The Eternal Good News

Revelation 14

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


There is a lot happening in Chapter 14 – including the introduction to the 144,000 – the 3 angels and their messages – and the harvest. 

The 144,000 with God’s and Christ’s names on their forehead – coming after the beast’s mark in the last chapter – we see a group of the faithful that have remained pure to God and taken His mark. 

Before we get to the messages of the angels, this stuck out to me:

And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

We see the eternal gospel (good news) – the message of love, hope and salvation all found in the promise of God’s kingdom. This angel has the responsibility to make sure that everyone hears this truth. No one is forced to accept this gospel but everyone gets the opportunity to hear it and make a choice. 

It sounds like the commission that Christ left his disciples and then they have passed this responsibility down through the church and us. It will ultimately be fulfilled through our preaching and teaching and in entirety by one of God’s messengers. 

We have a role in this. Those that have received this truth are charged to proclaim it. Through what we say and do, our life is a proclamation to those who may not know the truth that Christ taught, lived and promised. 

The message of the angels was really for those that have not accepted this truth – fear God, evil has lost and those of you that joined the beast have picked the wrong team. Times up!

After these messages we see another small note added by John for the faithful before God’s wrath:

12 This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

The chapter ends with a gruesome depiction of God’s wrath through a harvest.

Further motivation to choose the right team. If you have been following these devotions, you have heard the eternal Gospel – have you accepted and further began proclaiming it?

-John Wincapaw

Reflection Questions

  1. What evidence do you have of what team is the right team?
  2. What motivates you most to be actively choosing the right team?
  3. How can you share the eternal good news this week?

Work Together for the Truth

3 John

Friday, October 21, 2022

In the third and final letter from John, truth is once again evidenced in his thoughts.  

John is writing, in part, to commend a man named Gaius.  John said of Gaius that he was walking in the truth and that he was being faithful in providing support for strangers who were traveling around sharing the gospel (perhaps like modern day missionaries?).  

While there are many who are called to travel around sharing the gospel – to be missionaries – most of us are not.  That doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”).  We can all come alongside those who are called to do such work by providing prayer, encouragement, and financial support.  This makes us the “fellow workers” that John talks about in verse 8.

John then goes on to contrast the faithful and loving behavior of Gaius with the selfish and subversive behavior of Diotrephes.  In verse 11 he tells Gaius, and us, “do not imitate evil but imitate good”.   It’s not enough to just not imitate evil, but it is commanded that we imitate good.  The one who does good is from God.  

-Todd & Amy Blanchard

Questions:

  1. Do you know who the missionaries we, as a church, support?  You can learn about them and our organization for supporting them, Lord’s Harvest International here:  http://lhicog.com/
  2. Who do you know that you could imitate?  How?
  3. Are the choices you make (attitudes, actions, words, etc.) worthy of imitation?

How the Story Ends

Matthew 28

January 28

This week has been rough. My daughter was sick; it’s been snowy and cold; my younger kids are in a “destroy-the-house-and-dad’s-sanity” kind of mood. To top it all off, these have not been easy devotions to write, and probably not easy to read. Judgements and woes, apocalypses and parables, betrayals, regrets and death. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Jesus Christ Superstar, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, and if you’ve seen the original version, something is striking about the end. It ends with them burying Jesus after the crucifixion. The name of the final song is “John Nineteen:Forty One”, a sweeping and somber orchestral piece. That verse reads : “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” It’s poetic and tragic and sad and moving and compelling. 

But that’s not how the story ends.

Life can be hard. Sometimes it’s our kids or friends having a cold, which today means a “COVID scare”; but sometimes it’s our mom or dad diagnosed with something terminal. Some days are snowy and cold; sometimes a coldness creeps into our souls that shuts out the world around us. Sometimes our physical house is a disaster; sometimes our emotional home, the relationship within the walls, seem broken beyond repair. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

On the first day of the week, two women who loved and cared for Jesus go to where his body was laid. They know the location, they were there when the door was sealed just days ago. But the body isn’t there. An angel, in the form of a man, says to them “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” And they are told to go to Galilee, for that’s where they and all the disciples will see him. But before that, he greets them on the road. And he says “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

But that’s not how the story ends. 

See, Jesus meets them in Galilee. And he gives them a command. In the Greek, the only command is “make disciples.” That is the commission we are given, given to every Christian since the resurrection until the last moment. Is what you are doing in life making disciples? Jesus says that they should make disciples by going, by baptizing, by teaching them. Those are indispensable parts of the commission. But it doesn’t mean “go on a mission trip and baptize and teach someone over there.” It means “whoever isn’t a disciple, go to them, love them, pray for them, if they accept the message baptize them, and then as they walk beside you in life teach them.” That’s the great commission. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

Jesus tells them that he will be with you, WITH US, ALWAYS. He says he will not forsake us, even until the end of the age. That means that as long as this world endures, Christ is with us. There will be a day where we may not be alive, and we will sleep, awaiting resurrection. But Christ will bring a new age in. 

But that’s not how the story ends.  

Because the story doesn’t end

Instead, because of the resurrection of Jesus to life, because God has shown with power that Jesus was the genuine article, the real deal, the true Messiah, then when he said that we who believe in him will have eternal life in his name, that is a guarantee we can trust. Those who follow Jesus begin their story now, will begin a new stage in the resurrection, but their story will continue on forever. We will truly be able to write our last chapter as “They lived happily, eternally, ever after.”

And that’s how our stories will start

-Jake Ballard

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Take a moment to think about, journal about, and pray about where you are in your story. Are things really good, and you are connected to your loved ones and God, thriving and growing closer together? Or is your story really difficult to read right now, much less live through? Are you asking the author of our stories to show you how HE reads your story? Would our life look different if we examined it from God’s eye? What would change because of the perspective? What would stay the same? How might this view alleviate your anxiety and worries?
  2. The great commission should fill us with hope and purpose, not shame and guilt. Jesus has died so our sin, guilt, and shame might be nailed to the cross. Jesus is raised to empower his followers to make disciples for the good of the world. How can you start to fulfill the great commission today? Are you ready to change the world through the power of God? Do you believe that God wants and expects you to be radically fulfilling the calling to make disciples, no matter your age, your schooling, your gender, your race, or any other factors?
  3. If you want the true beginning of your story to read “They lived happily, eternally, ever after…”, then will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today? Will you repent of sin and trust that he has forgiven them? Will you trust that he will never leave you nor forsake you but will be with you “until the end of the age” and into the age after that?

Taking God’s Message to the Rebels

Ezekiel 1 & 2

When I think about responding to God’s direction to “go and make disciples of all nations”, the last place I want to go is into a hostile community. 

And yet this is exactly what God commands Ezekiel to do.

Israel is described as being rebellious. They know what God requires of them, but they flat out refuse. Instead, they partake in all sorts of immoral acts that God detests. 

But God sees Ezekiel as one whom he can trust to deliver a message. And God tells Ezekiel to not be afraid; that whether or not Israel listens, Ezekiel needs to be bold and speak. 

Have you ever had to deliver a difficult message to an individual or a group? You know what you have to say won’t be received well, but you still have to say something? Maybe it’s to a friend at school or work. Maybe you’re a supervisor and you have to correct your employee. Maybe it’s a family member who isn’t doing what they should be doing.

Holding others accountable for their actions can be very challenging, especially, when the others haven’t asked for you to do so. It’s even more stressful if you’re seen as the enemy. 

So how do we go about entering a hostile environment to deliver a difficult message?

The first thing you can do is to pray. Confirm that it is indeed a message that God wants you to give. Pray that you’re given the words that God needs you to say. Pray that the recipient of the message will be soft-hearted. 

Second, remember to be compassionate. This isn’t the same as “giving in”, but you do want to remind the recipient that you are there to help and support them. 

Third, keep the message brief, to the point and honest.

The recipient will most likely not react well, so you will also want to acknowledge their frustrations, while helping them see a way forward. 

Finally, remind the individual of God’s love for them. They can have forgiveness if they are willing to repent. If they are open to it, offer to pray with them.

There will undoubtedly be times when God asks us to have difficult conversations with others. Do not be afraid to speak the truth in love.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 1-2 and 1 Peter 2

Fully Proclaim the Gospel of Christ

2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Today’s reading is packed with so much good stuff, it’s hard to know what to write about.

I could comment about the overflowing generosity of King Hezekiah and the people when giving to the Lord, as found in 2 Chronicles 31.  But I won’t.

I could stress how God blessed another faithful king, as found in 2 Chronicles 31:21, which says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered.”  But I won’t.

I could comment extensively on how Hezekiah trusted God completely when attacked by the Assyrians, and then God sent the death angel, who killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army.  But I won’t.  (Besides, I prefer the accounts in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37.)

I could talk about how Hezekiah cried out to God when he was about to die, and God added 15 years to his life, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32.  But I won’t.  (Again I prefer the 2 Kings 21 and Isaiah 37-38 accounts.) 

I could even expound on 2 Chronicles 32:31, “…God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  But I won’t.

Since I already commented yesterday about doing things to build up our neighbor, I won’t comment on that even though it is recorded again in the beginning of Romans 15.

Instead, I’d like to point out Paul’s faithfulness in evangelism.  You may remember that Paul had a vision, where Jesus commanded him to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.  In Romans 15:19-22, we read, “… So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. … This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.”

It’s easy to pass over what Paul just said, so I’ll point out that according to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” covers about 14,000 miles (yes, fourteen thousand miles).  When you consider Paul’s mode of travel, and the difficulties he endured (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), you can understand the immense achievement of Paul’s missionary work.

For your convenience, I’ll include 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 here:

… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

The real clincher comes in Romans 15:23, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…”  Did you catch that?  Paul has traveled 14,000 miles and told everyone he could about Jesus.  Paul is basically saying, “But since there’s nobody else to tell (because they’ve all heard now); I’m done here; so I’ll finally come to visit you.”

What an astounding accomplishment.  What an astounding example.

Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.  And part of what was commanded includes making more disciples.  So, through the Great Commission, Jesus commanded you and me to share the good news about Jesus with the whole world.  Maybe we weren’t told as directly as Paul was, but we were told.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say, “since I’ve told everybody I know about Jesus, I need to move on to find more people to tell.”  I think all of us need a good reminder that God still expects us to make disciples today.
–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

How Was I Supposed to Know?

Romans 10 14b

Imagine that judgement day is here and you are standing before Jesus.  Imagine that you grew up outside of the church and nobody ever shared a Bible with you or even bothered to explain what was going to happen in the future.  Imagine Jesus telling you to go get in the line where they throw you into the fire because you did not accept Christ as your savior.  I suspect you would go kicking and screaming saying that wasn’t fair.  You would probably shout back at Jesus, “How was I supposed to know?”

In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He said to go into ALL the world.  Like many of you, that is why I am passionate about missions.  That is also why I went with a team to Peru on a mission trip.  We have an extremely important message to tell others; in fact, lives depend on that message.

Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  And then verse 14 asks the obvious: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  That is so obvious that you don’t even need me to explain that to you.

But I like explaining things.  Let’s imagine that you know of someone that is locked in a room that is on fire and the only way they can get out is to unlock the door with a key.  The problem is that they don’t know where the key is, but let’s say that you know where the key is.  Would you take the time to call them and let them know where the key was so they wouldn’t die in the fire?  Or would you not really have the time or energy to make that call?  I am very confident that each person reading this devotion would take the time to call that person to tell them where the key was.  People respond with crazy amounts of urgency when there is a life to be saved in a fire.

So why don’t people respond with the same urgency when trying to save a life for eternity?  We have information that people need to hear to save their life.  We have the “key” that they need to save their life, and that key is Jesus.  If they don’t ever hear about Jesus, they are going to be sent to that line where they get thrown in the fire.  In my story and in the future in real life, you are going to die in the fire if you don’t have the “key”.  Someone needs to tell them about the key to life.

Don’t be the reason that someone says, “How was I supposed to know.”

Rick McClain

Jesus Says Go

Mark 16

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Jesus was nailed to a tree, he breathed his last, the curtain was torn.

The stone was rolled away, sin lost its stronghold, death was defeated.

This story holds so much power, whether it’s your first time hearing it or your ten thousandth time. Live everyday like you’ve just seen the stone rolled away from the tomb with your very own eyes. Let that excitement, awe, and wonder overflow from your heart.

We know the power of the empty tomb, so now what? When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he appoints them to a certain task: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:20).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went, and God showedup.

God saw the disciple’s obedience as usability. When we go, we obey Jesus’ calling on our life, and God can work through us. Look at everything God accomplished through the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven:

Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (Acts 5:14-16).

Jesus said go, so will you obey? Will you let God work through you?

You don’t have to go far, but you do have to go. Go sit in your front yard and engage your neighbors walking by in conversation. Go to the grocery store and be extra friendly to your cashier. Go to church and mentor the newly saved Christian. Go to work and be eager to strike at every small opportunity to share the hope of the Kingdom.

You have a mission field. Your mailman, your coworker, and your next-door neighbor, need to hear the gospel. You have a message to share! If not you, then who?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

The Cliffhanger

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Acts 28

Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.

But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.
-Joel Fletcher

A Hope, a Command and a Reassurance

Matthew 28

Matthew 28 20b

In the matter of a few sentences, we have a hope, a command and a reassurance. This hope is the greatest hope that anyone could have: the hope of a resurrection. The simple fact that Jesus walked out of His grave is proof enough that we too will walk out of our graves. God has given us a taste of His power, showed us that death isn’t something to fear. All throughout Matthew, we have seen the way that Jesus has lived and have heard His words. We know the way in which we are to live our lives. Jesus was the perfect example for us. If we follow in his footsteps just imagine the reward the we will receive knowing that Jesus was rewarded with eternal life.

This hope that Jesus left us with is accompanied with a command, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples all the commands I have given you.” This command is a heavy one, although it seems straightforward. First Jesus commands us to go. We need to move to carry out this command. The second part is to make disciples. This is a daunting task these days. It seems like no one wants to hear about religion of any kind, let alone discipleship. Maybe people don’t want to listen to you, this just means that you must go. Jesus said in Matthew 10:14, if someone won’t receive you, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. This applies to us in our daily lives even if we aren’t going to move to Peru to minister. If our friendships aren’t moving towards discipleships, then perhaps it’s time to go.

Jesus, knowing how hard this command would be to follow, provided a reassurance to go along with it. He said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus held firm until the very end of His life. He weathered the taunts and the persecution, the beatings and the crucifixion. If anyone understands hardship, He does. And He is with you always. When you are struggling in the face of trial, look to Jesus. Understand how he endured His trials and let His way work in your life. Allow Jesus to give you strength as you strive to follow his command, holding fast to the hope that we all share in the resurrection to come.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Seeing Isn’t Believing

john 20 29

One of the simplest examples of an optical illusion is the Hermann grid.  Black squares closely placed side by side with white space in between. Our brain, forever processing the input of our eyes, darkens the spaces around where our eyes are focused, creating dots between the corners of the squares that do not exist.  Even though I know the truth, my eyes are trying to tell me something different. There is an ongoing battle in my nervous system between what I know is the truth, and what I sense. Such is the ongoing battle with our faith — the confidence and assurance in things we know to be true, yet our senses may tell us otherwise.  With each next step that comes our way, we must give control to our senses or our heart. Faith or sight.

In the final chapter of Matthew, the culmination of our hope is made complete: Jesus arises from the grave.  Amen. Our example in life shows us the physical transformation that will occur when we are raised from the dead alongside all those who patiently await in the grave (Heb 11:39-40).  However, we are told that when the high priests hear the news of the resurrection, they quickly bribed the soldiers overseeing the grave and told them to spread the lie that Jesus had not really risen from the grave but was stolen in the middle of night.  Jesus sends word to his disciples to meet him in Galilee to see with their own eyes that he was indeed raised as he had promised. Yet at the moment they had Jesus Christ, the risen one, standing in front of them, some doubted (Matt 28:17). They had heard Jesus preach the gospel.  They heard him predict his resurrection. They watched him perform miracle after miracle. They even watched him raise people from the dead. Still, some of them were not convinced it was Jesus Christ. In this moment, seeing was not believing to them. Surely Jesus Christ was just some form of an optical illusion.

 

Like the disciples in this moment, I often wonder if the people I know who have reservations about faith would change their minds if they saw Jesus?  If they saw him heal, cast out demons, or calm the sea, would this be enough to change their tune? The conclusion I come to is, no, it didn’t and it won’t.  It did not change the hearts of the Pharisees who rebuked Jesus for healing on a sabbath. It did not change the hearts of nine lepers who walked away with the promise in hand of being healed.  It did not change the rich, young ruler heart to turn all his possession over for the promise of greater Kingdomly treasure. Even among the apostles, John’s account of the events after the resurrection of Jesus makes Thomas as the scapegoat disciple who doubted. It took literal touching the scars of Jesus to truly restore his faith.  Blessed are those who believe in their heart, not give in to their senses (John 20:29).

 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

 

Finally, in that moment, believing or not, Jesus gives the commision to his apostles, and I believe, each one of us.  Whether or not we believe, we are still held to the standard of preaching, baptizing, and teaching the world the Good News. Jesus Christ forever changes the course of their lives because he is a risen Lord and Savior actively working within them and for them until their demise or he returned.  Something changed in the heart of the disciples who doubted from then to Pentecost. They did not believe the gospel because they saw Jesus; they believed because He was the Lord of their life and the gospel was true, speaking to each one in the words of God, His Son, and in all of creation. Each of these men traveled a different part of the world to share this hope, and most found a gruesome end to their life far from home as a martyr.

 

We don’t need to see Jesus to share this same zeal and spirit. We need only to nurture the seed that has been planted in our hearts, to carry his gospel wherever we go.  We must declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is our Lord from whatever stage is set before us and to ask others to make a commitment to declare the same. There will be a day when faith is made sight; they will be one in the same.  Every tongue will confess what I already know is true. No optical illusions — trumpets will sound, the clouds will roll back to reveal the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and life as we knew it will be no more. Until that day comes, we desperately seek His will, we urgently share His news, and we excitedly await for the assured thing we do not yet see.

-Aaron Winner

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