Are you Ready for Truth?

Acts 22

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Oh Paul! You are a Jew! And you know the Jews so well. In the past you worked hard to be not simply a Jew, but a Jew worthy of being called a Jew. You know how the Jews can be. You know that going to Jerusalem is a terrible idea. You know that taking Greeks into the temple will not be accepted by the Jews. You know this isn’t going to end well. And yet you went…

Chapter 22 shows us the best of Paul. We have seen the worst and in this speech he admits his worst. I love the emotional appeal that Paul puts into his speech. “Listen to me, brothers. I understand you. I was just like you and I was shown a better way. Please, let me show you a better way.” It’s an effective strategy especially because it bears truth. Unfortunately, the Jews were not ready for truth. Look what they did to Jesus. It really wasn’t that long ago that Jesus, too, went to Jerusalem and the Jews didn’t accept him either.

Ultimately Paul’s message was the same as Jesus’. The Jews could NOT consider a message that tore up their religious traditions. How heartbreaking for Paul. We must ask ourselves if we stand behind our traditions for tradition’s sake or if we are continually seeking God.

-Melissa New

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Don’t Look Back

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Acts 13 

Isn’t that what this is all about? The best gift – freedom and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. People had been waiting for him for years and now they were finally preaching about it, sharing the good news. Could you imagine being alive back then and reading the stories from the prophets and then finally hearing about Jesus? People had been talking, speculating, doubting, waiting, and anticipating him for YEARS. It is such a confirmation to our faith, it would be impossible not to talk about it!

In Acts 13, Saul, who is now called Paul, is on a mission to proclaim the gospel and he is not looking back. It’s crazy to think about the person he was just a few chapters ago. He is a great example of how we should approach our own missions. We die to ourselves, find our identity in Christ, and don’t look back. We have a lot to proclaim and not a lot of time, so worrying about who we once were will only hinder us!

-Grace Rodgers

Death was Defeated

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Matthew 28

With greater plans in store, three days, that’s all it took and our savior was given life once more. As Mary and Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb where Jesus was buried, they were greeted by an angel of the Lord who came down from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance of the tomb. When the women approached the entrance, the angel called out to them saying:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told You (Matthew 28:5-7).

Once the women left, they crossed paths with Jesus and collapsed at his feet, praising him in awe. Furthermore, the eleven disciples hurried along to meet Jesus in Galilee upon receiving word of his resurrection. There on a mountain, Jesus told his disciples of the great commission.

Jesus said “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 19-20).

The death & the resurrection. What pinnacle events in the Christian faith as death was defeated once and for all. As you continue reading and growing this year (through the FUEL Bible devotions as well as other Bible study and training), ask yourself in what way/s you can spread the news of Jesus Christ and The Coming Kingdom of God. Are you willing to be a part of The Great Commission? This week we read through the Easter message, this weekend we will specifically celebrate this message, and day by day we give thanks for this message. What a beautiful message it is to share.

-Kayla Tullis

 

Who Makes the Rules?

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Matthew 16

In Matthew 16:13-16, Jesus asks his disciples a very important question: “Who do you say that I am?” While others had been calling Jesus by different titles, Peter comes up with the correct answer. He says, “You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the living God.” This is a powerful statement that Peter makes here. He is declaring that Jesus is the King and the Savior of the whole world!

Now the same question needs to be asked of us each day; “Who do you say that I am?” Many people claim that Jesus was just a very good moral teacher. Others claim that he was a prophet of God, but not God’s Son. Who is Jesus to you? And how does that impact your spiritual life?

If Jesus truly is the promised ruler of God’s kingdom from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and Daniel chapter 7, then that means that Jesus “makes the rules” for our lives, not the other way around. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not simply mean we are forgiven of our sins; it means we have agreed to walk the path that he has set before us. Are you willing to follow Jesus? Even if it is difficult? Who is Jesus to you?

-Talon Paul

The Wisdom of the Kingdom

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Matthew 11:16-17

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”

After his disciples depart from him, Jesus turns to the crowds and begins to address them and tell them about the ministry of John the Baptist (v. 7ff). He chastises them for their dismissal of John’s ministry and their false expectations for who John was as a prophet. Jesus praises the ministry of John and acknowledges his preeminent place as the greatest prophet, yet this is not the way the people viewed the ministry of John.

Transitioning into a caricature of the crowds to whom he was speaking, Jesus says, “to what shall I compare this generation?” (v. 16). This “generation” was Jesus and John’s contemporaries who heard them preach and who should pay attention to them. But Jesus describes them as “little children” who are in the “marketplace.” The similitude with which Jesus draws upon is how children play with each other in public and respond to each other by playacting. They engage with each other and are influenced by what each person is doing.

But the people Jesus is speaking to are not like that. Instead, they are like children when their friends call to them and play the flute, do not dance; or when their friend sings a sad song, they do not mourn (v. 17). What this analogy is pointing out is that the present generation surrounding Jesus does not care to respond to what John and he are doing. They are not interested in the kingdom or the message of repentance. Their reluctance to embrace the ministry of John demonstrated their unreasonableness and refusal to hear his words.

Our generation today is not much different than in the time of Jesus. Even though we have a message of grace and truth that exceeds that of John, people will still be disinterested in those words. We might play a flute or sing a dirge, but by and large, our generation still resists the wisdom contained in those words. Not our wisdom, but the wisdom coming from the one who the message is about—Jesus.

Jesus concludes this section by saying “Wisdom is justified by her deeds” (v. 19). The wisdom that Jesus taught and which we proclaim today is something not aimed at competing with what is so called “wisdom” but is proved right by the results it produces when it is lived. The wisdom of the kingdom is not to be found in the eloquence of the message but in the actions that accompany the one who follows it, for wisdom is shown to be right according to the deeds that she accomplishes. If our deeds demonstrate the wisdom of our Master, then even if no one dances or mourns, we can be confident that we are not failing to fulfill the mission given to us. We must remember that this generation too will resist the message that brings hope and delivers people from the darkness of this age. So don’t be dismayed at the world’s refusal or their ridicule of you but be encouraged knowing that you are bearing the light in a dark place, and there are few who are willing to carry that torch.

-Jerry Wierwille

Know Your Audience

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Matthew Chapter 1

I remember in high school English classes the teachers talking about knowing your audience.  I really enjoyed math and science classes, but English and literature classes were a different story.  I really didn’t like figuring out the audience, the theme, symbolism, etc.  However, I now know that in at least some cases, the teachers were correct.  You gain a lot of extra understanding when you know the primary audience for a book.  I say primary audience in this case because I firmly believe that all of the Bible was written to everyone who will take the time to read it or listen to it.  However, the author had a primary audience they were writing to at the time.

Each gospel was written for a different primary audience.  Matthew was writing to the Jews who had a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  They would have learned the prophecies regarding the Messiah and were looking towards the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The first chapter of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus.  This is the first step to showing that Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.  Several prophecies are fulfilled in this.  The first is that the Messiah is a seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18).  The Messiah is a descendent of Isaac (Gen 21:12) and a descendent of Jacob (Num 24:17), and a descendent of Judah (Gen 49:10).  Then, skipping a few generations, the Messiah is from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and David (Jeremiah 23:5).  All of these names are listed in the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first seventeen verses of Matthew.

They may not have each known every one of these prophecies, but the people who first read or heard the gospel of Matthew probably knew at least some of them.

After we finish looking at the genealogy, Matthew moves on to the birth of Jesus.  Compared to the gospel of Luke (which was written primarily to the Greeks), the account of the birth of Jesus is very brief.  Why would this be?  It goes back to the primary audience, and what was necessary to show Jesus is their Messiah.

Matthew basically tells that Mary was going to have a baby, Joseph was told about it and listened to what an angel said to him, and Mary remained a virgin until Jesus was born.  Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

We can read scripture and learn tons without understanding who the primary audience was at the time each book was written.  However, understanding the audience, culture, etc., can add a whole new dimension to our understanding.

-Andrew Hamilton

A Lesson from Africa: Leadership

Missions Spotlight: Africa

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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