Treasures in Jars of Clay

2 Corinthians 4

2 corinthians 4 5

It’s a beautiful chapter – make sure you give it a read, it won’t take long.

While I read, various people came to mind as Paul was describing his ministry.  People I know who have – and are currently – serving faithfully, carrying on the work Paul had given his life to 2,000 years ago.

One of the key repeated themes in this chapter is the task of pointing others to God, rather than to ourselves.  It requires humility and relying on God’s strength and mercy.  It means realizing that this priceless treasure of the message of God’s glory is housed in our plain, everyday, unglamorous, and sometimes frail bodies.  As Paul says: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (vs. 7). It’s not about us – it’s about Him and His greatness.  It involves letting God’s light shine through us – so others will see God when we share about His Son.  After a conversation with others, do they know more about me – or about my God and my Lord?

And – it’s about the work of being a servant to those you minister to – for Jesus’ sake.  Growing up as a pastor’s kid I was privileged enough to see the beauty of servanthood Pastor Ray Hall lived out daily.  Numerous weekly Bible Studies at church, at the adult foster care homes or at the breakfast restaurant with the men’s group.  Countless counseling sessions in his office, at the jail, or the hospital or even in the garage. Up extra early to drive the man in need of a fresh start to his new job, writing and delivering sermons and SS classes, taking breaks to fix the neighbors’ bikes or paint a welcome home sign for returning snowbirds, teaching the little kids’ VBS class and taking all the late-night phone calls.

Being a servant doesn’t leave a lot of time for piddly pursuits.  In fact, it can be downright demanding, and sometimes discouraging.  Paul knew.  He writes, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…so then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (vs 8, 9 & 12).  In order to share the life-giving message with others – it was going to require taking up his cross and dying to his own will – just as Jesus did.  It would be hard, but not without help (God’s power at work) or hope. “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” (vs. 14).

Even as Paul was following in Christ’s footsteps, he was encouraging those who would follow in his own footsteps with these words (repeated twice in this short chapter) – “We do not lose heart.” (vs. 1 & 16).  God needs people with heart – and lots of it!  You don’t have to be a full-time pastor to be taking on the role as a servant for Jesus’s sake.  Some of the people I thought of when reading this chapter were not pastors but full-time mothers and dedicated Sunday School teachers or amazing pastors’ wives.  Whether you are a student or a mother or a plumber or a truck driver or a teacher – you can also be called to be a servant – for Jesus’ sake.

On the sad flip side, other faces and hearts were brought to mind when Paul wrote about those for whom the gospel was veiled – those who were perishing.  Some family.  Some friends.  Some from years of church and youth work.  Indeed, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” (vs. 4).  Satan is still very much alive and kicking.  The battle is real.  And real lives are perishing – unbeknownst to those with blinded minds.  Pray for veils to be yanked off.  Pray for our families to flee Satan.  Pray for the light of the gospel to shine through the darkness.

Thank God for the light.  Thank God for those who have been a servant to you to show you the light.  Pray that through you God’s light will shine.  Pray that you do not lose heart.  Pray that you will be worthy of the title of servant – for Jesus’ sake.

Thankful and Praying,

Marcia Railton

 

 

 

The 5 W’s of Coaching the Dream Team

Matthew 10

matthew 10 32 33

 

WHO will go?

Peter

Andrew

James

John

Philip

Bartholomew

Thomas

Matthew

The other James

Thaddaeus

Simon

Judas

 

In today’s reading we observe Jesus delivering the ultimate pep talk to the “Dream Team” – excluding one. (Spoiler alert: by the end of the Book of Matthew it will be abundantly clear that one of these gentleman will be ejected from the team.) This pre-game speech comes on the heels of Jesus overwhelmed with the needs of the people he’s encountered in the past few weeks. He needs help, so he enlists these 12 with quite a rallying cry. They will soon be experiencing “on the job training” and his instructions are enduring.

 

WHERE will they travel?

Jesus makes it explicitly clear just where the “Dream Team” is to deliver his message: the lost sheep of Israel. (verse 5) “Don’t go to the Gentiles or any Samaritan village.” It was not quite time to take this radical message to the other communities. Perhaps Jesus thought the message would be better received first within Jewish circles since prophecies had been foretold for HUNDREDS of years regarding his coming? (Or not.) Doesn’t take long before the hometown crowd turns from cheers to jeers as the game progresses and one of those “Dream Team” players plots to sabotage the whole tournament.

 

WHAT will they say?

“The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (verse 7) This is the message the disciples are to deliver. They will proclaim this message of power and authority given to them by Christ himself when they demonstrate these actions: 1) Heal the sick. 2) Raise the dead. 3) Cleanse those who have leprosy. 4) Drive out demons.

 

Sure Jesus… Need anything else?

 

As you might imagine, this is quite a directive, and he wasn’t quite done instructing. “Travel light” was just the tip of the iceberg. For the rest of the chapter Jesus spells out what to keep an eye out for. He tells you not to get discouraged even though you should expect to be unwelcomed, flogged, arrested, hated, persecuted, abandoned and lied about by your family, and most likely, killed. Where can I sign up?

 

WHY & WHEN will this occur?

My favorite verses of why this is all to occur shoots from verses 16 & 17. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Beth Moore, a renowned Bible teacher recently tweeted it best,

“What I think has happened here is that in our discipleship, we are not teaching what is normative in the believing life. When we carry our cross and we follow Jesus, we are walking into a storm. We were told that in Matthew 10 we will be ‘sheep among wolves,’ not wolves among sheep.”

Beth goes on to further tweet that “sheep among wolves” means Christians will be “persecuted,” “criticized,” “imprisoned” and even killed for speaking the truth.

“We have been very proud of the fact that we have not subscribed to a prosperity gospel. But what we have subscribed to is a pampered gospel where we are so afraid of suffering and we are so afraid someone is going to criticize us and hurt our feelings.”

 

Hello. That sounds just like January 15, 2019, and speaks to WHEN. Once again we see that God’s word is timeless and a double-edged sword for all generations cutting to the heart of the problem. Whatever it takes, no matter how unpopular, we must contend for the gospel. Just like Jesus called the disciples to move out of their “comfort zones,” we too must grow a thicker skin. Beth’s final tweet about this subject sums it up:

“All that stands between us & an astonishing work of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Quit being scared of rocking a boat that has run aground on an island of compromise. Walk on water.”  

 

What would our lives and our futures look like if we invested our earthly time and resources into eternal values?  How would you live if you were completely confident that every act of love, service, or unselfishness would carry reward where it mattered (and lasted) most – even if nobody in your neighborhood, church, or community ever noticed? “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Verse 42).

 

We are now mid-January. How many of us have long forgotten our resolutions for the New Year? Jesus was trying to teach his “Dream Team” to not focus on the here-and now. Instead of looking for New Year’s resolutions we can keep, what if we tried finding some that could actually keep us.

Sign me up. Lord, please teach me to play on your team!

-Julie Driskill

Does Not Perish

Acts 6 4

Acts 6

What is the difference between a Christian organization that feeds the homeless and a worldly organization that does the same? The Gospel.

I would say that the most important thing you can do when we go on mission trips, foreign or domestic, is that we prioritize the Gospel. No matter what we are handing out, whether it be food, clothes, bedding or backpacks, or the sweat of our brow, the Gospel should be included.

When the disciples began to grow in number they started to have problems with some of the widows getting food to eat. Widows were very common in that day, and they were not always able to support themselves. But they were being overlooked and it was up to the disciples to take care of them in some way. The disciples were being stretched thin already so they decided to put someone else in charge of that situation, which by today’s standards was good leadership. So that’s what they did and the issue was resolved.

Now what they did is not as important as why they did it. They did it because “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.” Acts 6:2 They recognized that anyone could had helped feed the widows, but they were called to the ministry of the word.

I would argue that we all are called to the ministry of the word. However some of us are called to that ministry in different ways because of our different gifts.  I love handing out food and things people need, it simply makes me feel good. But what tops that is when I am able to sit down and talk with someone about the Kingdom of God and Jesus. Then praying with that person. Sharing with them your heart and how the Gospel has changed your life.

Here is my take away, we are called to serve people with the Gospel. Using our gifts and abilities and our hearts. The world is more than capable of handing out things that do not last the test of time. But we have something that Does Not Perish.

-Jesse Allen

A Lesson from Africa: Leadership

Missions Spotlight: Africa

africa church inside

400 CoG Churches spread across the plains and mountains of Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya.  This past year alone, there have been 23 new church plants in Mozambique and 7 in Malawi! This year, new Church headquarter buildings will be established in Mozambique and Kenya. God is moving in Africa! Pictured is a new church building in Kenya.

 

How did Jesus set up the church to work? Well I’m so glad you asked that question because that is the perfect question to help us lead into today’s topic which is leadership. Christ designed the church around a leadership, evangelism, and then discipleship model. This work begins when a leader who is strong in the faith and well educated on the gospel talks to people about it – a.k.a evangelism. So once this leader has effectively spread the gospel to someone and they decided that they want to become a follower of Christ they start down the path of discipleship. Discipleship is a Christianese word that means to train and grow someone in their faith. Once a person has spent a sufficient time studying the word and learning about Jesus they themselves become leaders and the cycle starts all over. This is how the early church went from 12 people to the official religion of Rome in 300 years! Jesus was our first leader who trained his 12 disciples and then they took it from there. Now that is a simplified version of the New Testament record but that is essentially what happened. The amazing thing is that this model of church has overcome persecution, death, plagues, famine, and time to reach us today. We can be proud that some 2,000 years later we are still carrying out Jesus’ great commission, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matt. 28:19-20.

 

A perfect example of this leadership are the pastors of Africa bringing the gospel to their people. About 25 years ago a missionary from our conference discipled a single individual and today there are over 400 churches in Malawi, Mozambique, and Kenya. That is amazing – from 1 person to 400 churches in 25 years! God must be blessing these pastors and no small part of their success is due to their understanding of Biblical leadership. Even though these pastors don’t have the resources we have here in the states they still get the job done. They walk miles on foot to spread gospel, they live morally righteous lives, and sacrifice of themselves to spread the good news. If that isn’t a perfect model of leadership, I don’t know what is.  When I saw them in Africa, I saw Christ in them. I saw them spreading the gospel, making disciples, and empowering believers to be leaders themselves. I saw their undying loyalty to the truth and devotion to live righteous lives despite famine, war, death of children, and poverty; they do not give up and they effectively spread the gospel.

 

Let’s learn from and be inspired by our African brothers who spread the gospel with no fear or hesitation. They are living proof to one of my favorite scriptures Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The best part of talking about all of this evangelism and leadership is realizing that the mission field is just as big here, in the USA, as it is in Africa. We need leaders now and in the next generation to come and speak truth. We also need to support our leaders now to continue to carry the truth.

 

If you would like to support our brethren in Africa with new church buildings along with fertilizer and seed for crops, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Resurrection and Loyalty

 

1 Corinthians 15 22

In today’s section we’ll look at verses 20-28 of I Corinthians 15. Did you know that you’re a king or a queen? So many blessings and riches are made available to us “in Christ” and in today’s section Paul speaks of another gift that comes with being “in Christ” – resurrection.

Paul begins by affirming that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, given the sad reality of if he hadn’t (v. 12-19). He then proceeds in verses 21-22 to compare Adam to Christ. Just as by a man came death, so to by a man came the resurrection of the dead. Paul clarifies this saying in the next verse by identifying the two men. In Adam all die but in Christ all live. This is a critical teaching of Paul about the dichotomy between Adam and Christ. By default all of us are in Adam, that is, we are identified and participate in the sphere of Adam which is rebellious and God hating. This inevitably results in death. But you and I can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ”. When we are found “in Christ” that is our new identity (II Cor. 5.17) and this inevitably leads to life, specifically, resurrection and immortality (II Tim. 1.10). The way we can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ” is by repentance, acceptance of the gospel, and obedience to Jesus as Lord. For more on the Adam-Christ teaching read Romans 5.12-21 and all of Romans 6 for what it means to be “in Christ” (“in Christ” is a technical term found often through Paul’s epistles that is rooted in his understanding of Adam and Christ). But Paul specifies that there is an order to the resurrection: Jesus first then those who are his at his coming.

Then Paul says literally “then the end”, when Jesus hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has abolished all rule and authority. In other words, when Jesus comes back he will dismantle and overthrow every human authority and government and establish his Father’s rule and reign with him as king. Then concluding, Paul says after this happens Jesus will hand over the newly established rule to his God and father, being subjected to him, so that God may be all in all forever and ever.

To be “in Christ” means so much more than just ‘I’m saved’ it’s larger meaning is that we get to participate in the sufferings and victories of Jesus. Specifically, because Jesus was raised from dead, we will be raised from the dead (I Cor. 15.20,23). Because Jesus ascended to God’s right hand and has been given all rule and authority, we too are seated with Christ and share in Jesus’ power and authority (Eph. 1.20-21, 2.4-7). You are a king and queen in the making whom God is making ready to rule and reign through our Lord Jesus Christ by means of the resurrection!

-Jacob Rohrer

Resurrection Power!

Hello everyone!

1Corinthians 15 58

Next week Josiah and Amber Cain will be writing on having a missional perspective on life. And when I think of being missional, I think of the original disciples and Paul. I think about their relentless pursuit to spread and share the gospel at any cost and not backing down to anything or anybody. What gave them the boldness and confidence to speak and act in this manner? What ignited their fire of zeal for the name of Jesus that turned the first-century world upside down? Two words. The resurrection. This is the topic we will be looking at this week. The memory verse for this week is I Corinthians 15.58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord”. This verse is encouraging on its own but it has so much more power when Paul connects this to the reality of resurrection!

For the next seven days we will journey through one chapter of Paul – I Corinthians 15, also known as the resurrection chapter. I Corinthians 15 is about only one topic – resurrection.  This week we will explore many different aspects about not just Jesus’ resurrection but about Paul’s perspective on resurrection theology as a whole.  Today we will look at verses one through eleven:

1 Now I make know to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believe in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. 9 For I am least of the apostles, and not fit to be called as apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul begins by talking about the gospel and he says that it is a message that saves us if we hold fast to it. To hold fast to something is to remain tightly secured to it. And in verse three through five, Paul makes known the contents of the gospel message that saves namely, that Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and then he rose on the third day. Paul says that this is something he himself received. On a side note, we normally think about Paul as being this intellectual and theological giant and while that’s true in one sense, in another sense just like you and me, Paul had a beginning to his walk with Jesus.

Had Jesus only made one appearance to one individual it would seem to be a little shaky, but this is not the case at all! Paul records that the risen Jesus appeared to Peter, the apostles, James, a group of five hundred people, and lastly to Paul himself. The power of the resurrection event was enough to turn a zealous and ardent persecutor of the church, Saul, into a equally zealous and ardent messenger of Jesus, Paul. If  Jesus and the resurrection can change a man like Paul, how much more can it change people’s lives today? The resurrection is not just an event in the past nor just a future hope, as we’ll see later. Jesus and the resurrection has power to change lives today and right now. Paul knew this and it reflected in the life he lived. I ask you, do you live life in the reality of the resurrection?

-Jacob Rohrer

 

Hold Firmly

Hebrews Chapter Four

Hebrews 4_14

There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.”  Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation.  This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation.  Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin.  Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.”  The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience.  They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience.  In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed.  This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.

This should provide a wakeup call for us!  We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously.  We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it!  Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin.  God hates sin.  The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven.  We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.

The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter.  What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest?  Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:

  1. Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
  2. The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
  3. We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
  4. God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
  5. God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
  6. Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
  7. Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
  8. Strive to enter the rest (4:11)

Here’s what I get from all of this.  God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient.  The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom.  I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand.  There is still a chance to enter God’s rest.  However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God.  In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest.  If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest.  However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom.  Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen!  Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.

Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest.  We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus.  One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin.  He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations.  He is no stranger to struggle and suffering.  We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH.  Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity.  James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.”  If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another.  It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself.  Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time.  It doesn’t work that way.  It logically does not make sense.  Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.

To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts.  However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active.  We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today.  If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible.  The Bible has only flourished though.  It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word.  I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions.  You are truly doing a great deed.  Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.

-Kyle McClain