercy Me that’s been playing on the radio lately called Even If. 

The chorus goes:

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

In Chapter two of Daniel king Nebuchadnezzar makes a tall statue of gold and calls for everyone to fall down and worship when the assigned music plays. If anyone refuses they are to be thrown into a furnace to meet a very unpleasant death.  For Daniel’s friends from Judah, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this is unacceptable. They are Jews, and worshiping anyone or anything except Yahweh is contrary to their devotion to God. But if they refuse, they will surely suffer a horrible death.

They have a tough decision to make. 

Or do they.

When the music played, the three of them didn’t bow. Their devotion to God was so strong that the threat of death didn’t faze them. In fact, when confronted about their not worshiping the false idol, this is the response they give: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) Their faith in God is admirable. And it infuriated the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal.

If the story ended with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah perishing in the flames of the furnace, their faith and devotion would still be a great example for us. They were willing to die rather than bow to something other than Yahweh. They knew He could save them, but even if He didn’t they said they would not serve false gods or worship a golden idol. But God did save them. He rescued them from the fiery furnace and this amazed Nebuchadnezzar. He praised God and promoted the three of them in Babylon.

You and I may never be faced with a situation where choosing to follow God’s way could result in our deaths, but our devotion to God may lead to others mocking us, having to make sacrifices, or, God forbid, putting us in an uncomfortable situation. God doesn’t promise to rescue us from these things. Our trust in God shouldn’t be affected by whether things go the way we want them to or not. Even if they don’t, our hope should be in the God who CAN rescue us. He is a good God, a great God, and the only God who can save us from the flames.

– Joel Fletcher

Write a Check

Job 35-38

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Thursday, December 22

Growing up and being the youngest of four, I went with my mom a lot of places.  One of the places I most accompanied her was the grocery store.  Candy was a rarity in my family (except for holidays), so when I reached the checkout and saw the limitless amounts awaiting there, I would start asking if I could have some.  On occasion, I would get my wish granted.  On other occasions, my mom would say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have the money for that.” I would quickly appeal by telling my mother, “You can just write a check, then.” “It doesn’t work like that,” she would respond.

 

My logic: I want candy: Mom has checks: I get candy.


Reality: I want candy; Mom has checks: money in bank account: I get candy

 

For 37 Chapters, Job has been trying to make sense of what is happening.  He has been to hell and back, but has remained faithful.  He sees his situation, and he sees God, and he wants God to “write a check”.

 

His logic: God is love:  He has the power to take this away:  I will not suffer

 

Reality: God is love: He has the power to take this away: Every act of a holy and loving God is to bring me into His kingdom: I will not suffer (Rom 8:28)

 

God’s plan is eternal.  It is wrought in creation and sanctified with the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is fashioned from His desire that all men should be saved, and none should perish (2 Pet 3:9). A glimpse into the depths of God’s plan begins in His rebuttal to Job:

 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone (WOW – Eph 2:20; Psa 118:22) while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4-7

Suffering, pain, and death are the direct and indirect results of sin, not part of God’s design.  Does God save us from suffering?  Yes, eternally and sometimes temporarily, but we should never forget he offers comfort, peace, hope, love, and joy in the midst of every circumstance. Every action God takes is not to save a fleeting life, but to give an eternal one.  While there is nothing wrong with asking God to “write a check”, keep close to your heart the plan which he has made and paid.

-Aaron Winner