Thinking of Others

Luke Chapter 9

faces

Once again in this book, spreading the Gospel message is emphasized.  I think I am seeing a pattern here (if you read the last two chapters as well).  That’s no mistake. Yes, Jesus healed and comforted, but his primary mission was to preach the Good News, and prepare others to do the same.

 

This devotion is intentionally being kept short.  Not because there isn’t a lot of good stuff in this chapter, but because I would like you to take the next several minutes thinking about people that you could share the Gospel with.  Keep those people in mind, as the next chapter offers advice on what to share.

 

Greg Landry

Luke 9 2 NIV

Prepare the Way

Luke Chapter 3

Luke 3 4

Luke chapter three talks about a very important and specific job that John the Baptist had.  This job that John had was documented all the way back in the book of Isaiah and quoted in Luke 3:4: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John needed to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.

 

Jesus’ public ministry only lasted about three years.  It was important that people were ready for his ministry, as he had a lot to accomplish in little time.  Therefore, John prepared the way, so Jesus could make the most out of his little time here on earth.  John did a number of things to help prepare the way for the Lord.

 

One way that John prepared the way for Jesus was to baptize people with water.  This baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” (Luke 3:3).  I’m sure that we all understand the importance of repentance and the forgiveness of our sins.  Therefore, we can see the importance of this baptism by water, as it was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

 

John also spent time teaching and preaching to help prepare the way for Jesus.  The crowds asked John, “what then shall we do?”  John went on to describe the importance of being generous with our possessions and money (verses 10-14).  John also focused on preaching “good news” (verse 18) to the people.  That good news that John preached about focused on the message of the kingdom, as evidenced by Matthew 3:2.

 

Preparing the way for Jesus was the main responsibility that John had.  We also have that same responsibility that John had.  Right now, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, but one day Jesus is going to descend from heaven and return to earth.  He is going to establish his Father’s Kingdom.  We have to prepare the way for Jesus to come back to earth.

 

We have to prepare ourselves and others for Jesus to establish his Father’s Kingdom on earth.  You can’t prepare others if you yourself are not prepared for God’s coming Kingdom.  Therefore, if you aren’t ready yourself, then get ready!  If you find yourself ready, then it is paramount that you focus on getting those around you ready for Jesus’ return.  In essence, we have the same responsibility that John the Baptist had.

 

Kyle McClain

 

The Eternal Gospel

Revelation 14

Revelation 14 6 NIV

As we approach chapter fourteen together, John sees four, possibly five, more visions, all depicting the fates of those who are allegiant to the Lamb (Jesus) and those who aren’t. In our world today, people want you to just let people believe what they believe and not challenge their worldview. However, if we trust what Revelation is telling us, it would not be loving for us to allow people to continue living in sin and falsehood. We need to speak up into the lives of our loved ones, because according to chapter fourteen, their fates will not be good if they don’t join the Lamb’s army (the Church). Ultimately, the letter of Revelation is meant to call people to repent and follow the Lamb before time runs out, and we need to do the same.

 

John sees the same 144,000 from chapter 7 that have the “mark” of God on their foreheads, standing on top of Mount Zion, looking ready for a battle. These are those who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb; in other words, these are Christians. We learn that their fate is sealed, and their future looks bright! However, John moves forward to describe what awaits everybody else…

 

An angel is seen, calling people to “fear God and give Him glory”, or repent of their ways (14:7). Another angel warns that “Babylon the great” has fallen, which will be described later on in chapters 17-19. This Babylon, in my interpretation, is a vivid description of Rome once again, as those are the only two nations to ever destroy the Jerusalem Temple. However, those that are within Babylon the great, or those that have worshiped the beast, they will drink the “wine of the wrath of God”, going through torment in fire and brimstone, just like Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 19). These people will eventually be burned up with this fire, but it will be an extremely painful experience.

 

John then uses the illustration of a grape harvest, in which grapes are thrown into a winepress and squeezed out, causing blood to flow everywhere. It is a graphic image, but a powerful one nonetheless. Those who refuse to worship God and the Lamb will face His wrath, being destroyed completely when Jesus returns. Why would anyone choose to go through this? Unfortunately, many choose to do so.

 

This message should motivate us to speak up to our friends and family about what Jesus has done. He has saved us from this coming wrath, and now offers that same salvation to anyone who would come follow after him. Of course we love our friends and family and don’t want them to go through the terrifying judgment to come. So speak up! Live out your faith today! Share the good news with whomever you come across! Jesus is coming, and we don’t have much time left.

 

Talon Paul

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

Revelation 12 17 NIV fixed.png

If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

Refuse to Repent

Revelation 9

Revelation 9 20a NIV

If you haven’t found out by now, Revelation is a strange letter; there are all sorts of images and visions that don’t quite make sense to us most of the time. In chapter nine, things get much stranger, as we see some terrifying images of God’s judgment being sent upon unrepentant people that have killed God’s people (i.e. Christians). However, strange as it may be, this chapter is absolutely crucial to understanding what John is trying to communicate throughout the whole letter. There is a key theme that needs to be drawn out if we are to understand what John is talking about.

 

In chapter eight, we saw angels getting ready to blow seven trumpets that would bring about God’s judgment, in response to the prayers that God had heard from His people back in chapter six. When we come to chapter nine, the fifth trumpet is blown, bringing about this terrifying, demonic locust army that goes around tormenting people for five months. They look strange, sound strange, and behave in a strange manner. There have been many theories about what these locusts are, but I don’t believe John’s focus is on who or what these locusts are; they are more of a background image than anything.

 

John’s main point is found at the end of the chapter, after the sixth trumpet is blown. In 9:20-21, we learn that, even though all these terrible and strange things are happening to these people, they still refuse to repent and change their lives. That is the point of John’s message of the trumpets; even God bringing His fiercest and most terrifying judgment on people is not enough to get them to repent. We saw a similar situation in Exodus, when Pharaoh refused to repent, even though God brought 10 plagues on the land. This is also John’s point with the later seven bowls (16:10-11), and likely the point of the previous seals as well.

 

The question that we, as the readers, are left with is, “What will make people repent?” That question will be answered in chapter 11, when we are introduced to the Two Witnesses.

 

For you today, I encourage you to think about the way that you spread the gospel to others. What will work better? Preaching about God’s judgment and condemnation, or offering hope and encouragement? If God’s righteous judgment isn’t enough to bring about repentance in people’s hearts in Revelation, don’t assume that it will work for you either. Let’s offer a hope that is focused on the love of the cross and a merciful God that has offered His own Son for us all! Let’s preach the good news!

 

Talon Paul

“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”

Go, tell it on the mountain

 

“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” was first sung by slaves on American plantations during the 19th century.  The slaves could identify with a Messiah that was born in a lowly manger and lived a humble life.  They embraced the Savior’s promise of a better life for all who would follow him.  And so the slaves eagerly sang the Good News for all to hear.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flock by night,

Behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled when, lo above the earth-

Rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger our humble Christ was born,

And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

 

The song tells the story of shepherds watching their sheep on the night Jesus was born.  A bright light startled the shepherds and an angel told the frightened shepherds the news of Jesus’ birth.  As soon as the angels left, the shepherds excitedly decided to go find Jesus.  “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which was just as they had been told” (Luke 2:16-18, 20).

The shepherds were excited to see Jesus and they were eager to tell everyone they met about all they had heard and seen!  They were thrilled that the promised Messiah had finally come and they couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.  They were motivated and anxious to spread the Good News!  Consequently, others in turn learned of the Savior’s birth.

The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was not just good news for the shepherds, but “great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10).  Are you doing your part to spread the good news to all people?  You must go and tell the gospel on your mountain, in your neighborhood, at your school, where you work and everywhere you go.

-Jill McClain

“Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”

joy to the world

 

Isaac Watts published the words for “Joy to the World” in 1719.  A century after Watts wrote the words, Dr. Lowell Mason, heavily influenced by Handel’s “Messiah”, set the words to music. Watts wrote the famous carol after meditating on Psalm 98.  Psalm 98:4 reads, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.”  This is precisely what Watts was trying to do by writing the hymn.

 
Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King
;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He’ll rule the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

 

The first verse of the carol talks of Jesus coming to earth.  It does not talk about Jesus’ coming as a special baby, but more importantly his coming as King. There is no mention in the entire carol of Bethlehem, a manger, shepherds, or a special star.   In fact, much of the carol has more to do with Jesus’ future, second coming, than with his birth as a baby.

 

The third verse of the carol mentions “thorns infesting the ground” and “the curse”, both references to God telling Adam that the ground would be cursed as a consequence of his sin (Genesis 3:17-18). Because Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, mankind would have to work to produce food, and instead of abundant crops growing effortlessly, now weeds and thorns would be plentiful.  However, the carol is looking forward to a day when there will be no more sin, sorrow or thorns.  We know all too well, that that day has not yet come, but we look forward with confidence to the day Jesus will return to earth again and all the consequences of sin will be defeated.

Although much of “Joy to the World” tells the story of Jesus second coming, it is still a wonderful song for us to sing at Christmastime.  As we celebrate Christmas, it is important for us to remember that Jesus did not stay a baby in a manger.  His story does not end with his death on the cross, or even his resurrection. We sing of “Joy to the World” because we know that one day Jesus is coming back to set up his Father’s perfect, never-ending, kingdom here on earth!

-Jill McClain

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

While shepherds watched

The theme for each of our devotions this week is based on a different Christmas carol.  Today, I would like for us to examine, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”.

 

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,

And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he; for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds,
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,

To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town this day,
Is born of David’s line,
The Savior who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:

And this shall be the sign:

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid;
And in a manger laid.
“All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth from heav’n to men,
Begin and never cease,

Begin and never cease.”

 

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” tells the story of the shepherds found in Luke 2:8-20.  At the time of Jesus’ birth shepherds were at the bottom of the social ladder.  They often lived for long periods of time, right in the same fields where they took care of the sheep; so most people looked down on them.  God could have announced the birth of his son to the most influential, rich and successful leaders of the time.  However, instead God chose to first tell the lowly shepherds. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11).  God sent his son for all people – for the rich and the poor, the leaders and the abandoned, the educated and the uneducated, the popular and the friendless.  God had his good news first delivered to the shepherds to demonstrate that the gospel is for all people.

The angels told the shepherds that baby Jesus was “born to you” (Luke 2:11).  Typically, we think that a baby is born to his parents.  But Jesus was a gift given to the shepherds, and each of us.  Jesus was born for us, to save us from our sins so that we may one day have eternal life.  Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift, given to each of us.

When the angels left, the shepherds said, “’Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:15-17,20).  The shepherds heard the good news, they believed it, they told others the good news and they worshiped God. What about you?  Do you believe the gospel?  If so, are you telling others the good news?  And are you spending time worshiping and praising God for the wonderful gift that has been given to you?

 

-Jill McClain

Paul’s Mess, God’s Message

acts 28 31 (1)
At the end of the book of Acts we are following Paul in his ministry as he shares his testimony and all he is learning from God with established groups of believers as well as with those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. He is told through a prophet that he will be bound by the Jewish leaders and sent to the Gentiles to share his story.  He is accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, then arrested and imprisoned while the Roman authorities try to figure out which side of the story to believe.  Over the course of Paul’s imprisonment he is moved to various cities and meets with several governors as well as King Agrippa.  Then finally he is sent to Rome.  During each of these transitions, Paul has an opportunity to share the story of his conversion…who he was…who he is and who he will continue to be through God’s grace.  Every time he is questioned he says something like the following phrase from Acts 23:1 “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 
Paul faced so much opposition during this period of time and yet he continued to stand firm in his belief that God had a purpose for him which would be fulfilled no matter what…arrest, false accusations, storms, shipwrecks, imprisonment, isolation, death threats, nothing was going to stop God’s message from being spread.
As the book of Acts closes we are given a chance to witness Paul as he teaches a group of Jewish leaders in Rome. 
Acts 28:23-30
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers
to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening,
explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said,
but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and
began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth
to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26
“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles,
and they will listen!” [29] [b]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all
who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord
Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Some of those who were listening, heard Paul’s message and their lives were changed.  Others found that they couldn’t believe what Paul was preaching and left.  They heard but didn’t understand, they saw but didn’t allow comprehension. Paul kept right on teaching, preaching and sharing his mess so that God’s message could get through.
Oh to have Paul’s boldness and eloquence!  There are many times that we are provided the opportunity to share our own stories of faith with others and we often let them pass us by.  Are we afraid?  Maybe we don’t think they would be interested, or that we’ll be bothering them if we share.  Or maybe we don’t want to offend anyone…but if we are learning from Paul’s example, we need to be sharing our stories of faith regardless of the personal costs.  God’s message will be heard, don’t you want to be a part of that exciting adventure? I promise it’ll be a good one!
-Joyanne Swanson

Messages from God

rebecca4

We may take instant messaging for granted. We have grown accustomed to communicating with each other in real time. Instant messaging in 1844 was a little bit different.  Samuel Morse was a co-developer of Morse Code and helped to develop the commercial use of the electrical telegraph. Morse sent the first official telegraph message on May 23, 1844.  And it is interesting to me that he encouraged a 17-year-old named Annie Ellsworth to choose the text. It was, “What hath God wrought?” This statement is from the King James Version of the Bible from Numbers 23:23.  We might read it as, See what God has done! This statement is from one of the messages pronounced by Balaam and his experiences should convey the importance of only giving the true message of God.

When the Israelites traveled into Moab, King Balak sent messengers to Balaam, a pagan prophet. Balak wanted to pay Balaam to place a curse on the Israelites. Balak’s message was, A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.” But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” Balaam consults with God and does refuse to go with the first group.  Later a second set of messengers arrives.  They delivered this message, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.” Balaam does go with the messengers, but he has a strange conversation with his donkey on the journey. And an encounter with the angel of the LORD makes him state on his arrival, “I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” King Balak takes the pagan prophet to three locations inquiring a curse to be pronounced on the Israelites, but each time, Balaam blesses the Israelites. The first three messages of Balaam are blessings on Israel and the last four messages are warnings to the countries that will be conquered.

Later in Deuteronomy 23:5 we are told why God insisted on blessing the Israelites. It states, “However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.”

Balaam missed the point of the messages that he delivered. God loved the Israelites. He continued to send messages of His love and hope to them throughout time. Just as the Apostle Peter said, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36) How blessed we are that God’s message of love is available to us all.  We don’t need to wait for a prophet from a far away land. God’s message is in the scriptures and He speaks personally to each one of us. Praise God for this Message!

-Rebecca Dauksas