Think of What God Will Think

2nd Thessalonians 1

2 Thessalonians 1 11 (1)

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

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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.

A Better Hope

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 26

Hello everyone!

Thank you to Kyle McClain for getting us started into Hebrews; he’s a hard act to follow!  We can’t jump right into chapter 7 without revisiting the last few verses in 6.  In the end of the previous chapter we are discussing Jesus being regarded as a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  (Gesundheit!)

The beginning of chapter 7 explains who Melchizedek was for the readers and, in a way, giving Jesus some street cred.  The author clearly wants to stress the place of power and importance this King was in (vs. 4) and why it was important that Jesus came from his order.  Verse 15 and 16 explain a little more on why Jesus was to come from his order- it’s because his ancestry doesn’t exactly lead to priesthood!  Coming from a carpenter and a seemingly average woman isn’t a common start for someone so deserving of our praise and worship.  I think the author here was trying to give Jesus some more credibility for the Hebrews he was writing to.

Verse 18 and 19 has some of my favorite language in it!  “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”  Why do we need Jesus?  Because the old law was weak, useless, and made nothing perfect!  Couldn’t be more clear than that.  With our new hope (Jesus), we are able to draw near to God and have a close personal relationship with Him.  Before Jesus, the law required sacrifice and prevented people from having that personal relationship with God that we all know and love.  After Jesus, or rather after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are saved completely and always have a connection to God through Jesus’ intercession (vs. 25).  How amazing is that?

In the last few verses of chapter 7 the author again is explaining how lucky we are to have Jesus and why we should come to him!  He is not only perfect and blameless, but he also sacrificed himself once for the forgiveness of all sins (vs. 26-27).  Past, present, and future.  He took care of them all!  As someone who has grown up in the church it’s easy for me to unconsciously be aware of this fact.  I know Jesus died for all of my sins.  Big and little, from when I was born to where I am now, and where I’ll be tomorrow.  But I’m guilty of forgetting, or at least not recognizing how important that is for my life.  If I try and place myself in the shoes of the people who were reading this letter for the first time in that setting, how overwhelmed with grace and love would I be?  I no longer have to sacrifice by the old law, because there is a new oath that has been appointed by a forever-perfect Savior.  Can you imagine the relief, love, and astonishment you might have as someone hearing that for the first time?  Why is it different for us today, simply because we already know?

Today and throughout this week I encourage you to pause and consciously reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ.  Recognize his sacrifice and thank him for the relationship he allows us to have with our Heavenly Father!

-Sarah Blanchard

Read More of the Good Book

2Tim3 1617 (1)

Today’s common New Year’s resolution is to read more of the Bible. One reason people quit this resolution is that they get lost quickly, or they do not have a plan on how much they are going to read, or they are inconsistent or they do not have accountability to keep them on track. Whatever the reason people tend to start off with good intentions, but they often fall short of their goal.

The verses today are 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalms 19:9-11, and Luke 12:27-28

So why do people want to read more of their Bible? Why is it important to read the Bible? How do we stay true to our goal of reading more? How do we get started? These are all questions you may have, and they are questions that I myself have had in my life.

There are so many reasons to add “read the Bible more” to your New Year’s resolutions. Check out 2 Timothy 3:14-17. These verses tell us that we need to know the teachings and laws of God from a young age and that every word in our Bible, every scripture is inspired by God and can be used in numerous different ways. They are good for teaching and correction, seeking righteousness. Through reading the Bible we strengthen our knowledge of God which can help us strengthen our relationship with him. When our relationship with God is strengthened we are complete, and we can be empowered to do good works in his name and for his will. Another great reason to read the Bible is because knowing more about the history of our faith, the history of God, and his son and the people of God, can give us a deeper understanding of how truly amazing our God is. He is the creator of the heavens and earth, he hand-crafted every thing of this earth, and yet he chose to create you too. He took the time to create you and build his own plan for your life, and all of this is found in scripture. Jeremiah 29:11 says,” For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.” The Bible is full of stories and histories that are good for us to know, and they are good for us to draw parallels in our own lives.

Psalms 19:9-11 “The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever, Yahweh’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the extract of honey-comb. Moreover by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” These verses tell us that God’s word is more precious than gold, and it is sweeter than honey-comb. God’s word feeds our spirits, and having this fulfillment does not happen if we do not know the ordinances and the word of God. This is such an awesome gift that God has created for us. We can see his love and his caring for all of his creation through his word, and we can see his true value of us through the Bible as well.

Luke 12:27-28 “Consider the lilies, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin. Yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God does so clothe the grass in the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you, O you of little faith?” These verses tell us how much God cares for us, and will take care of our every need. We live and breathe, we take care of other people, we help our neighbors, we take care of our families and friends, we worship God and in all these things we sometimes worry if our every need will be taken care of. In these verses we find assurance that even flowers and fields which serve very minor purposes are clothed in beauty, and we are so much more and God will take care of us. This is another reason to read our Bibles. When we are worried, sad or confused we can find solace and strength in the words the Bible has for us.

Today I want you to take this with you. The Bible is a great book that is useful in many contexts. It us useful for teaching others and yourself more about your faith. It is important for learning more about God and building a stronger relationship with him. It is a great comfort when we are in need or we are stuck in worry. The Bible was given as a gift to us, and we should treat it as this precious gift. We need to spend time in our Bibles. Going forward from reading this today, I hope that you can find a way to read more. Start by reading this blog, continue by using an app that sends you a verse of the day. You may even want to find an accountability partner to read along with you, or remind you to read. Being a Christian should not be a lonely venture. There are people out there who will support in your journey to God. I hope you’ve enjoyed today.

-Jana Swanson

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

New Year’s Resolutions

Luke 19_3a

Luke 19:1-10

As we are entering into the third full week of January I want to think about how you have begun your new year. Did you make any resolutions? Why or why not? Have you already broken your resolutions? If so, what made you let them go so soon? If not how are you staying true to your goal?

This week I am going to talk about some common New Year’s resolutions amongst Christians, their biblical founding and some strategies to help us keep these resolutions. My hope for you this week is that you take a moment to evaluate where your relationship with God is, where you would like it to go and how you are going to get there. If you did not make any resolutions or goals for 2018, that is okay, but maybe after reading this you will consider refocusing certain things in your life.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions in general are people wanting to be healthier, people wanting to save more of their money, getting better grades, maybe even trying to get a new and better job. These are all good, but so many people lose sight of their goals within the first 3 months of the new year, for a multitude of reasons. They made their “rules” too drastic, or they did not make their goal focused enough, or they did not have any accountability. These are all reasons people ditch their resolutions. Some common resolutions amongst Christians, in regards to their faith are to read their Bible more, go to church more often, pray more, etc. Again, even people of faith abandon these goals more often than not, because they want to do everything on their own, or they want to be absolutely perfect and when they are not they feel like they failed. All of these feelings are valid, but do not let them hold you back.

My first challenge to you if you are wanting to deepen your faith and your relationship with God, is to seek him and his son. Seek Jesus. This is the first topic of the week. Seeking Jesus. I want you to go ahead and read Luke 19:1-10.

Luke 19:1-10 is all about Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see”- Right? That is not the only thing we can take away from this passage. Zacchaeus was too short to see Jesus over the crowd, but why did that matter to him? He most likely had heard the stories of Jesus and the people he had helped and the lives he had changed. Zacchaeus probably wanted to know what all this “salvation” was about, and how he could live eternal life. His entire knowledge and experience of Jesus prior to this day depicted in Luke was through the accounts of other people. If your faith is struggling or you feel lost, ask for other people’s stories. Ask people to share how they grew to know God, ask other people how they rely on him, and you may receive the help you need and some amazing relationships along the way.

Another thing to take away from this account is this; are you afraid to look silly for Jesus? We are called to not be of this earth, we are called to be different and not follow the ways of the world. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, everyone knew who he was and the power that he had. Not only was he powerful, but he was extremely wealthy. Here was this man of high power and esteem, and in order to see Jesus he climbed a tree. That would look a little silly. How silly are you willing to look in order to see Jesus? I hope the answer means that you would fall on your knees before him, or praise God whenever you are compelled to do so. The opinions of others do not matter, your relationship with God is far more important.

To have a relationship with God, and to truly seek him and his son out is much more simple than we make it. Many times we feel like we need to be perfect in order to come to God and ask him for help, or to come to him and thank him, but that is not the case. He sent his one and only son to the world to die for us while we were still sinners. He put that salvation plan in motion so long ago, because he wants us to come to him in every time in our lives, good or bad. God wants us to come to him in our darkest hours, but also in the best times.

-Jana Swanson

Return Home

Luke 8

Luke 8_39

Luke 8 is a pretty fast-paced chapter.  Jesus is in full ministry mode at this point and going about performing many miracles and teaching a lot of parables.  Here are a couple that jumped out at me.

 

Jesus tells the parable of the Sower, a farmer who is spreading seeds. The seeds grow based on the quality of soil that they are planted in.  The disciples do not understand the parable, so Jesus explains it in more clear language in Luke 8:11-15.

 

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

I think it is important to realize that the gospel is not directly injected into our hearts (metaphorically) but is presented to us.  It is up to us to make the decision to accept it, and then to purposefully fill our lives with the word in order to change our hearts.  As Jesus said, only through perseverance will we grow.  You cannot be passive about your relationship with God.

 

Later in the chapter Jesus drives out many demons from one man and they go into a herd of pigs, which immediately drown themselves.  Which is kind of weird.   But anyway, the man’s life had been completely changed by Jesus and he wanted to serve Jesus, and here is Jesus’ response in Luke 8:38-39.

 

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Instead of hitting the road with Jesus and spreading his testimony all over he is instructed to stay in his hometown and to give his testimony to the people in his hometown.  When a lot of people think about spreading the gospel they think about people far away that haven’t heard the gospel, and some are called to travel great distances as some of the disciples were, but many more of us are called to stay home and tell our story to unbelievers in our home towns.  Either way it is very important to share what God has done for you in order to help strengthen the faith of other believers.  For my family God performed a mighty act of healing in my Mom with her cancer and I try to share that as much as I can to show the power of prayer.

So I encourage you to “return home and tell how much God has done for you”.

– Chris Mattison