Change of Plans

Acts 16 7

ACTS 16

I love the book of Acts as we get a glimpse into Paul’s missionary journeys!  In this exciting chapter (go ahead and read it all) Paul begins his second missionary journey with Silas.

 

Right off the bat we get to meet Timothy and Lydia – two faithful believers at their start.  One thing I love about FUEL is looking out over the crowd and seeing the youthful energy and passion – and knowing that they won’t stay youth too long.  It is fun to wonder who might one day be my pastor, or my pastor’s wife?  Who might go on a missions trip with one of my children?  Who might teach a class at FUEL to my grandkids (years and years from now)?  The Christian life is a process of growth and ups and downs and new experiences and deeper maturity.  It’s fun to see the first steps of this developing growth in our church youth – and in those touched by Paul’s ministry.

 

One of the signs of growing in your faith – which can even be difficult for those who have been Christians a long time – involves putting your own plans aside when God would have you go in a different direction.  Here, Paul and companions (which now includes young Timothy) “were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (vs. 7).  I wonder how the Spirit of Jesus worked this time: torrential rain flooded out the road, lost passport, contagious disease in town… Can you think of a time when you were upset by something that suddenly changed your plans?  Looking back now, is there a chance that instead of circumstance or bad luck it was actually God leading you where He had a job for you to do?

 

Even when it looked like “bad luck” landed Paul and Silas into jail….God was at work.  And, with continued faith in God and His plans, Paul and Silas were singing and praising God in their chains.  At the time, they didn’t know that later that night an earthquake would open the jail doors and unfasten their chains.  But they sang praises to God.  They didn’t know that the jailer and his family would be baptized that very night, because of the life examples and testimonies of the faithful witnesses.  But they were praying to God – and the rest of the prisoners were listening.

 

Beware of crumbling under your “bad luck”.  Instead, keep growing your faith in God.  Continue praying and singing praises to God.  You never know who is listening and how it might also change their life and the lives of their family.

 

-Marcia Railton

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Practice Patience

Romans 8_25

Have you ever prayed to God for something specific and you feel like he is just not answering you? Have you ever prayed for a specific relationship and just wondered how long you are supposed to wait? Have you ever gotten impatient with God? *currently raising my hand, because this is me* I have felt ALL of these things, and it is so hard not to be frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I feel like the things I want are pretty simple, especially for God who is all powerful and could do pretty much anything he wants. This year, I am trying to be more patient and be okay with waiting. I want to learn how to wait on God and trust in his timing, because the only time that I get disappointed is when I rely on my own timing. I am imperfect and so are my expectations, God already knows the plans for me, and I am pretty sure they are going to be pretty cool, so why wouldn’t I wait for them?

The verses today are Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18 and then Genesis Chapters 37, 39-41. (Not the entire chapters, just understand the gist of the story of Joseph son of Jacob.

Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18. These verses are about God’s promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were very old and they had no children, but God told them that Abraham would be the father of multitudes, and Sarah would be the mother of nations. These people wanted children, but they waited patiently for God and followed God’s will. They waited and waited, continuing to be faithful and righteous even when they had not received what they had prayed for and what they had wanted desperately. After they were patient for many many years, God gave them a son, for which they were extremely grateful, and they could hardly believe that they would be granted a child in their old age. We need to be patient with God, because he is very patient with us. We need to be willing to wait for what he has for us. Sometimes we do not get what we want because God has something different planned for us, but sometimes we do not get what we want when we want it because God already has that written in his plan for our lives and we will be given the answer in his timing. That is so hard to accept sometimes, but Sarah and Abraham are a great example of great patience and they were greatly rewarded for their patience.

The other example that you are reading today is the story of Joseph. When you have the time I encourage you to read the entirety of his story because it is one of pain and exhaustion and some truly intense waiting. Joseph was sold to slave traders by his own brothers because they were jealous of him. Then he was brought very very far from his home, and was eventually put in prison for something that he did not do. He felt very alone when he was in prison and felt like God was not answering his fervent prayers to be released or to at least gain some information about what would happen to him. Even in the lost and the loneliness, Joseph continued to wait. He waited to get out of prison, he waited to hear from God, he waited for something better and he never stopped listening for God. During his waiting he began to interpret dreams for people, and he was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. These dreams told them that the land was going to go into a famine, so they began to prepare to protect all of the people. Because Joseph helped Pharaoh and in turn helped the people of Egypt and the surrounding areas Joseph was appointed to the position of the vizier, which is the second most powerful man in Egypt. This was all because of Joseph’s patience. He waited on God and on God’s timing and was rewarded greatly for it, as was Abraham and Sarah.

Sometimes we may feel like God is just not hearing us, sometimes we may feel alone, but we need to remember to wait. There may be difficulties, and there may be joys in our periods of waiting in our lives. Let go and let God. He knows what he is doing, we just need to have the patience to trust that his plans are for a purpose, and that his plans involve something greater than ourselves. Thanks for reading today, join us tomorrow for the last day of the week.

-Jana Swanson

Make Better Investments

Matthew 25:14-30

Matt 25 21

Today we are talking about the New Year’s resolution of making better investments. This is a common resolution in the world whether people are people of faith or not. However I am going to talk about faith investments, more than monetary investments. Yes finances and being responsible are important in our lives and in our faith, however we need to be able to ask God for guidance in all areas of our lives including that one and we need to be flexible enough to listen to him.

At the start of the New Year one of my friends asked God, “Where and in whom should I invest my time, in 2018?” My thought was this, invest your time in the people who will give your time more meaning than just the time that they spend with you. Yes sometimes it is nice to have friends and family who will spend time with you, without there being a specific reason or purpose. However, you need to truly invest your time and energy in the people who will do something big with that time, not necessarily for you but maybe for them and their future. Today we are reading from Matthew 25:14-30. This passage is the parable of the talents. It is about the Master who gave 3 servants different number of talents, which were a type of coin. One was given 5, one was given 2, and one was given 1. The one with 5 invested them and doubled the money. The second servant did the same. The last servant buried the 1 talent in the ground, he did not even put it in the bank to at least collect interest. The first servant proved himself and so the master gave him even more, but to the last servant he gave him nothing, and he actually threw him out into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (That seems a little harsh to me, but the reality is life can be pretty difficult sometimes.)

I take a few things from this parable. 1.) Make smart choices and smart investments in your life, and take care of things that people entrust you with. The servants who made their master happy increased the master’s wealth, but they also did not lose the money that he gave them because they were proactive and took care of what they were entrusted with. The servant who did not make his master happy, did nothing with what he was given. This is what we should pay attention to. God gives us a lot of things. He gave us a life to live, and he has a plan for each of us. If you are not listening to him, how are you taking care of the gift that he has given you? If you are not taking care of the earth, and being conscious of how your actions affect other people and other creatures, how can you be taking care of a gift that was given to you? You are not. Think about this as you go about your daily life. How can you take care of the life you have been given? How can you listen to and follow God’s plan for your life?

2.) Invest in the people who are going to give you more than just time. Invest in the people who are going to give you wholesome friendships. Invest in the people that push you to be a better person, and those who hold you accountable to the things that you see. Invest in people who will push you in your relationship with God, and invest in those who will support you when you fall. We are imperfect beings and we will fall short sometimes. We will not always meet others’ expectations of us, God’s expectations or even our own expectations. Those will be difficult moments, but they will be easier to face if we have surrounded ourselves with people who will support us. It will also be easier if we have nurtured those relationships and given them the time that they deserve.

3.) Invest in God. This seems simple, and you’re probably going to guess what I am going to say. A relationship with God is not a one way street. You can not accept that Jesus is your savior and the son of God, and that God is one and only God, and not do anything else. You have to live a life with works. James 2:17 “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” This means investing in time in prayer, and in time in the word, and even in time with other believers in fellowship. Find little ways to do more of these in your daily life. Later in the week we will talk more about how to do more in the investment of your relationship with God, as we enter into this new year.

-Jana Swanson

Desperate to Meet Jesus: At His Feet

Mark 5

Mark 5 22b

Have you ever had the opportunity to go see, and possibly meet, a celebrity (actor, musician, athlete) in person? Ten years ago, the New York Giants and the New England Patriots were in Arizona to play in Super Bowl XLII. You may be thinking that I tried to get to see either Eli Manning (the Giants quarterback) or Tom Brady (the Patriots quarterback). But my interest wasn’t in either of them. No, I knew that Eli’s brother, Peyton, would be in town to attend some parties before the game. I had a friend of a friend of a friend who had tickets to one of those parties and I daydreamed hard about getting to meet the future NFL Hall of Famer.

 

A few years before that I was in Monaco and my tour guide had heard that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damen were supposed to be filming a scene in the movie Ocean’s 12 at the famous Monte Carlo Casino. The group of students that I was traveling with and I stood with a crowd of people for almost an hour hoping to get a glimpse of the three actors. Well that never happened. But we did get to witness two extras walk down the steps of the casino and that scene is in the movie, so it wasn’t a complete waste of our time. Kinda.

 

When I read Mark chapter 5 I imagine that the crowds that followed Jesus around were a bit like the superfans of a celebrity. Wherever He went, masses of people would go and seek Him out. Not because He was rich and famous, but because they had heard He could perform some pretty crazy healing miracles. In this chapter we read about three people who were not just highly interested in meeting Jesus, they were desperate to meet Jesus. And so they did what they had to do, to get near Him. The demon-possessed man saw Jesus at a distance and ran and fell on his knees at Jesus’ feet (verse 6). The father of a dying young girl worked his way through the crowd and fell at Jesus’ feet (verse 22). The sick woman reached through the swarm of people to touch his cloak and then fell at His feet (verses 28, 33).

 

Desperation brings you to a place of complete abandonment of pride and social decorum and a complete surrender to experience an ounce of relief. Imagine being so in need of healing that you fight your way through a crowd of strangers to fall onto your knees at the feet of Jesus. The wonderful thing is that Jesus had compassion on each and every one of those people and He will have compassion on you too.

 

But Jesus doesn’t want you to humble yourself just when you’re desperate for healing. He wants you to be desperate to spend time with Him every day, even when things are going well for you. His desire is for us to sit at His feet and enjoy His presence no matter what is going on in our lives. Remember Mary, Martha’s sister, who sat at her Lord’s feet and she was praised for doing what was right (Luke 10:38-42)? Mary had the right idea. It’s during these times that we learn how to follow Him and to love Him. It’s during these times that we understand what it means to love others and become a fisher of men.

 

Psalm 16:11 says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” When we find ourselves at the feet of Jesus, life, in all of its complexities, will begin to make a little bit of sense because we no longer view things at face value, but we get glimpses of how our life experiences fit into God’s eternal plan. Yes, we will still know sorrow and grief, but we will also have an eternal hope, a peace that surpasses understanding, and overflowing joy.

 

So let’s take a few minutes to fall on our knees at the feet of our Savior and Lord.   

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

 

Refined or Destroyed

Zechariah 11-14

zechariah 13

Tuesday, April 25

The book of Zechariah brings a message of hope to the Israelites but also a dose of reality. The final chapters focus on two key elements: the coming Messiah and the Kingdom of God. Zechariah prophesies of a hope and salvation of the coming Messiah (Jesus, shepherd) but also of his rejection by the Israelites. He prophesies of a coming Kingdom where God will rule, but also the tribulation that will unfold for those that don’t believe.

 

Zechariah 13:7-9 says 7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,

against the man who is close to me!”

declares the Lord Almighty.

“Strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered,

and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.

8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,

“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;

yet one-third will be left in it.

9 This third I will put into the fire;

I will refine them like silver

and test them like gold.

They will call on my name

and I will answer them;

I will say, ‘They are my people,’

and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

 

Powerful words from a powerful God.

Here are the three things I took from Zechariah 11 – 14:

  1. God has a plan – some of which has already unfolded (Jesus’s first coming and the Israelites rejecting him).
  2. His plan is still playing out and yet to unfold (Jesus’s second coming and the Kingdom established)
  3. You and I have a role in His plan. Part of that role is to accept and believe in God’s plan with the faith to live it out. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Zechariah makes it clear that God has the plan.  It’s your choice to be a part of it or not. To be refined by fire or destroyed by fire is up to you. In the end I say, the Lord is my God.

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Zechariah_13:9)

He’s Not Finished With You Yet

Jeremiah 46-49

Jer 46

Tuesday, March 14

These four chapters chronicle how Nebuchadnezzar and his armies defeated many different nations. It’s easy to get lost in all the war talk, but there is a little gem near the beginning of this passage on which I want to focus today. Check out chapter 46, verses 27-28 (from The Message):
“But you, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.

    Israel, there’s no need to worry.
Look up! I’ll save you from that far country,
    I’ll get your children out of the land of exile.
Things are going to be normal again for Jacob,
    safe and secure, smooth sailing.
Yes, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.
    Depend on it, I’m on your side.
I’ll finish off all the godless nations
    among which I’ve scattered you,
But I won’t finish you off.
    I have more work left to do on you.
I’ll punish you, but fairly.
    No, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Israel was God’s chosen people, and their future looked uncertain. However, God would not let their whole race perish! He still had great plans for Israel, and many prophecies to fulfill through them (SPOILER ALERT: including the birth of His Son, Jesus!). God is giving a reminder to his beloved children Israel that he’s got their back. Yes, he reminds them that they will be punished (fairly), but he clarifies to them, “I’m not finished with you yet.”

Even though these words were spoken to Israel and not specifically to us (though as believers in Christ we have been grafted into God’s family), I still like to take that promise to heart and remember that God is not finished with us yet. He wants to work in and through us to accomplish his will! I don’t know about you, but I want to leave a legacy for God – I don’t want the work he’s done in and through me to ever be finished! I want to teach others about God and his grace so they can grow to know and serve Him too, and therefore continue the work of spreading the gospel. I don’t have to be famous (in fact, as an introvert, I would prefer NOT to be famous!), but I want to leave a legacy from this life that will continue to grow God’s Kingdom long after I am gone… don’t you?
Philippians 1:6 – “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 
Pray and consider how you will leave a legacy. We are all called to be missionaries everywhere we go, every day in every way – at home, school, work, community, and beyond. Ask God to show you in what ways He is “not finished with you yet” so you can serve him every day in every way with your whole heart!
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/p.php?author=jeremiah+46:27)

Even When It Looks Like Chaos

Jeremiah 44-45

Jer 44

Monday, March 13

Jeremiah went to Egypt and he continued sharing God’s messages to the people, who were worshipping the Egyptian gods. Jeremiah warned them that God was upset with them and they would be punished for their sins, but they didn’t believe him. However, because of their sin, the very things they went to Egypt to escape – war and peril – would follow them to Egypt.
Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch was having trouble dealing with all this turmoil, but God had a message for him too (in chapter 45):
“But God says, ‘Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck, and what I’ve planted I’m about to rip up. And I’m doing it everywhere—all over the whole earth! So forget about making any big plans for yourself. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.” (The Message) 
Baruch had a lot of other things he would rather be doing with his time than wading through the chaos that was going on among the people. It is not known exactly to what he was aspiring – power, fame, fortune – but he was weighed down by all that was going on that prevented his desires from coming to fruition. God provided him some encouragement and reminded Baruch that He has a plan and is in control, even when it looks like chaos.
 There have been many times in my life when I wish I could have some of the “Back to the Future” movie magic in real life – not to relive the 1980s fashion that I remember from my childhood, but to experience the time travel feature! Sometimes, we just don’t want to deal with or sort through the mess in which we find ourselves. I’m sure Baruch would have liked to travel through time and just have the whole terrible experience be over.
Life sometimes throws us hard balls, and it can be difficult to find joy in the journey. But it is important to remember that even in the hard times, God is still in control. Pray with me to have an open heart to see what God might be teaching us through difficult times, and to “be full of joy in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4) even in the midst of our undesirable circumstances, seeking and praising Him through every moment of life.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/why-provoke-me-to-anger-with-what-your-hands-have-made-burning-incense-to-other-gods-in-egypt-where-you-have-come-to-live-you-will-destroy-yourselves-jeremiah-448-295864/)