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


2500 Years Later

Sunday Intro by Graysen Pack

God's Word RemainsLiving & Active

As we continue our readings in Proverbs (Chapters 22-26 this week), we are going to be leaving a collection of sayings by Solomon that contrast the wise and the foolish.  We’ll then move into a new section of Proverbs, the sayings of the Wise.  These proverbs, unlike previous ones, aren’t written down by Solomon directly but put down to paper by the servants of King Hezekiah years later.

This reveals one of the defining characteristics of Wisdom literature as it’s found in Scripture: it is a product of the dynamic tension that ancient people faced in their day to day lives.  These are sayings that were passed down for generations from the time of Solomon to the days of Hezekiah and then put to paper.  Unlike some portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Wisdom literature found in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, and Ecclesiastes are intrinsically shaped by the ways that the Jews of ancient Israel were trying to understand the role of faith in their daily actions.


This is what makes these scriptures deep, meaningful, and particularly relevant to the struggles we still face today.  So, as we explore the Proverbs this week, I encourage you to not see them as a detached set of sayings from a time long gone, but as markers laid out by individuals of faith who found themselves in older variations of the exact same challenges we encounter in our own lives some 2500 years later.

How Do You Crown Your King?

John 18-19


Friday, June 2

(This is a longer post. Please give yourself ample time to read it and pray over the questions at the end.)
Interesting trivia: the Greek Orthodox Church fasts every Wednesday and Friday. Every single one. Why? There are reasons to believe the Jews began this practice of fasting and that they carried it on. Beyond that, they also add a religious and theological reason: on Wednesday Christ was betrayed and on Friday Christ was killed. Every single week they remind themselves that they are in some way responsible for the Son of God hanging on the Cross.
These are the chapters we read this week in John 18-19. They tell the story of Jesus’ betrayal, torture, crucifixion and death through the eyes of John. What can we learn from this?
First, Jesus said, “Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) Jesus accepted that this was the way that God had given him, and did not want to resist this way with violence. We can be so much like Peter, who cut off the ear of Malchus. We can be so  quick to violence. But Jesus, even with these men sent to kill him, his worst enemies on earth, was about peace, love and healing. Luke 22:51 expounds the story by finishing up the scene. “But Jesus responded, “No more of this!” And touching his ear, He healed him.”
That’s because Jesus is not focused on the injustice of what is being done to him. He is not looking for his personal justice. Jesus is, instead, focusing on his God-given destiny and duty. When being questioned by Pilate, he says “You say that I’m a king.” Jesus goes on to say,  “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”(John 18:37) Jesus is focused, in the middle of supreme injustice and false imprisonment, on why he was born, the reason for his existing. And what is that purpose? Not to disparage any evangelical preacher, but Jesus did not merely come to do three days’ work. Instead, he came to “testify to the truth.” The truth is humans need to be saved from their sins, he is that salvation, he is the only way to salvation, eternal life and the spirit will be given to those who seek this truth.
In the midst of this, we also see a picture of the world. Now, I’m of a specific bent that says God does not control every facet of the universe. God does not predetermine or force my hand and only make me act as he wants me or wills me to act. However, this does not mean that the world is completely and utterly out of control. In a way that is completely unknown to me, a way that I daresay we should call a mystery, God controls certain events, outcomes, or situations. Here, Jesus seems to take comfort in the fact that his own torture and death is not outside of the plan of God. God knew, “If my Son goes among the Jews and tells them the truth, they will crucify him. I will give humanity the authority to do so.” God isn’t wringing his hands in heaven saying, “I wish I could do something, but I’m not strong enough!” Nor is God a puppet master with all the strings making his marionettes dance. He is working out his will inside the real, free, true choices of humanity.
Interestingly, Pilate may have gotten it. Pilate, according to all the history books was a brutal and bloodthirsty man ready to squash any rebellion with the slightest whiff. But I think he understood who he was talking to in Jesus and what the Jews were asking of him. He seems to have answered his own question “What is truth?” And he answers it with the inscription above Jesus’ head “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews” written in every common language. The truth is that in this suffering, we see the ultimate juxtaposition. A savior killed like a slave, a righteous man made wretched, a King on a cross. THAT’S the symbol we gravitate toward. That’s the symbol that defines Christianity. It is a cross that shows the greatest moment of humanity, depravity and sin, and the greatest moment of the God-granted mercy, compassion and love.
Then, Jesus dies. There’s no fanfare in the book of John. It is interesting that what happens in the other gospels, the earthquake and the darkness and the resurrection of righteous ones, are summarily overlooked or forgotten. They pale in comparison to the fact that the King of the Jews, the bread of life, the water of life, the SON OF GOD is hanging dead on a cross. This man, who only loved, who only wanted the best. Who demanded that the pharisees live the same life they demanded of everyone else. Who said “turn the other cheek” and “do not judge unless you are ready to be judged”. Who said “blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor, blessed are the persecuted.” This man who lived a life of perfect relationship and obedience to God, is hanging limp on a cross, covered in blood and bodily fluids. His arms and legs are no longer straining against the nails because he feels the pain no longer. His body bears the marks of scourging. His face is beaten beyond recognition, and above the bruises and laceration that disfigure the face of the Messiah, sits a crown of thorns, a gift from humanity to inaugurate our King.
There are many questions to ask of ourselves after this.
Do you treat your enemies with love and respect?
In times of trouble do you rest secure in the knowledge that you have a larger purpose than simply existing for today?
Do you even know what the larger purpose of your life is? Do you know specifically what the goal of your life is?
Do you rest secure in the knowledge that God is ultimately in control, whatever that might mean?
But above all of this is: what does it mean, FOR YOU, that the Son of God died on a cross? What does it mean for you that Jesus was tortured unjustly by a religious institution that couldn’t handle the fact that they were, in fact, broken and messed up and needed some saving? What does it mean for you that you were just as much responsible for the death of Jesus as Pilate and Caiaphas?
What will you do? We’ve place the crown of thorns of his head.
Will we cast our crown before him and acknowledge that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
Will you commit to making him YOUR Lord, the Lord of every part of your life?
In Christ,
Jake Ballard

For Such a Time as This!

Esther 1-4


Monday, December 12

Esther occurs at an interesting time in Biblical history. The Jewish people had been living in exile in Persia. The Persian king, Cyrus, allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Many went back to Jerusalem, but some stayed behind in Persia. Esther is the fascinating story of those people who stayed behind in Persia.

At this time God’s people were basically controlled by a dictator.  The king of Persia is a guy named Xerxes. In Esther chapter 1, we see he threw a huge party for all of his most important officials that lasted for 6 months. In the last 7 days of the party, Xerxes expanded the party to include everyone in the city.  After seven days of getting drunk, Xerxes called for his wife, Queen Vashti.  He wanted all of his friends to view his wife and see how beautiful she was. But Vashti refused, which made Xerxes angry.  (Uh-oh.) Vashti is removed as queen, and all the wives of Persia are told not to be defiant like the queen!


Enter Esther.  In chapter 2, Xerxes decides to find a new queen. He’s not romantic, however. He’s a sick dictator.  He has his servants go throughout Persia to find beautiful virgins. They are brought back to the palace, and then they are to spend one night with Xerxes.  One of the women brought to the king is Esther. In chapter 2, we are introduced to Esther, and her cousin Mordecai who raised her because she was orphaned. Esther is taken into the king’s harem. And when it is her turn to be with the king, he falls for her. Esther becomes queen, but we learn that she doesn’t tell anyone she is Jewish. (Psssst.) It’s a secret.

It is also in this chapter that we learn that Mordecai found out about a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther, who told the king, and the perpetrators were executed. As chapter 2 ends, Esther is queen and Mordecai is responsible for saving the king. But remember, no one knows Esther is Jewish.
Chapter 3 introduces us to the true villain of the story -a man named Haman. He was the most powerful official in Persia after the king, and he was a jerk! Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. And Haman got mad. He didn’t just hate Mordecai, but all the Jews.  Haman came up with a plan to exterminate the Jews from Persia. He told the king that if he was allowed to kill this group of people, he would take their money and give it to the king. Xerxes agreed to this arrangement without hearing the details.

In chapter 4 Mordecai and the Jews began to be in mourning because of this decree. Esther wanted to know what was the matter with Mordecai, and why he was in mourning. Mordecai believed that Esther can help, but she was afraid to go before the king. If a person came before the king unannounced, they could be executed.

Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Esther 4:13-14

God would save the Jewish people. He promised to do it in the Old Testament. But Mordecai saw that Esther might be God’s instrument of salvation for the Jews. You have to remember, neither Mordecai nor Esther knew how the story was going to end. Both of them could have been killed.

Finally, Esther decided to help, although death was a real possibility for her. She asked the Jews to fast and pray for her. This was a turning point in Esther’s life. She went from being a young woman who was at the mercy of the king and her cousin, to a person who was decisive and in control.

At the completion of today’s post I hope you realize that everyone faces turning points in their lives. Have you faced a turning point in your life yet?  Some possible turning points in your lives could be:

Will I cheat on this test or not?

Will I date a non-Christian or not?

Will I have sex with my boyfriend/girlfriend or not?

Will I let everyone know that I am a Christian or not?

Maybe you can see some turning points in your life where you didn’t follow God with your decision. There is good news. God forgives.

God uses unusual events to accomplish his plans. The story of Esther is like an elaborate chess board, and God is moving the pieces of the chess board into place to accomplish his purposes. He does this in our lives too. You might wonder why God allowed your parents to get a divorce, or why he allowed your family to move to a different state. You might wonder why God isn’t giving you the things you want in life.  He takes all of the experiences of your life and uses it for your good. As we continue tomorrow in Esther, you will say how this rings true!

-Julie Driskill

Some People Lift You Up – Others Bring You Down

Ezra 5-7


Tuesday, December 6

Some people really make your day, others – well they can really make your day worse.  With so much discouragement for the Jews in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem God decided to send several prophets to encourage the people in finishing work on the temple.  The prophets  Haggai and Zechariah were especially influential in bringing God’s encouragement to the workers rebuilding the temple.  A governor named Tattenai from beyond the river tried to put a stop to the rebuilding process by asking who had given them permission to rebuild the temple.    He wanted a detailed, official report from King Darius of who had truly funded this rebuilding project,  why this temple was being rebuilt and any details that might cast a negative light on the Jews rebuilding of their city.  King Darius looked into the matter and discovered that king Cyrus had indeed been moved by God to let the Jews rebuild the temple and their city with part of the bill being paid by the Babylonian empire.  Darius was so moved by the reading of the documents that he decreed that anyone who opposed the rebuilding project should be put to death and their home destroyed.  So the Jews were able to complete the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem with the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah.

The city was beginning to take shape, and this is where Ezra whom the book is named after  comes onto the scene.  He was a priest and scribe in Babylon who had favor with the Babylonian king after Darius which was king Artaxerxes.  Ezra was decreed by the King to go to Jerusalem and select men who would be rulers over the city and set up the civil government of the city, appointing magistrates and judges for the people.  But King Artaxerxes didn’t send them empty handed.  He sent them with many gifts to embellish the temple and many measures of wheat, wine, oil, and salt that would be needed.  He even gave authorization to use the royal treasury money for whatever else they needed to ensure that proper temple worship could be accomplished.  This greatly encouraged Ezra and the people of God in Jerusalem.

Thinking about the many players in this account of the rebuilding of the temple it seems to me that there are those who are determined to bring the people encouragement and those who are determined to bring the people discouragement.  Are there people like that in your life too?  You may have noticed that there are some people who lift up your spirit, and some people who bring your spirit low.  Notice how God knew the discouraging people who brought the people down, and would send someone like Haggai or Ezra along to lift the people’s spirits up again?  Does God do this for us too?  Has he ever sent someone to encourage you and lift up your spirit when you were discouraged?  Maybe He has used you to help lift up the spirits of someone else just like he used Zechariah,  Haggai and Ezra.  They brought an encouraging word to the people.  Will you let God help you to be an encourager to someone else this week?   Key thought:  Ask God to help you be a person who lifts others up rather than a person who brings others down.

-Merry Peterson

The Day God Needed a U-Haul Truck!

Ezra 1-4


Monday, November 5

God could have used a U-Haul truck when His people were allowed to go back to Jerusalem after being taken captive into Babylon for 70 years.  God moved King Cyrus of Persia to allow the repatriation of the Jews back to their home in Jerusalem.  There were a lot of people who went , especially those who were from priestly lineage.  To find out just how many people went on this journey back to Jerusalem take a calculator and add up the number of people listed in chapter 2 verses 2-65!  They also had to pack up all the dishes that were to be used in the house of God that had been previously ransacked from God’s temple in Jerusalem some 70 years before.  That’s a lot of people, and things, to move all at once.

When the Jews did return to Jerusalem they began to re-instate the priestly duties of sacrifices even though the foundation of the new temple had not yet been poured.   They also began to celebrate their festivals as was their religious custom.  Cyrus had agreed to help them build the temple so orders for the cedar wood from Lebanon which was to be used, were issued.  The main contractor of this building project was a man by the name of Zerubbabel.  His job was to take this pile of rubble and figure out how to help make it into a beautiful place for God’s temple once again.  The people were overjoyed when the foundation of the new temple was laid and a celebration was held.  Things seemed to be looking up for God’s people but then some of their jealous neighbors in the land began to complain.  They sent complaints to Cyrus and the following kings of Persia making up all sorts of claims about the Jews who had returned which were not necessarily true.  So, with the distractions of unhappy neighbors in the land, and many hassles and arguments about the rebuilding that the Jews were doing, soon they became discouraged and left the project of rebuilding God’s house undone.  Not until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia did the completion of the temple happen.

Having been through a recent cross country move myself what caught my eye was all those dishes that were to be used in God’s temple that had to be transported.  5,400 to be exact!  They were made of gold and silver so they would have to be packed very carefully as not to be scratched or broken.  This gives dish duty a whole new meaning.  In my move a few of my dishes broke.  Thinking about this it makes me think of how broken the city was and the temple of God was when the people returned to their beloved city.  They must have been excited at first at the prospect of going back, but once there I’m sure that seeing all the brokenness of the city must have been very discouraging.

Think about one of the greatest things God can do — He can fix what is broken.  Sometimes we may feel broken , or tossed about by the circumstances in our lives.  So did the Jews.  The good news is that God can fix what is broken.  He helped the Jews to rebuild the temple to Him, and their lives after being exiled for so long – He made them beautiful again.  He can help us too by fixing the broken parts of our lives and shaping it into something beautiful.  Key thought:  Think about how God has helped to fix the broken parts of your life and think about how He chooses to make it beautiful.

-Merry Peterson