Plan for Eternity – Seek Today!

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In Matthew 6:33 we are instructed to seek first the kingdom of God.

Now that you have that song in your mind, let’s take a Biblical journey of what that means. Ever since Adam and Eve exited the garden, man has wanted to get that place with God back. God made a promise to Abraham that one day his seed would again inherit the earth and that is what Jesus tells us to seek first. It’s not just the land we seek but a place where we can walk with God as Adam did. Deuteronomy 6 says that closeness with God should be with Him on our mind at all times of the day. Are you and I seeking that first?

I think it is the importance of that kingdom which drives us to be different. For Abraham it was leaving everything he knew behind, for Moses it was trusting God was in control, for Joseph it was facing trials and success knowing God has a plan, for David it was facing a giant, for Jesus it was giving up this life for others, and for you and I it is living a life to show others that light.

That joy that we are a part of causes us to think: what will I do in my first 100 years. We focus our finances in a way to live out our retirement here on earth, how much more should we think and plan for eternity. Start today by selling God for you and others and maybe we can keep that campfire song in our mind as a reminder of what God through Jesus has in store.

-Joseph Partain

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Where is Zion?

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There are 24 places in the world named Zion and 55 places in the world named Mount Zion. I have noticed a few of the road signs for these towns as I travel. One is located in Indiana. This Mount Zion is only about an hour away from the campus where FUEL Youth Camp is held each summer. But the Zion or Mount Zion that we want to focus our attention on is the Biblical Zion.

The word Zion appears 168 times throughout the scriptures.  The first reference to Zion is when David and his men marched to Jerusalem and captured the Jebusite fortress of Zion-which is the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:7) Later Zion was called the holy mountain. “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6) In Isaiah 33:20 it states, “Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem.”

Zion is also used to refer to the Millennial Jerusalem in Israel where Jesus Christ will reign over the entire world. An amazing description is presented in Isaiah 2. It states, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What an amazing time of righteousness, justice (Isa. 33:5) and peace that will be! Jesus, the precious cornerstone will rule from Zion (Isaiah 28:16). Imagine the joy that people will experience as they come to Zion. Isaiah chapter 35 describes it this way, “the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” We are shown a glimpse of this beautiful scene to encourage us to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you. (v.4) What an amazing experience it will be to see the Lord Jesus Christ return, to enter Zion and experience every part of the Kingdom!

If you want to discover more about Zion, take a moment to read the 10 verses of Isaiah 35 and Isaiah chapter 63.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Be An Overcomer

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The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy (5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets).  It is here that God’s messengers gave many warnings of what troubles and destruction would come to those who didn’t repent and live a life pleasing to God.  Many (though not all) of the prophecies recorded in these books have already taken place: destruction of ancient Israel and Judah, restoration for a remnant and the coming of the Messiah.

Similarly, the New Testament ends with one book of New Testament prophecy –  the book of Revelation.  And in it we read many warnings to those who don’t repent, accept Jesus and live a life pleasing to God.  Most of the prophecies recorded in this book have yet to come: destruction of the ungodly, the 2nd Coming of the Messiah, and restoration for the godly in the Coming Kingdom.

God sends this series of revelations to John (by way of Jesus and an angel).  He writes of what must soon take place and says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3).

In chapters 2 & 3 the seven churches in Asia are individually commended for what they were doing right (hard work, perseverance, not tolerating wicked men, etc…).  And, they were then challenged to work on other issues which required repentance and renewed commitment to truth and purity (not allowing false teachers and immorality, etc…).  These words are very applicable to us today.  We would be wise to consider what we as a church are doing well, as well as what we need to repent of and change.  Each church is challenged to listen well to what the Spirit has to say to the church, and promised that overcomers would be rewarded.

Then the vision turns to the throne room of God where a lamb, looking “as it had been slain” (5:6) breaks 7 seals from a scroll unleashing war, famine, and other disasters on the earth.  A dragon and two beasts, allied against God, arise to demand the worship of earth’s people who have not been killed in the earlier catastrophes.  Seven bowls of the wrath of God (reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt) bring disasters such as darkness, the most severe earthquake ever and huge hailstones.  The upheaval destroys Babylon the Great.  Next, the heavens open and the Savior, Messiah, King Jesus, also called the Word of God, appears on a white horse ready to lead heaven’s armies in destroying evil.  For 1000 years Christ reigns on earth while Satan, “that old serpent” (20:2) is bound and kept from deceiving more.  At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released briefly to instigate a worldwide war, but never fear – it says as they surround the camp of God’s people fire from heaven will devour the enemy and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.  God unveils a new heaven and a new earth.  The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and God will dwell with men.  “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.” (21:4).  There are so many more beautiful descriptions of the coming Kingdom on earth found in the last 2 chapters of Revelation.  It is truly something you don’t want to miss.  But, we know that many will, because of the decisions they are making today.

Just as Moses laid out for the people blessings and curses depending on what the people did, so too, John’s Revelation includes good news and bad news.  What will you do today to prepare for a Coming Kingdom?

Be an Overcomer

Marcia Railton

 

 

Acts – His Witnesses at Work

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The book of Acts is one of the most exciting reads you will ever come across: action adventure, good guys, bad guys, left for dead, miracles, jail breaks, courtroom drama, angry mob, shipwreck, dramatic monologues, and some of the most fascinating characters of the early church.  The author, Luke, was the same Gentile doctor who wrote what is now the 3rd gospel – an account of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Here, in the book of Acts, his story continues with the Acts of the Apostles – the story of the early Christian church age.

 

Luke opens his account in Acts with the crucified and resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples for 40 days, speaking about the kingdom of God (1:3) – obviously a topic near and dear to Jesus – so it should likewise be a topic we are passionate about.  Then, Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8). And as he ascends into the clouds, two men in white reassure the disciples that Jesus will return the same way that he rose.  And, throughout the rest of Acts, we see what happens when Jesus’ witnesses are faithful.

 

The promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they were able to do many miracles and wonders, even speaking in languages that men from all parts of the world would understand the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Most of the first half of Acts follows the disciples, particularly Peter, as they teach and preach and grow the early church.  Even amongst strong opposition the church grows, with many new believers being baptized and committing their lives, homes, finances, and families to following Jesus.  Some, like Stephen, even gave their life – as he was stoned to death for speaking the truth about Jesus, the Son of God.

 

Most of the second half of Acts tells the incredible – and true – stories of Paul.  It starts with the conversion of Saul who was persecuting Christians.  BUT – he changed and became the great apostle who went on 3 missionary journeys and wrote much of what would become the New Testament (but more on that tomorrow when we cover the 3rd Division of the NT – Paul’s Letters).

 

There are so many great passages in the book of Acts you just have to read it for yourself!  Not only are there amazing action stories, but you also get some wonderful sermon snippets and see what is most important to the early church.  You see their teachings, courage and priorities.

 

We are still waiting for that day when the clouds will part and our Lord and Savior will come down to greet his followers.  What a day that will be!  If you have read the gospels to see Jesus in action – then you are his witness.  If you have felt Jesus’ peace in the storm – then you are his witness.  May we be faithful witnesses ready for his return.

 

-Marcia Railton

The Good News Gospels

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Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

Coming Home

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One of the most bittersweet moments after a long, fulfilling journey is coming home.   Over the course of the past several years, I have been to a handful of different countries and have had some of the most wonderful, unforgettable experiences.  I usually spend my flight home scrolling through pictures, journaling, retelling that trip’s running joke, and planning a return journey to the destination I’m leaving behind.  Nevertheless, no matter how far I stray away, I find a soothing pleasure in seeing that final turn that will steer me into my driveway, opening the door to take a breath of the familiar smell, and laying down on my bed with my head perfectly placed on my pillow.  As I close my eyes, I do not think how much I wish to be where I was, I only think that I am so happy to be home.

I know many of you reading this have the exact same experience with the place you call home; however, I know for others, your current home is far from a place you wish to return.  Returning home to you means refacing an unpleasant past, examining poor relationships, having greater opportunity to sin, dealing with loneliness, hiding from abuse, or a customized mixture of some/all of these things.  The contrast between where you were and where you are going back to is so remarkably different that you see no hope in returning. There is always hope in returning home.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  John 14:1-4

The reality is that all of us who believe are on a journey home, but it is possible none of us will make it there in this lifetime.  God is preparing a place for all of his children, those who believe in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and know and live by saving grace that comes through faith.  Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us to lay our heads for eternity, and he will one day come back for us, fulfilling his promise. We do not look for a physical direction, or a spiritual ascent in the heavens, but look for the way, the truth, and the life Jesus speaks of as the restoration to the Father. Our desire is to be here on this earth, but it is not in its present state (1 John 2:15-17), but the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

No matter where we lay our heads or what situations befalls us, we have been given a way to where Jesus is calling.  One place is not more powerful than another. One experience is not higher than the other. By placing Jesus Christ as our heart, our hope stays with us, and is never in a location or circumstance.  Still, even our spiritual highs pale in comparison to what is promised for us in the place that is being prepared for us. In the Kingdom we will be in the presence of our Savior and our God. Where we arrived at the place prepared for and rest in the assurance of eternal life, none of us will desire to be where we were; we will only think we are happy to be home.

-Aaron Winner

The Exciting World of Missions!

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What is missions?  To better understand what missions is, we need to understand what it is not.  Although humanitarian aid is good and needed, it is not missions.  Acts of service are kind and necessary, but they are not missions.  Although we must keep in mind that when Paul was on his missionary journeys and saw brethren in need, he let the churches back home know so that they could help their brothers and sisters.  And this we should be doing locally and globally, but it is not missions.

We must remember that the Great Commission did not send people to feed and clothe the nations; it sent people to preach the good news of the coming kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus, His chosen Messiah.  The Great Commission commissioned believers to go into all the world and to preach, teach and baptize.  (Matthew 28:16-20)

And what a blessing!  We are given power to do this. The purpose of the power given by the holy spirit is to be Jesus’ witnesses in your home town and to all the ends of the earth.  “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The disciples had asked Jesus if now was the time that he would establish the kingdom, God’s righteous government, on the earth.  Jesus basically told them not to worry about the “when”, but that they had a job to do.  Read Acts 1:1-11 and see what that job is.  Make note of what Jesus had spent his time talking about and emphasizing his last 40 days with them and what he was preparing them for.  Notice the end promise.  Meditate on what this means for you!

-Tracy Zhykhovich