The Friends are Opposed by Satan

1 Thessalonians 2

1 Thessalonians 2 2b

In the second chapter (v 18) the friends are blocked by the enemy.  Esther and I, as we prepared for Camp Mack, found all sorts of odd things happening as people did and said strange things to try to hurt our mission.

 

Application: Sometimes, the stronger the opposition, the more you know you are doing God’s Will.  No matter what happens, God gives great peace to friends in Christ.

 

-Paul & Esther

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Don’t be Mutton

John 10

John 10 14

In John chapter 10, we find Jesus telling a story about shepherds and sheep.  A person who is hired to protect the sheep will run away when his own life is in danger (like when a wolf comes), and abandons the sheep.  The true shepherd will put his life in harm’s way to defend his sheep.  Then we find this gem in verses 14 through 18:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

I see a couple of things in these verses that I’d like to comment on.

We all know that we are his sheep, and that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep.  We may be less focused on Jesus’ comment that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen that will listen to his voice and be part of the same flock.  In Jesus’ day, he was talking with the Jews, who thought they were the exclusive people who could have a relationship with God.  Jesus was pointing out that non-Jews would also come to God through Jesus.

Then we see this phrase in verse 17 that says God loves Jesus because Jesus is going to lay down his life.  I believe Jesus was saying that it was his decision whether or not to completely obey God.  He had the authority to obey, and lose his life.  He also had the authority to disobey, and retain his life.  My interpretation for all of this is:  Jesus had complete free will to do whatever he chose to do, just like we have free will.  It’s just that Jesus always chose to do God’s will.  This is exemplified in Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will, no matter what, even to the point of suffering and dying.  And God loves that fact about Jesus.  (As an aside, this attribute of Jesus is undoubtedly why God said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”)

You might be thinking, “This is a nice story, but how does it apply to me?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, I want God to be pleased with me.  And I project from this story that if I am obedient to God like Jesus was obedient to God, I will please God.  So, I’d like to challenge you to be completely obedient to God as well.

Second, I might tend to think, like the Jews, that I, or my church, or my denomination have an exclusive relationship with God.  I need to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not me, and he (not me) gets to decide who are and who are not his sheep.

Finally, we see from this passage that Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.  Wolves are prowling around outside the sheep pen.  If you’re not in the protection of the pen, being protected by the Shepherd, you’re going to be mutton.  So if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no time like today.

-Steve Mattison

Easy Life vs. Eternal Life

John 6 27 a

John 6

 

John 6 is a great example of the total disconnect between Jesus, and what he had to offer, versus the people following Jesus, and what they wanted.

The chapter starts with Jesus feeding 5000 men.  (I don’t even have space to discuss Jesus’ walking on the water right after that miracle.)  Once his followers enjoyed a free meal, they wanted more.  The chapter then has this recurring theme where the people want more food, and Jesus wants to focus on something more eternal.

I’ll paraphrase the story:

Jesus: You’re only following me to get more food.  You shouldn’t focus on food that spoils, but the food that I’ll give you that will endure eternally.

People:  Do a miracle for us.  Moses fed our ancestors in the desert. (Hint)

Jesus: I’m the true bread from heaven to give life to the world.

People: Feed us.

Jesus:  39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

People:  Grumble

Jesus: 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

People:  Grumble about eating Jesus’ flesh.

Jesus: 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

People: Desert Jesus.

Jesus then asked the twelve disciples, “Are you going to leave too?”

I love Peter’s answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Application:

In Jesus’ day, I assume the people had to work pretty hard to acquire food.  If Jesus could have just supplied all the food they would have needed for the rest of their lives, life would have been so much easier.  After all, God wants us to have an easy life, right?

Jesus was focused on doing God’s will, and looking forward to the resurrection.  Four times in this chapter, Jesus repeats that he will raise people up at the last day.  Five times he talks about eternal life.

How often do we focus on (and pray for and long for) God making life easy for us?  Jesus is clearly pointing out that we just need to “believe in the one he [God] has sent.”  Live for Him, and look forward to the resurrection.

So, where will you focus today?

 

–Steve Mattison

Delayed Gratification

matthew 7 7

MATTHEW 7

One of the most famous experiments ever done to understand the human psyche is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  In this study, a marshmallow and a bell were placed in front of a preschool child. The instructions were as follows: if the child wanted to eat the marshmallow in front of them after the adult left the room, they only need to ring the bell to gain permission; however, if they waited for the adult to return to the room on his/her own, about fifteen minutes later, then they would receive an additional marshmallow for their wait, essentially doubling their pleasure.  A seemingly simple experiment became a tortuous endeavor for these children. Initially, almost all the children tried to wait, but the longer they watched the door and thought about the marshmallow, disbelief and displeasure began to fill their minds. The ones who were ultimately successful looked in a different direction, sang a song, or reframed their desires, all of which helped to ultimately endure to receive their reward in full. Conversely, some were overcome with their desire or doubt; they rang the bell and received a lesser reward.

 

Matthew Chapter 7, our reading for today, contains a handful of verses we will most likely wrestle with at some point in our lives when our metaphorical marshmallow is placed in front of us.  Yesterday’s devotion showed us God’s provision, but there is a distinction here that appears in times where we appeal to God for greater things, beyond bread or fish (Matt 7:9): the search for a spouse, selection of a college or career, the growth of a church or ministry, the health of a loved one, the birth of a child or wisdom in a difficult situation.  All of these have a biblical basis as blessings from God, the giver of “good gifts to those who ask” (Matt 7:11), so we might suspect for these to move up God’s priority list. The only requirements are we ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7:7). Initially, these three actions seems the same, but through my own appeals, I have come to realize these in fact may be steps of a larger process.

ASK

First, you must ask.   While our action and efforts show our faith, if we bring God in, we are no longer in control (or under the illusion that we are in control).  By making our request known to our Heavenly Father, we begin to have peace with the “marshmallow” that passes our comprehension of the situation (Phil 4:6-7).  We are settled knowing that if we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father will not only hear our request, but has already placed our desire within the scope of his will and eternal plan (John 14:12-14). You will receive it.

SEEK

Next, you must seek. We are to search for God’s will in our lives which is much larger than a single request.  It is so easy to be consumed with a single desire and measure your faith and relationship with God by it. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so we must look away from the “marshmallow”, and look towards God’s kingdom as the first priority for our lives.  By daily searching for God and His perfect and pleasing will, we will ultimately collide with the desire of our heart at the single most opportune moment which is mutually benefiting God’s kingdom and us. You will find it.

KNOCK

Finally, knock, which is by far the most difficult of the three.  You must patiently wait and trust God. As we wait, the rain will come down, maybe harder than ever, the floods will come up, maybe higher than ever, and the wind beat against the house, maybe stronger than ever, and the foundation of our lives will be exposed (Matt 7:24-29).  These are the moments that make or break a faith. To endure the storm, we must be persistent in our prayer lives, even when we are frustrated. We are to be fervent in our discipleship, even when our will is depleted. We must share our faith, even if we have moments of doubt.  We will not “earn” our reward, but they give us the strength to continue to stand at the door knocking, waiting for God’s perfect timing, the delayed gratification, the moment when faith becomes sight. And soon enough, He will open the door.

 

The children who participated in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment were later studied as teens and adults.  There were some startling correlations with the group that found their way to endure to the end, delaying their reward until a more pleasing moment.  They were better able to cope with stress, more likely to be fulfilled in the work, less likely to be impulsive or aggressive, and less likely to be addicted or become divorced.  As we wait for our good and perfect gift from above, God may be moving heaven and earth to bless us (2 Kings 20:1-11). The problem is He is on the other side of the door, and all we can see is the marshmallow.  It is so easy to become focused on this one thing and forget about the promise. There is so much blessing waiting in the waiting. Our focus changes, we become disciplined, we find ways to sing while stressed, we become fulfilled in God – blessing or not.  We are focused by and consumed with God, not the marshmallow. Then the door opens and we remember the promise, and we see our reward and how His plan was so good.  God delays our gratification, not to experiment or simply because He can but to show us He truly is the giver of the greatest gifts to those who ask, and he will double or exponentially multiply the reward.  Don’t give in and ring the bell – Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find it. Knock, and the door will be opened.

-Aaron Winner

Affecting Future Generations

Gen 16 1
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”  “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.  The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.  Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”  The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”  She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Genesis 16:1‭-‬13 NIV
In this chapter, we see a choice that Abram and Sarai made, that still impacts the world today.  They were trying to fulfill a promise that God had made, by their design instead of waiting for God.  It’s easy for us to sit back and think, ‘Wow no way would I do that if God promised me something!’ Fact is though, we turn our backs on God’s promises all the time.  We force decisions in our lives based on our wants, instead of truly seeking God’s will first.  But what really gets me is the possible consequences of our decisions.
It isn’t always just us that pays the price, our families and friends can be significantly affected by our decisions.  If you’re a parent you see this all the time.  Might just be little things like choosing to stay late at work instead of going to a game, or it could be big things like how a divorce can change everyone’s life involved.  If you’re a son or daughter, you feel those decisions, but you also know that your choices affect your parents.  Could be something minor like not doing something you said you would, or something major like a DUI.  Point is that all of us have to realize that how we live our lives can affect how others live theirs.  And some of, if not many of,  the decisions we make affect future generations.
This is true for good decisions also, the legacy we leave on life isn’t just about our screw ups, it’s about our accomplishments also, all part of God’s design and his plan of grace.  So if you’ve screwed up, no worries, there’s forgiveness.  But that might mean the consequences are set, and we have to rely on that grace and work hard to make better choices moving forward.  Just remember next time you have a major choice in front of you, am I seeking God’s will or my own?  Does this choice honor the people around me as well as myself? If we take time to evaluate our choices like that, I think we’ll have fewer regrets in them.
Jerry Briggs

What He Wants Me to Do

1 tim 1 5

There have been times when I have wondered what God wants me to do, not in a big way, but smaller, things I can do daily. So when I went through the quiz material from this summer 1 Timothy 1:5 quickly became my favorite verse. “But the goal of our instruction is love, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”- 1 Tim. 1:5

Paul wrote this when he was instructing Timothy on how to run the church, and it applies to us. We have a goal, to love, and we can do this everyday. When we are loving to others it shows God’s love through us.

-Blair Simon

Delighting In God!

 

psalm 37 4

I enjoy walking my dog and try to do that several times a week in the morning. It’s a wonderful time to think and talk to God before the busyness of the day takes over. So, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about and Psalm 37: 4 kept coming to mind. When I think of this verse two young ladies come to mind that I will channel this morning. My niece Kaitlyn Walters, used this verse in a devotion umpteen years ago at Southeast Camp and Jennie Montgomery spoke on this subject at Guthrie Grove at the graduation service last year. The brain is a really amazing thing with all the information it keeps stored up for us!

So I will break down the verse, what does it mean to “Delight yourself in the Lord”? Delight means: a high degree of gratification or pleasure: joy. I think when you feel joy and pleasure when in the presence of the Lord, that you will want to spend time with him. You will want to get to know Him better. When we meet people that we enjoy; we talk to them, text them, ask questions to find out their likes, dislikes, their thoughts. We want to get to know them. It is the same way with God, to really know Him and delight ourselves with Him is to want to get to know Him better every day.

“He will give you the desires of your Heart.” When we are delighting in God, we are in tune with Him and His will for our lives. Our desires will parallel His and we will find fulfillment in Him and not in the things that the world would have us desire, like riches, fame, and power. The greatest example of someone who delighted in the Lord, would be Jesus. Jesus loved spending time with His Father. At the age of 12, in Luke 2:49, it says: “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? ”At that age, he was in the temple, trying to learn about His Father, he was delighting himself in the Lord. He would go and spend hours praying to God.  Before he was led to the cross, he said “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus, did not ask His father for riches or honor. In fact even though he didn’t want to die, he submitted to the Father, because he was willing to let His desires become one with his Father’s will. I pray that we will all delight in the Lord, spend time with Him, and that the desire of all of our hearts will to be to spend eternity with our Father in the Kingdom.

Sherry Alcumbrack