God Focused Response

Acts 16

There are so many things that I find interesting in Acts 16. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for him to come share the gospel with him. When they get to Macedonia to the region of Philippi they meet a woman who comes to belief along with her whole household. But what unfolds next is really fascinating. Paul and Silas get into a situation and end up being severely beaten and thrown into the inner holding rooms of the prison. But what I want us to notice is their reaction – they aren’t crying, they aren’t in there feeling sorry for themselves or busy being angry or muttering threats – they are Praying and Singing Hymns to God! What a contrary reaction to what everyone would expect!

If we were in that situation, sore, and bleeding, in a dark, inner, dingy room with criminals around us would we be that confident and flat out bold? We would more likely be in there feeling sorry for ourselves, scared out of our wits, and wanting desperately to call our lawyer or mom or anybody that could help us get out of there! But Paul & Silas’ response was God focused. By praying and singing hymns to God they were communicating with the one who has all power and authority to change and alter any and every situation. Who needs a lawyer when you have God on your side? God used the situation to open the hearts of the Philippian jailer and his household to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul and Silas were also released to go free from the prison where they were being held. When Paul and Silas exhibited the right response to their unfair situation God turned their situation around for His glory.

If we were to be bold and confident in the Lord and say within ourselves as the Psalmist did in Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” And keep an attitude of worship, praise, and open communication with God in our trials; maybe we would stand in the same place of victory as Paul and Silas did. One of the biggest challenges that we face in our Christian walk is keeping the right attitudes when things don’t go our way or get difficult for us. I hope we are inspired by the actions of Paul and Silas and remember to communicate with the author of life and outcomes when we face our next difficult situation.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 13-14 and Acts 16

Watch Yourself – as you step outside

1 Corinthians 9-11

Remember when I said yesterday that the message about spreading the Good News was coming?  Well, we start slowly diving into that idea with these passages today. 

In chapter nine Paul discusses how he reaches outsiders… by becoming like them (9:20-22).  Did anyone else have to reread those verses a few times?  What apostle would tell people that they should become like the outsiders in order to reach them?!?  (Hint: Probably one who knew what he was talking about!)  Before we get too worked up, let’s look at what was really being written here:

Paul wasn’t saying that we need to go out and change our lifestyles to match the sins of the world, and then try to convince them that a godly lifestyle is better.  Rather, Paul is saying that in order to reach people on the outside, we must actually go out and meet people where they’re at.  As the Church, we cannot expect to sit high and mighty in a physical building and still reach the lost.  We must go out, find those people on the outside, and witness to them from a humble perspective that understands how desperately we need the same message of grace and hope that they do. 

Within these chapters Paul does not let the Corinthians forget to think introspectively.  In fact, he spins it to describe the importance of checking on our own faith life to continue in our mission.  Chapter nine verse 27 reads “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I will not be disqualified.” And chapter 10 verse 12 reads “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” And finally, chapter 11 verse 28 says “So a man should examine himself [before] he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.”.  All these verses are essentially Paul saying “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Which is completely valid!  As the Church goes out into the world to reach those outsiders the temptation and draw away from righteousness is greater than if we only surround ourselves with like-minded people.  Without taking time to focus on our own faith life, we will be just as ineffective in spreading the Word as if we did not go out in the first place.

The other idea that Paul writes about in these chapters is how the body of believers must respect one another and stay focused on what really matters.  “No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” (10:24) I think it is pretty clearly laid out here; put others first!  In chapter 10 Paul is touching on the disagreements that came up related to what the believers were eating, in chapter 11 it was on what the women were wearing while praying.  In both these areas, essentially Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter as long as they aren’t going against God!”.  Sometimes the Church can get wrapped up in those little disagreements and start to divide over things that will not matter in the Kingdom, which is why Paul tells us that “whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (10:31) When we can recognize what issues in the Church truly matter, the body is built up and can refocus on their main mission of reaching those on the outside.

Today, take time to evaluate your own walk of faith.  See where you can come closer to God while still being closer to those on the outside.  Reflect on your local church and see which little issues you can set aside for the sake of the Kingdom. 

I’m excited for our next few chapters as we talk about the importance of each member in the Church!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 9-11.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 12-14.

Use Caution, Christian

2 Kings 9-11

2 Kings 9 20b NIV sgl

Be forewarned, today’s reading gets a little gory. Jehu is charged with wiping out the festering family of Ahab across Israel, and he does his job handily, even going above the call of duty.  He not only kills the children of Ahab, but also anyone who serves them.  One of Ahab’s most notorious endeavors was introducing Baal-worship to Israel, most famously remembered in the battle at Mount Carmel. Jehu doesn’t simply knock down the altars built to Baal, he goes as far as setting a trap to ambush every last Baal worshipper in Israel.  God is pleased with Jehu for fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah, yet the line of Jehu, according to Hosea, is cursed for the massacre (Hosea 1:4).  How could God be upset with someone for doing his bidding?  Or for even doing more than what was required of him/her? We should always be careful when we are in a position of authority, entering social circles, or making a public declaration of God’s will that we are people above reproach and we are closely sticking to God’s script. Too often, Christians live out the most convenient version of their faith, editing or elaborating to their own tastes.  If we are not seeking God fully, especially during the most critical times, we could make curseable, long-term missteps similar to the failings of Jehu.

 

A Proud Heart

 

“Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” – 2 Kings 10:31

 

Jehu was crowned King.  That was kind of a big deal. This gave him the right to do pretty much anything he wanted to do politically, although not the permission to do so in the eyes of the Lord.  It was most likely arrogance that caused him to stumble, to think he could carry out the specific sovereign will of God, yet not keep the moral will of God for his life.  No matter what position we assume, we are never above God’s calling for our life, and we are to remain humble, obedient, and as a servant.  Everything we have or will ever be belongs to God.  Do not get caught up in the title, or the big thing that God has called you to do.  Pride does indeed come before the fall, and just as what was intended for evil, God can use for good, what was intended for His glory, can becomes the shoplifted source of our own.

 

A Sly Mind

 

“But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the servants of Baal.” – 2 Kings 10:19b

 

Jehu acts if he is ready to hand Israel over to Baal worship only to bait and destroy those who came out. While God certainly has no problem with Jehu ending Baal worship, God does take issues with the lie, and most concerningly, these deaths were not justified in the eyes of the Lord as they were called a “massacre” in later scriptures.  Jehu used God as an excuse to rid himself of any political opposition that remained.  When we think the end justifies the means, we live in a very dangerous territory.  We lack principle or order; chaos and anarchy reign.  Anything goes. We are essentially saying we know more than God, that the fruition of a thing cannot happen by following His law for our life (there’s a reason!).  A simple measurement we can use – if we have to lie to get there, it’s not a God thing.  Additionally, if our primary motive is for personal gain, we need to stop and deliberate with God because our mind has become infected with the intentions of our heart.

 

A Blind Eye

 

“So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.” – 2 Kings 10:28,29

 

Jehu extinguished one specific area of sin while allowing another area, either by omission or encouragement, to continue. Idol worship was still happening in Israel, just the kind that was okay with Jehu. Christians are often guilty of making the same mistakes.  We condemn homosexuality, yet remain silent as we watch couple friends divorce in the church.  We are quick to call for the end of abortion, but don’t lift a finger to help a needy mother or harbor hate in our hearts, also known as murder according to Jesus. Christians will turn their back on someone who has been imprisoned for a crime, but allow all kinds of things on their screens because it is “entertainment”. Now, I am stereotyping, lumping every Christian into a single pot, but this, too often, is the criticism of those on the outside of our faith.  We are hypocrites, specifically the type that are turning a blind eye out of convenience or to afford our own brand of vices, not the more generic kind we all are as sinners.  Either remain silent or call it all out. Don’t turn a blind eye to any sin, especially if it lives inside you.

 

Examine your heart.  Inspect your mind and motive.  Watch with both eyes open.  Be vigilant in these self-inspections to remain faithful to God.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+9-11&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 12-13 and 2 Chronicles 24 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan