Listen to Him

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 33 & 34 and Matthew 17

Here we are beginning the 3rd full week of 2021 and so much has happened already. 7 days of careful investigation revealing solid scientific evidence supporting a Biblical view of a miraculous creator (and destroyer) God. And then 7 days of the Old Testament patriarchs of Genesis and fathers of the faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and what they teach us still today about following God with the faith of Abraham. This week our devotions will be following our New Testament readings in the book of Matthew (one chapter a day) to see what God is doing…

Matthew 17 begins with an awe-inspiring mountain-top experience (often called the Transfiguration) in which God’s glory radiates through and around Jesus Christ – showing a snippet of the beauty, majesty and glory of God’s coming Kingdom which will feature His dazzling Son amongst the risen heroes of the faith. Peter, James and John were there to see it – and they were shaking in their boots at the power of the moment and the voice of God heard from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)

But wait…we really can’t start there. Our spiritual journey doesn’t exist only on the glorious mountaintop. What comes before the glory? About a week before the events of Matthew 17, Jesus was telling his disciples that he would face much persecution and even death (before being raised to life) (Matthew 16:21). Bold, strong, impetuous Peter who thinks he knows better than the Son of God tries to correct Jesus – Peter would never let that happen to Jesus. But Jesus isn’t encouraged or amused by Peter but rather calls him “Satan…a stumbling block….you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus continues to prepare his disciples, letting them know that he would not be the only one expected to suffer – but that they too would be required to endure the agony of “taking up their cross” to follow him.

It doesn’t sound fun or exciting. It is hard to get people to sign up for suffering. Peter and the disciples didn’t like the sound of it. Most people today don’t. But it is not suffering without a goal. It is a fight worthy of the cause and the prize. Jesus said those who would suffer for him and lose their life would find it – because after the suffering for Christ – comes the glory. Jesus explained, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28 NIV)

And, a week later, Peter, James and John found themselves on a mountain-top getting a taste of the splendor that will be when God tells His Son, Jesus, it is time to go to the earth to set up a kingdom like none have ever seen before. A kingdom greater than anything set up in the time of the Law (Moses) or the prophets (Elijah) or Jesus’ first coming. God was revealing His perfect plan for His perfect Son and all those who will listen to him.

Contrary to both today’s “prosperity gospel” and Peter’s human thinking, God’s perfect plan does not consist solely of beautiful, bright mountain-top experiences. There is also the ugly, dark and painful cross. For Jesus – and for those who listen to him and carry their cross. But don’t fear, God’s got this. He’s got those who listen to His Son. Our trials will not last forever – but His Kingdom will. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

How can you be sure your suffering will have a reward? Are you suffering for Christ – or yourself? Is your master plan for your life from the mind of man (how can I get ahead and protect myself best?) or from the mind of God (suffer for the sake of God’s Son and look forward to the reward to come)? What will listening to Jesus look like for you in 2021? What will suffering before glory look like for you today?

-Marcia Railton

Times will be Tough; Keep the Faith!

2 Timothy 1-4

I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?


Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message. 


Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.

So what does he say?


Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL. 


This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)


Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. 
A Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever. 

Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ. 


May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times. 

May you proclaim the faith boldly.

May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.

Tomorrow we will read 2 Peter and Jude.

Good Grief before God

Lamentations 1:1 – 3:36

Lamentations 3 32 NIV sgl

The word lamentation is defined as “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.”  The book of Lamentations is appropriately named.  Jeremiah has witnessed profound calamity, and is overwhelmed with grief, which he is pouring out to God in the book of Lamentations.

 

Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet” for good reason. Here are a few examples of verses that portray his grief…

1:16, “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears.  No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit.”

2:11, “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed.

3:19-20, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

 

Jeremiah is honest with his feelings, telling God how he feels – and he doesn’t mince words.

(I might mention here that I think this is an important part of the grieving process, not just for Jeremiah, but for us too.)

 

But even in the middle of his grieving, Jeremiah looked to God for comfort, too.  We see this in Lamentations 3:22-32…

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

31 For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.

 

I think Jeremiah gives us a good example to use when working through mourning and grief.  Honestly tell God how you’re feeling.  He already knows, so it’s not for His benefit.  Verbalizing our grief,  as well as literally crying out to God, actually helps us process our grief, and can help us work through it.

 

But even when overwhelmed with grief, it is also important to remember that God is compassionate and loving.  He will see us through.  Sometimes, it may feel like it’s hard to get through each new day, but the truth remains…

 

“Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”

 

Despite this truth, we need to remember that the ultimate comfort will be in God’s kingdom, as we’re told in Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to here – Lamentations 1:1-3:36
Tomorrow we will read the rest of Lamentations – 3:37-5:22 – as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

You are Not Alone

1 Kings 17-19

1 Kings 19 14 NIV sgl

Don’t you love Elijah!  The showdown at Mount Carmel is one of my all-time favorite Old Testament stories!  Elijah makes a bold, strong, fast, quick-witted hero for the LORD.  We love to see how he repeatedly stands firmly for God and how God takes care of him, over and over again.  Even though his king (Ahab), his queen (Jezebel) and his nation (Israel) are making some really bad decisions following a man-made god (Baal), Elijah doesn’t back down and his deep faith in God allows him to display God’s power in amazing and miraculous ways.  He prays and God holds back the rain for 3 and a half years. During the drought he is fed by ravens.  (Don’t worry, there are no sanitation problems when God provides the birds to bring you your daily breakfast and supper). He is the first person recorded in Scripture through which God raises the dead!  Never-before seen miracles – at the hand of Elijah!  He prays and God sends fire from heaven to burn up the absolutely drenched sacrifice, wood, stones and soil.  With God’s power he outruns Ahab’s chariot – I bet that was fun to do.  Can you imagine the face and heart of Ahab who had just been bested on Mount Carmel by his enemy Elijah, and then here comes Elijah running past his royal chariot that is trying to outrun the storm clouds that Elijah predicted?  Triple whammy!  It is like Elijah is untouchable!   A super-human spokesman and miracle maker for God.

But no, he was not super-human.  In case anyone was wondering, James sets the record straight many years later in the New Testament that, “Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly…”  (James 5:17).  He was a regular man like us.  But he sure knew how to pray!

But being a regular man like us, he grew tired, too.  And fearful sometimes as well.  Ministry can be exciting and exhilarating.  And, tiring and scary.  Sometimes the results aren’t quite what you were hoping for.  Instead of a dramatic conversion – now the ones you were trying to convince of God’s majesty are trying to hunt you down to destroy you!

When Elijah hears that Jezebel has vowed to take his life he is so ready to give up.  Maybe you have been there too, sitting under a broom tree telling God you are done.  But God provides for him again and sustains his long journey (40 days) to a safer (and holy) spot and then reveals himself in a gentle whisper.  Elijah knows he has had a special, one-of-a kind moment with God.  God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (1 Kings 19:13).  Elijah answers, saying he has done so much for God, but the people still won’t listen, and now he is the only one left who speaks for God and they are trying to kill him, too.  It is a little bit of a pity party perhaps – that’s where we go when we are tired and worn out and fearful for the future.

God could be angry.  After all that God has done for Elijah, how dare he mope?  But God doesn’t respond with anger and condemnation; instead, the loving, compassionate, faithful God gives Elijah specific action steps as well as correction.   He says – “Go Back”.  You have had your 40 day sabbatical – you have encountered me in a gentle whisper – I have provided for you – now return, your work isn’t done.

God knows the world is broken and rough and a difficult place to speak for God.  But He says don’t give up.  Keep at it.  He still has more people for you to influence – more people for you to anoint with God’s words and purpose.  The evil king (Satan) may not be brought down in your lifetime.  That’s okay, God will still take care of him, God’s rule will prevail, and He is lining up the people (including His Son the Messiah) and the events to bring it to be.  In the meantime, it is still your job to pass along the good news and the words and power of the Almighty.  And in this way the faithful chain continues through the generations – each one doing their part to proclaim the greatness of our Heavenly Father and prepare the way for His ultimate Kingdom rule.

And, no, Elijah – you are not alone.  Yes, you felt alone.  But you were never alone.  We know that Obadiah (a God-believer in charge of Ahab’s palace) had risked his life by saving the lives of 100 prophets of God in caves (1 Kings 18:2-4).  And God himself corrects Elijah by telling him He had personally reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshipped Baal.  It was far from a majority – you don’t need to be a majority to continue speaking God’s word.  But know that you are not a lonely army of one.  God sees you – and He sees all those He has given the most important task of speaking for Him.  Don’t bend your knee to evil.  Don’t give up.  God sees and provides.  Keep speaking for Him.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17-19&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

An Eternal Perspective

Thursday – Judges 10-12

Judges Devotions-4

Growing up, every evening my dad returned home from work I would run to him shouting, “Daddy!” I would jump into his arms, sometimes nearly knocking him over. Judges tells about another dad’s return home after a day of work, but what happens next is heart-breaking.

Jephthah, in a battle against the Ammonites, makes a deal with God, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30 & 31).

God delivers and the Israelites triumph over the Ammonites. As Jephthah returns home from his day of work, his daughter, dancing, runs through the door to greet him. Knowing he must deliver on his promise, Jephthah tears his clothes, weeping. In a beautiful act of obedience, his daughter agrees, retreats to the wilderness to grieve, and dies.

The Bible only refers to this young lady as Jephthah’s daughter. Despite how little we know of her, she did have a name. She had a family. She had friends. She had talents. She had dreams… but she gave up everything.

This story really used to anger me. How could God require an innocent, young girl to die? When I considered just that moment, it was hard to really believe the essence of who God is: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The image of the loving God I had constructed in my head would never require Jephthah’s daughter to die. I looked for loopholes in the story and read commentary after commentary, but I was still unsatisfied—still devastated by how this story damaged my view of who God is.

Later, I had a realization; the story of Jephthah’s daughter didn’t end the day she died. While her story may be paused, it’s not finished. In fact, the climax of it all is still to come when God will raise her from the dead to spend eternity together. With an eternal perspective, it’s incredibly obvious that God really is love. The everything Jephthah’s daughter once had is nearly nothing in comparison to how abundantly God is going to bless her in His Kingdom.

The best part of this story is that we get to share in her reward. Like Jephthah’s daughter, God wants our everything, but He also wants to give us His everything.

You, me, and Jephthah’s daughter—we’re like kids with only a few dollars to our name, and God asks us to hand over everything in our piggy banks. As children, it can be painful to see those few dollars go because we can’t yet comprehend ever having more than that. However, I am confident that God’s return on our investment will surpass our greatest expectations.

With an eternal perspective in mind, what will you give up to God today? Would you be willing to die for Him? What does it look like to truly hand over your life to God? Remember, He wants your everything, and in return will give you His everything.

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be chapters 13-15 as we continue through Judges on our journey through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

 

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

Wealthy?

psalm 37 16

Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37.  Today we look at verses 12-17.

This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means  morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).

There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible.  With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.

1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

2.  Meditate:  Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.”  He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth.  I wonder why he makes those associations?  Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?

What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life?  He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day.  Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering.  According to Jesus, it was his wealth.  He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).

In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil.  It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous.  But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy.  So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness.  Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money).  If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.

To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy?  I live in a pretty nice house.  I have enough money to buy groceries.  I have access to excellent health benefits through my work.  I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water.  I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go.  If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy.  If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy.  So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?

As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues.  That is what it did for me.  Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you.  Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13.  What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”?  Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?

 

3.  Pray:  Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer.  Talk it over with God.  Bring him your questions.  Bring him your complaints.  Bring him your fears.  Bring him your gratitude and joy.  Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating.  Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Do not just speak, also take time to listen.  Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.

 

4.  Rest in God:  As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God.  Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient.  Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector.  He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior.  Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

The Best Construction Project

1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3 19 a

For the Corinthians and Greek culture in general, wisdom and knowledge were extremely important.  This is why Paul spends 1 Corinthians 1 emphasizing that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the wisdom they have worked towards their whole lives.  Then in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that wisdom is important for the Christian, but it is Godly wisdom that is very different from what they have learned, and it cannot be taught, but is given by the holy spirit.  Now in chapter 3 Paul is clearing up any last confusion in case they were not understanding up until now. He very clearly says that they need this Godly wisdom, but do not have it at all. They have been seeking an elevated status in their congregation because of their high learning and deep understandings.  Paul wants to set the record straight, living a Christian life is not about sitting in your plush study and writing treatises and books and musings, and becoming revered for your knowledge. It is about getting your hands dirty. He likens the Christians to farmers and builders who have work to do, and he is a worker right there with them.  This would have been a very shocking thing to the aristocratically minded members of the Corinthian Church who would have read this.

 

So let me be as clear as Paul was.  If you decide to follow Jesus and serve him, then you will be a servant.  Your life will not be a vacation, but a construction project. It will take work, but in the end you will hopefully do something valuable with your life and “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-14.  That reward is everlasting life in God’s kingdom, and is worth so much more than a high position in society, or being revered for your earthly wisdom.

 

Your fellow servant

Chris Mattison

Paul Exercised His Privilege And So Can You

image (2)

Acts 25

In chapter 16, we found out that Paul was a Roman citizen. Being a citizen of this vast empire was a great privilege. There were only two ways to gain Roman citizenship; you could either purchase it (something only the rich could afford to do), or be lucky enough to inherit it from your parents when you were born. Paul was born a Roman citizen.
The reason why you would want to be a Roman citizen in the first century is that they were given rights others were not guaranteed. The rights to marry another Roman citizen, to sue and to be sued, to have a legal trial, and to not be crucified were just some of the benefits offered to those privileged enough be Roman citizens.
As we saw in chapter 21, Paul had already used his citizenship to get out of being flogged (Romans, legally, could not be tortured or whipped). In chapter 25 Paul exercised another of his rights–the right to appeal to Caesar. Paul knew that if he was brought back to Jerusalem, the men that had pledged to kill him would probably succeed. He also knew that he had to get to Rome to testify there. Thus Paul used his privilege to get to where he needed to go, so he could do what he was required to do (though, as we shall see in the coming chapters, this journey would not be an easy one).
If you were born in the West (especially the United States), you, like Paul, are privileged. You have rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. But there are many parts of the world today where these rights that are taken for granted are only the ideals of dreamers. There are Christians throughout the world who have to look over their shoulder as they travel to church (if a public place of worship is even allowed) and others who are worshiping with the knowledge that every gathering may easily be their last.
There is another privilege you share with Paul: you are a citizen of Heaven. This citizenship cannot be purchased or inherited. It is not exclusive. The Kingdom of Heaven (or, Kingdom of God) is open to anyone. The poor and the rich, the weak and the strong, the lost and the found are all welcome. The cost of this privilege was paid for by God with the blood of His Son. It is offered to any who will receive it.
Paul was first and foremost a citizen of Heaven. He lived his life devoted to advancing the Kingdom and the One who will establish it in its fullness. The rights his Roman citizenship granted him were nothing compared to those his Lord did. That being said, Paul exercised his privilege as a Roman in order to promote God’s Kingdom as a Christian. He wanted to make sure as many people as possible would become citizens of the Kingdom. You also can use your rights as a citizen of your country to further the cause of the Kingdom. Exercise your earthly privileges in a way that leads others to receive heavenly ones.
-Joel Fletcher

Make a Difference

Col 3 23

Lois and Eunice show us how God can use people wherever they are at in life to make a big difference. In today’s story, one small boy teaches us to give what we can in service of God, no matter how little we may think it is.

In the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (found in all four Gospels) a little boy offers his lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, for Jesus’ disciples to feed the crowd. I wish we knew more about this boy, who he was, who he grew up to be. All we know is that this boy heard that Jesus needed food. I can’t imagine the disciples ransacking everyone’s bags looking for food. I think they must have been asking around, searching the crowd for anyone with food and this boy heard them. He saw a need, spoke up, and offered what he could. He was willing to do what needed to be done and it’s this willingness I want to focus on today.

In Colossians Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (3:23). As we go throughout our day to day lives, we need to be willing to contribute what we can to further God’s kingdom. We already know from Lois and Eunice that seemingly small acts can make a difference. The little boy from today’s story reminds us that we first must be willing to let God use us.

-Emilee Ross