Less than a Week before Dying

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 21 and Genesis 41 & 42

What would you do if you knew you would die in less than a week? Is there anywhere you would want to go? What changes would you make in your schedule and priorities? Less TV, pinterest or social media? More meaningful interactions with those who mean the most to you? Would your tone change? Would you give more hugs? Are there any difficult conversations you wouldn’t put off any longer? If there was anything you could do to prolong your life would you do it?

Jesus was in a very unique situation as he was coming into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. He knew he was quickly approaching both the time and place for his agonizing death by crucifixion. Many would run in the other direction. Maybe if he laid low and avoided Jerusalem longer the chief priests and leaders of the law would forget about him and find some other religious teacher to get mad at and crucify. Think of how many more people he could heal and teach if he could stay away from them just another month? Wouldn’t it be worth it?

But, Jesus didn’t hide or try to dodge the bullet. If anything he boldly intensified his work and purpose. Previously he had mostly stuck to the smaller towns and villages rather than camping out in Jerusalem – the holy city of all Jews. Often he had told those he healed to be quiet about it. He was never trying to draw a crowd – but the crowds still had a way of finding him anyways. Now, as he made preparations to enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy) he knew the crowds couldn’t be held back any longer. On this day they would shower Jesus with shouts of praise, but in a few days they will cry out for crucifixion.

We don’t know the day or hour or location of our death. We also don’t know how long the tomb will hold us. But, like Jesus – and because of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s promise to send Him to earth again – we can be sure of a resurrection to come. How will that impact the intensity of your ministry today – how you spend your time, what conversations you have, what passion you have for the Father’s work and will?

May we not be like the fig tree that had life but failed to bear fruit for Him.

May we not be like the son who said he would do the Father’s work – but then didn’t.

-Marcia Railton

The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry

Luke Chapter Four

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In Luke chapter four, we finally get to see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  However, before we get there, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness by himself with no food.  He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  We are never told the purpose of the Spirit leading Jesus to the wilderness, but I imagine it served as a great time for Jesus to focus in on God all by himself before he began his earthly ministry.

 

While Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, the devil came to tempt Jesus.  Three times the devil tempted Jesus, but he had zero success.  To combat the temptation, Jesus responded each time with scripture (verses 4, 8 and 12).  Scripture offers us a great way to combat temptation, as Jesus demonstrated here.  Psalm 119:11 supports this notion, as it states, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

 

Whenever we are confronted with temptation, as we all are, a great way to resist and combat that temptation is by quoting scripture.  Now, this is only possible if you have scripture memorized in the first place.  This is a big reason why it is important to store God’s Word in our hearts.

 

After Jesus withstood the temptation of the devil in the wilderness, Jesus officially began his earthly ministry in his hometown of Nazareth.  He did not have quite the warm welcoming, as the Jews tried to throw him off of a cliff (Luke 4:29).  This was just the beginning of the Jews seeking to end and kill Jesus.  They were constantly taken back by Jesus’ bold claims that he makes.  In the end, the Jews send him to the Roman government to have him killed because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 26:54).  The Jews seldom got along with Jesus because they did not believe that he was the Christ, the Son of God.

 

Luke chapter four ends with Jesus telling us his purpose, as Jesus states, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent,” (Luke 4:43).  Jesus himself stated that his purpose was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.  From the very beginning of his ministry, he preached all about the Kingdom.  The message of the kingdom was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, and it should be at the heart of our ministry as well.

 

Kyle McClain

 

Some observations from 1 John, chapter 2

1 John 2 1

“From the beginning…”

 

The phrase “from the beginning” which was used in the first verse of the book (1 John 1:1), is used 5 more times in chapter 2. In John 1:1 “that which was from the beginning” was that which they had heard, seen and touched, “the word of life”. This “beginning” refers to Jesus the Messiah and his ministry on earth communicating God’s word, not to the beginning at creation. The occurrences of “from the beginning” in chapter 2 are verses 7, 13, 14, and 24 (two times). It is important to keep in mind that “from/in the beginning” in the Scriptures does not always refer to the Genesis creation.

 

Context must help determine which “beginning” is meant. For instance, in the Gospel of John, the phrase “from the beginning” does not usually refer to the creation, but to Jesus ministry on earth. Note these references:

  • “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:65)
  • “So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning’” (John 8:25).
  • “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:24).
  • “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).

In each case mentioned above, from the beginning means the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

With only two exceptions (John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 which refer to the devil) “from the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of John (1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:11 and 2 John 1:5-6) refers to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. This may help us understand “In the beginning…” of John 1:1. Some One God believers see John 1:1 as a reference to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Similarly, Luke mentioned “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Mark 1:1 mentions “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

 

“My little children”

 

Several times the writer refers to those whom he writes as “my little children” or “children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28). This should not be understood as if the writer is derogatorily chastising his listeners for being immature. Rather, these references should be understood as a terms of endearment and care, just as when he calls his listeners “beloved” (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11). As children of God (3:1-2), those that believe that Jesus is the Christ are a family, brothers and sisters, who must love one another (5:1).

 

An Advocate with the Father

 

The writer explains that we do sin, but there is a path to forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). He writes to us “so that we may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate, like a lawyer on our side. This should give us great encouragement. Jesus is the honest, righteous lawyer on our side. He is for us. As an expert lawyer, Jesus knows the rules. He knows how to take our case before the Father. He has access to the Father and successfully intercedes for us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and Hebrews 8:1).

 

We lived in Israel and all our children were born there. Most countries do not grant citizenship to foreign children by virtue of being born in the country. Two of our young adult children applied to become citizens in Israel. They were denied several times over three years. However, not long ago a lawyer, an advocate, took up their case and presto, my children received their citizenship. The lawyer knew the rules, had the connections, authority and knowledge on how to present my children’s case, and succeeded. Jesus is our expert, righteous, successful advocate before the Father.

 

“Do not love the world…”

 

The author’s admonition to “not love the world or things of the world” are perhaps the best known verses of chapter 2 (vs. 15-17). He defines what “loving the world” is: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It is a love of the way of the world, or of this world’s system. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation, the work of God’s hands, which is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After all we wait for the regeneration of this world, and indeed the regeneration of this world’s system (Matt. 19:28, Heb. 2:5).

 

“The last hour”  and “anti-christs”

The author says it is the last hour. What a long hour it has been! He knows that it is the last hour since many anti-christs had already come. Specifically, here he says that the anti-Christ (anti-Messiah) is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). The text does not say, as many traditional trinitarian Christians say, that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that God is the Messiah, or that the Messiah pre-existed as God. Rather, the text says that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that Jesus, the man Jesus, is the Messiah. “Christ” (Messiah) is never a title for God himself.

 

Of these anti-christs, the author says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” (1 John 2:19). It is easy to see how a text like this could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied. Especially as centuries passed, anyone could use the text to condemn any kind of a reformer. For instance, Catholics could apply it against Protestants.  Today it is leveled against anyone who denies that Jesus is God. But in its original context it was directed against anyone who denied that the man Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).

 

The promise of God – eternal life

1 John 2:25 says that God has promised us eternal life (immortal life in the age to come). We can take comfort and joy that God is pretty good at keeping His promises.

 

Having confidence, and not shrinking back in shame

 

1 John 2:28 says that if we abide in Jesus, that is, live according to knowledge of who he is, we can have confidence so that when he appears, at his coming, we won’t shrink back in shame. Since we know who Jesus is — the Messiah of God the Father, risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand, appointed to rule the world, we can look forward to his return. There is a similar admonition in Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”

-Bill Schlegel

Leave the Boat Behind

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Many of you who subscribe to this blog are currently on voyage towards your “Mission” or FUEL 2018.  Sadly, I have been left behind (electively) for the first time in almost 20 years, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to man the deck and steer the course for your inspiration from the scriptures.  My hope for those attending FUEL 2018 is to place a mark on your map, so you can begin navigating your day. Those of us not attending or those who don’t even know what FUEL is, I hope to remind you of the called Christian’s day-in-day-out commissioning that sets us on a life-saving and life-giving course, not only for ourselves, but for all who have set sail seeking the truth.

 

To provide some context for our key text today, Matthew 2-4 shows us the preparation of Jesus for His ministry and purpose.  He was born with distinction, baptized to be righteous, and tempted to be proven. He is now ready and worthy for his calling to share a game-changing gospel to both Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2).   He begins sharing this good news, specifically, looking for disciples to come follow Him. The events that unfold in Matthew 4:18-22 are shocking to most of us. Jesus calls a set of brothers to follow him, and they actually do it.  And then it immediately happens again. WHAT!? Now to be fair, we are not given a lot of context. It is possible the conversation with these fishermen was longer than “Come, and follow me and I will send you out to fish for people,” but keep in mind, this is before the miracles of Jesus — when he was baptized, tempted, and sharing the gospel like us.  If Jesus spoke any other words or had a reputation, it was regarding two things: repentance and the Kingdom of God (v.17).

 

Now, it has been said the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat and day they get rid of it.  It would be disingenuous to say all boat owners feel this sentiment, but the majority do. Why? The infatuations and pleasures brought by owning a boat quickly are outweighed by the unforeseen investments, burdens, and maintenance.  Andrew, Peter, James, and John could very well have been content, but were undoubtedly ready to disembark because they were looking for something better. These four men left their nets, boats, and fathers and immediately followed Jesus. I know. You are scratching your head — “It doesn’t happen like this; people today don’t actually leave their stuff, work, or family behind to follow Jesus.” It actually does.  Quite a bit in the Bible, but as I have seen with my own eyes, quite a bit today WHEN there isn’t contentment with leaving people on sinking vessels.

 

We do not have to perform miracles to create this type of rapid response to the gospel, only share the message that removes the burdening responsibilities “owning” a boat. What is that message?  “Come, follow Him, ” in this many words or more, not merely left to a cryptic metaphor with our actions. Additionally, we must be ready to verbalize our answer to the hope we have, the faith that makes us live differently (1 Peter 3:15).  These words are our net, our bait, our way of setting the hook for conversation; otherwise, we are just fishermen, waiting for a fish to hop onto the shore (which is pretty ineffective). No matter what we catch, those who share our message and praise it, those who hate our message and curse it, or those who are seeking our message and find it, we are His fishers of men who continually cast our message of the Kingdom of God, seeking and searching for those who are ready to leave the boat behind.

-Aaron Winner

Shaken Out of Complacency

Weekly Summary – Luke 7-12

Luke 12_8

These chapters in Luke show us some of the core parts of Jesus’ ministry on earth and are overflowing with good lessons and teachings for us today.  The Israelites of Jesus’ time had grown complacent and worldly.  Their leaders used the Mosaic laws and rules they had invented to serve their own pride and greed and had therefore prevented many others from learning the truth of God’s will.  Jesus had the monumental task of taking a group of people who were rooted in worldliness and shaking them out of their complacency and sin, showing them the path to salvation, and then preparing them for long term life as the Church with the Holy Spirit to guide them.  This is the most recent and greatest act of God to reconcile the world to himself in order to save us from our sins.  Each step in God’s plan has prepared the way for the next, and just as John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus’ ministry, so too the Holy Spirit is working today to prepare us for Jesus’ second coming.  Today we have many of the same societal issues that Jesus dealt with in his first coming.  Our culture today idolizes the greedy and prideful while openly encouraging blatantly sinful lifestyles.  There are a lot of lessons in these chapters that will help us see the world as God sees it so that we can turn from our worldly ways and live a changed life for Christ.  It takes a lot of hard work, and the world will not reward you for it, but that is why we have the Church, to help us through.

 

I have enjoyed going through these chapters this week, and I hope some of my thoughts made sense and have helped you.

 

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”   Luke 12:8

-Chris Mattison

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