Fight for the Faith

Jude

Saturday, October 22, 2022

We are in a battle right now.  However, that is not a unique characteristic of today.  In the New Testament, Jude recognized it and wrote in Jude 3, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”  He wanted to warn people so that they could be prepared.

It is no different today.  We live in an age that touts religious freedom and tolerance, yet people are still dying for their faith and the faith of many continues to fall further and further from the truth.  We still have a job to do.   

Though we may be seeing a change in culture in our own country, we are still fairly blessed when it comes to the freedoms that we have in our faith.  In looking at the whole world, there are many countries in which admitting to being a Christian is liable to get you killed.  In that way, the fight for the faith is considerably different. They are literally fighting for their physical lives as they fight for the faith. 

We have a different, less physical fight in the U.S.   A decline in church attendance, a falling away from the faith, a bending of the faith to fit what culture says.  Are we willing to stand up, to contend, for our faith?

Jude 3 tells us that the faith was entrusted to all of God’s holy people.  I believe that by accepting Jesus into our lives, we become one of those holy people.  That means we are entrusted with the faith.  We should be fighting for what is true, to hold on to that faith, so that at Christ’s return, we, and as many others as possible can be found faithful.

~Stephanie Fletcher

Reflection Questions

  1. After urging his readers to contend for the faith, what warnings does he give through the rest of his short book? What situations, sins, and characteristics of people is Jude warning against?
  2. What does Jude want to see from God’s people?
  3. Where do you see a battle for the faith taking place today? How do you think God wants you to participate?

Work Together for the Truth

3 John

Friday, October 21, 2022

In the third and final letter from John, truth is once again evidenced in his thoughts.  

John is writing, in part, to commend a man named Gaius.  John said of Gaius that he was walking in the truth and that he was being faithful in providing support for strangers who were traveling around sharing the gospel (perhaps like modern day missionaries?).  

While there are many who are called to travel around sharing the gospel – to be missionaries – most of us are not.  That doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”).  We can all come alongside those who are called to do such work by providing prayer, encouragement, and financial support.  This makes us the “fellow workers” that John talks about in verse 8.

John then goes on to contrast the faithful and loving behavior of Gaius with the selfish and subversive behavior of Diotrephes.  In verse 11 he tells Gaius, and us, “do not imitate evil but imitate good”.   It’s not enough to just not imitate evil, but it is commanded that we imitate good.  The one who does good is from God.  

-Todd & Amy Blanchard

Questions:

  1. Do you know who the missionaries we, as a church, support?  You can learn about them and our organization for supporting them, Lord’s Harvest International here:  http://lhicog.com/
  2. Who do you know that you could imitate?  How?
  3. Are the choices you make (attitudes, actions, words, etc.) worthy of imitation?

Abiding in Truth

2 John

Thursday, October 20, 2022

For such a short letter, John really packs a lot into it.  The greeting, which, if I am being honest, often gets skimmed, offers some insight into what the letter contains.  He mentions truth or the truth four times in the greeting alone.  I think his point is that truth matters.  So, what is the truth that he is talking about?  Verse 9 talks about abiding in the teaching of Christ.  This is the truth that is empathized in his greeting.  Verse 7 says that a deceiver is one who does not confess (believe) that Jesus Christ came in the flesh – that he was a real man who lived on this earth.  No one likes to find out they were deceived, tricked, or made to look foolish because they believed a lie.  The truth is that Jesus is the Son of God, he did live on the earth, he did preach a message of the coming kingdom, he did die for our sins, he was raised up, and he will come back.  We are to abide in that teaching, in that truth.  

I looked up abide and was surprised at the many definitions it has.  Here are a few:

  • to accept or act in accordance with
  • to remain in a stable or fixed state
  • to continue in a particular condition, attitude, or relationship
  • to be able to live with or put up with

Not only are we to abide in this truth, but to NOT abide in it is to NOT have God.  That is a scary thought!

John provides a warning to us in verse 8 to “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward”.  He warns us because there will be “many deceivers” – many people who won’t be abiding in the truth about Jesus.  The only way to know if you are being told the truth or if you are being deceived is to “test everything” (I Thessalonians 5:21).  In order to do that, we need to know the truth ourselves.  We need to “test” what we are being taught against what is in God’s word, the Bible. 

  • Todd & Amy Blanchard

Questions:

  1.  Have you ever been deceived by someone?  How did you learn about the truth and what steps have you taken so you aren’t deceived in that way again?  
  2. How can you apply that to being watchful with regard to your faith walk (walking in the truth)?
  3. Being aware that knowledge of the truth prevents deception, how can you share your knowledge to help keep others from being deceived?

Preach It!

2 Timothy 4

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A few of my children became very skilled at working the system: if I said no to their request, they simply asked Dad! It only took a few incidents for us to catch on, and from then on, my husband spoke an automatic reply: “What did Mommy say?” This, of course, would result in a frowning, drooping head as the child was forced to reveal Mom’s veto. “Then that is my answer too. We are one.”

As humans, we search for permission, validation, and affirmation from numerous sources. If we believe or want justification for (fill in the blank), we can usually find sources to confirm that idea, no matter whether or not the data are manipulated. Usually, we don’t even want to know the other side. 

I’ll never forget sitting in my college classroom as a nervous freshman, disagreeing with the biblical doctrine that was being presented as fact. Having strong beliefs to the contrary, I politely asked the professor a question about his belief that really didn’t make sense to me. Even though I believed his position was not true, I wanted to try to understand how he came to that conclusion. He was very polite in return, and we had a good dialogue as he allowed me to share my beliefs. I hoped that the discussion would spur my classmates to search the scriptures for truth as well, but my new friend behind me basically just said, “I’ve always been taught this, and I don’t really want to be confused with facts.” 

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul urges Timothy to keep on preaching carefully and patiently, always being prepared to correct, rebuke, and encourage. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Though people will turn from their faith and seek affirmation of their erroneous beliefs and desires, He reminds Timothy to keep focused on his ministry and push through the challenges. 

I think Paul was aware as he penned this letter that his time in this life was drawing to a close. He pronounced in verse 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What a powerful epitaph! I, too, want to be remembered in this way, don’t you? Paul continues in verse eight the hope that we share as followers of Jesus, awaiting the Kingdom: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Keep focused on the goal, my friends. The challenges we face will pale in comparison to the reward waiting for us in the Kingdom. 

Though Paul was left alone many times, deserted by his friends and co-laborers, he did not harbor unforgiveness toward them, nor lose hope. Instead, Paul focused on the positive: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (verses 17-18) 

May the Lord also stand by you and give you strength as you continue to share in this most important work of the Gospel. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

Consider your legacy, how you will be remembered, your epitaph. How do you want people to remember you, and what steps do you need to take to create such a legacy? 

What are some things that your “itching ears” want to hear? Are you focusing on the Bible and God’s truth to guide you, or the ways of the world? 

Does the Truth Matter?

2 Thessalonians 2

Saturday, September 3

This chapter comes with some very big warnings.  From the very beginning of the chapter to the very end, it is full of warnings not to be deceived.  If this was such a big problem 2000 years ago, how much bigger is it now?  We need to heed all of these warnings because just like the Thessalonians, we also have others trying to deceive us in every step of our lives.


 To be able to keep from being deceived, we must first know the truth.  In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, ‘“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’  According to these verses, the very first thing we need to do to keep ourselves from being deceived is to hold to Jesus’ teaching.  To do this, we need to first know what Jesus taught and to obey it.  When we hold to the teachings of Jesus, we are really his disciples.  Then, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.


In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that the Thessalonians were “saved… through belief in the truth.”  The Thessalonians not only knew the truth, they also believed it.  For this reason, they were saved.  We also can be saved when we know the truth and choose to believe in it.  But, if you choose not to believe in the truth, there are serious consequences.


In verse 13, Paul writes, “[S]o that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  It is a matter of life or death, whether or not you believe in the truth.  If you believe in the truth, you can be saved and have eternal life in the kingdom.  If you do not believe in the truth, however, you will be condemned and will perish.


Verse 15 says, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”  Paul has told us what our choices are.  The choice to believe in the truth or to not believe in it.  He urges us, then, to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings.  When we hold fast to the teachings, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.  It’s not a trivial decision!  It is life or death, so choose the truth!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you be sure you are not being deceived?
  2. How are you following Jesus’ teachings, not the pastor or creeds or traditions, but following Jesus’ teachings?

Fine-Sounding Arguments

Colossians 2

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Have you noticed that some of the greatest wisdom on this planet is defining a word by again, using that same word?  Here are some examples: Fair is fair. Business is business. The rules are the rules. A deal is a deal. Love is love.  While each of these sayings have a context and a more nuanced understanding, it tends to oversimplify complex issues that need some mulling over.  We accept these phrases because it makes our logic simpler and dismisses further discussion.  Fine-sounding arguments such as these may not be all they are cracked up to be.

Even worse, an apologist, for any belief under the sun, can use the words of God in the wrong context or without a key understanding and can distort it immensely.   In Matthew 4, Jesus actively combats the words of God taken out of their context.  The world is rapidly filling with empty arguments that lead to the rebranding and normalization of sin.  Like Jesus, it is our responsibility to call it out for what it is. And surely, God did say we will die, in a second death if we buy in, sell out, give up ourselves to these false teachings. Truth is truth.  Here are three ways for your eyes and ears to discern between the eternal wisdom of God or the shallow echoes of hollow human reason.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. – Colossians 2:2-5

Did God really say it?  While I believe that God has inspired wisdom since the Bible was composed, including some of what I hope is wisdom in this blog, you can’t go wrong believing only what is already written from Genesis to Revelation.  Well, God didn’t say anything about social media, phones, or college?  Truth.  But what he did say was how to treat your neighbor, how to spend your time, and how you should work.  These truths found in scripture are living and active.  If we truly feel we are faced with some ethical dilemma that is completely unique to us in our present state, we should pray for wisdom because God gives wisdom generously to all without finding fault.

Who, exactly, does it benefit? Jesus makes an important distinction between behaviors that are motivated by God and those that are motivated by self. Prayer, tithing, and fasting are all wonderful disciplines for every Christian to take up. However, when we do it in public or take God’s glory by making it about ourselves, we are not feeding our relationship with God; we are feeding our ego.  Jesus makes the case that motives and intentions are every bit as important as the action we take. Truth may be on the side. I can eat or drink whatever I wish, but it may cause a stumbling block for another. If I knowingly offer advice that gives me permission to act for my benefit alone, then my words are not heavenly Father’s.

Does it advance the Kingdom of God? When our Savior heals on the Sabbath, he speaks clearly to this measure. Isn’t it right to work for the Lord on the Lord’s day?  To act more like Him?  To worship him in not only words but action?  Choosing to live for God is vastly different than choosing what goes on your plate.  There are some clear lines drawn in the sand. The gate is narrow, and only those who intend to deceive you will widen it.  There are simply behaviors and relationships that God doesn’t give his permission or his blessing.  It doesn’t advance the Kingdom of God to make allowances for habitual, unrepented behavior.  A short-term gain of a warm-body in a seat on Sundays is an eternal loss when sin isn’t confronted.  We accept the whole of God’s moral will or we are rejecting the lot.  This wisdom can burn like a good rubbing alcohol, but it also allows us to heal and be cleansed.

My hope and prayer for the church of today is that we can rid ourselves of these fine-sounding arguments, and make the case for sound, Godly discernment. Wisdom and life stem from Him alone.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:2-7

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Colossians 2 what are some of the dangers Paul is warning the church to avoid? What does he want the church to stay focused on?
  2. Where do you see God’s word and wisdom being distorted by fine-sounding arguments. Pray for wisdom and discernment to see clearly.
  3. What is the end result for those who are led astray and deceived?

The Hero who Rescues Us

Galatians 1

Monday, August 8, 2022 

            Like most people, I enjoy stories about people being rescued.  There is a universal appeal to a story where it’s life and death on the line and the hero comes to the rescue.  Sometimes, it’s an ordinary person with “a particular set of skills” like the father Liam Neeson played in the movie Taken.  Sometimes it’s a group of people who pool their talents to do a heroic deed and defeat evil powers or existential threats. Think, Lord of the Rings, Armageddon, or Independence Day. Sometimes it’s a hero with otherworldly powers who is willing to put his own life and safety on the line, like Superman, the Man of Steel.  Many people have noted that Superman can be viewed as a kind of allegory of the greatest hero of all, Jesus.

            As Paul opens his letter to the Galatians he leads with Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead by God, the father.  God raised Jesus from the dead after Jesus “gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”(Galatians 1:4).  There it is, the heart of almost every hero story.  This is the story of Jesus, God’s chosen one who gave himself to rescue us from evil.  This is not only the overarching story behind Paul’s letter to the Galatians, but it is the big story of the Gospel, the story of the Bible, and the story of life.  This is the story that is God’s story, it is history, and we are part of that story.  What I just wrote is called a metanarrative.  The post-modern worldview which has come to predominate our culture rejects metanarratives which are grand stories that explain the truth in clear terms.  There is no place in post-modernism for things like objectivity and universal truth.  You have “your truth” and I have “my truth” and “no one should impose their truth on someone else”.  Of course, this is not actually practiced by those who preach it and who are working to impose “their truths” on others as if they are right and others are wrong.  If you don’t follow “our truth” we will work to get you canceled.

            Paul has no patience for those who reject the Truth and listen to the voices of those who are trying to throw the followers of Jesus Christ into confusion by preaching a “different gospel”.  I’m sure Paul would have a lot to say about what is happening in our world today.  The loss of Truth, of metanarratives or big coherent stories around which we organize our life.  As Christians, we are part of God’s Big Story and that story is Truth.  Jesus said of himself that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  The Bible speaks in binary terms: good and evil, right and wrong, light and dark, male and female, lost and found, etc…  The evil one has always tried to sow seeds of doubt and contradict such clear thinking.  The evil one prefers to operate in the realm of “50 Shades of Gray.” Ever since the serpent tempted Eve by causing her to question and doubt God’s word introducing confusion and chaos into the world, there has been a war on the truth.   Jesus told Pontius Pilate “The truth will set you free”.  That was true 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, and it is still true today.

            Jesus is a True Hero sent by God to rescue us from this “present evil age” which he did by laying down his life for us.  That’s a hero worth believing in and following.  Let’s not fall for the trendy lies of post-modernism, the lies of the evil one.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What is your favorite hero/rescuer story?  What is it about that story that you find most appealing/inspiring?

2.  How does Jesus as a hero/rescuer stack up against others (fiction or non-fiction)?  How can you share the big story about Jesus with others effectively?

False Advertising

2 Corinthians 11

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Have you seen anything advertised lately that you really wanted to try? Keep this in mind. We will revisit it at the end…

     Paul in this section of the letter to the Corinthians is defending his apostleship- not by means of hearsay, but through the proof of his testimony to Christ. Through the actions of his ministry, he has demonstrated his devotion to his faith. In the latter part of the section, Paul lists out the persecutions he has suffered. He does this not for the sake of attention or for puffing up his chest. He does it to demonstrate what the life of a true follower of Christ can look like. He does so to prove through his actions, and not the empty clanging of his voice, that he is an apostle of Christ.

     Paul does make a point to call attention to the “false advertising”, if you will, of others. He even makes the statement in verse 14, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Both before and after this powerful statement of warning, Paul also mentions the servants of Satan and the deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness. Their beautifully spun words are to create an illusion that they are something that they are not. They are to deceive and steal away those who would come to Christ.  

Going back to that product you saw advertised, what about the product appealed to you? Was it the products testability that spoke for its reliability? Or was it the colorful design and exaggerated wording? We are in a world that is saturated in advertising and overrun with so many products trying to steal our attention from the others.

It is the same with who we put our trust in. Sometimes the advertisements of Satan are much more appealing. It can be difficult to choose the beautifully created bowl of fruit over the decadent devil’s food cake. But in the end, one nourishes and sustains us and the other satisfies us for only a moment.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. In what ways do you see Satan working to convince the world and Christians that what God said is good is actually bad, and what God said is bad is actually good? How does evil try to look good – masquerading as an angel of light?
  2. What lies of Satan have you believed?
  3. How can we protect ourself from being deceived by Satan as Eve was?
  4. What role does knowing and loving the truth play in fighting temptation? What truths do you find in Scripture that can help you be strong and wise against temptation?

Stiff-Necked Stubborn People

Acts 7

April 25

Acts 7:51 – You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (NIV)

Stiff-necked…bull-headed…stubborn…headstrong…obstinate…when we use these kinds of words to describe someone’s mindset, it’s never a compliment. 

For a brief moment, let’s put ourselves in the sandals of the Jewish leaders that Stephen is speaking to in Acts 7. They had the strongest of convictions. They truly believed that what they stood for, what they expected others to conform to, was to follow the Law given to Moses, rather than to submit to the teachings of Jesus. 

As believers we are also called to hold fast. To stand firm. To believe and not doubt. So what’s the problem?

The Jewish leaders were putting their faith in a system, rather than the Spirit of God. They believed that by following all the rules set forth in the Law, that they would be saved. Stephen is trying to convince them that instead, they need to submit to the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. 

Changing the way that you think about something, especially about a conviction you have, is not easy to do. But that’s exactly why we need to rely on God’s power instead of our own wills. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to us to soften our hearts; to transform our minds, to reveal truth. If we can be more committed to being sensitive to the messages God places in our inner beings, than we are dedicated to a system of rules and regulations, we can finally live the lives that God calls us to experience.     

It’s time to put aside your own system of beliefs. The abundant life starts with seeking God with all your heart.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How would you describe the difference between being stubborn and standing firm?
  2. Can you think of a time when your convictions made you stiff-necked, and you missed (or nearly missed) an opportunity to be led by the Holy Spirit? If you can’t think of a specific time, what might it look like?
  3. What do we learn about Stephen in Acts 7? What do we learn about God in Acts 7? How can what we read in this chapter change our mindset and actions this week?

Love and Truth

Matthew 15

January 15

We have used the word love to describe Jesus and his ministry many times in the last few days. And that is certainly true. But we would be creating a grievous error if we thought love was all that mattered to Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was about love and truth. Truth and love.

In Matthew 15 (and throughout the gospels) we don’t see a soft and cuddly pushover full of love and open arms. Indeed, Jesus is still love, but that includes love for the truth and love for those being led astray by deceit and human traditions. And sometimes love looks a little harsh when it is armed with truth.

The teachers of the law in Jerusalem were so curious about this Jesus. A delegation was sent to find him and question him. It would have been an 80-90 mile hike, or a 4-7 day journey from Jerusalem to the Gennesaret valley west of the Sea of Galilee. They were committed to this search for answers. How will they be received by Jesus?

There were a lot of Jewish laws and traditions about what to eat and not eat and what needed to be done surrounding the meal (like ceremonial washing of hands). The disciples and Pharisees were shocked to hear Jesus say that it wasn’t what goes into a mouth that makes you unclean, but what comes out of it. The disciples were also a bit surprised, I think, that Jesus answered the Pharisees the way he did, asking him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12). It is certainly NOT our purpose to try to be as offensive as possible when in religious discussion. And, it is wise to remember we don’t have all the wisdom of the Son of God. But, neither ought we be willing to keep the saving truth from those that might disagree with us, just because it would be more polite – or loving – to be silent.

How will you mix love and truth as Jesus did?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Jesus warned against following traditions of men that lead you to break the commands of God. What are some examples of how this could happen today? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the traditions of men? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the commands of God? Which would you rather follow? What will that look like this week?
  2. When is tradition a good thing? When is it a bad thing? Are there any traditions you are currently following that are not helpful in drawing you closer to what Jesus wants to see in your life?
  3. How can you bring truth and love into the lives of your family and those you are closest to? How can you bring truth and love into the lives of those who may not understand you or may outright oppose you?
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