Conflict Within the Church

speaking the truth I love-2

Jesus makes a distinction between conflict outside and within the Church. The bonds we have with people in the Church are different—we’re brothers and sisters. As brothers and sisters, we have an obligation to correct, discipline, and mentor each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Just like rubbing iron together creates friction, there is sometimes friction in our relationships, especially when sin tries to sneak its way between us. Sin and conflict, if not handled properly, can fracture the unity of the Church. Jesus’ passion was the Church, He went as far as dying on a cross for the sake of preserving the Church for all eternity. Sin is the enemy of Jesus’ preservation mission, so we must handle sin and conflict inside the Church carefully but also with great urgency. Fortunately for us, Jesus lays out a three-step plan to dealing with trouble in our churches.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

The first step when a problem arises in the Church is to go directly to the culprit in private—doing so with love, mercy, and understanding. Jesus says it’s our responsibility to resolve conflict whether we’re the ones causing it or not. As peacemakers, we get the privilege in joining Jesus in his mission of preserving the Church. If the culprit listens and repents, congrats, you’ve completed your mission in record timing. If your mission was unsuccessful, don’t give up just yet. The next step is to take along another trusted member or two of the Church to confront the culprit. There is power in numbers. If the culprit refuses to listen yet again, bring the issue to the Church itself. This is the Hail Mary attempt. Pull out every stop and go the extra 500 zillion miles, praying that God will multiply your efforts. Up until this point, Jesus’ objective has been mercy, but if this final step fails, justice takes over. This unrepentant culprit is now considered  a Gentile or tax collector, meaning he is no longer a part of the community of believers. Paul draws upon Jesus’ teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, saying, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” If this is the fate of your mission, find peace in the fact that you are not responsible for changing hearts. You can love people, but you don’t have the authority and power to save them.

Today, pray for your church. This amazing connection we have to each other as believers of the one true God is frail and fragile in this broken world. Where there is a crack, more sin and troubles are sure to find their way in, so we must confront each crack diligently, following the procedure Jesus lays out for us in Matthew 18. Yes, confrontation is uncomfortable, but so was being nailed on a cross. Jesus never said it would be easy; he said it would be worth it.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

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Resurrection, Transformation & VICTORY!

1 corinthians 15 52

Today’s section is over I Corinthians 15.50-57. In these seven verses there are two themes; transformation (50-53) and victory (54-57). Paul begins by stating that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and then the next phrase clarifies the previous. The perishable (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the imperishable (the kingdom of God). What this tells us is that we, in our current bodies and untransformed state cannot behold the nature to something such as the kingdom of God. In fact for us to be able to enter the kingdom, we need to undergo a transformation which happens at the resurrection and is only available “in Christ”. Paul says this in the next verse – that we will not all sleep (a euphemism for death in the Bible) but we will all be changed and then he specifies what change will occur in verse 52-53. He states that when the last trumpet sounds the dead will be raised “imperishable” and be changed. It it this act of being transformed that allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom of God. Verse 53 restates and says that this mortal must put on immortality. In other words, at the resurrection the believer will receive the gift of immortality and will be granted entrance into the kingdom of God.

There are two things I would like to point out. First, you may be wondering, why would I have to change or go through a transformation to be with God? Well I think the answer is a practical one. For example, say I wanted to explore the sun. I want to get really close to it to explore and study it. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to get very close to it because of the intense heat and radiation. It would kill me if I got too close. However, if I somehow was made of the same elements of the sun I would be able to approach it because I would be like the sun. In a similar fashion, God is holy, bright, and other wordly. There is nothing in our experience to compare him to, he is incomprehensible. For you or I to be in the direct presence of God, we would have to be like him in some way or else we would die from his glory and majesty. The transformation we need in order to be in God’s presence happens and takes place at the resurrection. Philippians 3.21 says that we will be transformed into the image of Jesus’ glorious body. And where has Jesus been? He has been enthroned at God’s right hand.

A second point is notice what Paul says in verse 53 “…this mortal must put on immortality”. To be mortal means the capability to die. Immortality means the incapability of dying. Yet what does popular culture and church tradition tell us? When we die our souls or spirits go to heaven or hell. However this is only possible if there is a part of us that lives on after death, in other words, to go to heaven or hell would require us to be immortal. But Paul says that this “mortal” (this body that doesn’t have immortality), will put on, or be granted immortality. In short, we are not immortal now but those “in Christ” will receive it at the resurrection. Here are three verses to further this point:

I Timothy 6.16 – “who (God) alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

II Timothy 1.10 – “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

I Corinthians 15.52-53 – “…and the dead will be raised…and this mortal must put on immortality.”

In short, only God possesses immortality, it is available through Jesus and the gospel, and those “in Christ’ will receive it at the resurrection. Will we let this challenge our thinking about the traditional view of what happens after death? The hope that God has placed before Christians is the hope for the return of Jesus and the resurrection, not going to heaven. Paul finishes that once the resurrection event happens that death will finally be defeated and swallowed up. And the power of sin and death will be no more and God, Jesus, and those “in Christ” will be victorious! God has given us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ

-Jacob Rohrer

Wise Words Regarding Sin & Discipline

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1b

Welcome back friends!

Today we’re talking about sin and discipline.  Very bright and happy topics I know!

To start off let’s take a look at verse 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”  I want to focus on the sin that so easily entangles.  We are told to throw off everything that hinders us because there is a great cloud of witnesses.  And if we remember from yesterday, we were just reminded that God has a perfect plan for us that will come someday, so this verse is reminding us to keep pushing and running the race until that day.  So why does the author specifically mention sin?  Wouldn’t that be included in the things that hinder us?

Now, obviously I am not the author of this book so truthfully, I don’t know exactly why it was written this way!  However, as I was reading it my eye was drawn specifically to the phrasing of “sin that so easily entangles us”.  I know for me personally at least, you almost forget that sin can creep into our lives SO easily!  People who grow up in the faith tend to recognize (and hopefully avoid) what we term as “big sins”, don’t we?  I’m talking things like sexual immorality, murder, drunkenness, etc… We are quick to recognize those and turn our nose up at them.  But what about things such as lying? Or jealousy, anger, greed, anxiousness and impure thoughts?  Sin is sin no matter what.  When we ignore the “smaller” sins, that’s when they easily entangle us!  The bigger issue is not that we are sinners, because everyone is and everyone has been offered the same grace.  The issue is when we fail to recognize our own sin and shake it off in order to keep running the race.

And now that we’ve covered sin… we get to move on to the discipline.  Yay?

Verse 6 reads “…Because the LORD disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  This is a common message that is still hard for me to grasp at times.  God disciplines, corrects, humbles, however you want to word it, BECAUSE He loves us.  He is working to create a righteous and peaceful life for us (vs. 11).  Verse 8 even says that if we do not undergo discipline, we are not true sons and daughters!

I am not a parent, but I do have the joy of watching a lot of un-biological nieces and nephews, as I refer to them.  I love my kiddos!  Just the other day one of the kids I was watching kept trying to stick his finger in an electrical outlet.  I continued to swat his hand away and tell him no.  Not so surprisingly, he started crying with his head thrown back and huge tears falling from his eyes.  Obviously, my intent was never to upset him, but I also didn’t care!  I wanted to make sure he was safe and understood how dangerous that could be.  I think God works in similar ways.  He knows that our sins in our life are going to lead us to pain and suffering.  When I was watching that little boy, I could not believe how frequently he went back to the same outlet despite my corrections, almost like he didn’t even notice I was steering him away from it!  I wonder what God is thinking when we keep trying to go back to the same thing He knows is going to hurt us not matter how often He corrects us.

God loves us.  He loves us as sinners and disciplines us in order to protect us from ourselves.  He will one day give to us a kingdom that will not be shaken and because of that, we should worship Him with reverence and awe (vs. 28).  In what areas of your life is God correcting you?  Do you even realize it yet?  Although the discipline may be painful now, rejoice in what it will create later!

-Sarah Blanchard

Kingdom Ticket – Paid

Will You Accept the Gift?

Hebrews 5_8,9

Hebrews Chapter Five

Hebrews chapter seven is known for being the chapter about Jesus being our high priest.  However, that theme is found in previous chapters, including chapter five.  Jesus being our high priest is one of the main themes of Hebrews.  God appointed Jesus to be our high priest.  Verse one shows us that the purpose of a high priest is “to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.”  Jesus being our high priest acts on our behalf in relation to God.  He is our mediator between us and God.  Jesus being our high priest also offers a sacrifice for our sins.  A normal high priest like Aaron needs to offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of others.  However, Jesus had no need to offer a sacrifice for himself because he was sinless.  Rather, he offered himself up to be our permanent sacrifice for sins.  That is a sign of a high priest who loves us dearly.

One would think that since Jesus was perfect that he would not suffer.  However, Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” (Heb 5:8).  Jesus truly did suffer when he was here on this earth.  Two examples that come to my mind are when Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died and when Jesus sweat tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified.  It’s through experiences like this that Jesus learned obedience.  It’s through experiences like this that we too can learn obedience.  It’s often through the most difficult times in life that people draw closer to God.  Job is a great example of this, as he lost nearly everything he had in one day.  However, he responded by worshipping and praising God.  He was brought closer to God and learned obedience through his suffering.

In verse nine, we see that “being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  Jesus truly was made perfect, and he was sinless.  He was the last person in the world who should have had to suffer on the cross.  However, because of his and our Heavenly Father’s great love, he did die and suffer on the cross.  Through his suffering on the cross, he became the source of eternal salvation!  Jesus paid our way to go to the Kingdom!  All we have to do is accept the free gift of God of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Unfortunately, not everyone is going to accept that free gift.  Verse nine states that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all WHO OBEY HIM.”  To accept the free gift of eternal life, we must obey Jesus.  We accept the gift through obedience and faith.  Similar to what we talked about yesterday, don’t belittle the consequences and meaning of sin because eternal salvation is granted to those who obey Jesus, not those who disobey.

Similar to the chapter break between chapters three and four, the chapter break between chapters five and six is an awkward break.  At the conclusion of chapter five, the author of Hebrews is talking about the difference between elementary and mature doctrines, and he continues the talk in chapter six.  The author compares the elementary and mature doctrines to milk and solid food.  A baby needs milk, and adults eat meat.  New Christians focus on the elementary doctrines, whereas the mature Christians should focus on the more mature doctrines.  Since it’s a weird chapter break, I also want to sneak peek to verse one as well.  Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”  Throughout the first six chapters of Hebrews we have seen some good proof to suggest that the Trinity may be false.  This is good proof as well.  Many people who claim they believe in the Trinity cannot even explain the Trinity themselves because it is so confusing and complex.  They have to use extra biblical illustrations to describe the Trinity.  The Trinity is anything but an elementary doctrine.  It is one of, if not the most, complicated doctrines out there.  However, the author of Hebrews states that the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be elementary.  Jesus being the Son of God does sound like an elementary doctrine to me, not the Trinity.  This is just some food for thought (pun intended).

I hope you have a great day!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

Hold Firmly

Hebrews Chapter Four

Hebrews 4_14

There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.”  Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation.  This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation.  Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin.  Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.”  The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience.  They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience.  In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed.  This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.

This should provide a wakeup call for us!  We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously.  We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it!  Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin.  God hates sin.  The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven.  We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.

The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter.  What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest?  Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:

  1. Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
  2. The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
  3. We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
  4. God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
  5. God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
  6. Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
  7. Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
  8. Strive to enter the rest (4:11)

Here’s what I get from all of this.  God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient.  The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom.  I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand.  There is still a chance to enter God’s rest.  However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God.  In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest.  If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest.  However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom.  Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen!  Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.

Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest.  We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus.  One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin.  He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations.  He is no stranger to struggle and suffering.  We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH.  Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity.  James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.”  If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another.  It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself.  Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time.  It doesn’t work that way.  It logically does not make sense.  Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.

To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts.  However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active.  We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today.  If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible.  The Bible has only flourished though.  It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word.  I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions.  You are truly doing a great deed.  Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.

-Kyle McClain

Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler

Love God First

1 John 2

1 John 2 15

I love cats, ice cream, and succulents. I love big, comfy sweatshirts and the smell of old books. I love a lot of things.

You’re probably thinking, “Ok, that’s nice I guess… But what do old books and weird plants have to do with anything?”

We all have things that we love. Maybe you love coffee, sports, or your phone. Fill in the blank! Loving those things is not a bad thing. In fact, many of those things can be extremely helpful in our day to day lives – until they become worldly distractions and priorities.

When repotting my succulent becomes higher on my priority list than homework, there’s a problem. When I am engulfed in a book and lose sleep to read “one more chapter,” there’s a problem. When I eat massive amounts of ice cream every day, there’s a problem.

God should be the priority – not your facebook status, not repotting your succulent, not watching a football game. Those things are nice, and it’s great that you like them, but we find that when they are higher on our list of priorities than God, there is a MAJOR issue.

I mean, God can give us immortality. He, through Jesus, forgave us despite all of our imperfections, shortcomings, and sins. He loves us, and we, as Christians, love Him. But then we go and kill two days of our life on the couch binge watching a season on Netflix instead of using that time to pray, read the Bible, or glorify Him in general.

Catch my drift?

We need to strive to make God a priority in our lives and to love Him first. Because our stuff will break, get old, wear out, be replaced – but God will never break, get old, wear out, or be replaced. When we put God as our number one priority, everything else falls into place. So love Him first.

– Madison Cisler

1 John 2 17