God’s Fan

psalm 122 1

If you haven’t been paying attention, its football season. A new season of hope, optimism, and excitement for what could be coming for your team. As a fan of the South Carolina Gamecocks my joy lasts until our first loss and then the thoughts turn to next year. I see so many people put so much thought and preparation into tailgating and cheering on their team and it makes me think:  What if we put this much excitement into serving the ONE true God. I think of Psalms 122:1 where David says he was glad to be able to glorify God in the house of the Lord. This wasn’t just one verse, the pages of the Psalms are filled with praises to God from men excited by what God has done, is doing, and will do when his kingdom comes. No disappointment of being on the wrong side of a football score.

This is a morning to wake up and glorify a God who when we put our hope in him through his son Jesus, never disappoints. When we read Rev. 21 and 22 we read about why we should have more hope, excitement, and optimism than an Alabama fan. So as this excitement over this time of year in football fades, remember you are a child of God and that excitement will never fade. Jesus says to seek his kingdom first. When is the last time you thought about what you will do in your first ten years in the kingdom, who are your ” top 5″ people you want to meet, what it will be like to have communion with Jesus, etc. I have to admit when I focus on this, football seems to fade, as it should. This morning we will be at different areas of the world but I hope God is pleased when as a unified body we lift praises to our God.

-Joseph Partain

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God’s Timing: God’s Patience: God’s Love

2 Peter

2 Peter 3 9 (1)

I normally like to focus these devotions on verses we sometimes don’t pay too much attention to. 2 Peter sure has a lot of those verses. But today, I want to focus on a verse we have read a dozen thousand times.
The verse is, of course, 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
The Lord does not delay His promise. The promise of God is that the Kingdom will be restored to Israel and that sin will be eradicated on the earth. God is not slow in bringing that about. He is not delaying it just because he is putting it off. He is not waiting till the last minute by divine fiat alone. Instead, God is patient with US. With each and everyone one of us. He is waiting for us to come to him. He is waiting for us to repent, but he is also waiting for those who are far off. He is waiting for repentance to be found the world over. Why is he so patient, even now, 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth, 2000 years of church history and many hundreds of years of corruption and war and poverty and hate and greed and problems and sin even after the death of Jesus on a cross?
Because God doesn’t want any to perish. He does not want a single person to miss out on the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom, the gift given through Jesus. He doesn’t want any to perish, but he wants them all to come to repentance. Will they? No, this verse doesn’t say all will come to God. He does say that any who come to repentance, any who turn from the ways of sin to do righteousness, will not perish, but will experience true life.
I don’t have much more to add to that. If we remember this verse, lock it away, hide it in our hearts, it reminds us that God is love. That God cares about every person. That every person is a step away from salvation. That the time we have waited for Jesus is the patience of God made evident to a waiting world.
May we remember this verse and come to repentance to have life.
-Jake Ballard

I’ve Got to Tell Somebody

John 1_41 42

John 1:35-42

Not much story about Andrew is recorded in the Bible, but his enthusiasm for sharing with his brother is of special note. We believers have found the Messiah, The Christ, the savior of Israel and coming King. Are we as excited to share with our relatives, friends, and neighbors as Andrew was? We should be. As the popular hymn says, “The need of the world is Jesus.” We should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel message at every opportunity we meet. The messiah has appeared and died for our sins. He will appear the second time to restore the earth wide Kingdom to his Father. This is good news and every body needs to know about it.

-Larry Rankin

Call to Action

Matthew 7

matt 7 24

I have been taught that a good speech should always end with a call to action.  What this is depends on the type of speech.  A speech given by an election candidate will usually end by telling people they need to vote.  A product placement speech or demonstration will end with a way to buy the product.  Often a sermon will end with a life application.

As we look at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus ends with a call to action.  He has given us some other actions to take throughout this passage, but let’s look at this final section and see how we should respond to this sermon.

Let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, an in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

So, making the assumption that the goal is to be in the kingdom, Jesus says our action is to do the will of God.  This is obviously more than actions that we do.  Many times in chapters 5-7, Jesus talks about our thoughts, attitudes, and reasons for doing things being as important as the actions we take.

Jesus continues in verse 24 by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Again, the key here is to act on the words that Jesus has spoken.

The call to action is to put all the things that Jesus taught into action, which includes our thoughts and attitudes.  I encourage you to spend some more time reading through Matthew 5-7, and reflect upon seeking God, his righteousness, and his kingdom.  As we seek these more, the actions will follow.

-Andrew Hamilton

A Lesson from Pakistan: Preparation

pakistan inside group

Missions Spotlight: Pakistan

Did you know that less than 3% of people living in Pakistan are Christians?  Pakistan is mainly a Muslim country.  Because of religious persecution and the law, our Christian brethren meet in homes.  Currently, we support seven home-congregations that believe as we do.

 

Why do you believe in God?  Have you ever been asked this question?  After being asked this question, I would often flounder around saying things like “Ummm because I was raised in it” or “because the Bible says it’s true” or “God and Jesus changed my life” (meanwhile I didn’t really know how they changed it).  When it came right down to it, I didn’t really know why I believed in God.  If we take our faith seriously, we are not allowed to stay in ignorance; we have to be ready.  There has probably been a time and place when we all had to give an account for our faith to someone, or at least when we have questioned our own beliefs.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 3:13 – 18 to see what a very wise man had to say about this subject.

 

“13 Who is [c]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [d]are blessed. And do not fear their [e]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [f]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [g]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [h]reverence; 16 [i]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if [j]God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [k]spirit”

 

Verse 15 blankly states to always be ready to share your defense, or your testimony of the hope that lives in you!  So let’s get practical and dive into the nitty gritty of what a “defense meant to convince” might look like.  Here are several starters to get you thinking about what elements of your personal faith story are powerful to your testimony.

 

  1. Align your actions with Christ’s.

It’s not enough to just be different from the world.  Buddhists, Muslims, even moral atheists live differently from the world.  If you aren’t living like Christ than anything you say after that can as easily be dismissed as saying the word ‘hypocrite’.

 

  1. Highlight your personal change

Show how you lived before and how your life is different now, only through the power of God’s grace and strength; you couldn’t do this alone!

 

  1. Highlight your hope for the future

The kingdom of God resides here on the Earth now and in the future!!! This belief has given you purpose.  HOPEfully your peers will be able to perceive this from the way you have been living.  Our actions and mindset produce joy!

 

  1. Highlight the coming judgement

There is a judgement day approaching; it is sooner now than it has ever been.  This aspect is meant to help others perceive the urgency of believing

 

  1. Historical/ontological/teleological arguments for trusting the Bible

If you feel like you can articulate these aspects well, go for it! These are very valuable reasons for believing.  However, you do run the risk of appearing uninformed if the person you are talking to is studied up on these subjects.  You wouldn’t want someone to tear apart your arguments and thus misinterpret your testimony.

 

  1. Highlight the changes in others

Express stories of growth and change that you have witnessed in others.  This is a great time to offer a friend the chance to believe!

 

I encourage you to take some time and write out your testimony on paper.  That way, when the time comes you will have a “defense meant to convince” ready to go.

 

In Pakistan, people are not Christians because it is casual, it is the exact opposite.  With only 3% of the country practicing Christianity, our brothers and sisters are not doing it because of the trendy churches, or latest fad.  These people believe in God and Jesus because they have experienced it; they have a powerful testimony to share.  They have done the preparation and know that this is the best way of life.  Although it is not the popular belief, they are prepared disciples.  I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to testify boldly, and to stand ready to share my defense.

 

If you would like to support our family in Pakistan with Bibles and money for meeting grounds, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

A Lesson from Haiti: Perseverance

haiti

Missions Spotlight: Haiti

Under the direction of Lesly Bertrand, our conference supports 24 orphans with shelter, food and an education.  In addition to tending to the children, Pastor Lesly shepherds one of the 25 Haitian churches that share our beliefs.  He also meets with 21 ministers in the region for Bible study and leadership training each month.

 

This past week, some of our beloved family from Ohio came to stay with us.  Among the company, was our adorable 4-year-old niece, Melody.  The thing about Melody is, from 8AM to 9PM, she does not slow down.   From visits to the playground, building box forts, and painting masterpieces, to singing, dancing and acting on the fireplace hearth, Melody is in constant motion.

 

As I am worn out and ready to head to sleep at 7PM, I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18.  The disciples come to Jesus and ask him just “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

 

Melody is innocent, she trusts, she is content, and she makes friends at the Chick-Fil-A play-place within a matter of seconds.   Melody and her buddies fly through the play equipment and zip down the slide over and over and over again.  I get tired just watching her through the glass as I shove another french fry into my mouth.  Melody runs with perseverance.  As long as the sun is up, she never stops.  This zeal and energy brings me to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 

We are called to be children of God like Melody. We need to be going for his kingdom from sun up to sun down we can’t stop. I think that is what Jesus meant in Matt. 18. Children are fully reliant on their parents for everything. Like children, we need to be fully reliant on our heavenly father. Children trust without reservation. In the same way, we need to trust without reservation. Children are excited about life. Therefore, we need to be excited about this life and the life that we have to look forward to in the kingdom of God. If we can’t accept God in the simple way children accepts their parents, then we can’t live our Christian life the way Jesus wants.

 

Our conference supports 24 children in Haiti just like Melody.  While I have never met them, I can imagine they are full of energy and life.  When hurricane Matthew hit our brethren in Haiti a short time ago, they did not let the hurdles and obstacles of life defeat them as their churches and homes were crushed.  Instead, they had the mentality of a child.  They understood that their Creator provides for them, that He is always worthy of our praise.

 

Today, I am inspired by the orphans in Haiti to play harder.  I am inspired to take each step one at a time, and remember that God sees me through each situation, no matter how big or small.  I am inspired to run the race with perseverance and consistency; not just choose to serve Him or trust Him when it is easy.  I am inspired to live every moment, whether I am alone in my thoughts, or surrounded by friends and family, for the glory and honor of God.

 

If you would like to support an orphan in Haiti with food, shelter, and education or donate towards hurricane relief, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber

 

Resurrection and Loyalty

 

1 Corinthians 15 22

In today’s section we’ll look at verses 20-28 of I Corinthians 15. Did you know that you’re a king or a queen? So many blessings and riches are made available to us “in Christ” and in today’s section Paul speaks of another gift that comes with being “in Christ” – resurrection.

Paul begins by affirming that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, given the sad reality of if he hadn’t (v. 12-19). He then proceeds in verses 21-22 to compare Adam to Christ. Just as by a man came death, so to by a man came the resurrection of the dead. Paul clarifies this saying in the next verse by identifying the two men. In Adam all die but in Christ all live. This is a critical teaching of Paul about the dichotomy between Adam and Christ. By default all of us are in Adam, that is, we are identified and participate in the sphere of Adam which is rebellious and God hating. This inevitably results in death. But you and I can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ”. When we are found “in Christ” that is our new identity (II Cor. 5.17) and this inevitably leads to life, specifically, resurrection and immortality (II Tim. 1.10). The way we can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ” is by repentance, acceptance of the gospel, and obedience to Jesus as Lord. For more on the Adam-Christ teaching read Romans 5.12-21 and all of Romans 6 for what it means to be “in Christ” (“in Christ” is a technical term found often through Paul’s epistles that is rooted in his understanding of Adam and Christ). But Paul specifies that there is an order to the resurrection: Jesus first then those who are his at his coming.

Then Paul says literally “then the end”, when Jesus hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has abolished all rule and authority. In other words, when Jesus comes back he will dismantle and overthrow every human authority and government and establish his Father’s rule and reign with him as king. Then concluding, Paul says after this happens Jesus will hand over the newly established rule to his God and father, being subjected to him, so that God may be all in all forever and ever.

To be “in Christ” means so much more than just ‘I’m saved’ it’s larger meaning is that we get to participate in the sufferings and victories of Jesus. Specifically, because Jesus was raised from dead, we will be raised from the dead (I Cor. 15.20,23). Because Jesus ascended to God’s right hand and has been given all rule and authority, we too are seated with Christ and share in Jesus’ power and authority (Eph. 1.20-21, 2.4-7). You are a king and queen in the making whom God is making ready to rule and reign through our Lord Jesus Christ by means of the resurrection!

-Jacob Rohrer