No Scamming Here

Romans 8-10

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Thursday, June 15

There are so many powerful verses in the three chapters for today but the section that really stuck out to me was this:

 

Romans 10:8-13

 

8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,

 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”

 

 

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It doesn’t matter who you are, how you look, what race you are, or how much money you have…we can all be saved!  You believe with your heart, which results in righteous or “right” living, which means you are obedient.  Then, with your mouth, you confess, you speak out loud that Jesus is your Lord.  Calling Jesus your Lord means that you obey him.  He has authority over you and your life is not your own, it is his.  Doing these things, results in salvation!

 

Bonus!!! Our God is abounding in riches for all who call on Him.  It almost seems too good!  Usually when something seems too good to be true, it isn’t true.  It is a scam.  Like when someone calls my phone from a faraway place and tells me I entered a contest and won…and they just need some vital information to process my winnings!  Thousands of dollars could be mine if I will give them my name, social security number, and birthdate.  Humph!  I don’t think so!

 

Scammers market things to you that appear like they will improve your life in some way but truly it is to rob you.  With God, the truth is that He wants you!!  Not only does He want you but He wants to give you the things that money can’t buy like peace, joy, love, and purpose.  Don’t be scammed by the world.  Too many times we have seen people in our small group get the job they have always wanted, promotion, or a boy/girlfriend, only for it to take them away from church and the family of God.  The most precious thing we have is our faith and our hope.  Make a solid confession and live righteously. If you have slipped in some area and are not giving your whole life to your master Jesus Christ, recommit yourself to him and surround yourself with strong believers.

 

God wants you more than anything and those verses above contain the necessary information for you to be with Him forever!

 

1 Timothy 2:4

“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

-Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://insta.bible/romans-109-niv/)

 

How Do You Crown Your King?

John 18-19

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Friday, June 2

(This is a longer post. Please give yourself ample time to read it and pray over the questions at the end.)
Interesting trivia: the Greek Orthodox Church fasts every Wednesday and Friday. Every single one. Why? There are reasons to believe the Jews began this practice of fasting and that they carried it on. Beyond that, they also add a religious and theological reason: on Wednesday Christ was betrayed and on Friday Christ was killed. Every single week they remind themselves that they are in some way responsible for the Son of God hanging on the Cross.
These are the chapters we read this week in John 18-19. They tell the story of Jesus’ betrayal, torture, crucifixion and death through the eyes of John. What can we learn from this?
First, Jesus said, “Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) Jesus accepted that this was the way that God had given him, and did not want to resist this way with violence. We can be so much like Peter, who cut off the ear of Malchus. We can be so  quick to violence. But Jesus, even with these men sent to kill him, his worst enemies on earth, was about peace, love and healing. Luke 22:51 expounds the story by finishing up the scene. “But Jesus responded, “No more of this!” And touching his ear, He healed him.”
That’s because Jesus is not focused on the injustice of what is being done to him. He is not looking for his personal justice. Jesus is, instead, focusing on his God-given destiny and duty. When being questioned by Pilate, he says “You say that I’m a king.” Jesus goes on to say,  “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”(John 18:37) Jesus is focused, in the middle of supreme injustice and false imprisonment, on why he was born, the reason for his existing. And what is that purpose? Not to disparage any evangelical preacher, but Jesus did not merely come to do three days’ work. Instead, he came to “testify to the truth.” The truth is humans need to be saved from their sins, he is that salvation, he is the only way to salvation, eternal life and the spirit will be given to those who seek this truth.
In the midst of this, we also see a picture of the world. Now, I’m of a specific bent that says God does not control every facet of the universe. God does not predetermine or force my hand and only make me act as he wants me or wills me to act. However, this does not mean that the world is completely and utterly out of control. In a way that is completely unknown to me, a way that I daresay we should call a mystery, God controls certain events, outcomes, or situations. Here, Jesus seems to take comfort in the fact that his own torture and death is not outside of the plan of God. God knew, “If my Son goes among the Jews and tells them the truth, they will crucify him. I will give humanity the authority to do so.” God isn’t wringing his hands in heaven saying, “I wish I could do something, but I’m not strong enough!” Nor is God a puppet master with all the strings making his marionettes dance. He is working out his will inside the real, free, true choices of humanity.
Interestingly, Pilate may have gotten it. Pilate, according to all the history books was a brutal and bloodthirsty man ready to squash any rebellion with the slightest whiff. But I think he understood who he was talking to in Jesus and what the Jews were asking of him. He seems to have answered his own question “What is truth?” And he answers it with the inscription above Jesus’ head “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews” written in every common language. The truth is that in this suffering, we see the ultimate juxtaposition. A savior killed like a slave, a righteous man made wretched, a King on a cross. THAT’S the symbol we gravitate toward. That’s the symbol that defines Christianity. It is a cross that shows the greatest moment of humanity, depravity and sin, and the greatest moment of the God-granted mercy, compassion and love.
Then, Jesus dies. There’s no fanfare in the book of John. It is interesting that what happens in the other gospels, the earthquake and the darkness and the resurrection of righteous ones, are summarily overlooked or forgotten. They pale in comparison to the fact that the King of the Jews, the bread of life, the water of life, the SON OF GOD is hanging dead on a cross. This man, who only loved, who only wanted the best. Who demanded that the pharisees live the same life they demanded of everyone else. Who said “turn the other cheek” and “do not judge unless you are ready to be judged”. Who said “blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor, blessed are the persecuted.” This man who lived a life of perfect relationship and obedience to God, is hanging limp on a cross, covered in blood and bodily fluids. His arms and legs are no longer straining against the nails because he feels the pain no longer. His body bears the marks of scourging. His face is beaten beyond recognition, and above the bruises and laceration that disfigure the face of the Messiah, sits a crown of thorns, a gift from humanity to inaugurate our King.
There are many questions to ask of ourselves after this.
Do you treat your enemies with love and respect?
In times of trouble do you rest secure in the knowledge that you have a larger purpose than simply existing for today?
Do you even know what the larger purpose of your life is? Do you know specifically what the goal of your life is?
Do you rest secure in the knowledge that God is ultimately in control, whatever that might mean?
But above all of this is: what does it mean, FOR YOU, that the Son of God died on a cross? What does it mean for you that Jesus was tortured unjustly by a religious institution that couldn’t handle the fact that they were, in fact, broken and messed up and needed some saving? What does it mean for you that you were just as much responsible for the death of Jesus as Pilate and Caiaphas?
What will you do? We’ve place the crown of thorns of his head.
Will we cast our crown before him and acknowledge that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
Will you commit to making him YOUR Lord, the Lord of every part of your life?
In Christ,
Jake Ballard

Included:Luke 2-3

 

 

May 14, 2017

The feeling of exclusion is one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. It’s the classic “I get picked last at recess” feeling. It is also the feeling we get when we find out someone that we normally do stuff with is doing something without us, and they post it on social media. Feeling excluded can often trigger us to feel unwanted or worthless, but I am here to tell you that is not the case.

May I turn your attention to Luke 2:30-32 and Luke 3:6-9? These verses talk about the salvation of God. One interesting fact about the salvation of God is what is said in verse 32 “A light of revelation to the Gentiles,”. This phrase is talking about how Jesus will reach out in his ministry and include the Gentile people in salvation. This concept is hinted upon in verse 10 as well when the angel that scared the shepherds says, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people”. The word “all” in verse ten and the phrase, “Presence of all peoples” leads me to believe that everyone will be included, not just the “people of God” at that time who were the Jews. Also, this idea is found in Luke 3:6 when it says “all flesh” which includes the Gentile, or non-jew, in salvation.

How can this be, that all people, can now be included in salvation? Well, I think that John the Baptist explains this very well in the next chapter. In Luke 3:7 John starts to rebuke those who are coming to be baptized only for the sake of looking good in front of others and not actually because they care about being saved. He continues and spurs them to change by telling them to bear fruit “worthy of repentance”. Not claiming that they are a part of the Jewish faith, that no longer matters because everyone is included now as long as they bear fruit. He also tells them the consequence of not bearing fruit, which is being chopped down and throw into the fire.

How can we accept the offer and become included in the salvation that Jesus brings? We change our lives and actions to reflect that of Jesus’. Since Jesus was the Light to the Gentiles, it no longer matters if you were a Jew by heritage to be a part of the people of God. Sometimes I feel that we think the same way the Jews did, “Well, I have the title of Christian so that must make me one, right?” According to John the Baptist in these verses, it does not. But those who bear good fruit, of the spirit of God, will not be thrown into the fire and will have salvation. So the next time you’re feeling excluded remember that Jesus wants you to be included in the people of God.

-Jesse Allen

All-Star Team

Matthew 10-12

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Sunday, April 30

Suppose you were given the task of building a team that was responsible for learning some teachings and convincing everyone else in the world that those teachings were true.  What kind of people would you pick for this team?  I would go with an all-star team of doctors, lawyers, scholars, politicians, successful business people, and someone famous.  Jesus had this same task, but he built an all-star team of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, probably some tradesmen, and more fishermen.  These were the occupations of the twelve disciples.  Think about how unremarkable this group was, and yet they were chosen to carry out probably the most important job in the history of mankind, to spread the gospel to the whole world.  They were ordinary people on an extraordinary mission.

And guess what…the mission is not over, especially considering there are about seven billion people alive today that were not living a couple thousand years ago.  I’m pretty sure all of the disciples died so they are not able to help with the work anymore.  God needs a team now to carry on the mission and I suspect he is still counting on ordinary people to join the team.  Yes, I am talking about you.  God wants you to help preach the gospel to all of the nations.

But what is the message?  In Matthew 10:12, Jesus said he wanted them to go out and preach about the kingdom.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew about the coming kingdom.  Is everyone going to accept the message?  Absolutely not.  Jesus said if they don’t accept the message, shake off the dust of your feet and move on to the next place.  It might seem odd that Jesus was sending them to places where they would be rejected, but he still thought it was important that everyone should hear the message so they can make the choice themselves.  If someone doesn’t hear about the kingdom, they don’t have a chance to accept the kingdom message.

Is it going to be easy?  Nope.  Jesus said we are like sheep in the midst of wolves.  He told us that it won’t be easy, and in fact, it could be dangerous.  Moreover, if you choose to be on this team, the message is not always viewed favorably and your own family may hate you for it, even to the point of your own family having you killed.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:11 that no one was ever greater than John the Baptist, yet his life ended when they chopped off his head.  However, Jesus tells us the good news in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.”

In Matthew 12:19, it talks about Jesus’ approach.  He won’t quarrel or cry out, and nobody in the streets will hear his voice.  I believe this is our model of how to spread the gospel message.  We are not looking for a fight.  We don’t have to get angry with people because they disagree with us.  We do not have to stand on street corners and scream at people that they are going to hell if they don’t repent.  We just need to speak the truth in love.  Explain to people what is going to happen in the future, especially what happens to them after they die.  Tell them about the kingdom and how to attain salvation.  If they are not interested in what you are saying, move on.  There is no need for a heated debate and there is no need to keep pestering them.  Just shake off the dust and move on.  You can feel good that you gave them a chance for eternal life.  The only time you should feel bad is when you had the opportunity to talk to someone and kept silent.  What if they would have embraced the gospel message, but nobody ever gave them that chance?  That would be a tragedy to let someone die eternally without ever trying to save them.

Fortunately, it is not our responsibility to make sure others attain salvation.  It is only our responsibility to make sure they hear the gospel message.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself for results.  It is only your job to make sure that people have a choice and they don’t have a choice unless someone tells them about the choice.  Matthew 12:50 says that whoever does the will of Jesus’ Father is a brother, sister, or mother of Jesus.  That is a family I hope you want to be a part of.

-Rick McClain

Bio:  Happily married, 4 kids, and 0 pets.  Enjoy sports, vacations, and romantic comedies.  Blood type is A positive.  Life Goal:  Get as many people in the kingdom as possible.

 

 

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

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Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)

The Key to the Treasure!

Isaiah 32-34

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Tuesday, February 14

Today we are pirates. Isaiah gave us a treasure map! What’s the treasure you ask? Well, look no further than Isaiah 33:5-6. Locked up somewhere is a sure foundation for our times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. Huh? No cash? If none other than the creator of the heavens and the earth holds the key to this treasure, then I think it’s safe to assume that these things are better than anything that you could find in a pirates treasure chest. The most valuable things you can ever obtain in this life are listed right here: a sure foundation, wisdom, knowledge and salvation. Thankfully we know exactly how to get the key to those treasures. Fear the Lord. After all the things we’ve read in Isaiah, it’s easy to see the power that God holds. But don’t just fear God with your mouth, fear him in your heart. Then, you will get the key to these treasures.

-Nathaniel Johnson

(photo credit: http://wiirocku.tumblr.com/post/139549150857/isaiah-335-6-niv-the-lord-is-exalted-for-he)

He Knows

Psalm 139 – 144

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Thursday, January 19

After 11 years of marriage, I feel like I know my wife pretty well.  I don’t just know her favorite movie, but I know when she will laugh in a couple dozen different films.  I don’t just know her favorite food, but I could sit down at a new restaurant with her, look at the menu, and tell you what she is going to order.  I don’t just know what annoys her, I could execute the annoyance with such precision that she would be sent into a full-blown rage within seconds.  I may know her better than she knows herself.  I do not only see her actions, but I know her potential.  I do not only know her answer, but understand her logic (well, most of the time).  When you love something or better yet, someone, deeply you take in as much knowledge as you can, so you can protect, please, and preserve it.

 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:13-14

 

However, my love pales in comparison to God’s love for her.  God has been with her since he was knitting her together with the yarn of amino acids in her mother’s womb.   When no one else saw her because she was a few multiplying cells, God already knew her name.  Before she had a form, God knew who she would be called to be, He had taken account of her life, and placed it in His plan.  His love does not end here.

 

He’s a loving God, wanting to know more about his creation,

who left His word for her, so He can have a conversation;

He sacrificed His Son for her, so she could have salvation.

When her actions don’t match her potential he perceives it,

And when she repents from her heart he will always believe it;

When she confesses her pain, He will hear and will grieve it.

He truly knows the things that are desires of her heart;

He hears her prayers and then His blessings impart;

Thoughts so high, love so deep, may it never depart.

 

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.” – Psalm 139:17-18

While we may have a friend, a parent, a child, a spouse, that loves us deeply, God’s loves goes deeper; it is timeless, unconditional, and infinitely-supplied (Rom 8:38-39).  This comes from Him perfectly forming us and His continued desire to know us.  EVERY child of God has been made through great care and knowledge, but also promised a specific and great love.  You are a priceless possession of a Great God and Loving Father.

-Aaron Winner

(photo credit: http://www.psalmsquotes.com/psalm-139-14.htm)