Reminders

Isaiah 63-64, Titus 3

Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself.  Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself.  “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00.  Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning.  Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance.  I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting.  In 1 hour I have a meeting.  In 15 minutes I have a meeting.  The Meeting is now starting.  Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.

Do you ever need reminders?  Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework.  What do you need reminders for?

The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians.  I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing  what’s necessary or urgent.  Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live?  Yep, we sure do.

In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2

Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years.  We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we?  Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority?  Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good?  Don’t all Christians always do what is good?   Certainly we never  slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing.  I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).

To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things.  Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good.  I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you.  That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community.  We need each other.  There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading,  but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.  

Following Jesus is hard some times.  Being obedient to God is hard some times.  Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes.  I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right.  I need you, and you need me, we need each other.

I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember.  Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy.  God has both.  God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other.  He hates it when his children fight and argue.  He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us.  We hurt each other when we sin.  No parent likes to see their children hurt each other.  We learned that from our Father, God.

So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.

“Hey Siri  set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow:  be considerate and gentle to everyone.”

“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3

Guard your Hearts

Hebrews 3

hebrews 3 12

Hebrews 3:12-13, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

 

If we don’t guard our hearts, it will lead to sin. The more we sin, the easier it becomes and the more we let our guard down. The more we let our guard down, the more we lose the good that is stored up in our hearts. The more we lose, the more bad things will replace it. The more of the bad things that get stored up in our heart, the harder it becomes. The harder it becomes, the more we deflect any good things that try to work their way back into my heart.

 

Unfortunately, I see it happen on a yearly basis. So many students leave an event like Fuel on fire for God. The first couple weeks – in the word, involved at church and avoiding former bad habits. But then one slip often leads to another – and eventually this year wasn’t “Different” and they are back to normal.

 

Over time their hearts harden up and they become resistant to the things of God. Things like church or the Bible are no longer a part of their lives. They lash out at you when you try to talk to them about it. They dismiss any attempt at getting them to see what has happened to them.

 

Like the frog in the kettle. Put a frog in a boiling pot and he will immediately jump out. Put him in a pot of warm water and slowly turn up the heat and he will stay in until it’s too late.

 

Therefore we need to encourage one another to guard their hearts, be vigilant and watchful.

 

For those that attended FUEL, we are only a month out. Are you still letting your light shine and proclaiming your differences? What about your friends? Keep in touch and keep each other accountable.

 

Guard your hearts!

John Wincapaw

Building Your Prayer Life

James 5_16b

Another common resolution of Christian’s is that they want to pray more. What does that mean though? Does this mean that they will pray more during meals, or they will remember to pray before bed? Does this mean praying at random times or scheduled times during the day? What exactly is prayer, and how do you have more? If your goal this year is to grow closer to God, then this topic is something you should really consider and maybe work on. (I am also not claiming that I am good at this, I know that this is something I plan to work on this year.)

Some passages to read this week: Matthew 6:5-13, James 5:13-18

Prayer is conversation with God. It is a time for you to talk with him and tell him what is going on in your life and to ask him for guidance or support or help. Prayer is for you to build your relationship with God. It is a way for you to give him praise and thanks for everything that he has done in your life. Besides these, prayer is for you to ask for what you desire and what you need. God is pretty awesome and he loves to give us what we want as long as it is good for us and it is in accordance with his plan for our lives. Matthew chapter 6 talks about how and where to pray. It says not to be like the hypocrites who pray in front of the synagogues so that people could see them and what they were doing. It says to pray in your room alone, because prayer is for you and God, and between you and God. Now do I think that you can only pray in your room alone? No, you can absolutely pray wherever and whenever you want, but the motivation behind your praying should not be to get attention from other people, but to converse with God. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the Lord’s prayer, he was giving a simple prayer that people could remember, and it covers a lot of different things in there, but your prayers do not all have to be like the Lord’s prayer.

Different ways to pray. There are as many different ways to pray as there are people on earth, and even more than that. Every single person of faith has their own relationship with God, and this means that their prayers are going to be their own, and different from anyone else. If you are trying to add more praying into your life and you do not know where to start, here are some ideas.

Just start praying; tell God anything and everything that is going on in your life. Talk out loud, or quietly to yourself and just thank God for the little things, or ask him questions, or ask for things in your life. Start a conversation, and listen for the response. Look for it in the world around you. God will make things clear when they are meant to be clear and known to you.

Listen to music, or sing a prayer. I personally feel closest to God when I am singing, or when I am listening to praise music. Is that praising? yes, but for me it is also how I talk to God, and I often get chills that tell me God is hearing me. My favorite prayer is actually a prayer that my family sings before meals. It goes like this; “Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, these mercies bless and grant that we, may feast in fellowship with thee. Amen.” It is a tradition that I have always loved, and it is where I feel closest to our heavenly father.

Write in a journal. Again, prayer is meant to be a conversation between you and God. Maybe talking and singing is not comfortable for you, or you do not feel God’s presence when you do those. Try writing and journalling. Write your thoughts down and then just give them to God. He can still understand what you are asking of him, and this is still a form of communication. I sometimes journal and write down my thoughts, and it helps me in that moment. However, sometimes I re-read what I wrote and it helps me again later.

James 5:13-18 This passage talks all about when to pray. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it basically says to pray all the time, in any and every circumstance. We should pray when we are sick, troubled and lost. We should pray and sing praise in the joyous times. When we have wronged someone we need to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ and ask them to pray for us and with us. We should being praying in EVERY circumstance. I know I pray to God when I am really having a hard time, but I sometimes forget to pray in the good times and thank him for everything that he has done for me and given to me. This is on me, and I should do better about this.

James 5:16 talks about confessing your sins to your brother and praying for each other. To me, this also talks about accountability. Sometimes with the business of life it is difficult to remember what we promised, or to pray. If prayer is something you want to take more seriously in your life, or have more of, think about asking for an accountability partner. Ask a friend if they are willing to pray with you daily, or if they are willing to send you a text asking if you have been praying. Whatever an accountability partner would mean for you, I encourage you to seek that out. You will deepen your relationship with God, and you may even build deeper connections with fellow believers as well.

-Jana Swanson

Make Better Investments

Matthew 25:14-30

Matt 25 21

Today we are talking about the New Year’s resolution of making better investments. This is a common resolution in the world whether people are people of faith or not. However I am going to talk about faith investments, more than monetary investments. Yes finances and being responsible are important in our lives and in our faith, however we need to be able to ask God for guidance in all areas of our lives including that one and we need to be flexible enough to listen to him.

At the start of the New Year one of my friends asked God, “Where and in whom should I invest my time, in 2018?” My thought was this, invest your time in the people who will give your time more meaning than just the time that they spend with you. Yes sometimes it is nice to have friends and family who will spend time with you, without there being a specific reason or purpose. However, you need to truly invest your time and energy in the people who will do something big with that time, not necessarily for you but maybe for them and their future. Today we are reading from Matthew 25:14-30. This passage is the parable of the talents. It is about the Master who gave 3 servants different number of talents, which were a type of coin. One was given 5, one was given 2, and one was given 1. The one with 5 invested them and doubled the money. The second servant did the same. The last servant buried the 1 talent in the ground, he did not even put it in the bank to at least collect interest. The first servant proved himself and so the master gave him even more, but to the last servant he gave him nothing, and he actually threw him out into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (That seems a little harsh to me, but the reality is life can be pretty difficult sometimes.)

I take a few things from this parable. 1.) Make smart choices and smart investments in your life, and take care of things that people entrust you with. The servants who made their master happy increased the master’s wealth, but they also did not lose the money that he gave them because they were proactive and took care of what they were entrusted with. The servant who did not make his master happy, did nothing with what he was given. This is what we should pay attention to. God gives us a lot of things. He gave us a life to live, and he has a plan for each of us. If you are not listening to him, how are you taking care of the gift that he has given you? If you are not taking care of the earth, and being conscious of how your actions affect other people and other creatures, how can you be taking care of a gift that was given to you? You are not. Think about this as you go about your daily life. How can you take care of the life you have been given? How can you listen to and follow God’s plan for your life?

2.) Invest in the people who are going to give you more than just time. Invest in the people who are going to give you wholesome friendships. Invest in the people that push you to be a better person, and those who hold you accountable to the things that you see. Invest in people who will push you in your relationship with God, and invest in those who will support you when you fall. We are imperfect beings and we will fall short sometimes. We will not always meet others’ expectations of us, God’s expectations or even our own expectations. Those will be difficult moments, but they will be easier to face if we have surrounded ourselves with people who will support us. It will also be easier if we have nurtured those relationships and given them the time that they deserve.

3.) Invest in God. This seems simple, and you’re probably going to guess what I am going to say. A relationship with God is not a one way street. You can not accept that Jesus is your savior and the son of God, and that God is one and only God, and not do anything else. You have to live a life with works. James 2:17 “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” This means investing in time in prayer, and in time in the word, and even in time with other believers in fellowship. Find little ways to do more of these in your daily life. Later in the week we will talk more about how to do more in the investment of your relationship with God, as we enter into this new year.

-Jana Swanson

A True Friend

PROVERBS 27 – Monday

Prov 27 17

Verse 6 reads “faithful are the wounds of a friend…”  In this context, the wounds of a friend appear to be necessary.  Friends who love us enough to be honest with us, even when it hurts, are the best kinds of friends.  I can remember multiple times in my life in which I didn’t enjoy the truth that I was told, but my friends and family loved me enough to tell me anyway.  We often think that allowing people their momentary happiness is a kindness, but if someone is in sin, it is our duty to tell loved ones the painful truth.  Just as iron sharpens iron (verse17) by chipping away the outer bits of metal, honest friends sharpen each other by helping each other to turn away from sin and helping to recognize the things that are keeping us spiritually dull.

 

Finding a friend or a group of friends who can be open enough with each other to share this kind of love is invaluable.  Someone told me that a friendship that lasts 7 years is a lifelong friendship—if you can make it 7 years, you can make it forever.  I don’t particularly like the idea that a length of time is necessary to determine true friendship; I think that real friendship is proven by friends who can be brutally honest in love.  I was close to a girl in college for 4 years, but I could never tell her hard truths.  It weighed on me when I saw things that needed attention, but I was too scared of upsetting her to be a forthright friend.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Don’t be afraid to confront your people when you see them in or approaching sin.  We need each other to keep us accountable.

-Megan Bryant