All-Star Team

Matthew 10-12

jesus-disciples

Sunday, April 30

Suppose you were given the task of building a team that was responsible for learning some teachings and convincing everyone else in the world that those teachings were true.  What kind of people would you pick for this team?  I would go with an all-star team of doctors, lawyers, scholars, politicians, successful business people, and someone famous.  Jesus had this same task, but he built an all-star team of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, probably some tradesmen, and more fishermen.  These were the occupations of the twelve disciples.  Think about how unremarkable this group was, and yet they were chosen to carry out probably the most important job in the history of mankind, to spread the gospel to the whole world.  They were ordinary people on an extraordinary mission.

And guess what…the mission is not over, especially considering there are about seven billion people alive today that were not living a couple thousand years ago.  I’m pretty sure all of the disciples died so they are not able to help with the work anymore.  God needs a team now to carry on the mission and I suspect he is still counting on ordinary people to join the team.  Yes, I am talking about you.  God wants you to help preach the gospel to all of the nations.

But what is the message?  In Matthew 10:12, Jesus said he wanted them to go out and preach about the kingdom.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew about the coming kingdom.  Is everyone going to accept the message?  Absolutely not.  Jesus said if they don’t accept the message, shake off the dust of your feet and move on to the next place.  It might seem odd that Jesus was sending them to places where they would be rejected, but he still thought it was important that everyone should hear the message so they can make the choice themselves.  If someone doesn’t hear about the kingdom, they don’t have a chance to accept the kingdom message.

Is it going to be easy?  Nope.  Jesus said we are like sheep in the midst of wolves.  He told us that it won’t be easy, and in fact, it could be dangerous.  Moreover, if you choose to be on this team, the message is not always viewed favorably and your own family may hate you for it, even to the point of your own family having you killed.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:11 that no one was ever greater than John the Baptist, yet his life ended when they chopped off his head.  However, Jesus tells us the good news in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.”

In Matthew 12:19, it talks about Jesus’ approach.  He won’t quarrel or cry out, and nobody in the streets will hear his voice.  I believe this is our model of how to spread the gospel message.  We are not looking for a fight.  We don’t have to get angry with people because they disagree with us.  We do not have to stand on street corners and scream at people that they are going to hell if they don’t repent.  We just need to speak the truth in love.  Explain to people what is going to happen in the future, especially what happens to them after they die.  Tell them about the kingdom and how to attain salvation.  If they are not interested in what you are saying, move on.  There is no need for a heated debate and there is no need to keep pestering them.  Just shake off the dust and move on.  You can feel good that you gave them a chance for eternal life.  The only time you should feel bad is when you had the opportunity to talk to someone and kept silent.  What if they would have embraced the gospel message, but nobody ever gave them that chance?  That would be a tragedy to let someone die eternally without ever trying to save them.

Fortunately, it is not our responsibility to make sure others attain salvation.  It is only our responsibility to make sure they hear the gospel message.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself for results.  It is only your job to make sure that people have a choice and they don’t have a choice unless someone tells them about the choice.  Matthew 12:50 says that whoever does the will of Jesus’ Father is a brother, sister, or mother of Jesus.  That is a family I hope you want to be a part of.

-Rick McClain

Bio:  Happily married, 4 kids, and 0 pets.  Enjoy sports, vacations, and romantic comedies.  Blood type is A positive.  Life Goal:  Get as many people in the kingdom as possible.

 

 

The Authority to Forgive

Matthew 8-9

matt 9

Saturday, April 29

In Matthew 8 and 9 I notice two themes:

  1. Healing of the sick
  2. Jesus’ authority established

In these two chapters he healed one person after another, a woman bleeding, a dead girl, blind men, a paralyzed man, the list goes on and on. His healing did two things:

  1. Helped establish and recognize his God given authority
  2. Show that he can heal our physical human needs but also our spiritual needs, the forgiveness of sin

In Matthew 9:2-8 we read about a paralyzed man who had both physical and spiritual healing given to him by Jesus.

2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

 

Jesus’ authority was God given and proven through his ability to heal. He makes it clear though, he isn’t here just to heal the physical needs of the people but the spiritual ones as well.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: http://crosstownfamily.org/sermons/the-authority-to-forgive/)

 

One Bad Apple

Matthew 5-7

bad apple matt

Friday, April 28

A couple weeks ago a co-worker of mine came into my office with her apple. She’d cut it in half to eat and to her disbelief found it rotten and brown on the inside. We both couldn’t believe it considering it came from a brand new bag of apples and looked completely edible. From the outside this apple looked perfect to eat but inwardly it was tainted and deceiving.

 

In Matthew 7:15-23 Jesus warns us of false prophets who are very similar to my co-worker’s bad apple. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:15)

 

My bad apple story finishes with my co-worker and I discussing if she could eat around the inner brown spots or hope it doesn’t taste as bad as it looks. In the end we both decided it’s best to just throw it out.  

 

Matthew 7:19-20  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.
-Elleigh Dylewski

 

Promise Keeper

The Beginning of the NEW TESTAMENT – Matthew 1-4

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Thursday, April 27

So after years of prophecies and waiting, the Messiah is finally here!

Matthew 1: 21-23       21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”

After reading through Zechariah and Malachi I’ve come to appreciate Jesus as the Messiah even more than I already did. Understanding the ups and downs of God’s relationship  with the Israelites helped me understand the need and reason for Jesus. He was born as a fulfillment of prophecy and that’s exactly the life he lived.

 

God keeps his promises.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

 

heb 10

 

(Matthew 1:21 Photo Credit – http://my-savior-lives.tumblr.com/post/69954608098

Hebrews 10:23  Photo Credit: http://www.mygivingback.com/2016/08/)

Do You Get It?

Malachi 1-4

Malachi

Wednesday, April 26

Have you ever tried reasoning with someone who just doesn’t get it? After reading Malachi that’s exactly how I felt. At this point the temple is built and the Israelites are settled back into their traditions and way of life. They are now waiting for the prophecies of their Messiah to be fulfilled. But with this wait and settling in came the return of sin, doubt and once again a disconnection and separation from God.

The Israelites began to sacrifice improper animals, they were withholding tithes, they were marrying outsiders, they weren’t obeying and honoring the covenant they had with God. With all this corruption going on they refused to see themselves as the problem. Instead they put the blame on God questioning his very love for them (Malachi 1:2) . Almost desperately God points the finger back at them, reminding them of his great love and his promise of a messiah. He urges them to take responsibility for their actions and remember to obey the covenant they have with Him.

I found it interesting that the last book of the Old Testament left me with a feeling of desperation. You felt the need for the Messiah and I almost couldn’t wait for him to come, then I realized: wait, Jesus did come! Today we have a new covenant with God, one that is fulfilled by grace through Jesus Christ.

 

I hope you get it.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

Refined or Destroyed

Zechariah 11-14

zechariah 13

Tuesday, April 25

The book of Zechariah brings a message of hope to the Israelites but also a dose of reality. The final chapters focus on two key elements: the coming Messiah and the Kingdom of God. Zechariah prophesies of a hope and salvation of the coming Messiah (Jesus, shepherd) but also of his rejection by the Israelites. He prophesies of a coming Kingdom where God will rule, but also the tribulation that will unfold for those that don’t believe.

 

Zechariah 13:7-9 says 7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,

against the man who is close to me!”

declares the Lord Almighty.

“Strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered,

and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.

8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,

“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;

yet one-third will be left in it.

9 This third I will put into the fire;

I will refine them like silver

and test them like gold.

They will call on my name

and I will answer them;

I will say, ‘They are my people,’

and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

 

Powerful words from a powerful God.

Here are the three things I took from Zechariah 11 – 14:

  1. God has a plan – some of which has already unfolded (Jesus’s first coming and the Israelites rejecting him).
  2. His plan is still playing out and yet to unfold (Jesus’s second coming and the Kingdom established)
  3. You and I have a role in His plan. Part of that role is to accept and believe in God’s plan with the faith to live it out. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Zechariah makes it clear that God has the plan.  It’s your choice to be a part of it or not. To be refined by fire or destroyed by fire is up to you. In the end I say, the Lord is my God.

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Zechariah_13:9)

Return to Me and I Will Return to You

 

Zechariah 1-6

zechariah 1

Sunday, April 23

 

Zechariah 1-6 is comprised of a series of 9 visions which can be difficult to understand, but if you read them from start to finish you begin to understand the big picture message.

 

The book starts us off with post exiled Israelites who are called to return to God and rebuild the temple!

 

Side note: I found it especially cool that these first 6 chapters, which are mostly about rebuilding the temple begin by encouraging the people to first rebuild their relationship with God. Zechariah 1:3  Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Think about that in your life…Where’s your relationship with God? Do you have one? Do you need to return to Him?

 

Dream 1: This dream talks about four horsemen on patrol for God. They report that the land is at peace. God is upset the land is at peace because his people were hurt and he wants justice.

Application: God can’t stand when evil people are at rest while those he loves are being persecuted.

 

Dream 2: This dream displays 4 horns that crushed the Israelites. Then it switches to 4 horns that will crush those who crushed the Jews.

Application: God provides due justice to those who do evil against his people! If you chose to follow Jesus, God will provide you a haven in the Kingdom.

 

Dream 3: This dream depicts a man measuring  Jerusalem to make sure it will hold all the people. God promises to be Jerusalem’s walls. He promises to protect them against attack.  

Application: We are called to build the Kingdom by believing in Jesus Christ and sharing that good news with others! Are you afraid to share your faith? Your belief in Jesus? Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Don’t let your fear get in the way of living a devoted life for God.

 

Dream 4: Joshua the high priest (a major leader) is standing before God with dirty clothes. God replaces his clothes with new CLEAN ones.

Application: We have salvation through Christ!  Our sins can be made new through belief in him! 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

Dream 5:  A lamp with 7 flames is fed oil by a spigot attached to two olive trees. One olive tree is Zerubbabel the current king of Jerusalem and the other is Joshua the high priest. These two leaders will unite to rebuild the temple and all of Jerusalem. God makes a special note that Zerubbabel will use his spirit to rebuild the temple.

Application: God sends people to help us do what seems like impossible feats, he also sends his Spirit, the power of God. This allows us to accomplish his will in ways we wouldn’t otherwise think possible. The Spirit allows us to rely on God versus our own strength.  

Dream 6: This dream has a flying scroll that is going throughout a newly rebuilt Jerusalem cleansing it of the liars and thieves. The scroll is purifying Jerusalem of those not obeying the covenant.

Application: God will purify those within the church that are not truly devoted to God and living according to his way. How you live today affects how you live later…the Kingdom of God.

 

Dream 7: A women in a basket, representing all wickedness, is being flown back to Babylon where it first came from. God does a final purification.

Application: God will do a final purification of wickedness in our lives and the church. One day we will all stand before the Lord

 

Dream 8: Four horsemen go out to survey the land. They find it is at peace. God’s Spirit is at rest knowing the temple will be rebuilt, the enemies are punished and Jerusalem is purified and ready for the temple.

Application: One day God will welcome us into his kingdom. We have to choose now to live that way! 🙂

 

Dream 9: God anoints Joshua with a crown as if for a king. He promises that one day a King-Priest will rise up and rule Jerusalem.

Application: This king-Priest is Jesus who lived, died and rose again. Jesus brings us salvation, hope, faith, peace and a place in God’s Kingdom!  

 

All of the above dreams are providing us with the big picture. First, rebuilding the temple, second the return of Jesus and third the Kingdom of God. After reading these passages I realized that God really does have a plan and he wants us to faithfully do his will, using his Spirit as our strength.

 

Just as the Israelites were called to return to God and rebuild his temple, we are called to return to God, accept Jesus as our savior, and prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So I encourage you today to take that first step and Return your life to God.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

Elleigh is an energetic, lively person who is married to a really cool guy, she hopes that after three years of marriage some of his coolness has rubbed off on her! Together they enjoy spending time with the youth, teaching, discipling and encouraging them as they grow their faith. She says her energy comes from eating too much chocolate and the joy she found in accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Responding to the Glory of God

 

Ezekiel 43-44

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Sunday, April 2

How should we respond to God’s glory?

To be able to answer this question, we should know what God’s glory is. A simple definition is His character, holiness, and excellence revealed. It is the essence of God on display.

In today’s passage, we read about Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory in a vision. He hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh), which sounds like “the roar of rushing waters,” sees the land “radiant with his glory,” and witnesses the glory of Yahweh filling the temple (Ezek. 43:1-6).

You and I will likely never get the opportunity to receive a vision from the Almighty in which we can see His glory in such an amazing fashion. But God has revealed aspects of His character, holiness, and excellence to us in several ways. In these we can experience the glory of God and respond to it.

God has revealed Himself through His creation. This idea is called Natural Revelation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When one looks at nature it is difficult, at least for me, to believe that everything seen came about by chance and was not designed by an intelligent being. While Natural Revelation doesn’t tell us much about who God is, it does show a great deal about what He is capable of and how great He is.

God has also revealed Himself through the scriptures. What Natural Revelation leaves out about who God is, the Bible fills in much more. The writers of each book in the Bible were inspired by God through His holy spirit. They rely stories of the wonderful things He has done and inform readers of what He can do, and some even reveal what He will do in the future. The Bible offers a large portrait of the greatness and goodness of God, but doesn’t give a complete picture. Not until we dwell with Him in His kingdom will we experience the full weight of His glory.

God has revealed Himself through His son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an expression often used to illustrate how a son is very much like his father, this could be said of Jesus. But more accurately it would be said that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, it is essentially still part of the tree. Jesus is the exact representation of His father. If we want to get a better picture or understanding of God, the best thing we can do is to simply read the Gospels that tell of Jesus. The character of Christ is the character of God. The attributes Jesus exhibits are the same of his father. The glory of God is seen in His son.

The question still remains, how are we to respond to God’s glory?

I think our response should be twofold.

(1) We should be reverent. God is not like us. He is perfect. He is holy. He has great power. He created the world in which we live and, when we messed it us, had a way to make it right again. So, he deserves to be praised. He is entitled (it is his right) to be worshiped. This reverence we have for God should lead to not just passive adoration, but active glorification. We can stand in church and say God is great, but if we think this to be a great truth, it should move us to give our lives to him and serve him everyday of our lives.

(2) We should be repentant. When I say God is holy this means two things: he is set apart and he is pure. We, as human being who engage in sin, are not pure and we tend to act the same as everyone else, making us not set apart. That being said, we are called to be holy as God is holy. The first step towards holiness is repentance. We must forsake our sin and choose Jesus instead. He is the only one who can make us holy.

As you read our passage for today, as you go outdoors and see the beauty that is nature, and when you read about Jesus in the gospels, think about how you should respond. After all, you’re experiencing God’s glory.

-Joel Fletcher

Joel Fletcher is a former student of ABC. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wonderful wife Stephanie. He likes to read boring non-fiction books, watch boring baseball, and hang out with his NON-BORING wife in his free time. He is planning on teaching a class at FUEL this year (its topic will not be boring).

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

ezekiel

Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

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