How Was I Supposed to Know?

Romans 10 14b

Imagine that judgement day is here and you are standing before Jesus.  Imagine that you grew up outside of the church and nobody ever shared a Bible with you or even bothered to explain what was going to happen in the future.  Imagine Jesus telling you to go get in the line where they throw you into the fire because you did not accept Christ as your savior.  I suspect you would go kicking and screaming saying that wasn’t fair.  You would probably shout back at Jesus, “How was I supposed to know?”

In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He said to go into ALL the world.  Like many of you, that is why I am passionate about missions.  That is also why I went with a team to Peru on a mission trip.  We have an extremely important message to tell others; in fact, lives depend on that message.

Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  And then verse 14 asks the obvious: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  That is so obvious that you don’t even need me to explain that to you.

But I like explaining things.  Let’s imagine that you know of someone that is locked in a room that is on fire and the only way they can get out is to unlock the door with a key.  The problem is that they don’t know where the key is, but let’s say that you know where the key is.  Would you take the time to call them and let them know where the key was so they wouldn’t die in the fire?  Or would you not really have the time or energy to make that call?  I am very confident that each person reading this devotion would take the time to call that person to tell them where the key was.  People respond with crazy amounts of urgency when there is a life to be saved in a fire.

So why don’t people respond with the same urgency when trying to save a life for eternity?  We have information that people need to hear to save their life.  We have the “key” that they need to save their life, and that key is Jesus.  If they don’t ever hear about Jesus, they are going to be sent to that line where they get thrown in the fire.  In my story and in the future in real life, you are going to die in the fire if you don’t have the “key”.  Someone needs to tell them about the key to life.

Don’t be the reason that someone says, “How was I supposed to know.”

Rick McClain

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Jesus Says Go

Mark 16

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Jesus was nailed to a tree, he breathed his last, the curtain was torn.

The stone was rolled away, sin lost its stronghold, death was defeated.

This story holds so much power, whether it’s your first time hearing it or your ten thousandth time. Live everyday like you’ve just seen the stone rolled away from the tomb with your very own eyes. Let that excitement, awe, and wonder overflow from your heart.

We know the power of the empty tomb, so now what? When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he appoints them to a certain task: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:20).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went, and God showedup.

God saw the disciple’s obedience as usability. When we go, we obey Jesus’ calling on our life, and God can work through us. Look at everything God accomplished through the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven:

Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (Acts 5:14-16).

Jesus said go, so will you obey? Will you let God work through you?

You don’t have to go far, but you do have to go. Go sit in your front yard and engage your neighbors walking by in conversation. Go to the grocery store and be extra friendly to your cashier. Go to church and mentor the newly saved Christian. Go to work and be eager to strike at every small opportunity to share the hope of the Kingdom.

You have a mission field. Your mailman, your coworker, and your next-door neighbor, need to hear the gospel. You have a message to share! If not you, then who?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

The Cliffhanger

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Acts 28

Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.

But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.
-Joel Fletcher

A Hope, a Command and a Reassurance

Matthew 28

Matthew 28 20b

In the matter of a few sentences, we have a hope, a command and a reassurance. This hope is the greatest hope that anyone could have: the hope of a resurrection. The simple fact that Jesus walked out of His grave is proof enough that we too will walk out of our graves. God has given us a taste of His power, showed us that death isn’t something to fear. All throughout Matthew, we have seen the way that Jesus has lived and have heard His words. We know the way in which we are to live our lives. Jesus was the perfect example for us. If we follow in his footsteps just imagine the reward the we will receive knowing that Jesus was rewarded with eternal life.

This hope that Jesus left us with is accompanied with a command, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples all the commands I have given you.” This command is a heavy one, although it seems straightforward. First Jesus commands us to go. We need to move to carry out this command. The second part is to make disciples. This is a daunting task these days. It seems like no one wants to hear about religion of any kind, let alone discipleship. Maybe people don’t want to listen to you, this just means that you must go. Jesus said in Matthew 10:14, if someone won’t receive you, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. This applies to us in our daily lives even if we aren’t going to move to Peru to minister. If our friendships aren’t moving towards discipleships, then perhaps it’s time to go.

Jesus, knowing how hard this command would be to follow, provided a reassurance to go along with it. He said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus held firm until the very end of His life. He weathered the taunts and the persecution, the beatings and the crucifixion. If anyone understands hardship, He does. And He is with you always. When you are struggling in the face of trial, look to Jesus. Understand how he endured His trials and let His way work in your life. Allow Jesus to give you strength as you strive to follow his command, holding fast to the hope that we all share in the resurrection to come.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Seeing Isn’t Believing

john 20 29

One of the simplest examples of an optical illusion is the Hermann grid.  Black squares closely placed side by side with white space in between. Our brain, forever processing the input of our eyes, darkens the spaces around where our eyes are focused, creating dots between the corners of the squares that do not exist.  Even though I know the truth, my eyes are trying to tell me something different. There is an ongoing battle in my nervous system between what I know is the truth, and what I sense. Such is the ongoing battle with our faith — the confidence and assurance in things we know to be true, yet our senses may tell us otherwise.  With each next step that comes our way, we must give control to our senses or our heart. Faith or sight.

In the final chapter of Matthew, the culmination of our hope is made complete: Jesus arises from the grave.  Amen. Our example in life shows us the physical transformation that will occur when we are raised from the dead alongside all those who patiently await in the grave (Heb 11:39-40).  However, we are told that when the high priests hear the news of the resurrection, they quickly bribed the soldiers overseeing the grave and told them to spread the lie that Jesus had not really risen from the grave but was stolen in the middle of night.  Jesus sends word to his disciples to meet him in Galilee to see with their own eyes that he was indeed raised as he had promised. Yet at the moment they had Jesus Christ, the risen one, standing in front of them, some doubted (Matt 28:17). They had heard Jesus preach the gospel.  They heard him predict his resurrection. They watched him perform miracle after miracle. They even watched him raise people from the dead. Still, some of them were not convinced it was Jesus Christ. In this moment, seeing was not believing to them. Surely Jesus Christ was just some form of an optical illusion.

 

Like the disciples in this moment, I often wonder if the people I know who have reservations about faith would change their minds if they saw Jesus?  If they saw him heal, cast out demons, or calm the sea, would this be enough to change their tune? The conclusion I come to is, no, it didn’t and it won’t.  It did not change the hearts of the Pharisees who rebuked Jesus for healing on a sabbath. It did not change the hearts of nine lepers who walked away with the promise in hand of being healed.  It did not change the rich, young ruler heart to turn all his possession over for the promise of greater Kingdomly treasure. Even among the apostles, John’s account of the events after the resurrection of Jesus makes Thomas as the scapegoat disciple who doubted. It took literal touching the scars of Jesus to truly restore his faith.  Blessed are those who believe in their heart, not give in to their senses (John 20:29).

 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” – Matthew 28:18-20

 

Finally, in that moment, believing or not, Jesus gives the commision to his apostles, and I believe, each one of us.  Whether or not we believe, we are still held to the standard of preaching, baptizing, and teaching the world the Good News. Jesus Christ forever changes the course of their lives because he is a risen Lord and Savior actively working within them and for them until their demise or he returned.  Something changed in the heart of the disciples who doubted from then to Pentecost. They did not believe the gospel because they saw Jesus; they believed because He was the Lord of their life and the gospel was true, speaking to each one in the words of God, His Son, and in all of creation. Each of these men traveled a different part of the world to share this hope, and most found a gruesome end to their life far from home as a martyr.

 

We don’t need to see Jesus to share this same zeal and spirit. We need only to nurture the seed that has been planted in our hearts, to carry his gospel wherever we go.  We must declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is our Lord from whatever stage is set before us and to ask others to make a commitment to declare the same. There will be a day when faith is made sight; they will be one in the same.  Every tongue will confess what I already know is true. No optical illusions — trumpets will sound, the clouds will roll back to reveal the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and life as we knew it will be no more. Until that day comes, we desperately seek His will, we urgently share His news, and we excitedly await for the assured thing we do not yet see.

-Aaron Winner

What’s Your “Jerusalem”?

Acts 1 8

“…you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Today we are going to consider what is your Jerusalem and how do you witness there.  The disciples were told to be Jesus’ witnesses first in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was where they were at, their home town, their local churches.

What is your Jerusalem?  That is where you should start doing the Great Commission.  The mission conference I mentioned yesterday will help, but what can you do today to prepare?

To get started it is necessary that you know and are passionate for the message Jesus gave us to preach.  You should know this message so well that it just rolls off your tongue without hardly thinking.  But how does one get to that point?  It is just like any other area of study or favorite hobby.  You must read about it, talk about and talk more about it.  We do this naturally with things that we are interested in.  How many of you know all about your favorite musician or sports team and can recite trivia any time the topic comes up?

I have found that the more we talk about things, the more we know and internalize them.  What we put in will come out. What we invest our time and energy in, shows what we love.

What did the early church do to prepare for the kingdom work they were given?  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Read Acts 2:37-47 to get a taste of the excitement and results of God’s spirit at work in the people after they heard a great sermon!  Be encouraged and dialog with other believers about what you read in the Scriptures.  This will put you on the right path to doing your part of the Great Commission in your Jerusalem and onward.

-Tracy Zhykovich

Today’s “Roman Road” – the Internet

matt 24 14

God had prepared the way at just the right time for His Messiah.  He not only prepared people and governments, but He prepared a way for this Good News to travel to the nations.  Up until this time, most ancient roads were dirt paths, but Roman engineers had discovered how to make roads last a long time and they interconnected the entire Empire.  At the time of Jesus, the Roman roads were great highways that went out in many directions from Rome that linked many roads and connected vast territories and kingdoms.  They literally paved the way for the Good News to travel around the known world.

God has once again prepared the way at just the right time.  In Matthew 24 Jesus warns his disciples what the end of this age will be like and what signs to look for as they wait for him to return.  But once again, he lets them know that they don’t need to worry about when it will happen because he has a job for them to do!

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:14)

In fact, they, and we, have a great responsibility and privilege!  We get to help bring about the return of Jesus!

Up until the last twenty years, people have done their best to “go into all the world”, but, going was quite limited.  Even if we sent a few missionaries to every country in the world, we would hardly scratch the surface and wouldn’t reach that many people.

Multitudes have heard about Jesus, but they don’t know him.  Less people have heard about the coming kingdom that Jesus preached throughout his ministry and spent his last 40 days talking about with his disciples.  But God has once again prepared the way!  There is a new road that goes into all the nations!  This road is the internet.

Internet evangelism is how the nations will have an opportunity to hear and receive the Good News.  No longer can one person reach only as many as he knows or comes into contact with.  Today one person, right out of the comfort of his home, can reach millions of people in places he has never been and most likely, never will go.  One person can invest a little time, without investing thousands of dollars in travel expenses, and can do much more, plant more seeds, and encourage more brethren than if he were to board a plane and go somewhere.

We are called to be good stewards of our time and our money.  God has prepared the way!  Can you imagine if the disciples didn’t use the Roman roads and just kept walking the little dirt paths?  As faithful disciples and good stewards, we must use what God has given us if we desire to obey the Great Commission and help bring the return of our anticipated savior!

Read the exciting chapter of Matthew 24 and allow God to convict you for the need to preach this kingdom message to the world.

Whether you are called to missions or not, as a disciple of Jesus, I challenge you to give God and the Great Commission 30 minutes a week and invest in internet evangelism.  Not sure how to do that?  Please reach out to me and I would be happy to help!

I, along with some other experienced missionaries and internet evangelists, will be having a national missions conference and we would love to have you attend!  You can find more details at: http://kogmissions.com/kingdom-missions-academy-conference-training

Come if you are just curious about missions or if you are seriously considering mission work!

-Tracy Zhykovich