How do you fit into His story?

Luke 24

The Easter Story is one of the most beautiful stories ever written, and the best part is, it’s even true! It is a part of a plan written by God and fulfilled through Jesus by his obedience to death on the cross all those years ago. There was purpose in this suffering: so that the sins of the world could be forgiven. There is purpose in every season. Likewise there was purpose in his life of ministry and ultimately purpose in his resurrection. All the seasons of his life brought about God´s perfect and pleasing will. God can use anything and everything for His good. Even pain and suffering. Even a blood-stained cross. Even the death of His precious son.

Jesus knew what he was called to do and he followed through, he died on the cross for our sins. For three days the world was without hope. At the time they all believed that a Savior would come with sword and shield to bring victory over the Romans. It would then make sense that they would reject Jesus as their Messiah because his entire life and tragic death was the exact opposite as how they expected their Savior to come. Thankfully though, God gives us what we need not what we think we want. 

Although Jesus´ disciples were plainly told all the things that were to take place including the hope of Jesus´ resurrection, there was no anticipation of his return because they had forgotten that God´s plans are larger than life- even larger than death, Jesus´ death. They hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. Not only did he redeem Israel, but the world, just not in the way they believed it would happen. 

Someone asked me recently what my passions were. But it got me thinking, how do my passions and talents fit together into God´s grand plan? How do I fit into His story? The women who first found the tomb empty were staying focused on doing their ministry. Likewise the disciples all took part in the Great Commission, being witnesses of all that had happened. After Jesus´ ascension they set out to spread the gospel even to the point of becoming martyrs. How can I use where I am in life and who I am in Christ to further God’s plan?

Jesus entrusted his entire life- even life itself- into God´s hands. And it wasn´t without God´s response to Jesus´ obedience. The process is like the call and response section in the back of the hymn books. Back and forth between God and His people. It started in the beginning with God when he created the world and everything in it and brought forth the plan of salvation. Jesus already did his part by dying on the cross, and is now continually interceding for us to God. It’s our turn to call on God and turn our life into a living sacrifice in order for Him to respond in immeasurable ways. Jesus submitted to God´s will and God answered by raising him from the grave. In the same way I believe we as Christians are expected to follow the example Jesus set before us of obeying God´s calling for our life. Use the God-given talents and the passions he has placed on your heart to live for Him, serving Him wholeheartedly. And in God´s timing, His will and His ways will prevail.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGatewayJoshua 1-2 and Luke 24

Now What?

Luke 23:26-56

Imagine this: one day, a man approaches and asks you to follow him. Perhaps he astonishes you with a miracle or shows you undeserved kindness. Bewildered and intrigued, you leave everything behind to follow him. For three years, you have no home nor income, but you witness incredible miracles—from calming storms to raising a dead man to life. You yourself were given authority to drive out demons, cure diseases, and proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. This man turned your brokenness into purpose; finally you belong. Then, in a chaotic turn of events, the man is called a criminal and is nailed to a cross. You deny him and watch him die. 

But all those who knew Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (Luke 23:49) 

The day following Jesus’s death must’ve been a quiet one for his followers. His body was still buried, lifeless. They were grieving for the man they loved, but also probably for the way their lives would inevitably change. They were left wondering, Now what?

That same question still applies to us today: Jesus died, so now what? Every year, we dedicate a weekend to remembering Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection. We grieve the way he suffered and rejoice in his triumph over sin and death. Jesus’s sacrifice should change the way we live our lives! Yet, it’s too easy to forget about the weight of his suffering and significance of his victory as we return to our normal lives. 

As you await tomorrow’s celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, find a quiet moment to  reflect upon this question: 

“Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” -Leonard Ravenhill

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 33-34 and Luke 23:26-56

Funhouse Mirrors

Luke 23:1-25

Have you ever looked at yourself through the mirrors in a funhouse? Maybe they made your legs appear shorter or your figure much rounder. Of course, just because the mirror makes you look one way doesn’t mean that you actually look like that. Sometimes people seem to see us through funhouse mirrors; they get a distorted image of who we actually are. 

Jesus, too, was often seen through funhouse mirrors. Many people perceived him to be a traitor and criminal. Yet, standing in front of the mirror was actually the begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah. 

After Jesus’s arrest, he stood before government and religious officers, as was customary. Jesus was beaten by the guards, accused by the leaders, and ridiculed by the crowds. It’s a disgustingly difficult chapter to read because of the undeserved nastiness towards Jesus.  

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Luke 23:3)

Jesus didn’t deny Pilate’s allegations. If I were Jesus, I would probably burst into tears shouting, “It’s not fair!” After all, he had never sinned, nonetheless committed a crime worthy of death on a cross. Yet, he continued to refrain from defending himself. 

He (Herod) plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:9)

Jesus’ goal wasn’t to appease man but to please God. God already saw the real Jesus, the one standing in front of the mirror. Let us learn from Jesus’ example: You don’t have to get the last word. It’s okay to be misunderstood. There’s no need to get even. You have nothing to prove. 

Because God sees you—the real you. 

I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139 from The Message)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGatewayDeuteronomy 31-32 and Luke 23:1-25

Known & Loved

Luke 22:39-71

After Jesus finished the Passover meal with his disciples, he retreated to the Mount of Olives, which is just outside of Jerusalem, to pray. While there, he was arrested by a crowd led by Judas, one of his own disciples. Jesus’s choice to stay at the Mount of Olives was significant for two reasons: 

  1. Jesus knew Judas would betray him. 

In a previous conversation among the disciples, Jesus predicts that one of the twelve would betray him, even calling out Judas by name (John 13). The very night of the Last Supper, he makes a similar remark: 

“The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table” (Luke 22:21). 

  1. Judas knew Jesus would be at the Mount of Olives. 

During the week leading up to Jesus’s death, he and his disciples had spent every night at the Mount of Olives: 

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37). 

Judas surely knew where Jesus would be on this particular night, yet Jesus didn’t try to hide. 

Instead, Jesus invited Judas to his table to eat dinner together. 

Jesus stayed the night in the very place Judas knew he would be. 

You and I were a lot like Judas. We were full of ugly thoughts, misguided intentions, mixed-up priorities, and shameful feelings. Jesus saw our filthy sin, yet he invited us into his presence to give us freedom from it. The greatest irony is that the person who knows our flaws best, loves us the greatest. 

You are fully known, and yet you are deeply loved.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 29-30 and Luke 22:39-71.

The Not Last Supper

Luke 22:1-38

God is an epic story-teller. One trick up every story-teller’s sleeve is repetition, only each new repetition brings a new twist. The story in today’s chapter is titled, The Last Supper, implying that other suppers preceded it. 

The first meal of this kind is found in Exodus; the Israelites were captive to Pharaoh in Egypt, who worked them ruthlessly.  God sent a series of plagues to convince Pharaoh to let His people go, which would culminate in the death of all firstborn sons—people and livestock alike. To save the Israelites from this horrific plague, God gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13)

The Israelites with the blood of the lamb slathered on their door frames were safe, as the angel of death passed over their houses. God ordered the Israelites to commemorate the day God saved Israel, and they did so every year. 

Over one thousand years later, in the week leading up to Jesus’ death, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in Jerusalem. This time, there was a new twist. Jesus gives new meaning to the emblems eaten that meal: 

And he (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus’s body was given for you, his blood poured out for you. His sacrifice marks a new covenant in which Jesus’ death atones for the sin of the world: 

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

Have you ever read a story in the Bible with a hint of jealousy, wishing you, too, could have witnessed that moment? I know I have. I had a seat at that table with Jesus, eating and drinking, hearing his wisdom, and honoring his upcoming sacrifice. The good news for us is that “The Last Supper” isn’t really Jesus’s last supper: 

And he (Jesus) said to them (the disciples), “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)

It’s another feast with another twist. This time we’ll be eating and drinking in physical communion with Jesus, but in the Kingdom of God. I am excitedly awaiting that day, but in the meantime we have the honor of commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice regularly through Communion. The next time you take Communion, do it in remembrance—and in sweet anticipation—of all Jesus has done and is yet to do. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 27-28 and Luke 22:1-38

Sour Gummy Worms & Copper Coins

Luke 21

My young cousin got a bag of sour gummy worms for Christmas this past year. The following week, he carried the bag along everywhere he went, proudly savoring each lick. He loved those sour gummy worms! At the end of the week, he tried to give me his precious worms; of course, I declined because I don’t delight in stealing candy from children. As he was leaving my house, he hid the candy in my bedroom because he wanted me to have them. He didn’t have much to give, but he gave all he had and did so sincerely. 

Luke describes a similar encounter Jesus had with a poor widow at the temple: 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

We know three things about the woman mentioned: she was poor, she was a widow, and she gave a small amount of money to the church. Her story isn’t flashy and her name isn’t even mentioned. Yet, she honored God by giving the little she had. And you know what? Jesus said her gift was greater than all the others. 

Jesus had spent the past day discussing the intricate details of religious rules and hypothetical situations. They were concerned with religion, but perhaps not the conditions of their hearts. Their attitudes are juxtaposed by the poor widow whose heart was generous and faithful. By the world’s standards, the poor widow’s actions were foolish. She should have used the money to feed her family and allowed the Jews with more money to support the church. In God’s eyes, her giving was a reflection of her faith, and I am sure her family didn’t go hungry that night.

To be clear, God doesn’t need your money—neither your time nor gifts. 

I could have bought my own bag of sour gummy worms at the gas station down the street. In the same way, God can accomplish anything and everything by his own accord. However, He still wants your sour gummy worms, copper coins, and anything you have to give. 

God wants your trust.

God wants you to participate in the mission of the Church. 

God wants to bless you. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 25-26 and Luke 21

Jesus’s Mic Drop

Luke 20

Remember the king that was greeted with palm leaves and shouts of hosanna yesterday? Today, we see him bombarded with questions meant to entangle him. The religious elite were threatened by Jesus—by his growing popularity, his radical views of religion, and his claim to be the Messiah. The teachers of the law and Pharisees tried to make Jesus stumble.

Keeping a close watch on him, they (the teachers of the law and chief priests) sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor (Luke 20:20). 

The religious elite were trying to make Jesus stumble through an intense line of questioning, just like the lawyers do to criminals on TV. Of all the questions thrown in Jesus’ direction, I find this question most interesting: 

Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? (Luke 20:22)

It’s a lose-lose question. If he sided with Caesar, he would be in trouble with the Jews; if he sided against Caesar, he would be in trouble with the Romans. Instead of pleading the fifth or requesting to see his lawyer, he answered with the perfect solution. Since it’s Caesar’s image on the denarius, that is to be given back to Caesar. However, whatever is God’s should be given back to God. 

His answer is so profound yet simple that it literally silences the crowd—better than any answer given by a fancy attorney on TV. Jesus spent the first thirty years of his life preparing for interactions like this one. He was so in tune with God’s spirit that the perfect words just seemed to flow out of his mouth effortlessly. In the same way, we should prepare ourselves to answer tough questions and defend our faith—this includes praying for wisdom and understanding, studying truth, and committing scripture to memory. As a reminder of just that, I painted the following verse on the cover of my Bible: 

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). 

Paul likens scripture to a sword, but we must wield it well in order to enact its power. Every time I open my Bible, I want to grow more confident in my faith so that I can rise to the defense of it and share it with others. 

How will you build up your defense? 

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 23-24 and Luke 20

Best Parade Ever

Luke 19

I love to plan parties! I’m usually up late the night before a big party getting all the details just right—making signs, assembling favors, and arranging decorations. Meanwhile, my God plans parades centuries in advance! He planned the famous parade we commemorate each year on Palm Sunday: Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. 

Daniel received a vision about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, about 600 years before it was to happen: 

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” (Daniel 9:25) 

It’s important to note that the ‘sevens’ described by Daniel are each periods of seven years. The math makes my head spin (not everybody used the same calendar back then… talk about confusing!), but historians have found Daniel’s vision astonishingly accurate. The time between the issue to rebuild Jerusalem went out (Nehemiah 2) and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is just as God said it would be, to the very year. God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail. 

In the book of Zechariah, the world’s best party planner gives even more insight into how this day would unfold:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

And so it came to be—Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The gospels contain several descriptions of that bitter-sweet day—Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12. Up until this point, Jesus kept his status as the begotten Son of God a secret, urging his disciples not to reveal his identity to anyone (Matthew 16:20). On that day, however, his disciples shouted among the masses, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)In that same city, in that same week, the cries of “Hosanna!” would turn into shouts of “Crucify!”

As we wave our palm leaves at church this morning, remembering Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem years ago, let us also remember the parade still to come. Close your eyes and imagine the grandeur of Jesus’ second coming—the roar of the trumpets, the raising of the dead, and the overwhelming noise of centuries worth of believers worshipping at the feet of Jesus. No more death, no more crying, no more pain:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:2-4)

God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail. 2,000 years ago Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem to die. Soon he will return to Jerusalem again to bring life everlasting.

Hosanna in the highest!

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible readings can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 21-22 and Luke 19

Good Gifts

Luke 11 

There is so much we haven’t covered in this past week. Just today both the Queen of Sheba and Beelzebul get mentioned in the span of a few verses.  And we never even touched on Numbers or Deuteronomy. But today I want to touch on two things in chapter 11 that I hope will encourage you through the end of lent up to Resurrection Sunday. 

The first is the hope in the good gifts from our Good Good Father. Jesus teaches that reluctant friends are willing to help to persistent demands. I’m a dad; I understand the power of persistent asking! But if my precious (and slightly precocious) daughter asks me for a unicorn, I’m not going to give her a spider. If she wants a PB&J, I won’t give her rotten ham and toe jam. I know what she wants and I WANT to give her gifts, because it brings her joy. 

God wants to see that joy on your face. He is willing to give you his Spirit. God’s Spirit is a powerful, active, guiding, teaching, comforting, and encouraging reality for the church. Called the comforter, the advocate, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit, though mysterious, is how God wants to interact with and empower you for his ministry and for your living. All you have to do is ask, and God is ready to give you this great gift. 

At the other end of the chapter, after Jesus thoroughly ticks off the scribes and pharisees for a majority of the chapter, we read that the Pharisees “began to get hostile” and were “plotting to catch him” in his words. But I want you to remember 9:52. Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He is walking there on purpose. While we could try and analyze God’s sovereign control versus human free will in a passage like this, I think there is something more life changing than that. God’s smart enough to work out all things for the good of his people. Jesus knows where his story leads; God is going to use human pride and sin to erase sin and pride. He is going to use the taking of life to bring about eternal life. He is going to transform the pain of this world into joy of the next. Think about that. These leaders think they are taking out a revolutionary “rabbi of the people” who has wounded their egos. Satan is stoking the flames of pride and stubbornness because he wants to take out the Messiah. But God is using all of this in his plan to save humanity. 

Today, when life feels out of control, or overwhelming…

When you are stressed, depressed or obsessed…

When you don’t know where to go, what to do, or how you’ll get through… 

Ask God for the Spirit. To empower you. Embolden you. Comfort you. Teach you. Guide you. Speak through you. 

And he will pour it out. 

Ask God to work all his for your good. Ask your dad to help. Your wise father to work things out in ways you don’t or can’t see. And believe he is already working. Not every pain will end. Sometimes victory is shaped like a cross. But, the end will be a world made better by you, a world blessed by you, and you blessed by the God over all things. Eternal life and eternal peace, in the presence of God, through the death of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit. 

God be with you during these final days of Lent and Easter. 

-Jake Ballard

—————————————————

Jake Ballard is pastor at Timberland Bible Church. If you’d like to hear more from him, find Timberland on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TimberlandBibleChurch/ ) and on Instagram (https://instagram.com/timberlandbiblechurch?igshid=t52xoq9esc7e). The church streams the Worship Gathering every Sunday at 10:30 and Sunday School at 9:30. Besides studying and teaching God’s word, he is raising three beautiful children with the love of his life, plays board games and roleplaying games with amazing friends weekly and tries and fails to be less nerdy every day. If you’d like to reach out to talk Bible, talk faith, or talk about Star Trek, look Jacob Ballard up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336 )or email him at jakea.ballard@yahoo.com

God bless you all!

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 5-6 and Luke 11

Will you choose the Good?

Luke 10

Today, the scene is set in Martha and Mary’s home. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem, and this story is propelling his journey to the cross. Mary and Martha, sisters, are arguing, as sisters do. Martha has invited Jesus and his crew of AT LEAST twelve hungry men (possibly more if some of the seventy or seventy-two disciples have come along) over for dinner. She’s got a lot of social pressure placed on her, because to have people in her home and NOT feed them, and feed them well, would look bad on her whole family. It would be shameful. 

And Mary is just sitting at his feet. 

Martha, rushing, busy, sweating, harried.

Mary, content, lounging, comfortable, relaxed. 

I feel for Martha. “LORD, don’t you care that my sister isn’t working as hard as I am” she says in frustration, with slightly gritted teeth. “She isn’t serving you the way that I am, isn’t trying to be as good for you as I am! TELL HER TO GET UP AND HELP ME!” Of course she is troubled, worried, bothered, anxious. 

We are all Martha. We are all so worried. So anxious and bothered. So troubled. 

But Jesus just calls out to her, to us. “Martha, Martha…” Can you hear the compassion when he says her name? When he says your name? You are so busy, so laden down with cares and concerns, with worries, about how you will succeed, how you will make sure everyone is taken care of, how you will serve. But Jesus isn’t worried about all that. He calls out to you and says something beautiful. 

There is only one thing necessary. It’s the good thing that Mary chose, to sit at his feet, listen to him, rest in him, love him. 

Will you choose the good?

Is that your one thing? Do you want to serve, to prove how strong, and powerful, and mighty, and good, and honorable you are? Or are you willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn from him, grow from him, but most of all love and rest in him? To be sure, there is a time to serve. Jesus is in the room teaching how to live. But, will you listen to his words? We can get so busy “serving him” we don’t actually hear what he says. There are those casting out demons and performing miracles who don’t know the Lord, and whom the Lord doesn’t know (see Matthew 7).

The one that is necessary, listening to the words of Jesus and resting in him, give our service purpose and grounding. 

Will you choose the good?

Will you choose to rest in the one whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light, who will give your soul rest?

Will you choose the good?

Jesus, primarily, calls us to himself. There will be a time for service, but the first and foremost command is to be with him, in peace and rest. Are you listening to that call? For some of us, the command to “come and die” is terrifying. But for some of us, “come and rest” is worse. We have to admit that we are not superheroes, no matter what we tell ourselves. We might just be people, like everyone else.

Will you choose the good?

Jesus gives us rest. This is the upside down kingdom we receive when we have a relationship with Christ. We take up his work so we may rest. We serve with him so we may reign with him. We take in his death so that we may live.

Will you choose the good?

-Jacob Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 3-4 and Luke 10