God Willing

Proverbs 16

Proverbs 16 3 4 NIV

Whenever I tucked him in, I would tell him I’d see him the next time I worked. He’d tell me, “God willing and the creek don’t rise!” He was about 80 years old, living in the nursing home where I worked. He had a lifetime of wisdom and colloquialisms.  I had not heard that phrase before meeting him but immediately appreciated the meaning.

Due to modern transportation infrastructure, rising creeks don’t ruin our plans as often as they used to. However, our lives, no matter how modern, are truly in God’s hands. Proverbs 16: 1, 3, 4, 9 and 33 specifically discuss the plans we make. No matter what we do and what we plan to do, God will ultimately guide these plans or even change them.

Verse 3 is a bit of a struggle for me. I’ve made plans I thought were for God, but they didn’t turn out the way I thought they should. They didn’t succeed, at least not in my mind. But in the very next verse it states that the LORD works out everything for His own ends. Sometimes I clearly see through hindsight how my failed plans served God.

But not every time, I’m still working through that. During a particularly hard time in my life, I defeatedly told my aunt that maybe I’d figure out WHY this all happened when I entered the kingdom. Her response was perfect. “And then it won’t matter.” WOW!!! What a gift! What a promise! Our dashed hopes and failed plans will fall away when we see Christ!!! Nothing else will matter!  Reading Revelation 21 makes me tear up with excitement!

In the meantime, God, through the proverbial writers, gives us instructions on the behaviors and plans that destroy (verses 4, 5, 18, 22, 25, 27-30) and the behaviors and plans that build up (verses 6, 8, 10-14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 32, and 32). Plan to build up others and glorify God!

One of the other reasons I appreciated and remembered “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” is because it reminds me of Dr. Joe Martin. Whenever he speaks of his plans, he adds, “God willing.” This is a sincere example of what trusting God with every area of life looks like.

I truly hope to see all of you at FUEL 2020.

God willing and the creek don’t rise!

Maria Knowlton

Waiting for the Gift – and His Timing

Acts 1

Acts 1 4

It is amazing for as much time this group of men spent with Jesus, they were still confused. Just as we long for the kingdom, the disciples were ready for it. And like us – they didn’t want to wait. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days popping in and out on the disciples. While he was with them he was calming their doubts and promising a future gift. When he left, they were preparing his take over to free them from Roman domination.

On one of his visits he gives one of the hardest commands – wait! Stay where you are and wait. This prompts multiple questions that have been on the minds of all the people: Has the time finally come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? How long do we have to wait?

His response: it is not for you to know – or in other words; none of your business! He then picks up where he left off – the promised gift – the holy spirit. Following his answer and promise, he was taken up before their eyes never to be seen again.

The disciples get the lesson of patience we all need. God is at work but is not working on our schedule. Christ was preparing his followers to join the work God was doing while they were distracted with their own plans.

We often face trials in life that are less than desirable and we long for the problems to be taken away. We know of God’s overall plans but want them to be done now! We want insight and details – the who, what, where, when, why and how – and often times the response is that is not for you to know. Stay in your lane, bro!

Like the disciples we are given what is needed to do the work that has been set up for us to do. They were given the same power that was at work in Christ and told go be a witness to the world. We also have access to that power and are given that same mission.

-John Wincapaw

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night

 

The Christmas carol, “O Holy Night” has a fascinating history.  It was first written as a French poem in 1847 by Placide de Roquemaure, and was set to music by Adolphe Charles Adams that same year.  In 1855, the Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song was made popular in the United States by abolitionist during the American Civil War.  According to tradition, “O Holy Night” played a significant role in causing a Christmas day cease fire during the Franco-Prussian War.  And in 1906 it was the first song ever played over the radio.  You can read more details about the history of the song here, https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx, a reprint from “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Zondervan.

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!

O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,

Oh night when Christ was born,
O night divine
O night divine.

            One of my favorite lines in the carol is, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”  Jesus came to bring us hope. Paul, in I Timothy 1:1, states that Christ Jesus is our hope.  Peter explains that hope further in I Peter.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (I Peter 1:3-4). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (I Peter 1:13).  Our hope is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was raised back to life, and is coming back to Earth to live with us eternally.

Today, we are accustomed to talking about hope as wishful thinking.  I hope for a large, year-end bonus.  I hope one day the Lions will win the Super Bowl.  I hope to win a new car.  Each of these statements are just my desires or my wishes; they do not foretell the future. However, Jesus came to bring us an entirely certain hope.  A definite hope that cannot change.  The hope talked of in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but rather an absolutely true promise of things to come.  A hope that will never fail us, never disappoint.  We can choose to put our hope in our church, our job, our spouse, or other earthly things.  However, over the course of time all of those options will bring disappointment. On the other hand, living for the promise of the kingdom will bring us perfect, eternal life.

Everyone puts their hope in something.  Kyle Idleman suggests you can tell what you have put your hope in, by observing what you spend your time and money on, or what makes you worried or mad.  So what about you?  What are you putting your hope in?

 

-Jill McClain

What Moses Teaches Us Today

Heb 11 26

Summary

Thanks for reading along this past week, and I really hope you have benefitted from this.  I know I have enjoyed studying and writing this past week. I just wanted to finish off with a quick summary.

 

The story of the Exodus is a story of a people who had been promised so much from God, but had forgotten him and taken on a culture and pantheon that was inherently sinful.  God then works through Moses to directly attack every sinful aspect of their culture and every false god that his people were following to show them beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that there are no gods before him.  As they are heading out of Egypt on their way to becoming their own nation with their own land God begins to form their culture around himself in order to help them to stay true to him.

 

So many aspects of the passover point the Israelites towards Jesus in the future and prepares their culture for his coming, but we know that when Jesus did come they did not accept him because they had walked away from the lessons they had learned under Moses.  Similarly Jesus’s message brought a massive change in culture to all those who followed him. People started to live changed lives and loved others truly instead of just following rules because they had to. That is the changed life that we are supposed to live.  Just as the Israelites had to sacrifice the lambs that the Egyptian culture worshiped we need to lay aside the idols in our culture that only bring sin into our lives. Maybe that is social media, or crass tv shows, or sleeping around, or any number of other things that are standard in our culture but can easily consume our lives and become idols.

 

Also just as Moses’ story and the Exodus points towards Christ, Jesus’ points us towards the Kingdom and his second coming.  So unlike the Israelites we need to remember what Jesus taught and live by his teachings so that we will be ready for his return.

 

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3  4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Chris Mattison

Revelation 21-2,3

God’s Fan

psalm 122 1

If you haven’t been paying attention, its football season. A new season of hope, optimism, and excitement for what could be coming for your team. As a fan of the South Carolina Gamecocks my joy lasts until our first loss and then the thoughts turn to next year. I see so many people put so much thought and preparation into tailgating and cheering on their team and it makes me think:  What if we put this much excitement into serving the ONE true God. I think of Psalms 122:1 where David says he was glad to be able to glorify God in the house of the Lord. This wasn’t just one verse, the pages of the Psalms are filled with praises to God from men excited by what God has done, is doing, and will do when his kingdom comes. No disappointment of being on the wrong side of a football score.

This is a morning to wake up and glorify a God who when we put our hope in him through his son Jesus, never disappoints. When we read Rev. 21 and 22 we read about why we should have more hope, excitement, and optimism than an Alabama fan. So as this excitement over this time of year in football fades, remember you are a child of God and that excitement will never fade. Jesus says to seek his kingdom first. When is the last time you thought about what you will do in your first ten years in the kingdom, who are your ” top 5″ people you want to meet, what it will be like to have communion with Jesus, etc. I have to admit when I focus on this, football seems to fade, as it should. This morning we will be at different areas of the world but I hope God is pleased when as a unified body we lift praises to our God.

-Joseph Partain

God’s Timing: God’s Patience: God’s Love

2 Peter

2 Peter 3 9 (1)

I normally like to focus these devotions on verses we sometimes don’t pay too much attention to. 2 Peter sure has a lot of those verses. But today, I want to focus on a verse we have read a dozen thousand times.
The verse is, of course, 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
The Lord does not delay His promise. The promise of God is that the Kingdom will be restored to Israel and that sin will be eradicated on the earth. God is not slow in bringing that about. He is not delaying it just because he is putting it off. He is not waiting till the last minute by divine fiat alone. Instead, God is patient with US. With each and everyone one of us. He is waiting for us to come to him. He is waiting for us to repent, but he is also waiting for those who are far off. He is waiting for repentance to be found the world over. Why is he so patient, even now, 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth, 2000 years of church history and many hundreds of years of corruption and war and poverty and hate and greed and problems and sin even after the death of Jesus on a cross?
Because God doesn’t want any to perish. He does not want a single person to miss out on the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom, the gift given through Jesus. He doesn’t want any to perish, but he wants them all to come to repentance. Will they? No, this verse doesn’t say all will come to God. He does say that any who come to repentance, any who turn from the ways of sin to do righteousness, will not perish, but will experience true life.
I don’t have much more to add to that. If we remember this verse, lock it away, hide it in our hearts, it reminds us that God is love. That God cares about every person. That every person is a step away from salvation. That the time we have waited for Jesus is the patience of God made evident to a waiting world.
May we remember this verse and come to repentance to have life.
-Jake Ballard

I’ve Got to Tell Somebody

John 1_41 42

John 1:35-42

Not much story about Andrew is recorded in the Bible, but his enthusiasm for sharing with his brother is of special note. We believers have found the Messiah, The Christ, the savior of Israel and coming King. Are we as excited to share with our relatives, friends, and neighbors as Andrew was? We should be. As the popular hymn says, “The need of the world is Jesus.” We should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel message at every opportunity we meet. The messiah has appeared and died for our sins. He will appear the second time to restore the earth wide Kingdom to his Father. This is good news and every body needs to know about it.

-Larry Rankin

Call to Action

Matthew 7

matt 7 24

I have been taught that a good speech should always end with a call to action.  What this is depends on the type of speech.  A speech given by an election candidate will usually end by telling people they need to vote.  A product placement speech or demonstration will end with a way to buy the product.  Often a sermon will end with a life application.

As we look at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus ends with a call to action.  He has given us some other actions to take throughout this passage, but let’s look at this final section and see how we should respond to this sermon.

Let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, an in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

So, making the assumption that the goal is to be in the kingdom, Jesus says our action is to do the will of God.  This is obviously more than actions that we do.  Many times in chapters 5-7, Jesus talks about our thoughts, attitudes, and reasons for doing things being as important as the actions we take.

Jesus continues in verse 24 by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Again, the key here is to act on the words that Jesus has spoken.

The call to action is to put all the things that Jesus taught into action, which includes our thoughts and attitudes.  I encourage you to spend some more time reading through Matthew 5-7, and reflect upon seeking God, his righteousness, and his kingdom.  As we seek these more, the actions will follow.

-Andrew Hamilton

A Lesson from Pakistan: Preparation

pakistan inside group

Missions Spotlight: Pakistan

Did you know that less than 3% of people living in Pakistan are Christians?  Pakistan is mainly a Muslim country.  Because of religious persecution and the law, our Christian brethren meet in homes.  Currently, we support seven home-congregations that believe as we do.

 

Why do you believe in God?  Have you ever been asked this question?  After being asked this question, I would often flounder around saying things like “Ummm because I was raised in it” or “because the Bible says it’s true” or “God and Jesus changed my life” (meanwhile I didn’t really know how they changed it).  When it came right down to it, I didn’t really know why I believed in God.  If we take our faith seriously, we are not allowed to stay in ignorance; we have to be ready.  There has probably been a time and place when we all had to give an account for our faith to someone, or at least when we have questioned our own beliefs.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 3:13 – 18 to see what a very wise man had to say about this subject.

 

“13 Who is [c]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [d]are blessed. And do not fear their [e]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [f]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [g]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [h]reverence; 16 [i]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if [j]God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [k]spirit”

 

Verse 15 blankly states to always be ready to share your defense, or your testimony of the hope that lives in you!  So let’s get practical and dive into the nitty gritty of what a “defense meant to convince” might look like.  Here are several starters to get you thinking about what elements of your personal faith story are powerful to your testimony.

 

  1. Align your actions with Christ’s.

It’s not enough to just be different from the world.  Buddhists, Muslims, even moral atheists live differently from the world.  If you aren’t living like Christ than anything you say after that can as easily be dismissed as saying the word ‘hypocrite’.

 

  1. Highlight your personal change

Show how you lived before and how your life is different now, only through the power of God’s grace and strength; you couldn’t do this alone!

 

  1. Highlight your hope for the future

The kingdom of God resides here on the Earth now and in the future!!! This belief has given you purpose.  HOPEfully your peers will be able to perceive this from the way you have been living.  Our actions and mindset produce joy!

 

  1. Highlight the coming judgement

There is a judgement day approaching; it is sooner now than it has ever been.  This aspect is meant to help others perceive the urgency of believing

 

  1. Historical/ontological/teleological arguments for trusting the Bible

If you feel like you can articulate these aspects well, go for it! These are very valuable reasons for believing.  However, you do run the risk of appearing uninformed if the person you are talking to is studied up on these subjects.  You wouldn’t want someone to tear apart your arguments and thus misinterpret your testimony.

 

  1. Highlight the changes in others

Express stories of growth and change that you have witnessed in others.  This is a great time to offer a friend the chance to believe!

 

I encourage you to take some time and write out your testimony on paper.  That way, when the time comes you will have a “defense meant to convince” ready to go.

 

In Pakistan, people are not Christians because it is casual, it is the exact opposite.  With only 3% of the country practicing Christianity, our brothers and sisters are not doing it because of the trendy churches, or latest fad.  These people believe in God and Jesus because they have experienced it; they have a powerful testimony to share.  They have done the preparation and know that this is the best way of life.  Although it is not the popular belief, they are prepared disciples.  I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to testify boldly, and to stand ready to share my defense.

 

If you would like to support our family in Pakistan with Bibles and money for meeting grounds, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

A Lesson from Haiti: Perseverance

haiti

Missions Spotlight: Haiti

Under the direction of Lesly Bertrand, our conference supports 24 orphans with shelter, food and an education.  In addition to tending to the children, Pastor Lesly shepherds one of the 25 Haitian churches that share our beliefs.  He also meets with 21 ministers in the region for Bible study and leadership training each month.

 

This past week, some of our beloved family from Ohio came to stay with us.  Among the company, was our adorable 4-year-old niece, Melody.  The thing about Melody is, from 8AM to 9PM, she does not slow down.   From visits to the playground, building box forts, and painting masterpieces, to singing, dancing and acting on the fireplace hearth, Melody is in constant motion.

 

As I am worn out and ready to head to sleep at 7PM, I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18.  The disciples come to Jesus and ask him just “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

 

Melody is innocent, she trusts, she is content, and she makes friends at the Chick-Fil-A play-place within a matter of seconds.   Melody and her buddies fly through the play equipment and zip down the slide over and over and over again.  I get tired just watching her through the glass as I shove another french fry into my mouth.  Melody runs with perseverance.  As long as the sun is up, she never stops.  This zeal and energy brings me to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 

We are called to be children of God like Melody. We need to be going for his kingdom from sun up to sun down we can’t stop. I think that is what Jesus meant in Matt. 18. Children are fully reliant on their parents for everything. Like children, we need to be fully reliant on our heavenly father. Children trust without reservation. In the same way, we need to trust without reservation. Children are excited about life. Therefore, we need to be excited about this life and the life that we have to look forward to in the kingdom of God. If we can’t accept God in the simple way children accepts their parents, then we can’t live our Christian life the way Jesus wants.

 

Our conference supports 24 children in Haiti just like Melody.  While I have never met them, I can imagine they are full of energy and life.  When hurricane Matthew hit our brethren in Haiti a short time ago, they did not let the hurdles and obstacles of life defeat them as their churches and homes were crushed.  Instead, they had the mentality of a child.  They understood that their Creator provides for them, that He is always worthy of our praise.

 

Today, I am inspired by the orphans in Haiti to play harder.  I am inspired to take each step one at a time, and remember that God sees me through each situation, no matter how big or small.  I am inspired to run the race with perseverance and consistency; not just choose to serve Him or trust Him when it is easy.  I am inspired to live every moment, whether I am alone in my thoughts, or surrounded by friends and family, for the glory and honor of God.

 

If you would like to support an orphan in Haiti with food, shelter, and education or donate towards hurricane relief, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber

 

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