Beat into Submission

1 Corinthians 9

Just like many of you, the familiar John Williams Olympic anthem, “Daaa…Daaa…Da. Da. Da. Da.” has already rang through my ears a handful of times as I watched the opening of the summer Olympic games. It has always marked anticipation, but more so this year, an end to a long sigh created by the indefinite postponement of the Tokyo 2020 a year ago.  While there are no crowds in attendance, the athletes are masked, and there is some political drama that often surrounds countries in participation, the beating of those timpani drums and the blaring french horns help us to remember a place we’ve been before.  All of this solely from a spectator’s point-of-view.  How much more have the athletes participating in the games marked this moment?  A year of extra training and sacrifice to compete at the highest level on a global stage, doing so maneuvering through a world experiencing a global crisis.  These medals given this year are seemingly worth more because of the delay and extra challenges these athletes faced in their training. 

It is fortuitous that our reading befits this moment where we are consumed with this competition for medals and crowing of our victors:

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” – 1 Corinthians 9:26

So, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you are not one of the 15,000+ athletes competing in the summer Olympic or Paralympic games (although, we would welcome any Olympian to read).  You may be accomplished at a single sport, but you’re undoubtedly not at the next level.  You may be dedicated to a fitness program, but you are not sacrificing all of your playtime or rearranging your schedule for your athletic pursuits.  You haven’t hired a trainer.  You haven’t shaved your legs to remove a hundredths of a second from your personal best.  You may not even be inspired to any athletic pursuit simply by watching (although many future Olympians are).  Yet, by being a follower of Christ (not the games), you are being called, challenged, and elicited into a training that is more demanding, more exasperating, and more punishing than any Olympian has ever faced in the context of competition at the games.

While there are several paths of metaphors we could draw from, the one that is most striking are the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians. It is the most intense description, hyperbole that could very well be made literal in some contexts. Ultimately, we must slave away at becoming the most disciplined evangelist, with the purpose of preaching and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ or plainly face disqualification from the prize.

“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27

This is a scary thought.  That my faith must be trained and disciplined in such a way that it would be on that next-level, to compete for a prize that is longer lasting than precious metals.  My evangelism could be record-setting. My ministry could be to a worldwide audience. But what stands in the way is my greatest opponent. Who is it?  Me.  Because I must be willing to give up the life that I could have in order to live for the glory that I am supposed to attain. I must be willing to strike a self-blow, to cut off my hand, to gouge out my eye, and to die daily. Or more realistically, get off my phone, read and pray consistently, have uncomfortable conversations, be filled with the Spirit of God, and let my coach and my God call all the shots. This is what I must do in order to make gains, receiving the strength and knowledge that comes through Christ Jesus. While it must be an incredible experience for the world to see you lower your head to receive your medal as a victor, representing your people and country, how much greater will it be to receive the crown of life which represents a kingdom and people that are far more perfect than the ideals that guide the games we currently watch?  Whether you have started your training already, are coming out of retirement, or beginning your training today, take a good look at your opponent in the mirror.  Size him/her up. You ultimately will have to be disciplined enough to take him/her on, become enslaved to Christ, and with the grace of God, beat yourself into submission, so God can see you through to the victory.

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 5-6 and 1 Corinthians 9

Fully Proclaim the Gospel of Christ

2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Today’s reading is packed with so much good stuff, it’s hard to know what to write about.

I could comment about the overflowing generosity of King Hezekiah and the people when giving to the Lord, as found in 2 Chronicles 31.  But I won’t.

I could stress how God blessed another faithful king, as found in 2 Chronicles 31:21, which says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered.”  But I won’t.

I could comment extensively on how Hezekiah trusted God completely when attacked by the Assyrians, and then God sent the death angel, who killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army.  But I won’t.  (Besides, I prefer the accounts in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37.)

I could talk about how Hezekiah cried out to God when he was about to die, and God added 15 years to his life, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32.  But I won’t.  (Again I prefer the 2 Kings 21 and Isaiah 37-38 accounts.) 

I could even expound on 2 Chronicles 32:31, “…God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  But I won’t.

Since I already commented yesterday about doing things to build up our neighbor, I won’t comment on that even though it is recorded again in the beginning of Romans 15.

Instead, I’d like to point out Paul’s faithfulness in evangelism.  You may remember that Paul had a vision, where Jesus commanded him to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.  In Romans 15:19-22, we read, “… So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. … This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.”

It’s easy to pass over what Paul just said, so I’ll point out that according to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” covers about 14,000 miles (yes, fourteen thousand miles).  When you consider Paul’s mode of travel, and the difficulties he endured (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), you can understand the immense achievement of Paul’s missionary work.

For your convenience, I’ll include 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 here:

… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

The real clincher comes in Romans 15:23, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…”  Did you catch that?  Paul has traveled 14,000 miles and told everyone he could about Jesus.  Paul is basically saying, “But since there’s nobody else to tell (because they’ve all heard now); I’m done here; so I’ll finally come to visit you.”

What an astounding accomplishment.  What an astounding example.

Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.  And part of what was commanded includes making more disciples.  So, through the Great Commission, Jesus commanded you and me to share the good news about Jesus with the whole world.  Maybe we weren’t told as directly as Paul was, but we were told.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say, “since I’ve told everybody I know about Jesus, I need to move on to find more people to tell.”  I think all of us need a good reminder that God still expects us to make disciples today.
–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Unexpected Places

Unexpected Purposes

Acts 28

Have there been times in your life where you’ve been taken somewhere you didn’t expect? Last spring, I was taking a drive when I became lost on some of the backroads. I was filled with uncertainty about my location and starting to get anxious about finding my way back. As I found myself where I didn’t expect to be, a lost lamb appeared on the road. It was nearly hit by oncoming traffic as it frantically sprinted down the pavement. The cream and brown spotted lamb was panting from exhaustion. It was scared and confused. Because I was at this unexpected intersection, I was able to get the lamb off the road and put it in my truck. After searching for its farm and calling the sheriff, eventually it was reunited with its home. Sometimes it is the places that we don’t see coming, where we prove to be the most useful.

In Acts 28 we learn about Paul’s experiences on the island where he and the rest of the people on his ship came to be shipwrecked. As we read yesterday, Paul’s journey was quite wild. But God had delivered them safely to this Island called Malta. When Paul left for Rome, he probably never expected to make a pit stop, let alone be shipwrecked at this place. Yet, this was where he was taken, and it was not without purpose.

            On this island, in the middle of the Mediterranean, Paul was able to interact with the people. These inhabitants of Malta saw something different about Paul as they had witnessed him being delivered from the sea and from a snake bite. And then Paul was able to pray for and heal their sick. An island that might not have been a priority for people of that time to take the gospel to had nonetheless witnessed it through Paul’s unexpected stay there.

So, although this time and stay in Malta had been unexpected, it proved useful and it exposed others to the One True God. So, while you may at times find yourself in an unexpected place, do not be discouraged. Sometimes it is the most unexpected places in our lives that God uses us for an unexpected purpose.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 13-14 and Acts 28

Going with the Gospel

Around the World or Across the Street

Acts 18

It is interesting how some people basically stay in one place all their lives and others seem to travel about quite frequently. No one can accuse the apostle Paul of being a homebody! In Acts 18 we notice that Paul travels quite extensively staying in one place for a little while, and then traveling to another place. Sometimes the places he traveled to received the gospel message with readiness and welcomed him, and at other times he received more hostile treatment. Everywhere he went he shared the gospel message. About the first thing he would do each place he went was to go to the synagogue and teach there about Jesus being the promised Messiah and way to salvation.

Among his travels he met Priscilla and Aquila and they were strengthened in the faith. So much so that later when Paul travelled on to a new location without them they were able to teach another man named Apollos more clearly about the gospel. It seems whether near to home or far away these early Christians were ready and willing to share the message with whoever would listen and believe. They were truly ready to give an answer in season for the hope they held within them.

We should be ready and willing just as they were to give an answer for the hope that we hold within us. Whether God gives us the opportunity to travel from place to place, or whether He asks us to be the light within our own community. Our willingness should always be present, just as it was with the early Christians, to share the hope we have in Christ.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 17-18 and Acts 18

Gaining God’s Guidance

Acts 13

I am continually amazed at the way God directed the steps of the apostles through the direction of His Holy Spirit in the days of the formation of the early church. The apostles had the message to share that through Jesus there was forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to the Father. They were given the opportunity to share this message in very public places and many came to believe in Jesus. Can you imagine speaking in one place and then being asked to speak again the following week and almost the whole town shows up?

We as Christians have been given the same message to share – that there is forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ resulting in reconciliation with our heavenly Father God. This is the greatest message of hope there is. Do we share it as often as we can? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were asked to share and a whole town full of people showed up and came to believe! We realize that the apostles were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things, and make amazing inroads in the gentile world for the gospel of Christ to be shared and accepted. If we want to be successful like they were notice what they did at the very beginning of Acts chapter 13 – the men fasted and prayed for direction and it was given to them.

As we attempt to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world do we go about it in our own way or in God’s way. Do we remember to pray for God to lead us by His Holy Spirit to know where and when we are to share the message? Do we ask for the opportunity to share and do we ask for the correct words to say as the opportunity presents itself. The apostles were successful in their mission to share the gospel in Antioch because they had prepared the way ahead with prayer, and diligence to listen to where, and when God was directing them to speak. All of this leaves me wondering – would we be much more successful in our sharing of the Gospel if we spent more time in preparation with prayer and listening for God’s directives? Give it a try and see what happens!

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Pastor Merry Peterson lives in Ontario, Canada and pastors at Freedom In Christ Church.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 7-8 and Acts 13

The Early Church : The Mission of the Church


Acts 1

On Sunday, we discovered the message of the early church. This message is two pronged. It is the message from Jesus and the message about Jesus, it is the Kingdom and the King. The message of the church is the message of Jesus himself, “The Kingdom of God has come near! Repent and believe the good news!” The Kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God, is breaking out among his people, and will one day be over the whole earth. The way we enter that kingdom now, and are given the resurrection to eternal life in the Kingdom in the future, is through the King, Jesus the Messiah, who died to take away our sins and make us righteous. If we believe in this good news, we can be saved. That is the message of the church, both the early church and today. 


But just what was the mission of the church? We know now what they said, but what did they do? Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8. After being empowered by God’s Spirit they would “… be [Jesus’] witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That’s seems pretty big. What does it mean? In this case, a witness was one who would tell of the truth of what they had heard and seen. They were to go tell others about the Messiah. Even more than that, they were called to live in accordance with that message as a witness to the Messiah Jesus. And they were to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth. 


My friends, this is our mission still today, at least in principle. Have you experienced the love of God? Tell others. Have you experienced the forgiveness of God? Show others. Have you found the people of God? Invite others to join! That is what it means to be a witness, to tell, show, invite others to experience what you have. If you are still searching for this love, forgiveness or people, keep searching. But they are there, and I am inviting you in to a God who has changed me. This starts in our own local area. Jerusalem was where the church already was. We need to give the message to our neighbors before we worry about the rest of the world. Does everyone you know know you love Jesus? They should! Once they do, it spreads out to our broader locations. Our state, country, even our enemies. And then, we take it with us to Africa, Asia, South America. But sadly, America is a mission field. We don’t need to go halfway around the world to find large populations who don’t know God. Sometimes, it’s fifteen minutes from our house! 


Ask God to lead you in your mission. Be a witness for Jesus today, to your neighbors, your family, your friends. And maybe someday, even today, he will use you to reach the “ends of the Earth!”

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 13-14 and Acts 1

The Scriptures Are for All Generations

Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

One huge benefit of living in our day and time is having an extensive body of God’s scriptures available to us. We can see scriptures that clearly confirm God’s plan has been actively unfolding throughout all ages and to each generation. Leviticus 16 explains the event that we refer to as the Day of Atonement.

The High Priest would follow the ordinances on one special day once a year to cleanse all the members of the community from their sins. The people would observe a Sabbath rest because on that day atonement would be made for them, to cleanse them. “Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Lev. 16:30)

Of course, as Christians we can see that these offerings were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We know that he is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14) who offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of sin.  He sacrificed his own blood for our forgiveness. He wanted us to be cleansed from all of our sins and to be reconciled to God.

That was carried out through his sacrificial death on the cross and amazingly Psalm 22 reveals what this experience was like for Jesus Christ.  David may be writing about personal experiences and yet he miraculously described the crucifixion. He wrote this event about 1,000 years before it occurred. This Psalm begins with the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet the Psalm ends in praise to God. It states that all future generations will serve Him and be told about the Lord. “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22:31)

We have the benefit of seeing the results and rewards that Christ accomplished for himself and for all his followers. Praise God that we have the scriptures that explain this to us. Scriptures that were written through many centuries and passed on to the next generations. We have a bird’s eye view of how beautifully God works through His faithful followers. Be faithful to share the scriptures with others because all that God has spoken through them will be accomplished.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

The Spirit Speaking Through Us

Mark 13

            There are a lot of things going on in Mark 13, but I want to focus on verses 9-11 which say, “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

            There are two things that really stick out to me in these verses. The first being the word testimony. In Greek, the word is marturion, and it simply means witness, testimony, evidence or proof. To me, this is very exciting. Why does this excite me? Because it means that we can become proof that Jesus really is the son of God! When we are questioned about our faith we get the opportunity to become living and breathing evidence for Jesus! That, to me, sounds like the best thing I could ever be. Wouldn’t you want a chance to prove that Jesus is real? As an interesting side note, the word marturion is also tied to the word martyr, someone who dies for their faith. When someone dies for their faith, it is the greatest act of proof that someone can give. There is no greater sacrifice someone can make to prove their belief is real. Remember, whether you are talking to a friend, speaking in front of people or sacrificing your life, you will have an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus at some point.

            The second thing that really sticks out to me in these verses is the mention of the Holy Spirit. I recently finished doing a study on the Spirit and it blew my mind in how many ways it works in our lives. Giving us words to speak and teaching us what to say is just one of its functions. The good news is, with the Spirit working in our lives, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or ability to speak because the Spirit will help us when the time comes. This may bring you some relief. It brings me peace knowing that I don’t have to rely on my limited abilities to tell someone about Jesus. I just have to be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit in my life. This should really take the pressure off us as Christians knowing that God, through the power of His Spirit, will help us get His work done.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 31-32 and Mark 13

Making Breakthroughs

In Exodus 21 and 22 God lays down many laws for the Israelites to follow in order to try and establish them as a functioning and stable nation.  There is a lot in there about how to judge between two people when somebody is injured, or commandments to respect parents and authorities, or punishments for thieves.  Some of the laws, like the ones about how to deal with slaves, are quite outdated, but I think some of them can be very beneficial to us even today.

Exodus 22

21 “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

I think this is a good message today for how to treat foreigners and to help us realize that every person is a child of God and has value in his eyes, and that Jesus died for them as well.  But I think it also can apply to us when we look at unsaved people, because at some point in our lives we were all wandering away from God, and so we really cannot judge others who are currently living outside of God’s will too harshly, we need to humbly chase after them with love in hopes of helping them to find the grace of God that we have, not hit them over the head with a Bible so that we can let them know how wrong they are.

Meanwhile during Jesus’ ministry he is healing people and miraculously feeding thousands of people and is starting to get through to his disciples.  

Mark 8

15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

Even after he had produced food out of nothing they were still thinking about physical food, not the deeper meanings of Jesus’ messages, but just a few verses later we see a breakthrough with Peter.

Mark 8

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

I can imagine the relief that Jesus must have felt knowing that finally these think-headed, hard-hearted, best friends of his were starting to understand that he was doing something much deeper than just feeding people.  He was changing their hard hearts to love others the way he loved them.  He feels that same joy when we spend time studying his word and spending time with other believers and start to understand and reflect him more.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 21-22 and Mark 8

The Time is Near

Revelation 1-3

It is very likely that at the time of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, he was the last living apostle of Christ.  In his final days, he was banished to the Greek island of Patmos for his preaching and prophesying, both viewed as ways of stirring up unwanted rebellion in the Roman Empire.  It is here that he is delivered a vision of final days before the return of Christ.  Of the men that followed Jesus, John may have had the least cruel fate. According to scripture or historical accounts, all had been killed – stoned, clubbed, crucified, beheaded, and speared – preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, doing everything in their power to fulfill their commission (Acts 1:4-8) and reach the ends of the earth before the return of their friend and Savior. The disciples preached the Kingdom of God as something that would be seen by the generation they spoke to or the coming one. There was an extraordinary emergency to their message. And yet, 2000 years or so later, here we are.

I am reminded of my internal adolescent rebuttal when hearing Christ was coming soon — “If Jesus Christ has not come in the last 100 generations, why should I think that he will come in mine?” Through our reading this week, we will unpack the message of John and, like many before us, apply his words to the time and place that we live in.  We live in interesting times, but so have many generations before us.  They each had their own political unrest, plagues, and natural phenomenon.  With all the challenges of this year included, to live in the United States as a Christian is still pretty easy by comparison to many places in the world today, and most definitely effortless compared to the challenges faced by apostles of Christ.  For many of us, our ease of living has led us to share (or not) a complacent gospel.   This was already happening in the days of John; a symptom shared by many of the churches in Revelation 2 & 3.  As you read this week, consider the following to renew your sense of urgency to the Gospel message and reinstate Christ’s Kingdom as the centerpiece of your daily purpose:

1.   You are always a single breath away from the Kingdom of God.  No person knows the day or hour of his/her death. We must live our life to be found in Christ, not wait for signs of his return and scramble our way to grace.  The thing is, if you’re waiting for signs before you live out the Gospel, you will be distracted, diverted, or disconnected (Matt 25:1-13, Parable of the Ten Virgins).  “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:13,14

2.  No one, except the Father, knows the day or the hour Christ returns.  The days before Christ arrival will be as in the days of Noah (Matt 24:38) –  people will be married, there will be parties, children will be born, parents will send their teens to college, couples will be building their dream homes, and many will be working hard to retire early (v.40-42).  Despite the best efforts of John to deliver his prophecy, many will be caught unaware of the harbingers of Christ’s return. Because of this, it is imperative we deliver the Gospel message wherever our feet are on the daily. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36,37 

3. Many of the dramatic events that unfold in Revelation will happen within a single generation.  God has been working on His salvation plan since the foundations of the world (Col 1:16) with the culmination being (spoilers ahead) the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.  According to the words of Jesus and the vision of John there are compounding and intensifying events as seals are opened and the wrath of God being poured out. Natural wonders, dramatic plagues, famines, wars, and a global political climate will feed off one another and spur along the intervention and return of Christ.  If this year has taught us one thing, it is how fast the world can change with some of these elements aligned; however, the ignition point for the return of Christ is already set.  There will be a fire that follows and it will consume quickly; the temperature need only rise a bit more. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things <Matt 24:14-33> take place.” – Matthew 24:34

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud 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.” Revelation 1:3

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 1-3

Tomorrow we continue Revelation with chapters 4-8.