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

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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

A Rule that’s NOT of this World

Monday

Matthew 4 17

Proverbs. You probably wouldn’t think that Proverbs would have anything to do with the topic for our devotion this week, the gospel. However, there’s a small nugget of wisdom in the 13th chapter of Proverbs in verse 12a:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

A heart void of hope makes the heart sick and sad. So many people go through life with no hope or if they do have a hope it’s wrongly placed and are disappointed when it doesn’t satisfy their deepest longings. Hope is crucial to a life of joy and contentedness and with our look at the second component of the gospel, God has provided a hope to all who want to follow him. This hope is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. If you don’t understand the kingdom, you won’t understand Jesus. Now there are two aspects to the kingdom of God, a present reality and the future hope (or the eschatological kingdom for the technical term). Today, we look at the future hope. But in order to understand the future, we have to first understand the past. Let’s start in Genesis.

God created the cosmos and everything in it, including a tiny blue marble we call earth. God intended humans to be his vice-regents on the earth, humans were to reign and rule over all that he had created on earth:

“Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the cattle over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’…God blessed them and said to them ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the over the birds of the air and the every living thing that moves on the earth” – Gen. 1.26,28

However, the perfect union that God and man had together was short-lived. Sin came into the picture and with it, death, evil, oppression, and injustice have reigned to this day. But God decided he wanted to save his creation, humans and the world, thus began God plan’s on reconciling everything back to himself. We’re going to look at two passages from the Old Testament that provide the pillars to the New Testament and Jesus.

In Genesis 12, God makes a covenant or a faithful promise with Abram:

“Now Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” – Gen. 12.1-3

God promises three things to Abram:

  1. Land that Abram will possess
  2. He will be made a great nation
  3. The entire earth will be blessed through him

 

Jumping ahead to I Chronicles 17, God makes a covenant with David:

“When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for me a house, and I will establish his throne forever…I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” – I Chronicles 17.11-14

God promises that there will be one who comes after him, from his line, and his throne will be established forever. Remember God promised Abraham land and during David’s time God’s people had the land, then God promises the king of that land that there will be one after him whose throne will rule forever and ever over that land and kingdom.

Let’s take a look at what Luke 1 says about Jesus:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” – Lk. 1.31-33

Jesus is the king over the promised kingdom of God. Thus when Jesus proclaims his inaugural statement in Matt. 4.17 and Mark 1.15, it’s the king announcing the arrival of the kingdom. This kingdom and it’s king reverses the effect that sin has ravaged on the earth, because Jesus himself has overcome the grave.

One day Jesus is coming back to establish the full reality of the kingdom and its influence here on the earth. We have a taste of it now (which we’ll get into tomorrow) but we hope and long for the return of Jesus. Because of his return this ravaged broken down system will be set right, and the true king with a just and righteous rule will govern the earth and we will reign and rule just as it was in the beginning. This was gospel for Jesus and this is gospel and hope to us.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” – Hebrews 10.23

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

 

Spark of Hope

1 Timothy 1—6

No matter how geeky it may sound I will forever love a quote from Hunger Games. President Snow (bad guy) tells the game-maker Seneca Crane about his view of hope.  He says, “It is the only thing stronger than fear.  A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.”  Evil operates with this thought process.  Satan will condemn you for every past mistake yet God offers hope, mercy, and grace. Paul recounts in chapter 1 that he was once a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (vs. 13) but he then goes on to say, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1:14 NIV Before he was Paul he was called Saul and was a murderer of the church. Had he listened to evil he wouldn’t have believed in the hope of the grace that God gives and we wouldn’t have much of the New Testament that we have today. Yet because he didn’t believe in containing the spark of hope that God gave him he went on to spread God’s word and do wonderful things in His name.

Don’t let what has been done in the past prevent you from reaching your full potential as a child of God.  God desires to give you hope, mercy, and love.  He is preparing a Kingdom for you even now!

-Lacey Dunn

We Will Rise

1 Thess. 4-6

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I am by no means an art expert but I love walking around an art museum and observing all the different colors and variations an artist can use to awaken our senses and bring ordinary things to life. Some artists tell stories about the past or present with their works and yet others imagine the future. The future is the image that Paul details as he paints a picture of what the return of Christ will look like.
Imagine suddenly seeing the sky open up and watching as the Son of God comes down with the trumpet of God. He shouts and calls to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have died to rise. You feel the earth tremble and see the dead rise from their graves and return to life. You watch them wake to see their hopes come to fruition and meet their Savior in the air. After all the dead have risen you stand in awe because you are finally seeing your Savior when you feel yourself begin to rise into the clouds. Here is the most beautiful piece of this image, it says in the last part of 1 Thess 4:17 that “we shall always be with the Lord.”
For us to be a part of this magnificent image we must encourage each other to stand firm in God’s word and to be alert to the difficult trials that we may face. The last half of chapter 5 gives us some ways we can do that. We are to “live in peace” with each other and to “be patient with everyone.” We are to “rejoice always” and “pray without ceasing.” Take time to consider how you can be an encouragement to others as we together await the day we meet our Savior face to face.

 

– Lacey Dunn

Empty

Matthew 27-28

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Sunday, May 7

 

Empty … What does that word mean to you? Is your wallet empty? Is your plate empty? Is your gas tank empty? Do you feel empty? Empty is usually a word that gives us a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of defeat. It is a word that can be almost painful to say. Emptiness can paralyze our thoughts, it can stop us in our tracks.

 

Matthew 27 tells us about Jesus being beaten, mocked, crucified, and buried. This seems like a good reason to lose hope and that is exactly what some did. We all know how painful it can be when someone close to us dies. The disciples watched the man they had been following for years die on a cross. They watched as the Messiah they had spent their lifetime waiting for hung on a tree and they saw him breathe his last mortal breath. I can only imagine the emptiness they felt that Friday and Saturday.

 

The good news is that in chapter 28 empty takes on a new meaning for all who follow Jesus. Our hearts are full of hope because the tomb is EMPTY!!! Matthew 28:6, 7 says, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen…!” (NASB) The disciples found hope in the emptiness of the grave. We find hope in the emptiness of the grave. For the believer, the empty tomb provides the fullness of our hope!

 

-Bill Dunn

Bio – I am a husband, dad, and a pastor. I am also a longtime St. Louis Cardinals fan. Our family has a dog and some fish. We spend our spare time (which there isn’t usually much of) as a family and try to show the world the love God has shown us. If I have the chance to be outside, that is probably where you will find me.

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/matthew-27-2016/)