Bearing Fruit

Luke Chapter 13

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Jesus tells the following parable starting in verse 6 of Luke 13 –  “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

 

Some may think that this fig tree represents unbelievers, which would make sense as they would not be producing fruit.  But I think Jesus is actually talking about believers here. The fig tree is seen throughout scripture as being connected to and representative of Israel, in both the Old and New Testament.  In Mark 11:12-21, Jesus curses a fig tree that was not bearing fruit and it withers and dies.

 

The point here is that Jesus and his Heavenly Father are not satisfied if you have the knowledge of them and their sacrifice, and then only go to church on Sunday and stay awake during the sermon. That is not Kingdom living.  That is not bearing fruit.

 

Back in chapter 10 of Luke, Jesus said the way to gain eternal life was to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Is this love intended to be kept internal?  Goodness, no. If you truly love God with ALL of your heart, then that should overflow.  If you truly love your neighbor (simply others) as yourself, I think they would know.  

 

What sort of things do you do to serve?  What do you do to show the love of God to others?  How do you use your God-given talents to honor Him?  The answers to these questions are your fruit! If you can’t think of any way that you are bearing fruit in such ways, let the parable of the Fig Tree be a warning to you.

 

I know that DOING things sounds like Works, and we are told at times that it is Faith that saves.  But I believe that Faith lived out leads to the works that bear fruit.  In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

 

So, I go back to where I started, in Chapter 7.  The coming Kingdom is real! It will be amazing! It will last forever!  You and everyone you know will want to be there. So do everything you can to spread that news, and encourage and bless believers and non-believers in the meantime as well.  That is truly bearing the fruit which Jesus will be looking for.

 

Greg Landry

 

How Will You Answer?

Luke Chapter 12

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So much in this chapter keeps pointing back to the Kingdom.  It’s no accident. I have heard some Christians describe life as one big test.  Are you going to live your life in a way that honors God, and thus reap the reward?  Or are you going to live your life for yourself, and be judged accordingly?

 

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 

 

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 

Luke 12:4-9

 

A young girl that was alleged to have been asked if she believed in God during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, with the knowledge that answering in the affirmative could end her life, comes to mind when I read those last two passages.  She said yes. Around the world today, people are still being put to death for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. What would you say in these same circumstances?

 

A bit later, worriers (like me) are advised and encouraged NOT to worry.  Your Heavenly Father will provide what you need. You don’t need to be rich or famous, and in fact, those are huge detriments and distractions from your real purpose anyway.  Don’t let the worries and distractions of this world, which have no impact on your future inheritance, get you off track. Verse 31 says, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”  God WILL take care of your basic needs. I know there are plenty of things to worry about in this life, but much of our worry ends up having been completely needless. Even when you do have very serious things to be concerned about, remember that no one and no thing can take away your inheritance in the Kingdom.  You need not worry about that.

 

Lastly we are encouraged to be vigilant, always ready to take ownership of the parcel designated as yours in the Kingdom, for we do not know the exact hour Jesus will return, or the exact hour that our time in this world will end.  NOTHING in this temporary world is worth risking your place in the coming eternal world.  

 

Greg Landry

 

With God or Against God

Revelation 13

Revelation 13 16 17 NIV

666! This number has been special in the minds of believers and nonbelievers alike for thousands of years. What exactly is this number meant to represent? What is the “mark of the beast”? Is the government going to try and put a microchip in my hand? What should I do?

 

There is much speculation about what the number 666 means, and it all comes from this chapter in Revelation; chapter thirteen. However, before we go wandering off to try and apply this number to our situation in 21st century America, it is important to try and understand what John is trying to communicate to his audience in 1st century Asia Minor. This is an important practice for reading any passage of the Bible, and I encourage you to do your research before applying it to yourself.

 

John sees a vision of a terrifying beast that has ten horns and seven heads, and was like a leopard, with feet like a bear, and a mouth of a lion. It is likely that John is drawing these images from the Old Testament prophet Daniel, specifically Daniel chapter 7, where the prophet describes four great empires with beast-like imagery. Since Daniel described empires/nations with this imagery, it is likely that John also has a specific empire in mind with his description of this beast. Since we’ve already been told that this beast is responsible for killing the two Witnesses (11:7), John likely has in mind the nation of Rome, who was ruling at the time of his writing and was notorious for killing Christians during the empire’s reign.

 

John then sees a second beast, which is responsible for making the people worship the first beast. In the first century Roman world that John is writing in, there was a religious movement called “the imperial cult”, that was the fastest growing religion of the time. This religious movement encouraged, and sometimes forced, people to worship the Roman emperors as “gods”. If you do a little historical study on the imperial cult, you may be surprised at how much the whole New Testament addresses this issue.

 

This second beast forces the people to put a “mark” on their hand or forehead, demanding their allegiance to the first beast. If you don’t have this “mark”, you will be unable to do many things. This number is the number of “a man”, which is 666. This is in stark contrast to the “mark” (or seal) that God had already placed on his own people in 7:3. In other words, you are either with God or against Him.

 

While I don’t believe we have to worry about microchips in our world today, since that wasn’t the point John was making, we do have a responsibility of giving our allegiance to God in every decision we make. Think about each decision you make today. Is this decision honoring to God, or is it bringing glory to something else? Have you “marked” yourself with God’s grace, or are you seeking something else?

 

Talon Paul

Consistently Strong

James 3

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Have you ever heard young boys arguing? It may begin as an argument about which is faster but many times it will end up with the two boys shouting something to the effect of, “My dad is stronger than your dad!” Often times we see our fathers as a symbol of strength, but what does strength look like? Is it a bodybuilder with bulging muscles? Is it a sprinter with unbelievable speed? These can be measures of physical strength but the strength that we are called to display is more than just strength of body.

The world tells us that a strong person should “get mad and fight like a man” God tells us through James to control our speech and even to control our anger. In chapter one he said, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry”. James 1:26 tells us “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” In Chapter 3 he says that anyone who does not stumble in what he says is a perfect man, I can tell you I am far from perfect. He goes on to explain how such a small part of our bodies can control and lead so much of our life. When I take a flight I often sit near the wing and will watch the flaps as the pilot makes adjustments to control the aircraft. It always amazes me to see that such a small change, in a relatively small piece of the plane, can determine the altitude of such a massive machine as it carries me through the air at hundreds of miles per hour. James 3:5-8 says

5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

Although the tongue is such a small part of our body it is what we use to express our thoughts and emotions to those around us. Jesus even said that our words are the overflow of our heart. Does that mean when we are sarcastic and disrespectful to those around us that is what is truly in our heart? That can be a disturbing thought sometimes. Perhaps we should use our words to view the contents of our heart.

When I lived in the South I would hear someone say something inappropriate and another person would ask, (insert your best southern accent) “You kiss yo momma with that mouth?” James says something similar but with even more force. He says, “With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, … these things ought not to be this way.” We should seek to honor both God and people with our words.

We should be consistent with our thoughts and actions.

We should be consistent in the strength of self-control.

It takes true strength to control your tongue.

Show strength that builds up, not tears down!

-Bill Dunn

The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12

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A scribe goes to Jesus and asks what the foremost commandment is.  “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.

It’s easy. Know who God is, love Him with all your heart, and love others. Well, when it’s put like this, it seems easy anyway. It’s interesting to note that if we are loving God with all our hearts, then we are keeping the first five of the 10 commandments.  (Honoring our fathers and mothers is a way we honor God as well, because He put them in authority over us. Although you could say that this fifth commandment could go with the last five and loving others.) Likewise, if we are loving others, then we are keeping the last five of the 10 commandments.

How can we love others as ourselves? We can strive to think of others before we think of ourselves. If we can make our lives more about others and less about “me”, then we are on the right track. How do we love God with “all”? Well, we must love God with every part of who we are and outwardly it shows because of how we spend our time and money. At the end of this chapter Jesus points out the widow who gave very little, but gave “all she had”. That took a serious amount of faith. God is always pleased when we act out of faith in Him.

-Melissa New

 

Repentance that Leads to Salvation

2 Corinthians 7

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While I was at church last week, one of the younger girls that I have watched grow up  since she was a baby came up to me and was so very excited to whisper some big news into my ear. Her smile grew larger and larger as she leaned in close to reveal that she and her older sister are planning to be baptized in just a few weeks! I looked at her with excitement! I was overjoyed! What wonderful news for anyone to tell me, let alone this sweet girl who I adore. Of course as an education major, I am drawn towards investing in youth. I am passionate about teaching children in my daily life but more than that, I am passionate about guiding youth to become individuals who strive to honor God daily. In the same sense, Paul was passionate about building and growing the church. He was passionate about investing in others also as we see here in 2 Corinthians. I imagine the excitement that I had when I received the news of the baptisms in my church was similar to the excitement that Paul had when the people of Corinth were repenting.

 

 

While reading this chapter today, I was especially drawn to verses ten and eleven as they state,

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,

whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief

has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation,

what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved

yourselves innocent in the matter.

 

Question:

Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from pursuing a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father? Moreover, is there anything in your life that is stopping you from accepting the sacrifice that His son made on our behalf?

 

  • No matter where you are at in your life right now, no matter what struggles you may be facing, I encourage you to give it all to God. Lay down all of your burdens and troubles and He will meet you wherever you are. It’s not too late to say yes to His free and perfect gift. It’s one that you don’t want to miss out on!

 

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

 

-Kayla Tullis

Worship God with your Body

Col 3 5a

Free Theme Week: Worship

Chapter reading for the day: Colossians 3

There is a particular “truth” that is extremely pervasive in our culture, the news, social media, etc. This “truth” is that you are the sole determiner in what you decide to do with your body and that no one else has the right to tell you what you can or can’t do with it. If you want to tattoo your whole body do it. If you want to fill your body with botox and recreate your image through plastic surgery have at it. If a woman wants to get an abortion, how dare anyone tell her she cannot. If you want to sleep around with different people in the name of finding yourself and wanting non-committal sex, more power to you. We are bombarded with messages everyday about how the individual is the authority of their body. There’s a problem though; this is a lie.

The truth is that humans are not the sole authority over their bodies, God is. The reason he is the authority is because he is the creator of our bodies (Psalm 139) and as disciples of Jesus we are to honor and glorify God and Jesus in our body. We are to subject our bodies to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and use our body for the glory of God and Jesus. Now there are many ways we can do this but for today we will look at two ways in which we can worship God in our body.

  1. Food
  2.   Sex

Food is a particular problem in America. We can eat food whenever we want and eat however much we like. The problem with this is that many Christians, along with Americans, are overweight and unhealthy. God created food to be good and for us to enjoy. The problem is when we indulge too much in food and we hurt our bodies with disease and premature death. The Bible warns against gluttony (Prov. 23.21, Philippians 3.19). When our bodies are slowed down by being overweight, too tired, and fighting disease the ministry God has given us is hindered. The remedy to being in control of food and honoring God with your body is self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5.22-23). Let us pursue self-control when it comes to eating. Let us pursue self-control when it comes to the quantity and quality of the food we eat. When we do this we honor and love God with our body. Your body is for more than just to take pleasure in food it is to worship God and minister to others.

A second way to love and honor God with our body is to obey God in his design of sex. Again God created sex to be good but only within the parameters that he set up. These parameters are the marriage union between a husband and wife. Whether you are married or single, any person can use sex outside of God’s will. Instead of listing activities that fall outside of God’s design for sex, I’ll speak positively to God’s will for sex. It really only comes down to two things:

  1. A husband and wife are to be sexually fidelitous
  2. A single person is to be abstinent in their body and mind until marriage

God states plainly in I Thessalonians 4.3, that his will for his people is to abstain from sexual immorality. Participating in sex the right way results in us loving and worshipping God with our body. As Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” – I Corinthians 6.19-20

-Jacob Rohrer