Don’t Look Back

Acts 13 38

Acts 13 

Isn’t that what this is all about? The best gift – freedom and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. People had been waiting for him for years and now they were finally preaching about it, sharing the good news. Could you imagine being alive back then and reading the stories from the prophets and then finally hearing about Jesus? People had been talking, speculating, doubting, waiting, and anticipating him for YEARS. It is such a confirmation to our faith, it would be impossible not to talk about it!

In Acts 13, Saul, who is now called Paul, is on a mission to proclaim the gospel and he is not looking back. It’s crazy to think about the person he was just a few chapters ago. He is a great example of how we should approach our own missions. We die to ourselves, find our identity in Christ, and don’t look back. We have a lot to proclaim and not a lot of time, so worrying about who we once were will only hinder us!

-Grace Rodgers

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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

 

 

The End of the Christmas Story

nativity

What is the end of the Christmas Story?

Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were  returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)

Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)

Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December.  A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder.  The end.  But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story.  I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.

Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!!  And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children)  all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant.  His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).  Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before.  The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.

And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world.  His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then.  How could they have been so wrong?

Thankfully, that is still not the end.  Three days later…the tomb is empty!  Joy to the World!!  Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.   Luke 24:22-28

A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom.  And Jesus’ death made the way.  And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection.  For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin.  This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations.  The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week.  But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.

In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven.  When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).  The best is yet to come!

The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning.  A beginning that is still to come.  When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful.  The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king.  A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.

I pray I will be found ready.  And I pray you will be found ready.  Let’s get to work and tell the nations!

“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)

-Marcia Railton

 

The Boy who Changed – and Is Still Changing – the World

Luke 2

Luke 2 final

“Do not be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

 

Today, we are reading through Luke chapter 2 which contains one of the most popular accounts written in the Bible—which is the birth of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Regardless of our religious affiliation or background, we are familiar with the story line. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be registered under Caesar Augustus’s decree. While there, it comes time for Mary to give birth. Because there is no room in any inn, she must give birth in a stable.

 

For us, this narrative is important because it is the beginning of the story of a man who turned (and is still turning) the world upside down. We can skip forward and see how much of an impact Jesus had on so many, and we can also see how he works in our lives today.

 

But imagine being in the shoes of Mary, Joseph, and even the shepherds. They weren’t able to skip ahead, they had to live it out. For Mary and Joseph, they had to trust in God that he would see them through. They had to have strong enough faith that God would do what he said he would do. For the shepherds, imagine going from a normal day to having an angel tell you that the Son of God has been born. The Messiah is here! It is even written that they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

 

Why does this matter? I just think it’s important for us to realize that these heroes we read about in the Bible were more than just characters. They were real people. They didn’t get the luxury of knowing what was written on the next page. They had fears, and they weren’t perfect. They had to trust in God and his purpose. They had to believe that God was going to hold their hand through everything. Imagine the trust! Imagine the faith!

 

So as you read today, place yourself in their shoes. Because if we can understand what Mary and Joseph went through, maybe we can learn to emulate their faith in our own lives.

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

See Where God is at Work

Romans 1-16

The theme for our devotions this week was the gospel. The Bible is full of accounts and teaching but the most important teaching is the gospel. Self-examine and be honest with yourself, ask ‘Do I know the gospel? Can I show someone in the Bible where it is? Do I understand the gravity and significance of this message?’ Often times many Christians are weak on the gospel. Either they don’t know it or they don’t live by it or they fail to share about it with others. Which leads us to today’s lesson: share the gospel with other people.

If you have ever shared the gospel, you know it is scary. In the two years God has worked with me about sharing the good news to people, and let me tell you whether I’m sharing with an immediate family member or a total stranger, it’s scary every single time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get comfortable with it. Just like with anything, the first time you share is rough and you might stumble over your words or be extremely nervous. But the more times you do it, the better you become at it. When you share the good news with someone, you are speaking the eternal into the temporal. You speak life into death. You shed light into the pitch black void. God is with you and the spirit is at work in you when you share the gospel. I want to share some lessons I’ve learned in my experience with sharing the gospel.

  1. Have spiritual eyes and ears to discern a situation.

Let God direct you with whom to speak the gospel to. Some people are at a place in life where they’re not ready to hear the message. Be sensitive to the spirit and if you feel a prod to talk to someone or steer a conversation to faith, do it – God is with you. You don’t have to share the gospel with every person you come across.

  1. You don’t save anyone, God does.

The greatest miracle is the miracle of conversion. God is the only one able to bring that about. Don’t gauge your success by how many people you get to convert, that’s not what God wants from you. You can’t even save yourself, how can you save someone else? Instead gauge your success by if you’re sharing the gospel or not. If you are faithful and share, then you’re a successful evangelizer. I’ve shared the message with many people and none of them, to my knowledge have converted, still, in God’s eyes I am successful.

  1. It’s not an option, it’s a command.

It may be easier to not evangelize however it directly disobeys Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew 28:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” – Matt. 28.19

It’s easy to go to church, attend Bible studies, listen to Christian music, or post verses on your social media and so on. But the mark of a mature Christian is one who takes the message of salvation they received and shares it with others. Let us have confidence to obey Jesus in this all too important area of life. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.

Be the one who obeys Jesus and spreads the gospel. Be the spiritual warrior who wages war against the powers of darkness. Be the one who breaks the silence and darkness with the power and glory of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Rom. 1.16

“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” – Acts 8.12

-Jacob Rohrer-

Searching for Jesus

Mark 16:1-8 (Friday)

Mark 16-6

On the Sunday after Jesus was crucified, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James & Salome went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.  They went first thing, right as the sun was rising (as early as they could and still respect the Sabbath).  When they reach the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and a young man in white telling them Jesus was raised from the dead and was no longer here.  He tells them go and tell Jesus’s disciples and Peter that “He is going ahead of you to Galilee to meet you there.”  So the two women fled from the tomb in astonishment and trembling, saying nothing.

And that is how the oldest versions of Mark end.  That’s it.  All the rest of chapter 16 (verses 9 – 20) were added afterwards.  No appearances of the risen Jesus.  No commission to the world.  No ascending up to heaven.  Just an empty tomb and silence.

What in the world is Mark doing?!  If this were a movie, it would easily be one of the worst movie endings of all time.  And that includes some pretty unsatisfying movie endings (Inception, X-Men 3, Matrix Reloaded…).  BUT, as we’ve seen, Mark isn’t a crummy writer.  Remember his artful use of “stay alert” and his plot timings in the Temple?  Mark knew how to craft a remarkable story and to tell it with purpose.  I believe that Mark was up to something here that makes me like this older ending more than the extended one (it’s like the original vs the extended edition).  Here’s my take on Mark’s original ending.

First, we – as the reader/audience – are in the know.  From the very beginning we know that Jesus has been raised and that the church emerged as his followers continued his work.  So we know what happened.  Because we know that the church exists and that the disciples continued the work, we know that Mary & Mary weren’t silent forever.  The word spread and the gospel message grew.  I think that Mark is using our knowledge of this as a way to emphasize the irony of this moment and as a challenge for the audience to do what they know wasn’t done: DON’T BE SILENT!  Spread the good news!  From the first verses, Mark is preparing us to speak out; to be the voice in the wilderness shouting out.  We are meant to take the message forth to take up the responsibility we know we have but that is left unfulfilled in the text.

Second, the audience is meant to experience the suffering and despair of the crucifixion – not just for Jesus but for his followers as well.  Mark leaves us unsatisfied as a tool for helping us step into the shoes of those who were living this out in real time.  We experience the uncertainty and trepidation that comes with uncertainty.  BUT we still must move in light of that uncertainty.  Which then becomes faith.  Faith is belief in things unseen.  In Mark’s gospel, that faith is put into the text literally with the absence of the risen Christ.  If Mark wasn’t written until the disciples and witnesses of Jesus were all dying, then it was for an audience that would have never seen Jesus face to face.  Their faith isn’t based on some encounter with a man but an encounter with his love in the community he started.  Mark’s original ending helps us feel the void of uncertainty (what happens in our lives all the time) but also move us to a faith that is open to uncertainty and still demands that we act anyways.

Finally, I think that Mark is leaving the story in our hands.  The man in the tomb says, “Jesus is going ahead of you; there you will see him.”  Jesus isn’t in heaven in this story.  Jesus is out there – in the world.  Waiting for us.  We have to go find him.  We have to search for him.  We have to take this story and find Jesus in the love and grace and truth of a community that is searching together in the world.  This is my favorite idea in Mark; that this ending calls us to go forth and live a life for Christ so that we might find him.  But where can we find Christ?  We’ll find him in the orphan we adopt, the prisoner we visit, the poor we protect, the immigrant we give refuge, the sick we heal, the hungry we feed, and the oppressed we redeem.  I know that Jesus is in heaven now, and I can’t see heaven.  But I can see the Kingdom of God – the good news he came to spread – break into this world bit by bit when I live out the life I was created to live.  Jesus is out there, waiting for us to come and serve and find him.

Now Mark says, what are you going to do?  Will you remain here, quiet?  Or will you go and be a part of the work God is doing?

-Graysen Pack

What a Powerful Tongue You Have!

Tuesday

prov 18 21

Today’s reading is Proverbs 18.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

Have you ever thought about your words bringing life to someone else? Yet, we see this throughout the scriptures. God uses human beings to communicate who He is. God used human beings to speak and record His commandments and instructions. The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:2).

Sometimes we may not realize how important our words can be. We certainly don’t want our conversations to make us gossips, quarrelsome, and fools (We don’t want our mouths to invite a beating.) But, as the children of God, it goes beyond avoiding bad conversations and sharing God’s message. God has entrusted us with the Gospel Message.  Good News of who He is, Good News of His Son Christ Jesus and Good News of the Coming Kingdom. We are given the opportunity to communicate that message so we can connect others to God through His Son.  God entrusted Jesus with the message that everyone needs to hear.

Christ said to his disciples in John 6:67-68, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We sometimes forget that our study of the scriptures is important because we are receiving a message from God, a message that we can share with others.  I want to make sure that I get the message straight and the story right because this message “has the power of life”.

By Rebecca Dauksas

(Photo Credit: http://puttingonthenew.com/2013/11/10/proverbs-1821/)