Not So Sweet and Mild Jesus

Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21

I have a confession to make. I really don’t like conflict and because of that I don’t always confront situations or people as I should or as is necessary. Now thankfully the Lord is growing me in this area because the reality is confrontation and conflict is necessary. Actually the New Testament teaches that there is a time and place for believers to hold each other accountable with regard to sin. Many Christians and churches struggle with this. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and scary yet our Lord himself exemplified this in today’s chapter of Matthew 23 (read Matt. 18.15). 

Seven times in Matthew 23 Jesus says “woe to you” with reference to the Pharisees. “Woe” is a prophetic denunciation that the prophets in the Old Testament used to warn people that their behavior was not pleasing to God and if they didn’t correct their actions God’s punishment and judgement would come. 

The crime of the Pharisees was that they were so caught up in religious activities that it compromised true obedience God really desired. Jesus loves and forgives but he will not tolerate empty obedience and religious service. He will not be sweet to that which God hates and opposes. Likewise as followers of Jesus we must strive to become like him in all respects including standing up for the truth even when that means calling out sin and that which God hates. 

This must be done with great wisdom and care and love. I’ll include passages that speak to this theme. I’d encourage you to read them and get exposed to this New Testament teaching. We as Christians have a duty to lovingly hold other believers accountable with regard to sin. 

Passages for further study:

.Matt. 16.21-23

.Matt. 18.15-20

.I Cor. 5.1-5

.Gal. 2.11-14

.Gal. 6.1

.Eph. 5.11-14

.I Tim. 5.20

.Tit. 3.10-11

.Jam. 4.17

Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21.

Tomorrow we will read Mark 13.

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires of the Mouth

Proverbs 26

Proverbs 26 20 NIV

The Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign started in 1944, and in 1947 the slogan that is familiar to many came to fruition; Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires (updated in 2001 to Wildfires). It is the longest public service campaign in the United States’ history. A campaign was derived to help the prevention of forest fires. Years of education gave the ownership to the general public to be more careful and to care for the world around you. The catchphrase reflects your responsibility.

 

Our family does not do “traditional” camping (unless a cabin with running water or hotel room is traditional camping to you). This doesn’t mean that we don’t love a good campfire.  This summer we spent some time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at our family cabin. The week was filled with cleaning out the overgrowth of trees and brush on the property, which meant a BIG campfire. Our burn pit is close to the lake, but is really in the middle of the woods (like most campfires). Being in the heart of the woods means being surrounded by a plethora of “fuel” if a fire is left to its own devices. So, before we left the cabin or went to bed, we had to make sure that the fire was out.

 

The wisdom from Proverbs 26:20 resonated with me. It says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” You see, a fire is only going to burn if it is fed. Our tongue is the fire and when you remove gossip or the “fuel,” it dies down. The best way to end (avoid) a quarrel? Keep your mouth shut!  Don’t get involved in what doesn’t concern you. Don’t take up offenses of others and don’t be easily offended. Don’t talk about what you don’t know and be very slow to talk about what you do know. Practice self-control in the moment and show Christ-like love at all times. Don’t be the fuel for the fire and the fight!

 

James 3:5-6 says “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.” This just reinforces that our small tongue can do big damage.

 

Don’t fuel the flame of gossip and cause fights, only you can prevent wildfires of your mouth!

 

Erin Bormes

Keeping God’s Gospel

Galatians 1

Galatians 1 7

Today we are going to be starting the book of Galatians which was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia.

After his introduction, he gets right into a major problem he is seeing among them:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Although this was an issue the people of Galatia were having, it is something that we can fall prey to as well.  It is a good reminder to us that the truth matters and that if we are trying to present the gospel contrary to what is found in Scripture, we are in trouble.

He continues on with his reminder in this way:

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

You may find that it is easy to go through life being a people pleaser, and you may be able to avoid a lot of conflict this way, but if you are so focused on pleasing people to the extent that you start to displease God, you are going to have problems.

Now, I’m not saying you should try to stir up conflict with others.  We are told in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But that doesn’t mean that you give in to the world.  You still have a responsibility first and foremost to God to uphold His Word which brings us back to keeping the gospel as it is presented in Scripture.  It is an unchanging story.

This first chapter finishes up with Paul summarizing his conversion and early faith story which we read about earlier this year in Acts.  If you missed it, go back and read the full account!  When Paul is writing here, he is assuming that his readers have already heard the story and he doesn’t go into much detail.  His point here is that God was praised because of Paul’s conversion, not because they knew Paul at all.

Most of us probably don’t have a story like Paul’s, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t be praised because of what we do for Him.  If our lives are reflecting God’s love, He will be praised.  Make that your goal for the week – that because of how you are living, God will be given praise.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

More Love, Less Conflict

Prov 10 12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
Proverbs 10:12 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/pro.10.12.NIV

One verse, one sentence that says something we all already know. It’s so obvious and yet we struggle to act in love in so many situations. Today, there is a run off election for 2 different state positions here in Georgia. As I voted today it made me think of all the election ads and speeches given just over a month ago. Very few of those were rooted in love, but many were negative. Is it any wonder our nation is so divided? Do we even need to question why people are becoming increasingly violent? It’s because instead of love, which covers wrong, we spread hatred, breeding conflict toward one another.

The only way to create positive change in the community around us is through love. If you’re a Jesus follower, then you know this principle already. It’s why you changed and are still changing. It’s God’s love for us, that we experience in all sorts of ways, that drives us to become better. It steers us away from hatred, it helps us see the potential in others and inside of us. The next time you find yourself disgusted about a person or situation, instead of complaining or pointing out what’s wrong, try focusing on how you can be loving anyway. That’s the only way things will get better, so we might as well stop wasting time with hatred that breeds conflict, and use our energy to show love that covers all wrongs.

-Jerry Briggs

Real Peace

Peace

What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t—as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable.  But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)


According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking peace for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem, so that we can pretend like it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.

We can trust Jesus to provide miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God.

Katie-Beth Fletcher

Our Week of Unity

IMG_0272 (1)

I’ve enjoyed writing this week’s devotions and sharing with you Paul’s words on unity. Today I want to recap what we’ve learned and encourage you to start living out these ideas in your own life.

 

 

I began this week talking about the conflict-ridden times we are living in and the fact that the Church is not immune to divisiveness. The church has struggled with unity since its inception, but this isn’t how it should be. Paul wanted unity for the church in Philippi—he said this would make his joy complete. Unity is also what is needed in every church today. This is why we should pursue it.

 

 

On Monday, I said that to be unified we must be striving towards the same idea—to be of same mind. And the idea around which we should be unified is living out the Gospel. This should be our singular purpose in life and everything else should pale in comparison to it.

 

The next day we moved to Paul’s advice on the way towards unity. Humility, the lowering of one’s self and self-interests, is how he says we should go about achieving unity. Our agendas should be subject to God’s. Paul pointed to Christ as the prime example of living in humility and subjecting oneself to God’s will. We must follow Christ’s pattern of humility if we are to have unity in our churches.

 

On Wednesday, we learned about four enemies of unity and why they’re so destructive to churches. The first is pride, which promotes self-interest instead of the Gospel. The second is gossip, which divides people by pointing out others shortcomings without trying to help them. The third enemy is complaining. When we complain, we are saying that we think something is wrong, but we don’t care enough about the body to address the issue in the proper way. The fourth enemy to unity we see is argument, but not just simple disagreement. Arguments that are fueled by a desire to be proved right and arguments that are filled with bitterness instead of love drive churches apart. All four of these enemies are real dangers that we should fight against with love and humility.

 

On Thursday I spoke about our union with Christ and how essential it is to church unity. Union with Christ has two aspects: knowing him and being like him. In knowing him we must truly understand what he did, why he did it, and what that means for us. In being like him, we must strive to live as he lived, in subjection to the will of God and in the service of others. Christ is the head of the body; if we want unity in the body, we must be united with him.

 

Yesterday I spoke about Paul’s final advice for the Philippians on unity and four principles we can take from it. The first is of reconciliation. When two or more people in the church are divided, the church should work together to bring everyone back into unity. The second principle is about exercising gentleness. Just as Jesus was gentle when caring for those who were weak and needed special attention, the Church today needs that same gentleness in its ministry. The next principle is that we should live our lives worry free from the troubles that plague this age and that, when we do face struggles, we should bring them to God in prayer. The final principle we see is that we should fill our minds with things that are good instead of the rot that is a hallmark of this world. These four principles will go a long way towards promoting unity in our churches.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these devotions this week, along with the words of Paul to the Philippians. But we are not called to simply be hearers (or readers) of the word—we must also be doers. The words of Paul to the Philippians are challenging, but the results from following them would be life changing and paradigm shifting for the Church. If we want to see unity in the Church, we must start by applying these ideas in our own lives as individuals—living in humility, having the Gospel be our primary focus, and not gossiping, complaining, or arguing.

 

– Joel Fletcher

Making Paul’s Joy Complete

IMG_0272

Hello everyone! My name is Joel and I will be bringing you this week’s FUEL Bible Readings. Each day we will be taking a look in the letters of Paul (Philippians in particular) at the theme of unity.

 

We’re living in a time filled with divisiveness and disunity. Every day our Facebook feeds, television screens, and other sources for news are filled with stories of conflict. This conflict manifests itself in many ways: arguments, protests, hostility, and even war. Sadly, conflict is not just a problem in secular society; the Church is not immune to it. But this is nothing new; from the very beginning of the Church and continuing for almost two thousand years, there has been discord and conflict among those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

 

But this, my brothers and sisters, is not how it should be.

 

The Church is to be united: having the “…same mind, having the same love, being in full accord” (Phil. 2:2, NRSV).  This is what Paul wanted for the church in Philippi—it would make his “joy complete”. And I am sure that, if he were writing today to any of the many churches dealing with disunity, he would encourage them to do the same.

 

So this week, as you are reading these devotions and the words of Paul, I would encourage you to look at yourself to see if there is anything you are doing that is promoting disunity within your church and look for ways in which you can make Paul’s joy complete.

 

– Joel Fletcher

 

Memory Verse:

“1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2, NRSV)

Three Deep Breaths

PROVERBS 29

Proverbs 29-11

When reading Proverbs 29, I caught onto a theme of how to handle anger and frustration.  Verse 8 says that the wise turn away anger.  Verse 11 reads that the wise bring calm whereas the fool vents his rage.  Verse 20 instructs us not to speak in haste, verse 22 tells us that angry and hot-tempered people stir up conflict and commit many sins, and verse 23 warns against pride, which is often a precursor to anger and argument.

We all encounter trying situations.  We all have tense moments in which we want to scream into a pillow or go for a run or do whatever helps us to cool off.  Proverbs 29 instructs us to keep a cool head and turn away from anger.  I remember a scene from a movie or television show (although for the life of me, I can’t remember the source) in which a character is stressing out.  Another character instructs her to take 3 deep breaths, saying that in the time it takes to complete those 3 breaths, she will stop herself from doing or saying anything she may later regret.

At some point or another, we all get angry.  In these times, it is important to know how God instructs us to handle ourselves.  I had a classmate in college who would pray for the class before every exam.  She always ended her prayers by asking the Lord to keep us calm, cool, and collected during the stress of the exam.  Three deep breaths.  Calm, cool, and collected.  When on the verge of having an outburst, remember to be the wise man and bring calm.  Be wise and turn away anger.  Don’t speak in haste.  Lean on the Lord and His teachings, even in tense moments.  Three deep breaths allows for enough time to reflect back on these verses.

-Megan Bryant