I’ve Got to Tell Somebody

John 1_41 42

John 1:35-42

Not much story about Andrew is recorded in the Bible, but his enthusiasm for sharing with his brother is of special note. We believers have found the Messiah, The Christ, the savior of Israel and coming King. Are we as excited to share with our relatives, friends, and neighbors as Andrew was? We should be. As the popular hymn says, “The need of the world is Jesus.” We should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel message at every opportunity we meet. The messiah has appeared and died for our sins. He will appear the second time to restore the earth wide Kingdom to his Father. This is good news and every body needs to know about it.

-Larry Rankin

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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

Actively Waiting

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11_6

Here it is – the faith chapter!  When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind!  Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming.  We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes.  When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here.  Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!

Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly.  Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises!  As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life.  What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were!  If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2?  Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?

I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you.  So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.

Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised?  Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith.  Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises.  I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were!  I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow.  And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect.  As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.

It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same!  When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait.  But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait.  I think we need to wait actively!  All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God!  We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true.  So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others?  Are we being good examples like the ancients?  Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!

-Sarah Blanchard

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Still Giving – and Standing Firm

Luke 21

Luke 21_28

Yesterday our devotion centered on the Christmas story – as presented in Luke chapter 20.  Today takes us into Luke 21 which begins with a few verses concerning giving gifts. How fitting.  But here it is a slightly different type of gift which Jesus is referring to.   “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).   Giving to God’s work is indeed a great place to give your gifts – whether you are blessed with a lot to give or very little to give.  God sees the heart and is delighted in the heart that joyfully gives all to Him.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to the future – including some rather troubling events: earthquakes, wars, famine, and hatred, prison and persecution as a result of believing and  testifying about Jesus.  But hope is given.  Jesus says he is telling us these things so that we will know what must take place before the end will come.  A hard day of dirty work is always made easier by knowing it will not continue forever.  At the end there will be a time to enjoy the rewards of working hard.   So too, those who are faithful through the end times can look forward to reaping the reward when the Son of Man comes again.

Jesus says do not be afraid; rather, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19).  Even while our neighbors are fainting from terror at the surrounding events, Jesus tells us to stand tall.  He says, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27,28). 

Keep Giving – and Stand Firm!

Marcia Railton

Live a Changed Life

Luke 12

Be PreparedforHis Return

In the Old Testament God set up the Jewish religious system through Moses as a way to set them apart.  By the time of Jesus the Israelites had turned away from God so many times it gets hard to count, and they had turned the law into something unrecognizable from its original intent and had given into greed, hypocrisy and selfishness.  Jesus spent much of his time on earth battling and rebuking the Pharisees who epitomized all of the flaws with the Jewish religious system of the time.  Knowing that the church will have a strong Jewish culture with these traditions and tendencies and that they will be persecuted after he is gone, Jesus gives the advice found in Luke 12.

First in Luke 12:1-3  he warns them against hypocrisy because that is the quickest way to errode the witness and testimony of the church.  Similarly for us today, if we want to reach those around us for Christ, then we have to be consistent in our actions and words.  If you are a different person on Sunday than the rest of the week, or if your friends outside of church are genuinely surprised that you are a Christian because they cannot tell by your actions, then you need to evaluate your heart.

 

Then in Luke 12:4-12 he warns them to fear God more than the world and the government and people who are persecuting them.  We are also given a promise that when we boldly stand up for Jesus despite the physical consequences he will stand up for us before God.  As believers in Jesus we cannot stand idly on the sidelines.  Now that we have the knowledge of our sin, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and requires us to live a life set apart we have to make a choice and stand up for it every day.

 

In Luke 12:13-34 Jesus warns his disciples against greed, and being bad stewards of the things that God has given us.  Of those who are given much, much will be required.  This is true for riches as well and talents and abilities.  If we knowingly put ourselves before the Kingdom and spend all our time and talents on ourselves and buying worldly items and position and popularity then we will be held accountable for those actions.  If we are living a truly changed life for the gospel then we should be using our money and talents to further the gospel in any way we can.  If we put God first in this then he will take care of our physical needs as well.

 

Finally in the rest of the chapter he tells them to be watchful for his return, and to not grow complacent.  The entire Old Testament led up to the ministry of Jesus and everybody in Israel knew the scriptures and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not interpret the events correctly, and their hearts were not ready.  Similarly we have been given a promise of the return of Jesus in the future and need to be always ready for his return.  We cannot grow complacent in our Christianity.  We cannot let sin creep back into our lives and we cannot allow our passion and fire for the gospel to dwindle.   We should also be familiar with the prophecies of his return so that when they start to be fulfilled we can be prepared for his return.  We do not want to miss out like many of the Israelites of Jesus’ time did.

-Chris Mattison