Coming Home

john 14_3

One of the most bittersweet moments after a long, fulfilling journey is coming home.   Over the course of the past several years, I have been to a handful of different countries and have had some of the most wonderful, unforgettable experiences.  I usually spend my flight home scrolling through pictures, journaling, retelling that trip’s running joke, and planning a return journey to the destination I’m leaving behind.  Nevertheless, no matter how far I stray away, I find a soothing pleasure in seeing that final turn that will steer me into my driveway, opening the door to take a breath of the familiar smell, and laying down on my bed with my head perfectly placed on my pillow.  As I close my eyes, I do not think how much I wish to be where I was, I only think that I am so happy to be home.

I know many of you reading this have the exact same experience with the place you call home; however, I know for others, your current home is far from a place you wish to return.  Returning home to you means refacing an unpleasant past, examining poor relationships, having greater opportunity to sin, dealing with loneliness, hiding from abuse, or a customized mixture of some/all of these things.  The contrast between where you were and where you are going back to is so remarkably different that you see no hope in returning. There is always hope in returning home.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  John 14:1-4

The reality is that all of us who believe are on a journey home, but it is possible none of us will make it there in this lifetime.  God is preparing a place for all of his children, those who believe in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and know and live by saving grace that comes through faith.  Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us to lay our heads for eternity, and he will one day come back for us, fulfilling his promise. We do not look for a physical direction, or a spiritual ascent in the heavens, but look for the way, the truth, and the life Jesus speaks of as the restoration to the Father. Our desire is to be here on this earth, but it is not in its present state (1 John 2:15-17), but the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

No matter where we lay our heads or what situations befalls us, we have been given a way to where Jesus is calling.  One place is not more powerful than another. One experience is not higher than the other. By placing Jesus Christ as our heart, our hope stays with us, and is never in a location or circumstance.  Still, even our spiritual highs pale in comparison to what is promised for us in the place that is being prepared for us. In the Kingdom we will be in the presence of our Savior and our God. Where we arrived at the place prepared for and rest in the assurance of eternal life, none of us will desire to be where we were; we will only think we are happy to be home.

-Aaron Winner

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1st Thessalonians 4

1 Thess 4 1 

This is one of my favorite chapters.  I will explain why shortly; first,  I want to point out that this chapter talks about living to please God. Verse 1 not only asks, but urges us in the Lord Jesus to please God more and more. It says to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. We are told to love each other. It seems like I have heard that before?  How about in Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) where it says:

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

If we follow those commandments, we will please God. And if it is mentioned more than once, it must be important.

 

Now the reason this is one of my favorite chapters is because it speaks about the sleep of the dead. It says that one day Jesus will return and those who have fallen asleep have hope. We have HOPE! Hope of what you ask? Hope of meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him and God FOREVER! Verse 18 says to encourage each other with these words.  So I tell you encourage each other that we will be able to live for eternity with not only other believers but also God and Jesus.

 

Tomorrow we will talk about the last chapter of 1st Thessalonians, Chapter 5.

 

-The Ransoms

A Better Hope

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 26

Hello everyone!

Thank you to Kyle McClain for getting us started into Hebrews; he’s a hard act to follow!  We can’t jump right into chapter 7 without revisiting the last few verses in 6.  In the end of the previous chapter we are discussing Jesus being regarded as a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  (Gesundheit!)

The beginning of chapter 7 explains who Melchizedek was for the readers and, in a way, giving Jesus some street cred.  The author clearly wants to stress the place of power and importance this King was in (vs. 4) and why it was important that Jesus came from his order.  Verse 15 and 16 explain a little more on why Jesus was to come from his order- it’s because his ancestry doesn’t exactly lead to priesthood!  Coming from a carpenter and a seemingly average woman isn’t a common start for someone so deserving of our praise and worship.  I think the author here was trying to give Jesus some more credibility for the Hebrews he was writing to.

Verse 18 and 19 has some of my favorite language in it!  “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”  Why do we need Jesus?  Because the old law was weak, useless, and made nothing perfect!  Couldn’t be more clear than that.  With our new hope (Jesus), we are able to draw near to God and have a close personal relationship with Him.  Before Jesus, the law required sacrifice and prevented people from having that personal relationship with God that we all know and love.  After Jesus, or rather after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are saved completely and always have a connection to God through Jesus’ intercession (vs. 25).  How amazing is that?

In the last few verses of chapter 7 the author again is explaining how lucky we are to have Jesus and why we should come to him!  He is not only perfect and blameless, but he also sacrificed himself once for the forgiveness of all sins (vs. 26-27).  Past, present, and future.  He took care of them all!  As someone who has grown up in the church it’s easy for me to unconsciously be aware of this fact.  I know Jesus died for all of my sins.  Big and little, from when I was born to where I am now, and where I’ll be tomorrow.  But I’m guilty of forgetting, or at least not recognizing how important that is for my life.  If I try and place myself in the shoes of the people who were reading this letter for the first time in that setting, how overwhelmed with grace and love would I be?  I no longer have to sacrifice by the old law, because there is a new oath that has been appointed by a forever-perfect Savior.  Can you imagine the relief, love, and astonishment you might have as someone hearing that for the first time?  Why is it different for us today, simply because we already know?

Today and throughout this week I encourage you to pause and consciously reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ.  Recognize his sacrifice and thank him for the relationship he allows us to have with our Heavenly Father!

-Sarah Blanchard

Full Assurance of Hope

Hebrews Chapter Six

Hebrews 6_19

Chapter six picks up where chapter five leaves off about elementary vs. mature doctrines.  As we talked about yesterday, the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be an elementary doctrine to go along with repentance, faith, washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  Some of these the Church of God is better trained than others.  However, the author of Hebrews viewed these all as elementary.  I am going to assume that most of you who are disciplined enough to do devotions every day are ready to go on to the more mature doctrines.

Speaking of more mature doctrines and teachings, verses four through six are quite interesting.  It states that “it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them to repentance.”  What this seems to be saying is that it is impossible to be saved, then fall away, and then be saved again.  I’m not sure exactly what I think about this, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers.  However, it is interesting nonetheless and could be looked at by all.

On Sunday when we introduced the book of Hebrews, I mentioned that one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to encourage the Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were going through some tough times, and they presumably doubted their faith at times.  The rest of chapter six serves as encouragement for them and to reassure them.  Verse eleven encourages them “to have the full assurance of hope until the end.”  We aren’t to be pretty sure of what is to come in the age to come, but we are to have a FULL assurance of hope.  We are to be confident in the faith that we have.  It’s through this bold and confident faith that we can be imitators of those who inherit the promise of the Kingdom.  We can be sure of the promises set before us because “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Heb 6:18).  We can be encouraged by this.  God has promised us the Kingdom, and he is a promise keeper.  We just have to accept the free gift.

There has been a lot of content in the first six chapters of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews has provided a lot of reason for the Jewish Christians to be encouraged.  They, along with us, can be sure of the hope that we have.  God has promised us many great things, and he is a faithful God.  We have been granted a free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  There has been a lot of talk on Jesus in the first six chapters.  We have seen Jesus being glorified repeatedly in the first six chapters.  He is our high priest.  Many times Church of God people can fail to give Jesus the credit that he deserves because they are too worried with trying to distinguish him from God.  Jesus is deserving of glory, and when he is glorified, God is glorified in him.  With that said though, many people in the Christian world give Jesus too much glory by making him equal with God.  Although Hebrews does a great job of giving Jesus the credit he is due, the author also does a great job distinguishing between God and Jesus.  There is a happy balance between giving Jesus glory and distinguishing him from God.  Overall I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the first six chapters of Hebrews.  It doesn’t slow down at all in the last half of the book.  I strongly encourage you to continue along with the reading of the devotions, as Sarah Blanchard will do a wonderful job dissecting the second half of the book.  I hope you all had a great week!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

 

Bold

If you want to leave a lasting impact on this world, you must first learn to be different than the rest of the world. Boldness rejects popularity for the truth, and comfort for the cross.

When Jesus died, the world saw him as a criminal. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles were tasked with changing the world’s hearts, from yelling “Crucify!” to calling Jesus Savior. This was no easy job, yet they went forward with boldness.  They rejected popularity for the truth, and comfort for the cross. They persevered through persecution and hardship.

As Peter and John, two of Jesus’ closest friends, were speaking to the people at the temple about Jesus and even healed a crippled man, they received great opposition. They were approached by the priests and Sadducees, who “were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2). Peter and John were thrown in jail and met before the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law that made up the Sanhedrin the next day. The Sanhedrin poses the question, “by what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4: 7). Peter responds with such a boldness we should imitate today,

“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).

The rulers, elders, and teachers of the law were astonished by the courage of Peter and John, who were just ordinary men. Before Jesus called them, they were lowly fisherman, yet they approached the courts with such assurance and strength. After the hearing, Peter and John were commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). Despite the opposition, they answered with confidence in their Savior, “judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19 & 20).

You, too, have seen and heard all that Jesus has done. The Kingdom message, which is compared to a pearl of great value, has been revealed to you. Will you shamefully keep your pearl hidden, or will you unashamedly share that pearl with the world who so desperately needs it?

Just like in the times right after Jesus’ death, believing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is an unpopular opinion, yet the Great Commission still stands: “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” (Matthew 28:19 & 20). Spoiler alert, God’s side is going to win the war when He establishes His Kingdom on the earth. In the meantime, fight this battle to win over hearts for that Kingdom. You may receive opposition, but do not be afraid because you already know the outcome of the war. Go forward with the same confidence Peter and John had. Be bold.

~Mackenzie McClain

The Resurrection

Thursday

I Corinthians 15-26

Everything hangs in the balance with the resurrection. Whether the claims of the resurrection are true or false, the outcome has unparalleled consequences. If true, then everything Jesus said about himself, about God, and about the human condition is true. If false, billions of people have been deceived into believing a lie and Jesus turns into another great moral teacher of history and nothing more. There has been work done to provide a defense for the historicity of the resurrection. If you are curious into learning more about this go to youtube and look up William Lane Craig or Gary Habermas, concerning the resurrection. The evidence they provide for the resurrection may surprise you. It is not something we just have to take on “faith”, but there is reasonable evidence to believe Jesus really did rise from the dead. For the purposes of our devotion, I’ll assume that we hold Jesus really did rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the next aspect of the gospel that we’ll look at.

In the gospels’ accounts the only gospel message that is being preached is the kingdom of God, which we have seen from earlier this week. However, after Jesus is raised his disciples for the first time proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection as gospel alongside the kingdom message they heard and preached with Jesus. We see this most clearly in the book of Acts:

“…this man delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death. But God raised him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power” Acts 2.23-24

“But you disowned the holy and righteous one…[and] put to death the prince of life, whom God raised from the dead to which we are witness” – Acts 3.14-15

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world through a man whom he has appointed having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead” – Acts 17.30-31

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures” – I Cor. 15.3

The resurrection is essential for many reasons, however today we’ll review two: one, the resurrection provides evidence that Jesus was who he really said he was. And two, because Jesus was brought back to life, those who are in Christ will rise again too. Acts 17.30-31 is a great verse because in it Paul says that God has given evidence to the world that Jesus is his son because he was raised back to life! This means everything Jesus said would be true then. Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life, he tells us to repent and believe in the gospel, and he says he will execute judgement.  And all this is true because God raised him back to life. Why should Jesus have authority over anyone’s life? Because God raised him from the dead and made him “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36).

Because Jesus is alive those who are in Christ will be raised back to life:

“…he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus…” – II Cor. 4.14

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” – I Thess. 4.16

Just as Jesus’ death is essential for us to be in the presence of God, so to is the resurrection. Without the resurrection, we would die forgiven, but there would be no future hope of any kind (I Cor. 15.15-19). At the resurrection those who are in Christ will be changed and given the gift of immortality (the ability not to die), this allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom:

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” – I Cor. 15.50-53

The resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in history and it resides in the greatest message the world has to hear, the gospel.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

A Taste of the Kingdom Hope Now

Tuesday

Matthew 24 14

Yesterday we learned about the future hope of the Kingdom of God. A time when God’s just rule and reign will cloak the earth, His son Jesus will reign as king, and you and I will live in a completely restored relationship with God and Jesus on a revitalized earth. But that time has not come yet; still though, God’s presence and rulership can be felt in the present. This is the present aspect of the kingdom of God.

Have you ever wondered what was the point of the miracles Jesus performed? The miracles were great but they were to point to something greater, namely two things: one, they provided evidence that Jesus was who he said he was (John. 5.36), and two, they pointed to the fact that God’s power and rulership were breaking into the present now (Lk. 4.18-19). In the Old Testament there are passages that describe God’s redemptive power and Jesus in his ministry fulfilled those. In Luke 4, Jesus stands in a synagogue and begins to read:

“The spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives , and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD. And he began to say to them, ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

The time of God’s healing and restoration, Jesus fulfilled in his ministry. The miracle healings were a taste of the future reality. However, there is another way in which God’s kingdom power and influence can be brought into the present. And that is by obedience to Jesus.

There’s a purpose as to why we should obey Jesus. One purpose in particular is that when we obey Jesus and live as he says to live, we are actually manifesting the kingdom power and influence into the present. When you forgive someone who wronged you, you manifest the kingdom. When you evangelize you bring the kingdom into the present. When you love selflessly, when you obey and honor authority, when you confront sin and wrong doing, when you see people and situations the way God sees them you bring the eternal into the temporal, the kingdom into the present. The life Jesus calls you to live is not a good lifestyle, but a kingdom lifestyle. A life that embodies the ethics and practices of God.

So yes the full realization of God’s kingdom is not here yet, but the effects can be felt and seen in the now through your obedience to Jesus. We looked at the future hope and present reality of the kingdom, and this for Jesus, was the gospel he preached. Here are other verses about Jesus sharing the gospel of the kingdom of God:

Matthew 4.23; 9:35; 24.14 and Luke 16.16

When you share the gospel with someone, sharing the kingdom is essential and yet so many gospels tracks and presentations say nothing about it. Preach and live by the gospel Jesus taught. The gospel of the kingdom of God.

-Jacob Rohrer