No Scamming Here

Romans 8-10

quote-100bible-Romans-10-09-300x300

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/)

 

A Chosen Instrument

Acts 9-12

acts 9

Thursday, June 8

Saul fought Christ in every way possible throughout his life up until this point.  He was the most unlikely Jesus follower.  He loved God and served God and thought he was doing His will.  But he thought that Jesus had been a false teacher and liar and that everyone who followed and spread Jesus’ teachings needed to be stopped.  There are people today who think they are doing God’s will but instead are ignorant of the truth, possibly because, like Saul, they don’t understand who Jesus is.

 

And then came the light!  Following the spectacular flash of light and the great voice of Jesus, Saul was led to Damascus where he was blind and did not eat or drink for three days.   I imagine this was a time of tremendous wrestling and questioning and perhaps doubting everything that he thought he had known about his whole life’s work and about Jesus.

 

Enter Ananias.  In a vision, Ananias, a follower of Jesus, is given specific directions to find Saul and place his hands on him to heal him.  Ananias answers, telling the Lord what a bad guy Saul is and how dangerous this could be.  Has the Lord ever tried to send you in one direction and instead you had your list of reasons why it didn’t make sense?  God’s work and His will doesn’t always make sense to us, and it doesn’t ‘have’ to make sense.  Our list of excuses and reasoning is worth nothing in comparison to God’s plan and desire for us.  So the patient Lord once again told Ananias, “This man (Saul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”  (Acts 9:15).  How might you also be the Lord’s chosen instrument?  To whom has he prepared and designed you to carry His name?  Perhaps not to kings, but maybe to your neighbor and facebook friends and co-workers?

 

So, with no more excuses left, Ananias went to Saul and placed his hands on him to give him sight.  Ananias told Saul he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  With the Lord’s powerful light, three days spent questioning what he had thought he had known, and Ananias’ faithful intervention, Saul realized the mistake he had made in his life and he was healed and baptized.  Just like Saul, anyone can change their life and follow Jesus.  God can set anyone straight.  Keep praying for those fighting against Christ and consider how He wants you to carry His name to others?

-Jason Railton

How Do You Crown Your King?

John 18-19

PastedGraphic-1

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

The “Paraclete”

John 16-17

john 16

Thursday, June 1

Here is a helpful bit of information about the Bible: It was not written in English. (Of course, we all know English is God’s language. (*wink*) No, what we have in the Bible are three different languages used in varying degrees. The Bible is written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek. When the Bible speaks about an issue, a person, a place, a time, an event, or anything else, it speaks in a language that is not our own to a culture not our own to a time and place not our own. This is not a reason to be afraid, because men and women for centuries have been working to preserve the meaning of the text and also to interpret it fresh for a new day. It just means when we talk about words in Scripture, it can be very helpful to go back and see what that would mean in its original context. (Just like you need to translate Shakespeare, and he WAS writing in English!)
Therefore, when we read in John 14-16 about a “counselor” we need to see what is being said in the original language to help us flesh out what Jesus is talking about. Who or what is the counselor? The counselor in Greek is “παράκλητος” which is transliterated (four dollar word) as “paracletos” or “paraclete” (think a ”pair-of-cleet”s would be really “helpful”). This word literally means “someone who calls out from beside,” but as it was used as a metaphor, it means someone who advocates, pleads, counsels, or helps. In the world around Scripture, it would be used of someone who pleads another’s case before a judge; more widely, it is someone who acts as an intercessor, a go-between; in the widest sense, it means a helper. It’s a good word, and what is defined as the Paraclete is something that we would want! Who doesn’t need some help?
But then, what is the Paraclete? In John 14:16-17, the Paraclete is the spirit of Truth, and in verse 26, the Paraclete is equated to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will teach us all things (14:26) and that the Paraclete will testify about the Son. Here in chapter 16, we learn from Jesus that it is GOOD for us that Jesus left, because we are now given the Paraclete in us and among us, and the Spirit will guide us into all truth.
The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of all truth. It’s a little hard to get our heads around. But this is the heartbeat of the Christian life. That’s a pretty bold claim, but it is the claim Jesus makes. In these chapters, we are given a picture. Jesus is going away to the Father, and he will send the Spirit of the Father to believers. Then, Jesus and the Father himself will come and dwell with the Christian. The life of the Christian is a Father-, Son-, Spirit-filled life. This is an important part of the Christian life; Acts is full of people who are guided, led, and drenched in the spirit. May the spirit of truth, the helper, the counselor, the Paraclete be with you and lead you into all truth.
In Christ,
Jake Ballard
(Photo Credit: https://nharmony.org/sermons/we-have-a-helper/john-161-15)

The Importance of “the”

John 14-15

the

Wednesday, May 31

We live in a world where diversity, multiculturalism and relativism rule the day. In some respects this is not bad. Having a variety of opinions in the “market place of ideas” means that the best are used, recycled, reused, adapted, interpreted, and used again. In short, the best ideas, the best inventions, the best of the best succeed. Diversity should be a part of our society we embrace; indeed the Kingdom is made up of people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9) God delights in the diversity of tribes, where people look and think and act differently from one another. He glories in the diverse languages we use to bless Him and our fellow humans. He loves all peoples, all nations. We praise God for the diversity of humanity we see in creation. But is this true in every situation? Is diversity always acceptable? Because of some of the claims of Jesus, I am inclined to say that no, not all types of diversity are acceptable. What could I possibly be talking about? If you haven’t read John 14:1-6 yet, please do. As you read it, what strikes you about this teaching of Jesus?
Notice that there are a few words Jesus repeats a couple times. Jesus has said a few times that he is going away and his disciples know the way he is going. But Thomas, the doubter a few chapters later, asks a REALLY good question “How can we know the way if you’ve been speaking in riddles?!”(14:5) Jesus up until this point, it seems has been withholding what would happen to him other than expressing it as being “glorified” or literally, “lifted up” (John 3:14, 7:39, 11:4, 12:23-34, and on). But Jesus is talking about his death. He is going away to the Father, to glory, by way of death. Jesus is say “You know the way to the Father, to eternal life.” Thomas, expressing his wonder, exclaims how can we get to the Father, how can we have eternal life?
And then Jesus says that “Well, all paths lead to life. As long as you sincerely believe whatever you believe and you don’t harm or judge anyone else, you’ll get eternal life.” Right?! That’s what we would expect if all the diversity and relativism in our society was correct. But Jesus says some stuff that really ruffles some feathers if we understand it. If you actually read the verses, or if you have memorized this verse (good on you if you have!) John 14:6 reads “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus used something grammarians (people who study grammar and language, like dorks like me) like to call “the definite article.” Normal people call it the word “the”. Each word in this list of three gets a definite article: the way, the truth, the life. I want you to get the importance of what this means. Jesus is not saying that his life is just “a life.” The life he has been promising, this eternal life, is the only life. There is only one life, and he is THE life. No others, no others compare. Jesus and his teachings are not “a truth” in a market place of truths, where you can pick which ones work for you and which ones don’t. Jesus claims he is THE truth. Buddha, the Gurus, Muhammad and other religious leaders or movements are not competing with Jesus in the matters of truth. Jesus is TRUTH, and the source of all truth. As far as they align with Jesus they are correct and when they differ with Jesus, they are in error. Jesus is the standard for truth, no one and nothing else. Jesus is not claiming to be “a way” to God. The analogy that Jesus is “one path up the mountain to God” could not be farther from the words of Jesus himself. Jesus said that he is the ONLY way to his Father, who is the only true God. (John 17:3) When you walk on the path of Islam, the path of secular humanism, the path of Buddhism, your path does not lead to the Father, according to Jesus.
And that is the shocking thing about this. I am not making these claims on behalf of Jesus. I don’t have to try and defend these claims on my own authority or reason or anything. Jesus himself made these claims, and the most shocking claim that anyone who comes to the Father comes only through him. Anyone who will be saved in the final days do not do it because they are really great Muslims, devoted Buddhists or EVEN great Christians. The only reason anyone will ever be given eternal life, the only reason anyone will live in the Kingdom, the only reason is Jesus Christ himself. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Belief in Christ, trust in him, love in him is the only way to life.
If this offends your modern sensibilities, trust me, it offended me, too! Jesus is claiming that he is better than all other religions and leaders and rulers and law-givers! How? But remember, we are not talking about one more leader or ruler or religious man or law giver. John testifies that Jesus is the Word, the Logos of God, made flesh among us. All the wisdom, power, planning, and thoughts of God take on flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfect representation of the very nature of God, he is the image of God in skin and bones walking around. Instead of taking offense at Jesus and his hard teachings, as so many do, this teaching should cause us to fall down and worship and be grateful that God showed us any way to eternal life, and that Jesus is not restrictive in who can come to him. All who are weary and heavy laden, he will give rest. He will give life to as many as call on him, as many as trust that he is exactly who he claimed to be. Let us praise God that he has revealed to us Jesus as a gracious and merciful Lord, the one who is “the way and the truth and the life.” Let each and every one of us come to God through the name of Jesus Christ!
-Jake Ballard

An Impossible Question

Luke 20-21

luke 20

Tuesday, May 23

Throughout chapter 20, the Pharisees attempt to undermine Jesus with trick questions, and starting at verse 20, they decide that they’re going to try to pose him another unanswerable question. They comment on his lack of favoritism in his teaching, although it seems to imply that they are cynically calling him out on a lack of respect for authority. Following up on this, they ask him another question meant to undermine his teachings.

They ask Jesus whether or not they have an obligation to pay taxes to Caesar. This has an important historical context behind it, because there had been several Jewish revolutions against Roman occupation that had turned out terribly for the Jews. The Pharisees, who were cooperating with the Roman governors much to the expense of their own people, were essentially asking Jesus an impossible question.

Consider this, if Jesus had answered that they were obligated to pay taxes, then he would be implying the relevancy of both Roman authority and the authority of Pharisees and would be undermining the tenacity of his own teachings. However, if he had spoken against the need to pay taxes to Caesar, he would be openly defying Roman authority and so would be putting himself on grounds of treason, and would have been executed as quickly as it could be reported to the Romans. As it was, Jesus’ answer was simple and avoidant, while also proving a much larger point to them. His response is to take a look at whose face is on the coin, which was Caesar’s face. He then tells the Pharisees to give to Cesar what is “his” and give to God what is “God’s”.

Not only did Jesus successfully navigate around their impossible question, but he also gives a stronger context for understanding his teachings as well. This seems to tie into what Jesus meant when he said that his purpose was not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. According to Jesus, the call that we have is a moral one beyond the law or social convention. Neither is he advocating that law is unnecessary. Rather, he invites us to be pragmatic about the circumstances, but understand that the truth he teaches is a way of finding meaning in our lives, rather than how to simply conduct it.

-Dillon Driskill

 

(Photo Credit: https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=and-he-said-unto-them-render-therefore-unto-caesar-the-things-which-be-caesars-and-unto-god-the-things-which-be-gods)

The Responsibility of Godly Leadership

Micah 1-4

micah 1

Monday, April 17

            Micah, in line with his fellow minor and major prophets, has been given a message of judgment and warning. Micah is prophesying to the northern tribe of Israel. After king Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the nation of Israel but due to his poor leadership the nation split into two tribes. The northern tribe-Israel, and southern tribe-Judah. Micah’s audience is Israel-the northern tribe in the eighth century BCE.

Chapter three sheds light onto why judgment and wrath will come upon Israel if she does not change her ways. The rulers and leaders of Israel have led in a manner that is not in line with God and his standards and statutes. Instead of loving justice and hating evil, the present leadership have been accused of “hating good and loving evil” (Mic. 3.2). God had placed certain officers to lead his people, and the people in these positions were failing. Chapter three continues to say that leaders pronounced a judgment not based on truth but on bribery, the prophets would prophesy for money and speak falsely concerning God. Corruption was through the whole leadership and the victims of the corruption were the common people themselves.

In our world it’s not uncommon to see leaders fail and look out for their own interests before the interests of the people they’re leading. If you and I can be outraged with failed leadership how much more is God displeased and upset with his leadership when it fails? Whether we serve in an official leadership position at a church or Christian organization, or you’re a student leader at your school or church, you are a leader to someone. The best way to lead is to do it God’s way: pursue his heart and truth, practice servant leadership, stand up for justice, obey, and don’t be a coward with God’s truth. Leadership is something God gives and so it’s something he can take away if those whom he has called are not being faithful with it. We can see from Micah that God takes seriously a failure to obey God when leading. Are you being faithful with a leadership position God has placed you in?

-Jacob Rohrer