Bearing Fruit

Luke Chapter 13

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Jesus tells the following parable starting in verse 6 of Luke 13 –  “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

 

Some may think that this fig tree represents unbelievers, which would make sense as they would not be producing fruit.  But I think Jesus is actually talking about believers here. The fig tree is seen throughout scripture as being connected to and representative of Israel, in both the Old and New Testament.  In Mark 11:12-21, Jesus curses a fig tree that was not bearing fruit and it withers and dies.

 

The point here is that Jesus and his Heavenly Father are not satisfied if you have the knowledge of them and their sacrifice, and then only go to church on Sunday and stay awake during the sermon. That is not Kingdom living.  That is not bearing fruit.

 

Back in chapter 10 of Luke, Jesus said the way to gain eternal life was to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Is this love intended to be kept internal?  Goodness, no. If you truly love God with ALL of your heart, then that should overflow.  If you truly love your neighbor (simply others) as yourself, I think they would know.  

 

What sort of things do you do to serve?  What do you do to show the love of God to others?  How do you use your God-given talents to honor Him?  The answers to these questions are your fruit! If you can’t think of any way that you are bearing fruit in such ways, let the parable of the Fig Tree be a warning to you.

 

I know that DOING things sounds like Works, and we are told at times that it is Faith that saves.  But I believe that Faith lived out leads to the works that bear fruit.  In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

 

So, I go back to where I started, in Chapter 7.  The coming Kingdom is real! It will be amazing! It will last forever!  You and everyone you know will want to be there. So do everything you can to spread that news, and encourage and bless believers and non-believers in the meantime as well.  That is truly bearing the fruit which Jesus will be looking for.

 

Greg Landry

 

Baptism – What is the Big Deal?

Matthew 3:13-17

Matt 3 17 (1)

Conversations abound over the importance of water baptism. Is it the baptism or simply a confession of faith? If baptism, then is it pouring, sprinkling or immersion? There is a semi-famous song about this. What about infant versus conscious baptism? What about those who do not have access to water? So many questions surround this topic. And these are just focusing on the methods and timing. What about what happens when we are baptized? What is the point or reason for being baptized? Why is it a public thing? It can be exhausting and at times confusing.

So let us look at the example set by Jesus. He travels from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan River where his cousin John is baptizing people in droves. Baptism itself was commonplace but it was a simple cleansing ritual. It was not too deep or meaningful and was certainly not a public spectacle. The people had never seen anything like what John was doing. In addition to the large masses of people coming to him he was telling them that this baptism was for the repentance of their sins. John was the precursor to Jesus, the keynote speaker if you will. He was highlighting the points that would be vital to Jesus’ ministry – repentance and the coming kingdom.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. John however recognized Jesus as the Messiah and understood that it was Jesus who should be baptizing John. He tried to argue with Jesus because he understood that among them only Jesus was righteous and sinless. Jesus was the only one who did not need this baptism.

Jesus’ response was that he must be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In doing so he was consecrated by God and officially approved by Him. His baptism had nothing to do with Levitical Law though. John’s message of repentance and the coming kingdom pointed to a Messiah who would be righteous and bring righteousness to the sinner. Jesus was identifying with the sinful world even though he himself was without sin. His baptism also marked the arrival of the long expected Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And finally his baptism was symbolic of his death, burial, and resurrection and was an example for his followers to come.

Upon being baptized the spirit of God rested upon him. This is the moment when God gave Jesus all authority and power to carry out his Father’s perfect will here on earth. Jesus later told his disciples that this same spirit, a portion only however, would come upon them. It is the same spirit received by all who come to God through Jesus and the waters of baptism. This spirit strengthened and encouraged Jesus when he needed it most, as it does for each of those who faithfully follow his example.

So he comes up out of the water and the Spirit of God comes upon him and then it happens! Something incredible! Something amazing! Something that has not happened for four hundred years. Man hears the first words from God since the close of the Old Testament. His silence is broken so that He can confirm Jesus is His son, “Whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” This statement in itself is timeless. God was not simply pleased that Jesus was beginning his ministry. It is the culmination of a millennia old plan to bring all people back to Him. The fulfillment of His covenant with Abram is realized in this moment. All people will be blessed through Jesus if they choose Yahweh as their God and Jesus as the way to Him. Past, present and future balanced on this man’s obedience to God.

John was baptizing in a river and most examples of baptism in the New Testament appear to be in or around large bodies of water so immersion in water makes the most sense for how we ought to be baptized. There are biblical examples of baptism of the spirit alone, a confession of faith without involvement of water. These examples however appear to be the exception and not the rule. People without access to water or without time to get to water are exceptions.

If someone has the means and opportunity to go through the waters of baptism and does not are they saved by confession of sin and repentance alone? I do not know just as I do not know if someone who confesses, repents, and is baptized is saved. We have biblical and personal examples of people being baptized and living in a way that is completely opposed to God’s will. God alone knows our hearts. He knows where we stand.

One of the radical things about what John was doing is that those who came to him to be baptized were obeying God from their heart. It is a conscious decision to be baptized. I was “baptized” as an infant but it meant nothing to me. I had not made the choice to change my life. I had not chosen God or His son until I was a grown man. That has been the point from the beginning, back when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. They had a choice to choose God or not, trust Him or not. They chose not. Jesus presents to the whole world that very same choice.

In this moment when Jesus was baptized God’s confirmation of Jesus was both for his assurance and for a witness to others. This is the same reason for us to publicly surrender and commit to God through Jesus. We need the inner confirmation of His great blessing upon us, and the world needs the testimony of a life committed to His will through Jesus.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

Transformed

Ephesians 4 24
My guilty pleasure shows, the ones I watch on those rare occasions when I am home by myself and have nothing to do (or at least would like to put off what I am suppose to do), are restaurant makeover shows.  It doesn’t matter the title, the host, or the characters.  I am sucked into the identical plot over and over again. A failing entrepreneur invites a celebrity chef into their restaurant to help them become more successful.  Initially, they admit that minor changes are in order, but don’t see any major cause for concern.  The business owner’s management is flawless. The food is great.  The decor could be updated. Just a tweak here and there and efforts will move from futile to flourishing.  And then celebrity chef gives the reality check (in a varyingly dramatic way).  He/she tells them the decor is dismal, the food is frightful, and by far the most monstrous piece that brings each element together is the mismanagement.  Yet the owners who willingly invited the chef into their restaurant, who have seen this play out on different channels, seasons, and time slots, express shock.  They shake their heads and fingers.  “Not us!” they say. “We are different!” they say. “We only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” they say.

It is hard to accept the jarring reality that we’re terrible. That the entirety of everything we have accomplished for ourselves is considered a heap of filthy rags (Isa 64:6).  Our corrupted (Eph 4:22) business-as-usual model is rubbish, garbage, doo doo.  You don’t need to drop a couple items off the menu; you need a new menu.  You don’t need to gloss over the interior with a new color; you need some serious demolition work.  Most of all, you are not one or two adjustments away from being an excellent entrepreneur; you need a new manager. A major overhaul is in order, not a minor adjustment.  In order to do this Christian life, you must face there is a thread that tethers most of your issues:  you making the decisions.  Conversely, there is a simple solution to overcome challenges and have meaningful and lasting change: follow the model of Christ.  Less us, more Christ until we are gone, and there is only Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Man, oh man – it is so hard to read his story because it hits so close to home. He invited Christ into his life to look at what He had accomplished because he had a pretty good thing going.  He thought he only needed a quick makeover. Then Jesus delivered some nauseating news to this guy: “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”  “Not me!” he thought. “I am different!” he thought. “I only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” he sadly thought and walked away from Christ.  Had he not heard this requirement from Jesus already?  Matt 6:19-24 Luke 12:23; Or read about them in the law he kept? Deuteronomy 8:8-10; Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 11:28

Christ doesn’t call us to a simple makeover or even a renovation.  Our response cannot be accomplished by purchasing a new Bible, hitting up church camp, signing up for a mission trip, going to a Bible college, following commandments, or doing good works.  All of those things are beneficial, but they will not lead to lasting, permanent change – said by someone who has done ALL of those things.  TRANSFORMATION is literally changing (trans-) our very form (uh, form).  Tearing down the structure, ripping the very foundation from the earth, and then replacing it with a new foundation – our Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. THEN we seek our Chef, Architect, and Father for the new plan for our life.  For some of us, God may have used His infinite plan to provide us with the tools to build with for His glory or repurpose some pieces from the rubble, but more likely than not, we may be called to do something completely new, difficult, and can only be accomplished with a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 1 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2

TRANSFORMATION is not ours in a single day.  It begins with the decision to demo, but is a lifelong, day-by-day challenge to change not only the way we act, but our very mindset that allows us to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. When we transform our thinking, health, sickness, wealth, poverty, where we live, what college we attend, our occupation, our family, persecution, what we eat or drink, and even death are not our simple circumstance but tools at the disposal of our God.  Every moment, every action becomes an opportunity to spread His good news of a coming Kingdom to begin the radical change in the hearts of others.  Ultimately, we have a great hope in the struggle of living a transformed life now.  Our lives will be transformed once-and-for-all, not over the course of a lifetime, but in a single instance – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:52,53).  It all begins today with listening and looking to the one who has already accomplished it.

-Aaron Winner

We Are Hupernikao

Romans Chapter 8

 

I am thrilled that I will be sharing my thoughts on Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.  Romans is my favorite book of the Bible due to the sheer amount of truth, enlightenment and encouragement that is contained within.

 

Pages and pages can be written on any given chapter within Romans, but I plan to touch on only one or two (or three) portions of each chapter I am covering.

 

Romans chapter 8 is right in the middle of this amazing book, and it should be an amazing encouragement to any believer who is struggling with the weight of life.

 

Have any of you watched the news any time recently?  The old adage, “No news is good news” is often very true.  If the news didn’t have BAD news to talk about, they wouldn’t have much to say at all it seems.  Our world is fallen, and sinful behavior thrives in this fallen world.  But you don’t have to watch the news to know that.  We can see the adverse effects of living in a fallen world on a day to day basis within our own lives.

 

We are reminded in this chapter that all of creation groans and waits in eager expectation to be made perfect and freed from the bondage of decay.  Me too!  I’m not too old yet, (47 is the new 40), but I know my body is slowing down.  Much worse, I have seen loved ones pass away as a result of their bodies failing.

But that will all end!  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in this section, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us.

 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if do not.

 

Verse 31b – “If God is for us, who can be against us?!!!!”  (I added the exclamation marks – it SHOULD have them in my Bible.)  That is one of the best lines in all of scripture in my humble opinion.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

 

Yes, we all face hardships in this fallen world today, until we are made perfect in the Kingdom.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  The Greek word for that phrase is hupernikao.

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We learned that word in a Sunday School lesson last year, and it was fun to shout “Hupernikao!” if we demolished the other team in volleyball after church on Wednesday nights!  It feels great to be hupernikao.  That is what we are intended to be with God and Christ on our side.

 

Finally, this chapter concludes with more incredible encouragement in regards to the possibility of being removed from the love of God:

 

“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

 

-Greg Landry

Today’s “Roman Road” – the Internet

matt 24 14

God had prepared the way at just the right time for His Messiah.  He not only prepared people and governments, but He prepared a way for this Good News to travel to the nations.  Up until this time, most ancient roads were dirt paths, but Roman engineers had discovered how to make roads last a long time and they interconnected the entire Empire.  At the time of Jesus, the Roman roads were great highways that went out in many directions from Rome that linked many roads and connected vast territories and kingdoms.  They literally paved the way for the Good News to travel around the known world.

God has once again prepared the way at just the right time.  In Matthew 24 Jesus warns his disciples what the end of this age will be like and what signs to look for as they wait for him to return.  But once again, he lets them know that they don’t need to worry about when it will happen because he has a job for them to do!

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:14)

In fact, they, and we, have a great responsibility and privilege!  We get to help bring about the return of Jesus!

Up until the last twenty years, people have done their best to “go into all the world”, but, going was quite limited.  Even if we sent a few missionaries to every country in the world, we would hardly scratch the surface and wouldn’t reach that many people.

Multitudes have heard about Jesus, but they don’t know him.  Less people have heard about the coming kingdom that Jesus preached throughout his ministry and spent his last 40 days talking about with his disciples.  But God has once again prepared the way!  There is a new road that goes into all the nations!  This road is the internet.

Internet evangelism is how the nations will have an opportunity to hear and receive the Good News.  No longer can one person reach only as many as he knows or comes into contact with.  Today one person, right out of the comfort of his home, can reach millions of people in places he has never been and most likely, never will go.  One person can invest a little time, without investing thousands of dollars in travel expenses, and can do much more, plant more seeds, and encourage more brethren than if he were to board a plane and go somewhere.

We are called to be good stewards of our time and our money.  God has prepared the way!  Can you imagine if the disciples didn’t use the Roman roads and just kept walking the little dirt paths?  As faithful disciples and good stewards, we must use what God has given us if we desire to obey the Great Commission and help bring the return of our anticipated savior!

Read the exciting chapter of Matthew 24 and allow God to convict you for the need to preach this kingdom message to the world.

Whether you are called to missions or not, as a disciple of Jesus, I challenge you to give God and the Great Commission 30 minutes a week and invest in internet evangelism.  Not sure how to do that?  Please reach out to me and I would be happy to help!

I, along with some other experienced missionaries and internet evangelists, will be having a national missions conference and we would love to have you attend!  You can find more details at: http://kogmissions.com/kingdom-missions-academy-conference-training

Come if you are just curious about missions or if you are seriously considering mission work!

-Tracy Zhykovich

Alf – Strangers in this World

John 14

emoyer alf

In 1986 Gorden Shumway, more familiarly named Alf, crashed into the garage of the Tanner family.  Each week the Tanner’s had challenges to disguise Alf and teach him about planet Earth. He would hide in strange places or put on all types of costumes when nosey neighbors and friends would pop in.

 

In the show, the Tanner family knew and actually saw Alf.  They always had to hide and disguise him when company arrived. In contrast, the disciples and people in Bible time are the only ones who have seen and experienced Jesus.  But we as believers need to hold firm to what is unseen and have faith in knowing that Jesus will be coming again.  We know that the Tanner family hid Alf from the outside world in the 80’s sitcom.  We don’t want to hide Jesus from others.  We want to share his love and the promise of his Father’s coming Kingdom.  We want to spread his love over and over until we hear the last trumpet sound. Jesus promises us so much as long as we are loving and obedient to his call.

-Emily Moyer

HOPE

Isaiah 51-53

isaiah-51v6

Tuesday, February 21

These three chapters go together much better than some of the other chapters, in my opinion, so they are easier to write about all together, instead of chapter by chapter. Again there is SO much hope in these chapters, you just have to know where to find it. Throughout these chapters, God is comforting his people, and reminding them that he is always there for them, that he always knows what is best for them, and that he always comes through on his promises. He reminded them, and is reminding through these words that we can look to our ancestors and the promises that he made to them. He reminds his people of what he did for Abraham and Sarah, by giving them children and promising Abraham many children-we are all known as children of Abraham. How super cool is that promise! God is still fulfilling the promise that he made to Abraham even though Abraham has been gone for many many many years. He later in 51 says that the heavens will vanish and the earth will diminish and the people will die, but there is more in store for us as believers. God’s salvation will last forever and his righteousness will never fail. This is an amazing promise that talks of the promise of the coming kingdom. 52 talks about the history of the people of Jerusalem. He talks about how his people were forced into Egypt as slaves-they were bought with no money, and with no money they will be freed, because God has always known what would happen and had a plan to get them to freedom, God knows our hearts, and he knew that we would all go down a path of destruction, just like Adam and Eve-this is in human nature. This is why God sent his one and only begotten son into the world- that we might live. God knows everything; he knows your heart and mine, and he put a plan in place thousands of years ago for us to be saved. We need to heed all of the warnings in Isaiah, but we also need to rejoice in the good news this book carries as well.

A song for today:

“This Is Love” by Aaron Winner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQbjSTo3lYc&list=PL0v5rBOVXt3yiPNooFzmz_JxdInamLeIK

-Devotion by Jana Swanson
(photo credit: http://hiswordinpictures.blogspot.com/2011/08/isaiah-516.html)