Anxiety or Peace?

Philippians 4

phil 4 6

I almost always feel anxious about something. When I am working or if I am driving, even playing video games or watching tv, I am anxious. I don’t really know what causes this mindset of anxiety but all I know is that it is there. However, there is one place that it reaches least. That is in a state of worship. However you worship you probably understand what I mean. Singing songs, prayer, or even serving someone can often reduce my sense of anxiety. I think this is because I can allow Jesus to dominate my thoughts rather than my feeling of dread.  Paul in Philippians 4 puts it this way.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I would recommend the next time you might feel anxious or dreadful about something, that you may serve the Lord in some form of worship. Whether it be serving another person, praying, or singing a song that refocuses your center of peace. This is what really helps me in times of need.

 

-Jesse Allen

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Moving a Mountain

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 14

One of the most difficult things I have done in my life was move rocks. Last year at UP: PROJECT we moved, what seemed to be, a mountain at Timber Oaks Retreat center. During this time the majority of us had a hard time not complaining after the 4th day of “Rock Duty”.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without grumbling and disputing.” In this passage of Philippians 2 he is referring to the idea of being selfless. When we saw that giant hillside of rocks it made us grumble about how little we think we did, but in a selfless mindset we should understand that we did more than we think we did. There were at least 30 of us on that trip and it took around 5 days to get the hillside to look even remotely like we did something, and we even had a tractor! Paul, and I assume Christ, would call us to not grumble when we serve others but focus on what we are doing to help the ones we serve. Just imagine if 4 or 5 people had to do the work of 30! Next time you serve remember why you are serving and put a smile on your face.

Jesse Allen

Enough

Ephesians 2

2

Every Sunday since before I was born, my family has gathered at my grandma’s house for an after-church lunch. It’s a grandiose affair with a lavish spread of food, a fancy tablecloth, and ALWAYS dessert. My littlest cousin, Greta, prides herself on being Grandma’s helper in the kitchen each Sunday. By no means is she qualified to even step foot in a kitchen—she tries to lick the frosting off the chocolate cake, has a fair share of spills, and screams when not allowed to cut the watermelon. Despite her lack of skills and tact, she is the most willing and enthusiastic helper. While my grandma certainly doesn’t need her help, I think her heart bursts into a million little pieces when little Greta pulls up her stool to the counter with wide eyes and ready hands.

Sometimes I feel a lot like a toddler in the kitchen, like I’m not enough. The truth of the matter is that I wasn’t enough.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

The story doesn’t end there. I am made enough because of who God is and what Jesus did for me.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.(Ephesians 2:4-5)

We can choose to wallow in our inadequacy, or we can embrace grace. I’ve seen the joy that comes when we let go of the burden of not being enough in the beaming smile of a little girl with chocolate frosting on her nose. You are so enough that God wants to use you for His Kingdom.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Ephesians 2:10)

No matter the lies the world whispers in your ear, never stop pulling up your stool to the counter. Roll up your sleeves and do all the things God prepared for you. He’s more honored by your attempts than He is concerned about your results. Frankly, He could go infinity gauntlet style and snap His fingers to accomplish anything He wanted to by Himself. That same God is head-over-heels in love with you.

My friend, you measure up. You have what it takes. You’re enough. Now go do something.

-Mackenzie McClain

The Winning Side

Psalm 110 1

FREE THEME – Psalms

This week we are looking at seven different types of psalms.  Yesterday we looked at a wisdom psalm.  Today we are looking at a royal psalm.

The Psalms were written at a time and in a culture where kings ruled.  Israel was governed by either David or his heir.  David was hand chosen by God to be God’s anointed king.  They literally poured oil over the king’s head and face to symbolize being anointed by God to rule.  This anointed one was literally the Messiah or messianic/anointed king.  When God set David apart as king God promised him that his heir would rule over God’s people forever.  This rule would begin at Jerusalem or Zion but would extend ultimately over all the earth.

Psalm 110 is a promise that the anointed king would rule, that God would give him victory over God’s enemies.

Vs. 4 makes a curious statement- this king will also be a priest, but not the typical priest.  In Israel, to serve as priest in the temple one had to be a descendant of the tribe of Levi.  But David and his family were descendants from the tribe of Judah, which was the ruling tribe.  This descendant of David would be a different kind of priest.  Just as Melchizedek was a priest in the time of Abraham, long before Levi was ever  born, this kind of priesthood was a greater kind of priest than the Levitical priest.

All of this finally makes sense when we understand how Jesus fits into the picture.  Jesus is the fulfillment of this psalm.  He is an heir of David, he will rule as King, he is also a priest but not in the temple of Jerusalem.   As a priest he offers up his own body as a sacrifice to God.  He doesn’t enter the holy of holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, he ascends to the heavens and enters into the immediate presence of God, where he continues to serve as our priest, until the day comes when he returns to the earth to rule over all the earth following the final battle when the kingdoms and kings of the earth will all bow before Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This royal psalm points us to Jesus.

Everyone wants to be on the winning side.  This reminds us that if we choose to follow Jesus and give our lives to Jesus, we will be on the winning side at the last battle.

Psalm 110

Of David. A psalm.

The Lord says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
your young men will come to you
like dew from the morning’s womb.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way,
and so he will lift his head high.

Lift His Name Higher

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10 17

 

“We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 10:15-18 ESV

 

It’s human nature to seek recognition. I see this come to life within my classroom full of preschoolers. Throughout the day, I watch their actions and encourage them to be kind and helpful towards one another. In turn, I like to celebrate a few students each day and write out what we like to call “kindness notes” with a sticker of their choice to take home to their families. All the children in the classroom give a big “woop woop” to the student receiving the note after we read it aloud for all to hear. The students who hear about and see the child with the kindness note also want to be kind and helpful later on as they have seen their friends doing good works and they too want to join in (& take a sticker home). However, it’s not always about having recognition for ourselves.

 

They may be four but I can learn a lot from the childlike hearts that fill up my days. Cooper is a young student within my class who may be entirely silly at times but he really does have such a big heart. I was celebrating Cooper’s accomplishments just this week as he worked very hard to help decorate our classroom to fit the theme of the week: jungle days. In speaking about this student to another teacher, Cooper was sure to stop me in my tracks to make sure that it was clear that he was not deserving of all of the credit himself. At the end of the day, it was his friends that helped him decorate and that was all that truly mattered to him.

In thinking about this simple action and as I read Paul’s words, I too have asked the question, “Am I the person who boasts about myself or do I put my boast in God and Jesus, the ones who are responsible for all the gains that I may have in this life?”

 

Encouraging others to do good works is not a bad thing! In fact, talking about your actions can have a positive effect on those around you. However, there are limitations. As we read here in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how one should boast; “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Or, as my fiance would say, “Don’t boast, raise a toast,” as we are not supposed to boast about what we do but rather boast about what God and Jesus are doing through us. My friends, as our faith grows, may we continue to let it spread amongst others and with humble hearts, always seek to lift the name of the Lord higher and higher. If you haven’t heard it before, I encourage you to check out Lecrae’s song “Boasting” as it sums up 2 Corinthians 10 well. At the end of the day, it’s really not about us. But boy am I grateful that I can put my boast in the Lord and bring glory to his name.

 

“Boasting” Chorus: Lecrae (Ft. Anthony Evans)

If this life has anything to gain at all

I’ll count it loss if I can’t hear you, feel you, ’cause I need you.

Can’t walk this earth alone.

I recognize I’m not my own, so before I fall

I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone.

 

-Kayla Tullis

A Job to Do

2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5 19

 

I recently watched Finding Hope Now (also more recently titled Streets of Hope) based on the true story of the ministry of Roger Minassian and his book Gangs to Jobs: Faith-Based Gang Intervention for Your City.  At 53 Roger left his comfortable pastorate to create a ministry to gang members (something he knew nothing about at the time – except that they needed help – even though they often didn’t want it).  I won’t share too much about the movie because I hope you see it for yourself.  But at one point a gang member is before a judge who has the power to convict the young man for crimes he did commit and deliver him to a punishment he did deserve.  But, Roger was there at the teen’s side – even though this kid had personally caused Roger much personal pain, heartache and property damage.  Roger was speaking for the troubled teen.  Telling the judge of the change he saw – the old was gone, the new had come.  Roger was deep in the ministry of reconciliation – both to reconcile this young man with the court system and his community – as well as to reconcile him to God.  Now, you have to watch the movie to see what happened next.

 

Reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations”.  And, the world is much in need of it – particularly as it pertains to restoring a relationship with God.  Paul says it best here:

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.                   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 . NIV)

 

 

God seeks restoration and “friendly relationships” with His creation.  So much so that He sent His sinless Son to carry our sins to the cross so we could become new, righteous creations who could draw near to God.  Previously our mountain of baggage and sins we were carrying was keeping us from embracing God.  But God made a way for us to set it all down – at the foot of the cross.  Because Jesus spoke for us God is not holding our sins against us – if we are in Christ – and have asked for forgiveness, accepted Jesus as Lord, been baptized to demonstrate the putting off of the old self, and are living a life of obedience.

 

If you aren’t there yet – in Christ – why not?  “We implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20).  Please talk to your pastor or Sunday School teacher or youth group leader or Godly parents or me.  You don’t have to wait until you are perfect or you know the whole Bible – none of us Christians fall into either of those categories.  You just need to be ready to put the old behind.  Drop the junk you are holding onto, accept the sacrifice the Son made for you as he was speaking to his Dad for you and put on a new friendly relationship with God.  Be reconciled to God.

 

If you are there – in Christ – Congratulations!  Best choice ever!   Daily enjoy that friendly relationship with God that was opened for you by Christ.  And, get to work – you have a job to do!

 

“God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18 and 19).  Saying it once wasn’t enough for Paul.  So, I will repeat it, too.  “God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation. (vs. 18 and 19)”.  Do it!

 

If you’ve got the priceless gift of reconciliation with God through His Son – give it to others.  It won’t subtract what you have, but it will only multiply as you follow God’s command.   Maybe you will bring the message to gang members and in the process save a whole town!  Maybe you will boldly speak to a neighbor, family member, friend, co-worker, or church youth and be instrumental in that priceless person’s decision to be reconciled to God.  And all of heaven will rejoice with you.  Pray for God to show you where to start – and then start!

 

People are listening.  People are looking for hope in a hurting world.  Yesterday my heart hurt to hear of a girl in Malaysia who posted an Instagram poll – should she live or die?  Tears are falling as I type that she received a 69% response to die – and she took her own life.

 

The enemy is alive and well and we have a job to do!   Spread life and hope and reconciliation.  You won’t convince everyone.  Paul didn’t.  Roger didn’t.  But they did change lives because of their ministry of reconciliation.  And, we can, too.  People need reconciliation with God – even if they don’t know it yet.  How will you share it?

 

In Christ and Reconciled With a Job to Do,

Marcia Railton

Out with the Old, In with the New

2 Corinthians 3

2 Corinthians 3 9

This short chapter packs a punch while explaining the differences between the Old and New Covenants.  Any visual learners out there?  I like to SEE things; it helps me make connections better than just listening or reading. So here’s a little chart comparing the Old and New Covenants as taught by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, verses 6-18.

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Verse

·      Of the letter (law)

·      Letter kills

·      Of the Spirit

·      Spirit gives life

Vs. 6
·      Brought death

·      Engraved in letters on stone

·      Came with glory

·      Israelites couldn’t look at the face of Moses (because he had been with God)

  Vs. 7
  ·      Even more glorious Vs. 8
·      Condemns men

·      Glorious

·      Much more glorious

·      Brings righteousness

Vs. 9
·      Was glorious

·      No glory now in comparison with (new) surpassing glory

  Vs. 10
·      Fading away

·      Came with glory

·      Much greater glory

·      Lasts

Vs. 11
  ·      We have hope

·      We are very bold

Vs. 12
·      Moses put a veil over his face to keep Israelites from gazing at it (radiance of being with God) ·      We are not like Moses Vs. 13
·      Their minds were made dull

·      Veil remains when old covenant read

·      Veil has not been removed

·      Only in Christ is veil taken away Vs. 14
·      Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.   (Don’t see Jesus)   Vs. 15
  ·      Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, veil is taken away Vs. 16
  ·      The Lord is the Spirit

·      Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom

Vs. 17
  ·      We have unveiled faces

·      All reflect the Lord’s glory

·      Being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit

Vs. 18

I am reminded of a great free theme week of devotions this year by Jay Laurent on the Presence of God from February 3-9, 2019 (the New Covenant comes on the scene on February 7 https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/2019/02/page/2/).  Throughout the week Jay showed how God was revealing a plan to bring His presence to the people.  And, his plan grew and grew in greatness and glory.  From the very beginning, with creation, his plan was good (and even “very good”).  But it didn’t stop there!  God gave the law – the Old Covenant – to show people what was required to draw close to Him.  Only trouble is, humanity couldn’t get it right.  Everyone was guilty as a lawbreaker and deserved death.  Problem – because in death they were not drawn to God, but they were dead.  Solution – something or someone to remove the sin and show the power of resurrection.   Enter – Jesus!   The New Covenant!  The opportunity for sins to be erased.  Righteousness was in reach – and with it restoration with the Father.  And, that’s not all – Jesus would also bring the opportunity for resurrection and eternal life with God in the Coming Kingdom.  This is the miracle of God’s plan of life with Him that just keeps growing more and more glorious!

 

Thankful for the New!  Looking forward to the Newest!
Marcia Railton