Are you Blind?

john 8 34 35

Are you blind!?!  This is one of our favorite questions to ask when those around us are missing something that is so obvious.  It is extremely frustrating to us when they just don’t get it or they just don’t believe us when the truth is right in front of their eyes to see.  This is how Jesus felt when he was dealing with the Pharisees.  His frustration with them oozed all the way through John 8 and 9 because they just “didn’t get it”.  They didn’t believe he was who he was even though it should have been very obvious to them.  They were closed-minded and not willing to listen to witnesses like the blind man who had been healed.
In John 8:34-35, Jesus says that anyone who commits sin is the slave of sin, and the slave does not remain in the house forever.  If you have a sin in your life that you deliberately keep doing, you’re going to get kicked out of the house because you are a slave to that sin.  When you keep choosing to sin, God is getting very frustrated with you, just like Jesus was frustrated with the Pharisees.  He’s probably thinking, “They know I don’t want them to do that, but they keep doing it anyways.  I have given them my Word to read, but they don’t see how they are supposed to act.  Are they blind!?!  They just don’t get it.”  Don’t be that guy.

-Rick McClain

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Paul’s Mess, God’s Message

acts 28 31 (1)
At the end of the book of Acts we are following Paul in his ministry as he shares his testimony and all he is learning from God with established groups of believers as well as with those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. He is told through a prophet that he will be bound by the Jewish leaders and sent to the Gentiles to share his story.  He is accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, then arrested and imprisoned while the Roman authorities try to figure out which side of the story to believe.  Over the course of Paul’s imprisonment he is moved to various cities and meets with several governors as well as King Agrippa.  Then finally he is sent to Rome.  During each of these transitions, Paul has an opportunity to share the story of his conversion…who he was…who he is and who he will continue to be through God’s grace.  Every time he is questioned he says something like the following phrase from Acts 23:1 “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 
Paul faced so much opposition during this period of time and yet he continued to stand firm in his belief that God had a purpose for him which would be fulfilled no matter what…arrest, false accusations, storms, shipwrecks, imprisonment, isolation, death threats, nothing was going to stop God’s message from being spread.
As the book of Acts closes we are given a chance to witness Paul as he teaches a group of Jewish leaders in Rome. 
Acts 28:23-30
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers
to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening,
explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said,
but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and
began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth
to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26
“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles,
and they will listen!” [29] [b]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all
who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord
Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Some of those who were listening, heard Paul’s message and their lives were changed.  Others found that they couldn’t believe what Paul was preaching and left.  They heard but didn’t understand, they saw but didn’t allow comprehension. Paul kept right on teaching, preaching and sharing his mess so that God’s message could get through.
Oh to have Paul’s boldness and eloquence!  There are many times that we are provided the opportunity to share our own stories of faith with others and we often let them pass us by.  Are we afraid?  Maybe we don’t think they would be interested, or that we’ll be bothering them if we share.  Or maybe we don’t want to offend anyone…but if we are learning from Paul’s example, we need to be sharing our stories of faith regardless of the personal costs.  God’s message will be heard, don’t you want to be a part of that exciting adventure? I promise it’ll be a good one!
-Joyanne Swanson

Trust Conquers Uncertainty

Eccles 10 2

Ecclesiastes 9:13-11:6

“An example of wisdom that greatly impressed me.” Wisdom that greatly impressed the man that chose wisdom over all of the world’s riches? Okay, you have my attention. It was wisdom that impressed him and saved a city from a superior force. But fools neglect and forget the wise. In times of trouble the wise find themselves surrounded by the lost and afraid, looking for direction. But as soon as they feel safe again they cast off the wise and get back to their hollow lives.

Forget about the wise. Besides it only seems to take a little bit of foolishness to nullify all that the wise do. Whether it is a wise man doing himself harm from his own stupidity or being harmed from someone else, we have seen this and have likely experienced it firsthand. “One sinner destroys much good.” Foolishness is so common. It almost seems incomprehensible that people continue to act the way they do. But I guess that it is easier to believe the unbelievable, to follow the fools way that appears flat and smooth rather than to face the hard truth, to take the difficult path of wisdom and honor. Jesus said it best when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. The great value of wisdom is lost on the foolish.

Despite what many might think, verse 2 has nothing to do with our modern political party system or whether you are conservative or liberal. The people of Israel understood that the right hand of God is a place of authority and protection. The wise, who we have described as godly, would seem to naturally be inclined toward the right while fools go in the opposite direction. What’s more, the fool flaunts his stupidity. It says he “walks along the road” and “shows everyone how stupid he is.” If you doubt the truth in this I suggest you take an objective look at social media! “Preach it brother!”

Solomon spends a lot of time in these passages reminding us that life is not fair. We may work hard and not get the results that our works merit. Someone else may get all the benefits of what we do while not contributing to it themselves. And of course there are dangers all around us, accidents do happen after all. He urges us to see the dangers, to be aware of them. Preventing us from falling into a pit, literally and metaphorically. The fool though will walk himself right into a pit, into “wicked madness.”

I want to take a moment to address 10:19, specifically “money is the answer for everything.” This is how my NIV puts it and this is a great example of a red flag moment in Bible reading. I personally look at this and I am stunned by most of the commentaries I read concerning this verse. At best they say this is Solomon’s wry humor or his attempt at sarcasm. At worse it is a passage that feeds all the prosperity preachers out there. “You may be struggling to pay your bills right now but God will provide a great bounty, a time of plenty. God knows what you need.” Yes, God does know what you need! We need a relationship with Him, with His son Jesus, and with one another. We need to be like the flowers of the field and be content with what we have. So why does Solomon say this? The original Hebrew reads something more like the NEB version, “money is behind it all” or the NIrV, “people think money can buy everything.” I find it interesting that the young reader version of the NIV is so dramatically different from the standard version on this passage. Apparently kids can handle this truth better than adults can.

Solomon urges us to be diligent and trust in God else we find our heads in the clouds and daydreaming. We cannot get caught up playing with “what ifs” and “what could have been”. We can only affect what we can and trust God to handle the rest.

God has asked His people to trust Him from the very beginning. He has made promises and He has kept those promises. He has worked in and through various people and revealed Himself in many ways. And then the world went dark. For 400 years God was silent, still working but not revealing as He had been. That all changed when an angel of the LORD appeared before Zechariah letting him know that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son. That son, known as John the Baptist, would herald in the time of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus, the son of God, knew what he must ultimately do. He could only go to the cross with confidence if he fully trusted in God. After he ascended to the right hand of God the world once again seemingly went dark. …

Indeed it is dark for those who lack trust in God, who do not have a hope through His son Jesus. God calls for trust. Solomon wrote God’s words to teach us how to trust. Jesus’ sacrifice was a display of trust. We remember that sacrifice and know that his was the only death that actually has meaning, for Jesus’ death is the one that gives life.

-Jeff Ransom

Forgiveness

luke 23 34 a

Society is filled with people who have no forgiveness.  We judge, ridicule and try to come up with the next sarcastic zinger to roast someone.  Escalation of situations that could have been resolved in their infancy are full blown Hatfield and McCoy level feuds because people did not possess the unceasing ability of Jesus to forgive.  Jesus was able to forgive even in the midst of extreme situations like being on the cross:

Luke 23:34 NIV Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Jesus found the strength to forgive even though he had been mercilessly mocked, beaten and ultimately murdered!  Meanwhile we struggle to forgive people for minor infractions like not liking our outfit, or denying the fact that we are the greatest spike ball player on the planet.  Seeing how Jesus was able to forgive his persecutors who had done much more to him than anyone else has experienced convicts us as Christians to be able to forgive others who have wronged us regardless of our situations because Jesus was able to forgive in situations worse than us.

-Zack Dylewski

Living in Love

1 John 4_16

God has given us so much, he gave us his perfect son, and let him pay the price for our sins because he loves us. In 1 John 4:16 it says God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God. By living in love, we can live with God. We can show the love that he gives us to others, and we can be an example of Christ Jesus. If we have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, we can love others the way God wants us to, and show them a path of compassion. By loving others we can show them God and what he has given us.

-Blair Simon

The Two Greatest

mark 12 29-31

 

Hi! I’m Blair and this week I want to focus on what we are called to do for others and how we should go about these tasks.

Which commandment is the greatest, this was a question that the pharisees asked Jesus, but they were not expecting his answer. (Mark 12:28-34) Jesus gave us our two greatest commandments, love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

This doesn’t mean the other commandments are null and void but they can all be encompassed under the simple phrase, love God and love people. Jesus shows us this countless times, he shows compassion to everyone! Regardless of who they are, or what they do, by doing this he is a living example of God’s love. We should take after his example and show kindness to people, and through this show God’s love.

-Blair Simon

What Moses Teaches Us Today

Heb 11 26

Summary

Thanks for reading along this past week, and I really hope you have benefitted from this.  I know I have enjoyed studying and writing this past week. I just wanted to finish off with a quick summary.

 

The story of the Exodus is a story of a people who had been promised so much from God, but had forgotten him and taken on a culture and pantheon that was inherently sinful.  God then works through Moses to directly attack every sinful aspect of their culture and every false god that his people were following to show them beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that there are no gods before him.  As they are heading out of Egypt on their way to becoming their own nation with their own land God begins to form their culture around himself in order to help them to stay true to him.

 

So many aspects of the passover point the Israelites towards Jesus in the future and prepares their culture for his coming, but we know that when Jesus did come they did not accept him because they had walked away from the lessons they had learned under Moses.  Similarly Jesus’s message brought a massive change in culture to all those who followed him. People started to live changed lives and loved others truly instead of just following rules because they had to. That is the changed life that we are supposed to live.  Just as the Israelites had to sacrifice the lambs that the Egyptian culture worshiped we need to lay aside the idols in our culture that only bring sin into our lives. Maybe that is social media, or crass tv shows, or sleeping around, or any number of other things that are standard in our culture but can easily consume our lives and become idols.

 

Also just as Moses’ story and the Exodus points towards Christ, Jesus’ points us towards the Kingdom and his second coming.  So unlike the Israelites we need to remember what Jesus taught and live by his teachings so that we will be ready for his return.

 

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3  4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Chris Mattison

Revelation 21-2,3