Be An Overcomer

Revelation 1 3

The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy (5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets).  It is here that God’s messengers gave many warnings of what troubles and destruction would come to those who didn’t repent and live a life pleasing to God.  Many (though not all) of the prophecies recorded in these books have already taken place: destruction of ancient Israel and Judah, restoration for a remnant and the coming of the Messiah.

Similarly, the New Testament ends with one book of New Testament prophecy –  the book of Revelation.  And in it we read many warnings to those who don’t repent, accept Jesus and live a life pleasing to God.  Most of the prophecies recorded in this book have yet to come: destruction of the ungodly, the 2nd Coming of the Messiah, and restoration for the godly in the Coming Kingdom.

God sends this series of revelations to John (by way of Jesus and an angel).  He writes of what must soon take place and says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3).

In chapters 2 & 3 the seven churches in Asia are individually commended for what they were doing right (hard work, perseverance, not tolerating wicked men, etc…).  And, they were then challenged to work on other issues which required repentance and renewed commitment to truth and purity (not allowing false teachers and immorality, etc…).  These words are very applicable to us today.  We would be wise to consider what we as a church are doing well, as well as what we need to repent of and change.  Each church is challenged to listen well to what the Spirit has to say to the church, and promised that overcomers would be rewarded.

Then the vision turns to the throne room of God where a lamb, looking “as it had been slain” (5:6) breaks 7 seals from a scroll unleashing war, famine, and other disasters on the earth.  A dragon and two beasts, allied against God, arise to demand the worship of earth’s people who have not been killed in the earlier catastrophes.  Seven bowls of the wrath of God (reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt) bring disasters such as darkness, the most severe earthquake ever and huge hailstones.  The upheaval destroys Babylon the Great.  Next, the heavens open and the Savior, Messiah, King Jesus, also called the Word of God, appears on a white horse ready to lead heaven’s armies in destroying evil.  For 1000 years Christ reigns on earth while Satan, “that old serpent” (20:2) is bound and kept from deceiving more.  At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released briefly to instigate a worldwide war, but never fear – it says as they surround the camp of God’s people fire from heaven will devour the enemy and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.  God unveils a new heaven and a new earth.  The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and God will dwell with men.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21:4).  There are so many more beautiful descriptions of the coming Kingdom on earth found in the last 2 chapters of Revelation.  It is truly something you don’t want to miss.  But, we know that many will, because of the decisions they are making today.

Just as Moses laid out for the people blessings and curses depending on what the people did, so too, John’s Revelation includes good news and bad news.  What will you do today to prepare for a Coming Kingdom?

Be an Overcomer

Marcia Railton

 

 

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Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

luke 22_46

Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

God’s Greatest Gift: The Relatable Messiah

Luke 4

Luke 4 Picture

 

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human… 1 Timothy 2:5

 

This week we have gotten a taste of God’s amazing grace in our lives. This can be best seen through his only begotten son, the Christ Jesus. Luke chapter 4 begins with Jesus being tempted by Satan while led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days (Luke 4:1). In Luke 4:13, it is made clear that Jesus does not succumb to these temptations. He then travels back to Galilee and begins his ministry.

 

In Luke chapter 1, we discussed how God could have chosen anyone to give birth to Jesus, yet he chose Mary. In a similar idea, God could have created anything to be our king, yet he chose a human. Isn’t that mind-boggling? God gave us a savior that we could actually relate to.

 

All of us have been tempted, and we know how consuming it is. There is so much power to me in being able to read Luke chapter 4 and know that our Messiah knows what it feels like to be tempted. It empowers me to never give up and to keep pushing forward. Jesus is able to be a powerful example and driving force for us because he is one of us!

 

So, as you read today, do not be afraid. Do not feel alone. God gave us a mediator that gives us access to his throne room that has felt the same feelings that you do! Wow, what a mighty God we serve. We are so blessed.

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

 

A New Week – A New Chance to be Courageous

Sunday, October 8

 

Joshua 1-9

Numbers 13-14

Greetings!  This week we are going to be looking at the life of Joshua and the often-repeated refrain in his life – BE STRONG & COURAGEOUS!  Just as strength and courage was needed in the days of Joshua as he led the Israelites into the Promised (but Occupied) Land; so too,  Christians today are living in a land occupied by evil and Godlessness and a large dose of strength and courage is needed to effectively stand against Satan’s schemes.

Our memory verse this week comes from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  It is easy to become terrified or discouraged when we see evil and lawlessness alive and well.  But the world doesn’t need any more terrified or discouraged Christians whose God is too small.  It is our opportunity – just as it was Joshua’s – to step out in courage to show our world a great big God who can do more than we could ever hope or imagine.

Before jumping into the book that bears Joshua’s name – we need to begin this week in Numbers 13 & 14.  Here we find the Israelites who had recently been miraculously delivered from Egypt on the front steps of the Promised Land.  Go ahead and read these quick chapters.  They provide such a great parallel of terrified and discouraged versus strong and courageous.

In Numbers 13 (as in life today, perhaps), the large majority is definitely panicked and defeated.  They have seen a scary reality and they quickly forget what God has already done for them.  Rather than concentrating on their great big God and the blessings he has in store for them just over the next hill; they crumble.  They “spread … a bad report about the land” (Numbers 13:32), they weep and grumble (Numbers 14:1&2), they blame others and they blame God (14:2-4) and they are even on the verge of great violence towards God’s faithful people (14:10).  They allow fear, discouragement, self-pity and negativity to overflow and it quickly becomes evident that their view of God was much too small.

Meanwhile, the faithful two – Joshua and Caleb – who had seen the same scary looking giants and large fortified cities – ALSO saw the land flowing with milk and honey and a great big God who could deliver His people.  They plead with their terrified and discouraged countrymen: “If the Lord is PLEASED with us, he WILL lead us into that land …Only do NOT rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land.” (Numbers 14:8,9).  If only the people would have listened.  They could have saved themselves from 40 years of wandering and early death.  They could have reaped the blessing instead of the punishment but they allowed their fears to reign.

Where are you right now?  What is your view of God?  Are you remembering all the good things He has already done for you or are you actively blaming Him instead?  Are you too busy spreading a bad report and grumbling to pursue a courageous act of following God?  Are you allowing a scary reality to shrink your view of God?  How can you spend time today magnifying your view of God to remember His greatness and the power He makes available to those courageous enough to put their full trust in Him.  Pray for eyes and a heart like Joshua and Caleb’s that will see not only the giants and fortified cities ahead, but also the exciting direction that God would have us go – the plan that requires that we be Strong and Courageous with a great big view of God.

-Marcia Railton

Say Yes

Revelation 20-22Revelation_22-12

Saturday, July 22

The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face.  The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God.  They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame.  The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.

Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15.  One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil.  In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).

The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore  and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God.  In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.

Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized.  The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end.   Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ.  Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done.  Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem.  Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death.  (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation).  Death has to be destroyed.  Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon.  God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it.  Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.

For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction.  Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life.  The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3.  God will again make his presence here upon the earth.  The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth.  This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger.  The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.

For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope.  Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity.  Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life.  The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition.  Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed.  But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth.  We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed.  Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.

If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings.  Say yes to God, you can do it right now.  And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism.  And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.

-Jeff Fletcher

(https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-22-12_Inspirational_Image/)

 

Let’s Talk About Temptation

1 Corinthians 10-13

verse-of-the-day (1)

Tuesday, June 20

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Let’s talk about temptation. Everyone is tempted, and everyone has succumbed to temptation at some point in their life, and probably numerous times. I will be the first to admit that fact in my own life. The first thing Paul does is acknowledge the universality of temptation—temptation is ubiquitous. Temptation is a common experience for all humankind. Some people might think that they are experiencing a unique type or degree of temptation, but Paul overwrites that attitude by confirming that no one is alone in experiencing any form of temptation, for every possible sort of temptation has been shared by other individuals.

 

We all struggle with temptation, that is the common thread that unites the human race. But unlike individuals who do not trust in God, the experience of temptation for believers can be different. Those who believe in God are not in a position of helplessness.

 

Some people have told me about their experience facing temptation, “I couldn’t help it. It was too appealing. I got tired of resisting. I just couldn’t stop myself.” The idea that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent sin is calling God a LIAR.

 

Paul says, “God is faithful!” What is God faithful for? He is faithful to: 1) limit the power of the temptation in your life, and 2) provide strength to endure or a possibility to remove the temptation. These are two promises of God when it comes to facing temptation. Either they are true or God is a liar. The problem many people face is that they doubt God is able to actually help them overcome temptation. They feel like it is all a matter of the will to resist temptation, and when their will weakens (as everyone’s does at some point), they feel like they just couldn’t continue to stand against the temptation and decide to just give in.

 

Satan is constantly battling for our mind and to entice our flesh. Elsewhere, Paul describes this battle in terms of “the schemes of the devil” and the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16). To combat these threats, Paul encourages believers to equip themselves with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17) in order to stand firm against the devil and his tactics and influence. While Paul describes a set of defensive armaments to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil in Ephesians 6, his point in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that of trust and reliance upon God to keep one’s foot from slipping and falling into sin.

 

It takes a resolved heart and mind to build the confidence that God will come through and be there in your time of need. Furthermore, there are two practices that can be of great help in overcoming temptation: 1) knowing Scripture (like verse 13) can turn the tables in the struggle against temptation, and 2) prayer.

 

If you are able to bring to mind what God has revealed about a particular temptation, it has the power to release the grip of the temptation to the point that you can endure it or eliminate the cause of the temptation altogether. That is the reason Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It has the ability to defeat thoughts, attitudes, and desire that contend against the knowledge and will of God and to free a person from feeling like there is no other way out.

 

Secondly, prayer is always helpful and necessary when facing temptation. Temptations can come from our own desires or as a spiritual attack from the devil. Whichever it is, we can go to God in prayer asking for strength and wisdom to allow his will to prevail and to help us bring our body into subjection to what is godly and be led by the spirit away from the temptation. James writes in his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5).

 

If you struggle with a certain temptation, ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you. And remember that we all have temptations, and nothing is new that we might encounter. God has seen it all before, and he has helped people through it all before. He promises to help you too, if you will but trust him and look to him for deliverance from it.

 

God is faithful, but do we have the courage to let him prove it?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/niv/1%20Corinthians%2010.13)

Hold ON!

Job 1-4

roller-coaster

Wednesday, December 14

The book of Job is an emotional rollercoaster. Rider/reader beware when you begin to venture this wild, scary, often windingly frustrating thrill ride. Pretty much everyone in the Book of Job dies except the main characters. But this story is about more than just mass destruction. Don’t get me wrong, the mourning rituals recorded after Job’s entire family dies are fascinating, but the physical destruction in the story leads to quite a collection of major philosophical ponderings that truly stick with the reader. Heavy, confusing stuff. You were warned.

 

The prologue places us in the land of Uz, not Oz, which is located far away from Israel. The unnamed author reveals no clear historical settings, and it seems as if all of the characters, except one, Elihu, are of any Hebrew origin whatsoever. The reoccurring themes throughout seemingly volley back and forth from the idea of suffering to justice. And by the way, don’t hold your breath, those questions will never get answered. Job will be pondering, reflecting, and VERBALIZING about how fragile and meaningless human life is in repeated fashion throughout.

 

The saga opens with the author declaring how awesome Job is, “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”(Job 1:3)  Wow. That is quite an endorsement. From this point we are ushered into the throne room of heaven in a very odd scene of sorts. The action resembles a court scene of sorts. God, the angels, and Satan are all present arguing the integrity and faith of Job. God gives Satan permission to test Job and the story gets very dark, real quick.

 

Pain is a central part of the human experience and there is no way around it. The book of Job covers all its pain bases: rashes, boils, and blisters, oh my! Not only does he experience physical pain but also emotional pain. Round that out with a heavy dose of spiritual pain and you can begin to see why Job finds himself at breaking points time and time again asking God why.

 

By chapter 3 & 4 we are introduced to Job’s “friends.” The reader will quickly discover that with friends like these you wouldn’t really have need of enemies.  The three bullies seemingly gang up on Job doing their best to convince him non-stop that he has sinned in some manner and God is simply punishing him for it. While Job is certainly down for the count, his consistent banter back and forth with the trio is mind boggling. Give it a rest Job? Just shut up and let them move on!

 

Remember how Job renounced God and became an atheist when his entire family died? No? Oh yeah, that’s because that’s not how it goes down. Nor will it ever be. Job makes it through Round 1 pretty successfully, but we find him getting more and more feisty when he finds himself with a rash and infuriating, obnoxious friends. And neither should we. Spoiler alert: God does not owe us explanations, and the sooner we come to terms with that timeless truth the happier we will all be. Tune in tomorrow as we observe the further unraveling of our besieged hero. I promise it will be worth the ride!

-Julie Driskill