A Royal Mess

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Day 1 of your new Bible reading. You are psyched! You are committed. You brew a cup of coffee, clean off the kitchen table, and pull out a new set of highlighters.   You grab your large-margined Bible and you open up to your first reading:  Matthew 1. This is it. Your moment of great revelation, and then…you are instantly deflated. Genealogy. Blah. Wait…No…You are committed to do your reading.  You have new highlighters after all! Okay. Here we go. A couple verses down, and…still nothing worth highlighting. “Maybe I will just skim this,” you say to yourself, feeling a compromise is essential to keep up your determination.  The sea of names continues. Sigh. “I think I got the gist, I’ll just go to the end.” Although you made it through Chapter 1, you feel a bit defeated. No highlights; no underlines. You have made a royal mess of your reading.

 

So what is the significance of Matthew 1 anyways? Why not just hop into the Christmas story?  The answer: context. This genealogy of Jesus through his earthly father, Joseph, is to establish the pedigree pointing to Jesus as a descendant of the ruling class of Israel.  God’s so purposely positioned Jesus that there should have been no doubt remaining that Jesus is the Messiah or “The Anointed One”, the one who would reestablish the throne of David.  A fact made instantly clear upon the arrival of the Magi and Herod’s petitioning to and response from the scribes (Matt 2:1-6). As much as God was at work in these plans, He did so in spite of many actions taken by those who make up the family tree.

 

How did the ancestors of Jesus depart from the ways of God? A few quick examples. Abraham laughed at God. Jacob, and subsequently his son, Judah, both betrayed a brother.  David, God’s chosen King, is mentioned alongside his mistress (later turned wife), Bathsheba, and the man he murdered, Uriah. Among the other names are hidden even more wayward actions (idolatry, stealing, lying, etc.), culminating in Jeconiah, who did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 24:9), which leads to a curse that cuts off the line of David, seemingly forever (Jer 22:30).

 

If you only looked at part of their story, collectively, it would seem like a pretty hopeless lot.  Thankfully, many of the these men and women wrestled with, fought for, and maintained their relationship with God.  In the midst of sin, reputation, or nurture, they connected, repented, and praised God. They were a royal mess, a line of sinners seeking God and putting their hope in his promise of redemption and restoration.  It is no surprise that we find many of their names in Hebrews 11, among those who are waiting to receive their promise (v. 39,40) of a hope and heritage found in Jesus Christ.

We are equally “messed-up” and have fallen short of the standards set by our King (Rom 3:23). When we struggle with sin, our history, or circumstance, it makes us feel unworthy of the faith and hope we have. Don’t give in.  Remain Psyched. Wrestle. Fight. Maintain. You may be a mess, but you are a royal mess, an heir according to the promise, directly tracing your spiritual heritage (the only one that matters) to Jesus Christ.(1 Pet 2:9; Amos 9:11) Having these roots means, we receive a special connection to God through His Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17) and are covered by grace when we miss the mark (Eph 2:8,9).  Today, spend some time examining the stories behind these names a bit more closely, but also look at your own faith story. Whether you relationship is God is slightly disharmonious, somewhat distant, or completely disconnected, you are not disowned; your heritage is Jesus Christ. He will restore the throne of David, and He will restore any mess appealed in His name.

-Aaron Winner

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God’s Party

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Thursday, November 22, 2018  Thanksgiving USA

Luke 15:32

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Some people envision God to be somber or angry and punishing. I love this story Jesus told. We often refer to it as the Prodigal Son, with the focus on the bad boy who turned his life around. But I think it has more to do with showing us how much our Father Loves us, and how much joy it brings to him to be in relationship with us. Jesus came to show those whose view of God was somber and dutiful that God is first and foremost about relationship.

God throws a party when we respond to his offer of relationship. Shouldn’t we?

-Jeff Fletcher

You Are Not Alone

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I just returned from FUEL2018 “Mission” – a great event for youth which brought together students and staff from many states and Canada.  It was better than a week of vacation or band camp or soccer camp or working that good old summer job.    And what made it so powerful was our connection through God’s Word.

I enjoyed reminiscing about a missions trip I had taken with other staff members years ago – a trip in which our mission was to teach about God, His Word, His Son and His Coming Kingdom.  I enjoyed the worship music which helped us praise our Creator (which we read about in Genesis) and remember the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior (as recorded in the gospels).  The general session teachings, classes, workshops and family group times brought Godly men and women speaking God’s Word and how it had impacted them and those they knew.  They spoke wisdom from the Scriptures on who God is, what He desires from His children, who His Son is and how to grow a personal relationship with Him.

And, then we all went home.

Perhaps in some small way we can feel the emotional let-down of the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven and then asked themselves – what next?  They had been so close to God’s representative – his own Son – and now they were separated?  How would they continue learning, growing, acting in his name – without his bodily presence and audible words there to guide the way.

So, too, we can feel a little lost and let-down upon leaving such a spiritually pumped up place as FUEL.  But, remember, you are not alone!

Stick close to your Christian brothers and sisters and mentors.  Get into church this morning – and throughout the year!  Listen well to God’s Words through your pastor and SS teacher and worship leader and youth leader.  Ask questions, look for connections, serve the church body, talk to the lonely, encourage the weak, invite a friend, share what inspired you at FUEL, and then make an opportunity to meet up with some faithful followers sometime this week to encourage and strengthen one another.  In a section sometimes titled “Call to Persevere” the writer of Hebrews gives these directions: “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24,25).  Don’t try being a lone-ranger Christian.  You need the body of believers – and they need you!

And, just as you wouldn’t dream of not eating again until you were back on Manchester’s campus next July, don’t waste away from a lack of God’s Word!  Keep serving yourself daily portions of God’s Word – for this is your source of spiritual food and nourishment.  You are not going home alone when you are going home with God’s Word.  It is here He reveals himself, His love for you, His precious Son, His plan for the ages, His goals and dreams for you, and the Mission He has given you.  It is here he shares all truth and how to be wise against deception and evil.  You can not protect yourself from falling for false worldly Gods if you do not know the true God in His Word.  It is here you learn of His all-mighty power, holiness, wisdom, presence, mercy, forgiveness, as well as His fatherly (good) discipline when needed to help you stay where He wants to bless you.

This blog/email list of daily devotions is one way we want to encourage you to stay in God’s Word every day.  God’s Words are the Best Words.  Every week you will read daily devotions written by someone in our FUEL family who is passionate about God – and YOU – and wants to help keep you connected to Him through a deeper understanding of His Word.  Thank you to Aaron Winner who wrote during FUEL on the MISSION we have!  The week before I wrote on an overview of the Old Testament, so this week we will continue on with an overview of the New Testament.  So, come back tomorrow ready to jump into the gospels!  You can be thinking about . . . what do you most appreciate about Jesus?   What is your favorite miracle?  Favorite parable?  See you tomorrow!

You are Not Alone,

Marcia Railton

Children of God – Forgive

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Happy Friday! I am ready for the weekend, how about you? It has been a long week for me, mostly all good things, just incredibly busy and each of my daycare kids have been extremely busy too, making for some difficult days. This week had more meltdowns than usual, and some new behavior issues popping up, but in that I was seeing something that amazed me every single day. The forgiveness that many children have, and are willing to freely give to those around them. In my classroom, when a child does something that bothers, or harms another child, they must apologize. We do not force the child who was wronged to forgive them, we say that they can acknowledge the apology by saying thank you, and they can talk about how the two of them may move forward from the outburst. More often than not though, the children will say, “It’s okay, I forgive you.” Then they will offer a hug, and continue playing, as if nothing ever happened.


This is an act that always makes me wonder why it becomes harder for us to let go of grudges when we get older, or why it is so much harder for us to move on from something that someone has done to us, even if they have sincerely offered up their apology. These children will hit, or take a toy, or scream at their friend, and then apologies happen, and forgiveness comes to them easily and naturally.  Their forgiveness seems to be endless, then they quickly move on from the issue. When did we lose this focus? When did many of us decide that holding grudges is something better than letting go? I think many of us should take a step back and think about how it would feel for us to let something go, and give forgiveness and pray for those that harm us. The world around us might be a little different if we shifted our mentalities.


Some verses today about forgiving:


Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’”


Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”


1 Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”


All of these verses talk about needing to be able to forgive those, because God has forgiven us. We can again look to children to see what their example is. There are definitely times when children will hold grudges against those that have wronged them, however it is often that children are extremely quick to forgive their friends, neighbors, teachers, siblings, parents, etc. Jesus tells us to be more like the little children, and this week we have been covering the different aspects of allowing our faith to become more child-like and the different components that entails. Listening, trusting, seeking comfort, loving, learning, and today is forgiving like a child.


Today I challenge you to forgive someone who wrongs you; let go of the hurt that they may have intentionally or unintentionally inflicted upon you. Remember that we are all sinners and God forgives us for our sins against him, over and over, and so we should forgive those around us. Try to be more like the children, and move on quickly from a dispute that is not constructive to either party involved, and seek first God and a relationship with him and his son Jesus.


A song for today is “Forgiveness” by Matthew West. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lu5udXEZI


~Jana Swanson

Matthew West – Forgiveness (Lyrics)

Children of God – LOVE

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Today we are going to talk about loving like a child. Throughout the Bible we, as Christians, are called to love. Love your neighbor as yourself, love your friends, family, pray for your enemies, love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your heart and all your strength. If you grew up in the church you were probably taught that God IS love, and we learn to love from him, but did you ever stop to think about how children love us? Again, we can really take a page out of their book to see how we can better love others, and how we can better love our one True God. I am absolutely not saying children are perfect at loving, I mean, how many times have you seen a three year old hit their friend for no reason? I see it many times a day, and it surprises me how quickly they own up to it as well.


In my class I have one little girl who has formed an attachment to me; her face lights up when I walk into the room and she never wants to leave my side. If I leave before she gets picked up, she cries because she does not want me to leave. Through her, I have seen how to love other people, even better. This girl is so excited every morning to show me something new, or to tell me something that she did with her parents the night before. Think about it, when was the last time you were excited to tell God about what was going on in your life. You can justify it, to yourself; “Oh God already knows what is going on in my life, he’s always there anyway.” But here’s the thing, God may already know what is going on in your life, but he wants to build a relationship with you, one that is a two way street, one where you tell him about your good days and your hard days. A relationship where you can share the things you are excited about and ask for guidance in the times where you are the most unsure. God calls us to love and build connections and relationships; a lot of children are pretty good at this.


Somehow children are good at picking up on the emotions of those around them. They tend to notice when someone is sad, or angry, or when they are happy and having a good day.  If you pay attention, many children will reach out and try to help you in the ways that they know how. They will offer to share their favorite food, or their favorite toy, or they will climb into your lap and ask you to read them a story in the cutest voice they can possibly muster. Do you share this kind of unconditional love to the people around you? Your friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even the people you don’t particularly get along with? If not, this may be an area to work on, I know it is something that I am striving to be better at.


Here are some verses talking more about love.

1 John 4:9-12 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world, that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”


Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”


Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times.”


Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”


Jesus tells us to have faith like a child, let the children go to him. Are not all children of God? Having faith like a child is one of the ways we can truly find our faith. There are so many components to this act of having faith. There is listening, trusting, seeking comfort, wanting to learn, and today loving. I challenge you today to observe how any children in your life express their love for you, or their peers, or adults, or anyone they interact with. If you do not have children in your life, try to think about how you can love people more, and really work toward that unconditional love that we are called to as Jesus’ followers. Thank you for reading today, and here is a song to go along with today’s devotion.


“Hold Us Together” Matt Maher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd4dFXMuy-8


~Jana Swanson


Attachments area

Think of What God Will Think

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2nd Thessalonians is another letter from Paul. He speaks about thanking God that their faith and love is growing. They were being persecuted and had many trials, yet they persevered. They held on to their faith and did not turn away from God.

 

This passage also speaks about those who do not have a relationship with God. Verse 8 says: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  We need to make sure we are sharing God’s love and Jesus’s death to others. But wait you say, I am not a pastor or youth leader, how do I share that? You share that by living a life that is pleasing to God. Lead by example; you never know who is watching you. Speak up about what God has done in your life. Don’t be afraid of what people will think; think of what God will think. Honor Him in all you do.

 

Tomorrow we will look at 2nd Thessalonians 2.

Many blessings,

~The Ransom’s

True Worship

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Matthew 15

In a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees over traditions that the Pharisees held to, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah 29: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matthew 15:8,9 NASB) This is critical for understanding what it truly means to worship God our Father. We cannot merely offer “lip-service” to our God, but need to be truly devoted to Him with our whole hearts.

How many times have we gone into church on Sunday morning, sang songs about God and Jesus, listened to a sermon, and then went home as if nothing has really happened? We have all done this at some point, and we pretend like we have truly been worshipping God by doing this; unfortunately, this is not what God desires. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, we see what God truly wants: “Hear, O Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH is one! You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus himself quoted this passage when someone asked him what the greatest commandment is in Mark 10:29-30. We can see that God does not just want us to say we love Him; He wants us to honestly have a deep relationship with Him as a father. The challenge for us this week is to not merely go to church because we are expected to go every week; let’s go to church because we honestly want to develop a deeper relationship with our God and His Son, Jesus.

-Talon Paul

Talon Paul is a pastor at the Maple Grove Community Church in Kokomo, IN. He is married to Rebbecca Massie from Ohio, and is originally from Oregon, IL. He has a deep love for God, his church, wrestling, and Pokemon Go.