Consumed with the Vision

Matthew 24

January 24

Do you know someone who had a quote or a phrase that they said so often that you can hear it in their voice? Maybe it’s Jerry Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with…” or you can see a cute electric mouse and hear “pika-pi”. I think most people at Timberland Bible Church can hear these words in my voice : “That’s good news! That’s gospel message! That’ll preach! Can I get an amen?!”

I bring up this aural phenomenon because it happened to me while reading Matthew 24. Every time I read Matthew 24:14, I am transported back to my grandparent’s house. I am sitting at the kitchen table, and James Mattison, who I knew as Papa Jim, is telling me about his ministry in Africa. I had asked, “Why did you go?” right before we ate lunch. And he opened his worn down Bible, though he quoted the verse by heart. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” I can hear and see him, but I can also feel him : I still see his composure brimming with energy, I can still hear his confidence tempered with humility, but I FEEL his burning conviction. It was not someone else’s duty to speak this gospel to the world. It was his. Malawi, Mozambique, Africa needed the gospel of the kingdom of God to be preached to them. It was imperative, and Papa Jim knew it was his imperative.

James Mattison was consumed by the vision of Matthew 24. He knew it inside out and backwards. But most of all, he knew what it entails. Lots of Matthew 24 is worrisome. Things look bleak, destruction is coming, the end is scary. But that isn’t what Jim was focused on. Primarily he knew that the end had to come so that the perfection of the Kingdom could come.  He also saw in this teaching commands, commands that I want you to see. He was consumed by three truths of Matthew 24. 

  1. No matter what comes at the end, there is given to the faithful the strength to endure it all. Jesus says the one who endures (in Revelation, the parallel phrase is “the one who conquers”) will be saved. (24:13) But that enduring is not merely hanging on. 
  2. In verses 42-51, Jesus declares that he will return like a thief in the night, like a master on a long journey. The ready and alert won’t be caught off guard, and therefore they will keep doing what the master has commanded them. 
  3. And what Jesus has commanded each of us is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. Technically, in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands us to make disciples (more on that later), but part of that is to teach people to follow the commands of Jesus. Preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and teaching all Jesus commanded us is the call for Christians. Let us continue so that the master might find us working. 

You may not be called to Africa and in fact most of you AREN’T. You are called to where you are. To endure, to be ready, you need to be consumed by the vision that we see in Matthew 24. Will you listen to the call of Jesus, and tell others the gospel of the Kingdom?

-Jake Ballard

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Are you consumed by the vision of Matthew 24? James Mattison believed it was his imperative to preach the gospel to the world, especially Eastern Africa; to where are you called? Are you listening for the call of Jesus at all, and if you are telling others of your faith, do you tell them about the gospel of the Kingdom?
  2. Do you feel like you have been skimming by, enduring, or conquering the last year? Do you feel like you AREN’T enduring or conquering? How can you be empowered?

Your Work, Labor & Endurance – through Faith, Love & Hope

1st & 2nd Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Work Produced by Faith

Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith. 


James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”. 


The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23). 

Labor Prompted by Love

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another. 


This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ. 

Endurance Inspired by Hope

One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it! 


Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment –  for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works. 


The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Thessalonians & 2nd Thessalonians.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 18:19-19:41.

Endure

Genesis 25-26

 

Genesis 26 29 NIV

Yesterday we looked at Abraham and how committed he was to God and didn’t hold anything back. Today our passage is Genesis ch.apters 25-26 but we are really going to hone in on Genesis 25.29-34. Hopefully all of us including myself can gain a different perspective on it. But first, story time….

I grew up running. When I was in high school, I ran track and field. I ran the half mile, the mile and the two mile. I did that for a couple seasons but was pretty inconsistent. When I didn’t compete one season I didn’t run at all because who really likes running with no goal.  In college I had to run because I went to a military school. I had physical fitness tests that I had to pass. That sort of renewed my interest in running and I began to run more frequently. I had always dreamed of and put on my bucket list to run a marathon. When I was 26 I made my first attempt to train for a marathon. Training for a marathon requires a lot of commitment. You need to run 5-6 times a week for 16 weeks. Many of these runs during training are quite literally hours long and exhausting. You essentially make yourself a slave to your running program and do whatever it tells you to do. On my first attempt I fractured my ankle on the longest run of the program, three weeks before my race. It was terrible. I had invested 13 weeks of training into something that would never produce any fruit. I was literally right at the end of my program. All the runs in the program after this would have been easier than previous runs and I was easily on my way to completing a marathon before I stepped on that cracked sidewalk.

In Genesis 25.29-34 we have Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was a quiet man who dwelled in tents. While Esau was a skillful hunter and a man of the field. Esau comes back in from the field and is starving. I feel like all of us have been there. Sometimes the last thing that you want to do when you come in the door after a long day is to cook yourself a meal and I think this is what Esau was feeling. It is hard for me not to empathize with Esau here. Rough day of hunting and he is exhausted and his younger brother has stew on. His brother takes advantage of his situation and asks him for his birthright in exchange for some wonderful stew. This feels super under handed and not a great way to treat your siblings or frankly anyone. We could cry “Where is the justice in this situation, God?” but I think a better attitude for this situation is to ask “What can I learn from this situation?” and I don’t mean how to exhort people’s birth rights.

I think that the lesson to be learned here is not from God’s perspective or Jacob’s but from Esau’s perspective. When Esau came in from a hard day out in the field and didn’t have any food, I’m sure he could probably get food from somewhere. Esau was right there at the end and at the very last second, he let his desires to satiate his hunger get in the way of what was good for him. If Esau had persevered for a little while longer, I imagine that he would have been able to find food somewhere and may have not even gone to bed hungry. Instead, he let something as inconsequential as some stew get in the way of him receiving his birthright.

In my case with the marathon it was an injury that stopped me. It’s too often that I end up quitting right before I get to the part where my efforts bear fruit. Too often just a little bit more effort and a little bit more endurance would give me the results of all my work. 2 Timothy 2.12 says, “If we endure with him, we will also reign with him.” We need to not lose sight of our hope and endure with him so we will reap the rewards of all that God wants to do in our lives. If we focus on this hope I believe that we will also be able to persevere with him until the end.

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+25-26&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Genesis 27-29 in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Endure

Colossians 1

Colossians 1 24

I like to listen to audio books. Most of the books I read could be considered “self-help” or “Leadership” books. The one that I have just started in the last couple days is called “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. David is a former Navy seal and an ultra-athlete. The premise of his book is to have a mentally tough and disciplined mind that allows us to push through the worst experience’s life can throw at us. This idea of “Can’t Hurt Me” reminds me of what Paul said in Colossians 1:24-29

 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh,  I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose, also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Here we see Paul bringing up a time where he had been persecuted for bringing the Gospel to the Colossians. Where he endured hardship while preaching fully the Gospel to them. He mentions in verse 27 “God willed to make known the riches of the glory” and also mentions “hope of glory”. I believe that this for Paul was meaning no matter what kind of tribulations, trials, or persecution he goes through Jesus also went through this, and God revealed the mystery of resurrection power to the world as well as the Gospel through Christ.

We will have days, often, that are going to be horrible from our perspective. Now I don’t know what David Goggin’s believes personally. However, if we adopt what I think David Goggin’s and Paul would say is a “Can’t Hurt Me” mindset, we can look forward to the resurrection and the kingdom of God.

Jesse Allen

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

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