If Paul can, You can

Philippians 1 

7

Shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison. It seems that Paul could never catch a break. The letter of Philippians was actually written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. After a short greeting to the church of Philippi, Paul explains his current predicament:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.(Philippians 1:12-14)

Paul’s attitude is truly humbling. Instead of grumbling, blaming, or whining, he recognizes that all of his difficulties have “served to advance the gospel.” What a mindset to strive for! By being transparent about his sufferings, Christians at the time were encouraged to be more confident and daring, spreading the gospel without fear. I was shocked to read that the people were more encouraged by Paul’s endurance than petrified by his tribulations.

My sister once brought a box of bacon-cheddar flavored crickets to a family gathering. At first, everybody thought the crickets were an amusing joke, but nobody seriously considered eating one. After staring at the crickets for a long while, my brother-in-law finally ate one as we all goggled and gawked. Then the next person ate one, and the next person, and eventually everyone in the room had eaten a cricket. After witnessing someone else eat the cricket, it was much easier for me to eat a cricket, too. (FYI crickets don’t taste like chicken).

In the same way, early Christians adopted an “If Paul can, I can” kind of faith. Let Paul’s resilience and conviction in the face of obstacles encourage you, too, to proceed boldly in your faith. If Paul can withstand being shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison, you can be daring and bold in your faith, too.

When was the last time you took a risk for your faith? Get your hands dirty, get uncomfortable, and get moving.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21).

 

-Mackenzie McClain

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.

greg 1

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

A Most Encouraging, Comforting and Exciting Passage

Rev 21 4

We are excited about beginning our New Testament Bible Reading plan this coming Sunday.  The rest of this week we will be hearing from various writers on what God’s Word means to them.  Today, we are pleased to hear from Seth Ross, the Executive Director of the Church of God General Conference and Atlanta Bible College President.

 

Over the years, I have found certain portions of Scripture have come back to encourage me over and over. Revelation 21 is one of those chapters that encourages me when I’m down, it comforts me when I’m in pain, and it excites me when… well, all the time. When I’ve lost people close to me (grandparent, parent, etc) the particular verses below have given me comfort in what God has in store for us. On days when I’m not sad, this same passage excites me about what is coming and it gives me strength to make spiritual decisions that might not make sense to most people. In this special chapter, in this special section, there’s one special verse that gives me a sense of how much God loves for each of us individually and how much he really cares. This is what can encourage you to read the rest of the Bible through the year to see what else God has in store for you.

REVELATION 21:1-4
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

TO MEMORIZE
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4

 

-Seth Ross

 

 

When Our Plan is Failing

Jer 29 11

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We all have times when it feels like nothing is going right. School is hard, and you think maybe you should take a break. Your job is going nowhere, and it seems like your boss doesn’t like you. We’ve all been there! These are difficult times to trust God has a plan for all of us and even those times we feel like all our plans are for nothing. Take some time to reflect on the people you have contact with, could they be the people you need to share the message of Jesus and the salvation He offers. Sometimes when our plans seem to be failing, it is really God’s plan coming together!

-Susan Johnson

Thankful for Encouragers

Lam 3 24

This week, I hope to give you encouragement from God’s word. I hope you can find examples of the people who have helped you in your walk with Jesus and wait patiently for God’s plan to come together.

Lamentations 3:22-26, NIV.  — “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

When I was a young newlywed, I started attending my husband’s church. (I was raised in a different faith.) Many of the members were my husband’s family, so they played a large role in my decision to be baptized. One was his cousin Kathy. Kathy is a natural encourager and she would often send me notes, seemingly when I needed them most. Coming home from work to see an envelope with her neat handwriting, always made me smile.

Kathy has remained a faithful encourager, even when life seems darkest. I remember her quoting Lamentations as a source of encouragement after the death of her daughter and today, this gives me strength facing loss in my life. Reflect on someone who has encouraged you on your faith walk, if possible send them a note telling them how they encouraged you to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

 

Susan Johnson

To Encourage Your Faith

Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews 1 5b

This next week I, Kyle McClain, will be accompanying  you in reading the first six chapters of Hebrews, and the beloved Sarah Blanchard will close out the book of Hebrews the following week.  I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College, and I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry this semester.  I hope you enjoy this week’s study of Hebrews, and I hope it positively impacts your life.

The book of Hebrews is found in the non-Pauline epistles section (Hebrews-Jude).  Many consider the book of Hebrews to be an epistle/letter.  However, it lacks all the normal marks of a New Testament letter.  If you look at the other letters/epistles from the New Testament, they identify the author and recipients, contain a formal greeting, and offer a prayer or thanksgiving.  However, Hebrews does not include any of these.  It could better be termed as an exhortation or sermon than a letter.  You can perceive Hebrews as one big sermon series; the chapters all flow together as one.  It is a stream of consciousness; it’s one flowing word of encouragement.

There are many discussions and debates as to who the author of Hebrews is.  There’s a plethora of different theories of who it could be: Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, a random follower of Paul, etc., and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because there is no clear indication in the book or church history as to who the author of Hebrews is.  It is ok not to know who wrote the book of Hebrews.  What’s important is that whatever was written was inspired by YHWH.  With that said, we do know that the author was Jewish, very well schooled in the Old Testament and Jewish philosophy, and knew Timothy.  There also seems to be a specific audience that the author wrote this for.  The audience is a group of wavering Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were not confident in their faith and at times doubted the need for Christ.

Now let’s take a minute and step in the shoes of these Jewish Christians.  Ever since the time of Abraham, the Jews were looking forward for their Messiah.  For 2,000 years many came and professed to be the Messiah, but they all died and their followers soon died thereafter.  Then after 2,000 years of waiting another man by the name of “Jesus” claims to be the Messiah.  His story was different, as we all know, from the other false messiahs.  Hindsight, it is very clear to us that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, it was a very hotly debated topic back then as to if Jesus was the true Messiah.  It was not a popular belief among the Jewish population to believe Jesus was the true Messiah.  However, those Jews who did were scrutinized from their Jewish families, friends, and community.  All the people that these Jewish Christians knew, loved, and cared for despised and judged them.  Their lives were turned upside down.

It’s easy to point our fingers at these Jewish Christians and discredit them for their lack of faith in Jesus at times, but they were truly going through a lot.  The writer of Hebrews had a select group of Jewish Christians in mind who were wavering, and the author wrote Hebrews to encourage them and reassure them of the need for Jesus.  I hope that as we go along through the book of Hebrews that you too may be encouraged and reassured of the need for Jesus.

In Christian Love,

Kyle McClain

Growing Pains

Romans 12

emoyer-growing pains

The Seaver Family became a familiar household name from 1985-1992.   This tight knit family had weekly story lines with the children in the family having common family situations, and even some more serious situations,  such as relationship issues, drinking, violence and gangs.  Each week the show began with the catchy B.J. Thomas tune, “As Long as We Got Each Other”.  The lyrics were:

 

Show me that smile again. (Show me that smile)

Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.

We’re nowhere near the end (nowhere near)

The best is ready to begin.

 

As long as we got each other

We got the world spinnin right in our hands.

Baby, rain or shine, all the time

We got each other, sharin’ the laughter and love

We all may not have the perfect homes, the perfect bodies, the perfect grades, the perfect relationships, etc… The great thing we do have is a loving Father and so many people in our FUEL family that love us and care about us.  I just looked through the Facebook page for FUEL and there is so much joy and love in the faces of the friends gathered and united in Faith.  Romans 12 verses 9-11 encourage us to love and honor and be faithful in prayer.  Reach out to those friends and encourage them.  As long as we have each other, we can get past some of our daily challenges and rely on His love and understanding.  

-Emily Moyer