Regeneration and Renewal

titus 3 5

Titus 3    &    James 5

Two chapters?! They’re both short so I’m sure you’ll have no problem reading both.  I just couldn’t decide which of these chapters I wanted to use to discuss healing of the spirit, so I am going to use them both.

In Titus 3:3, Paul graciously gives us a list of things that we do wrong. There’s no doubt that every one of us can find a few of these words to associate with. These things are why I believe that we all need spiritual healing. You may have heard that term used before by non-Christians, but what I mean by spiritual healing is a little different. I mean the renewing of our minds through forgiveness. I mean the ability to turn away from our sins and start walking in the other direction.

Spiritual healing is easy in concept. We all know that Jesus died for our sins. There is grace overflowing for us. Titus 3:5 says “He saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” All we have to do is ask for forgiveness and it will be ours.

But spiritual healing is so hard in practice. So many times, we let our past selves become the master of our present selves. Two things can happen that get in the way of our healing.

First, the sins of our past enslave us and we can’t forgive ourselves. We beat ourselves up for things that we should be able to leave behind. John 8:32 says that the Truth will set you free. If that is true, then why is it so easy to feel tied down? Jesus gives a conditional before saying that you can be free. He says, “know the truth.” The truth can’t set you free if you don’t know the truth. You need to know who Jesus (the Truth) is and you need to know the truth of forgiveness. The truth is asking for forgiveness is easier than feeling forgiveness.

Second, we continue to live in our sin. Remember how Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”? He also said, “Continue in my word.”  If you haven’t truly turned away from your past sins, then of course they are going to continue to rule your life. Once again, this is easy to understand and hard to practice.

In my experience, there is a crucial step that is always overlooked when it comes to spiritual healing. Let’s look to James now, in 5:16. We need to confess our sins, not only to God, but also to each other. We need to hold each other accountable, and you can only do that if you know what your friend is struggling with. James also repeats something that I’ve been saying all week: pray. Pray together for healing because “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James give us an example of an effective prayer. Elijah prayed that God withhold the rain and God did so. The key point of the example can be easy to miss though. Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours; he faced temptation and sinned just like us. He prayed earnestly, and through his prayer, he was able to do great deeds for God.

Don’t let your past enslave you. Turn from your sin. Confess your sin to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Let the Truth set you free.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

 

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Another Kind of Healing – When Pigs Fly

Mark 5:1-19

(But no one is stopping you from reading the whole chapter)

How many of you have ever seen a scary movie? I don’t recommend them. Being scared is not fun, but sometimes we can’t help being scared. Today we’re going to talk about something scary, but fear not! This devotion has a happy ending.

In this segment of Mark, we see Jesus healing another man, but this time, he is casting out demons. This wasn’t an ordinary casting out of demons either. This man that Jesus encountered had an unclean spirit that consisted of thousands of demons (5:9).  The man had been so out of his right mind that he was cast out of normal society and forced to live in a cave where people had tried to chain him up, but not even chains could hold this man down. He would scream and cut himself day and night (5:5). This man is clearly not okay. Yet Jesus still let the man seek him out.

Notice how Jesus is being approached by a man that can literally break chains, but he doesn’t seem to be worried. That is exactly how we should feel knowing that we have the God of Jesus on our side, too. The demons in this man fear Jesus and respect his authority. It says in verse 13 that Jesus “gave them permission.” They obey Jesus! Now the next part of the story is a little weird, but it is very important. The demons went into a herd of pigs and subsequently flew off a cliff. Okay, maybe they didn’t fly, but it’s still an odd thing for pigs to do.

This story is a little different from the story of the blind man that we looked at yesterday. The man who was healed in this story didn’t have a physical impairment; he was healed of a sickness of the mind. These kinds of sicknesses can be even scarier than the kind that affect us physically. One such mental sickness that has become very prominent lately is depression. I know firsthand just how many people suffer from depression these days, especially teenagers, so I want to share with you the story of when I saw pigs fly.

When I was younger, I had a close friend who suffered from severe depression and harmed herself in ways like the man that Jesus healed. Many times we think that self-harm is unique to our generation but this story really says otherwise. This was a really painful experience for me just by knowing that my friend was going through this. I urged my friend to talk to a trusted adult and to see a doctor because I knew that I was not qualified to counsel on this subject. However, there was one way that I was able to help. I offered my prayers. Prayer became a constant for me in this period of my life. I wanted nothing more than to see my friend freed of this demon, her depression. One day, I wanted to pray with my friend, so we went out to a park and sat together praying for hours. I remember my prayer: “God, I know that you have the power to cast out demons. Cast out this demon.” After repeating this many times, my friend looked up and I could see a difference in her eyes. Pigs flew, and her depression has never bothered her since then.

I don’t know whether an actual demon was involved in this story, but depression certainly acts like a demon, taking over your thoughts and actions. Whatever the cause of depression may be, our God is bigger and more powerful and there isn’t anything in this world that disobeys His command.

Don’t forget the ending of the story in Mark. After the man was healed, he wanted to follow Jesus, but he was turned down. Jesus told the man to go back to his family and testify to them. This is just like what we saw in John yesterday. After you are healed, Jesus wants you to make sure that the people you know can see that you really were healed.

Tomorrow I am going to go into the role that modern medicine plays into the healing that we can receive from God.
-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Meeting the Mission

john 10 27

Throughout this week,  we have laid the groundwork that leads us from the call to the kingdom.  We considered how Jesus sought those who were seeking something better, and how those men recognized the call, the voice of their master (John 10:27).  Next, we considered how the heavens declare our salvation, and the continuing metaphor we have in the heavens declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19) and His salvation plan for mankind.  Knowing this, we applied this knowledge to God’s presence even in the darkest points in our lives – in the highest heavens he is there, but also in the deepest chasm (Psalm 139:8). His Spirit is promised and available to those who ask to receive it.  When we accept Jesus into our lives, we not only receive the Spirit of God, but also the weight of the cross – not our sin, which Jesus has paid for once and for all – but the daily responsibility to carry the name of the Lord with us wherever we go. Finally, we looked at how faith should be our great motivator.  It assures us when we don’t see God working the way we desire that he is working all things together for those who love him (Rom 8:28). The culmination of this hope comes when we arrive home. We will not be returning, but experiencing for the first time the place we have been called, where the light has been leading, where the Presence of God is close and real, where the cross paved a way for us, and the plan, having all who have believed and waited, rewarded together (Heb 11:39-40).

It is a beautiful story unfolding before us, but right now, we’re in the middle.  The part in between being called and being home. So where does our mission begin?  It begins with prayer. Prayer is our conversation with God, admonishing him, asking for repentance, lifting up concerns, and seeking his will.  Paul tells us that we should pray repetitively or without ceasing (2 Thes 5:17) constantly thanking Him, seeking His word, and listening for His voice.  It is the best way to align ourselves with his will for our lives. These are everyday acts of spiritual warriors, the same as someone who runs or lifts every day in preparation for a marathon.  In Acts 9, Saul is blinded when He sees Jesus Christ standing before him on the Road to Damascus, but it is Ananias, a man most likely practicing his faith in his hometown, that is called to a great mission.  Risking his life to go before the Christian persecutor, he speaks to him, ““Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” With these words, the course of Paul’s life and Christianity are forever changed.

For some of us, our mission will lead us to a foreign country, a great stage, or into a dramatic change of circumstance; however, we are all called to be faithful, seeking opportunities for God to use us as a vessel to speak peace and hope into the lives of those around us in the present; Many lives are lived, fearing God and keeping his commandments, in hometowns before neighbors, coworkers, or fellow students, a task that is can be ironically harder. We continually pray for those who are within our reach and influence, attuning ourselves to the will of God.  When we are faithful, we most assuredly will be ready for the harder things God calls us to as we will reach out and unabashedly share His Kingdom, leaving behind our ego, leaving behind our reputation, and even leaving behind our lives – in a moment or daily, knowing our mission is met.

-Aaron Winner

Thank you, Aaron for writing this week!  We did miss you at FUEL, but we are thankful for your continued commitment to God’s mission in your life.  Aaron recently shared his newest recorded song: How Great You Are.  Thank you for pointing us to the One who is Great!

Pray Continually

The Day of the Lord is Coming!

i thess 5 16-18

1St Thessalonians 5

Chapter 5 speaks about the day of the Lord coming like a thief in the night. People will speak of peace and safety but destruction will come on suddenly. The cool thing is that we are not in darkness; we know the end is coming. We know what the end is and who wins. Jesus died for us. He died so we could live. We need to make sure we are encouraging each other with these words. We all go through hard times, but we need to remember that no matter how hard it is now, the kingdom will be awesome!

The 2nd part of chapter 5 gives us some final instructions on how to treat people. We need to be respectful, encouraging, patient, kind, and give warnings when needed.  Verse 16-18 says:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I never truly understood verse 17 until I had children. I always wondered how someone could pray continually. Now I know, prayer does not have to be in a closet by yourself; it can be anywhere, anytime. We are told to test everything, hold on to good, and avoid every kind of evil. We need to share this with all of our brothers and sisters, and as mentioned before, pray for one another.

 

Tomorrow we will go over 2 Thessalonians 1.

Many Blessings,

~The Ransom’s

Genuine Prayer

1 John 5

1 John 5_15

 

Hello, my friends!

Isn’t it strange to think this greeting that was written at 8:30am on the 31st of January got to you sometime today – or even later?

That is how communication works between people sometimes: it takes time, it’s not immediate, but it’s likely to reach you eventually. Some people won’t even receive my special salutation, because they did not read the devotion today. And that’s ok.

In fact, if I yelled as loud as I could right now, you will still not be able to hear me.

HELLO, MY FRIENDS!!

Did you hear me? No? Shocking. You’re human, therefore you could not. Let me try something else…

Hi, God.

Guess what? He heard me. You know what is even better? He can hear you too. Our prayers don’t take time to reach Him. They are delivered immediately, and they will never be lost in the mail. God hears you.

Therefore, when you pray, pray genuinely.  Don’t hold back. You can trust that God is listening. God loves you so dearly that He wants you to pour out your heart to Him. He wants to hear all about your day, the ups and downs, concerns, visions, everything. Lay it all at His feet, because He can take it. To top it all off, He never gets tired of listening.

To be honest, sometimes it feels like God can’t hear our prayers. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t present in our lives. Sometimes it feels like God won’t care about us, let alone what our deepest desires are. But those are just feelings. God does hear. He is present. And He certainly cares.

Therefore, pray genuinely – even when if feels like God can’t hear you, even when life is perfect, and even when everything seems to be falling apart. People may not always be there for you, and they certainly won’t always hear you. But God will always hear your prayers. So pray like you mean it.

– Madison Cisler

Building Your Prayer Life

James 5_16b

Another common resolution of Christian’s is that they want to pray more. What does that mean though? Does this mean that they will pray more during meals, or they will remember to pray before bed? Does this mean praying at random times or scheduled times during the day? What exactly is prayer, and how do you have more? If your goal this year is to grow closer to God, then this topic is something you should really consider and maybe work on. (I am also not claiming that I am good at this, I know that this is something I plan to work on this year.)

Some passages to read this week: Matthew 6:5-13, James 5:13-18

Prayer is conversation with God. It is a time for you to talk with him and tell him what is going on in your life and to ask him for guidance or support or help. Prayer is for you to build your relationship with God. It is a way for you to give him praise and thanks for everything that he has done in your life. Besides these, prayer is for you to ask for what you desire and what you need. God is pretty awesome and he loves to give us what we want as long as it is good for us and it is in accordance with his plan for our lives. Matthew chapter 6 talks about how and where to pray. It says not to be like the hypocrites who pray in front of the synagogues so that people could see them and what they were doing. It says to pray in your room alone, because prayer is for you and God, and between you and God. Now do I think that you can only pray in your room alone? No, you can absolutely pray wherever and whenever you want, but the motivation behind your praying should not be to get attention from other people, but to converse with God. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the Lord’s prayer, he was giving a simple prayer that people could remember, and it covers a lot of different things in there, but your prayers do not all have to be like the Lord’s prayer.

Different ways to pray. There are as many different ways to pray as there are people on earth, and even more than that. Every single person of faith has their own relationship with God, and this means that their prayers are going to be their own, and different from anyone else. If you are trying to add more praying into your life and you do not know where to start, here are some ideas.

Just start praying; tell God anything and everything that is going on in your life. Talk out loud, or quietly to yourself and just thank God for the little things, or ask him questions, or ask for things in your life. Start a conversation, and listen for the response. Look for it in the world around you. God will make things clear when they are meant to be clear and known to you.

Listen to music, or sing a prayer. I personally feel closest to God when I am singing, or when I am listening to praise music. Is that praising? yes, but for me it is also how I talk to God, and I often get chills that tell me God is hearing me. My favorite prayer is actually a prayer that my family sings before meals. It goes like this; “Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, these mercies bless and grant that we, may feast in fellowship with thee. Amen.” It is a tradition that I have always loved, and it is where I feel closest to our heavenly father.

Write in a journal. Again, prayer is meant to be a conversation between you and God. Maybe talking and singing is not comfortable for you, or you do not feel God’s presence when you do those. Try writing and journalling. Write your thoughts down and then just give them to God. He can still understand what you are asking of him, and this is still a form of communication. I sometimes journal and write down my thoughts, and it helps me in that moment. However, sometimes I re-read what I wrote and it helps me again later.

James 5:13-18 This passage talks all about when to pray. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it basically says to pray all the time, in any and every circumstance. We should pray when we are sick, troubled and lost. We should pray and sing praise in the joyous times. When we have wronged someone we need to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ and ask them to pray for us and with us. We should being praying in EVERY circumstance. I know I pray to God when I am really having a hard time, but I sometimes forget to pray in the good times and thank him for everything that he has done for me and given to me. This is on me, and I should do better about this.

James 5:16 talks about confessing your sins to your brother and praying for each other. To me, this also talks about accountability. Sometimes with the business of life it is difficult to remember what we promised, or to pray. If prayer is something you want to take more seriously in your life, or have more of, think about asking for an accountability partner. Ask a friend if they are willing to pray with you daily, or if they are willing to send you a text asking if you have been praying. Whatever an accountability partner would mean for you, I encourage you to seek that out. You will deepen your relationship with God, and you may even build deeper connections with fellow believers as well.

-Jana Swanson

The Power of Persistence

ask devo

Persistence is like the spraying surf or the whistling wind; it erodes away even the most hardened rock over time.  Battle-hardened generals, the most well-meaning of parents, the most demanding of bosses all will give into persistence.  Why?  Like the irritating gnat buzzing around our head, like an adjacent whistling hearing aid, like the canker sore lingering in our gums, we just want to settle the annoyance so our attention is no longer divided.

Luke 18 begins with Jesus telling a parable about a widow who most desperately was seeking justice, so she would seek out the king of her and tell of her request.  The king wasn’t a God-fearing man, or a man-fearing man for that matter, but he eventually gives into the never-ending nagging just to make it stop.  His exasperation becomes her blessing.  He did not even care about the woman, yet he fulfills her incessant request.  Jesus compares this to the matters of our own heart, and how we might constantly convey needs to our Father in prayer.  Jesus states, “Will he delay long over (our requests)? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily” because he is a loving Father, who is loftier than any king, but is most desperately desires a relationship with the lowliest of men.

Nearing the end of the chapter, Jesus models his Father’s care for the determined.  A blind beggar recognizes the “King of Kings” is passing by, and recognizes his opportunity to be healed.  He is unrelenting in his pursuit.   He cries out “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!”  The crowd tells him to shut up – a nuisance such as this is not worth the time of Jesus.  Instead, the man cries louder, longer, and harder, emphatically declaring the Lord to have mercy on him.  Finally, he has the attention of Jesus, and he declares the desire of his heart: sight.  This time it is not an unkind king who yields to petition, but a truly benevolent one, acting on behalf of the Father, because this blind beggar has believed.

We serve a Father who does not hide in shifting shadows from petitioners, but makes it clear that He is ready, willing, and able to meet our every need if we would so choose to let him.  Not only this, he will also give us the desires of heart if we are attuned to His will and purpose; however, we fail to recognize that we must be faithful and persistent in our request. Now, I don’t think we can annoy God into submission, but there are more than a few faithful followers in the Bible who petition the Lord Almighty, and there is a change of course.  James Chapter 1, which I highly recommend you read alongside your assigned daily devotional, speaks of the great rewards awaiting those who do not surrender in their pursuit.

God is most certainly in control.  He is also a gracious and loving heavenly Father.   He is awaiting your appeal and ready to meet the desires of your heart – yes, even those, that are locked away, wrapped in doubt, and shouted down. Unashamedly shout them and ask in the name of the King, Jesus Christ, and He will hear your cry.

~Aaron Winner