Are You Ready?

Matthew 23-24

matthew-24-42

Friday, May 5

What would you do if you found out that Jesus was returning in one week?  If you would go out and buy a Corvette, finish the last 3 seasons of The Office on Netflix, and eat as much chocolate as possible, Christianity might not be for you.  I don’t have an issue with people buying cars, watching television, or eating chocolate, but you shouldn’t gorge on pleasure no matter when he is coming back.  I suspect many of you would try to make things right with God and try to convince some people that they should accept Christ as their savior.  You might take the time to talk with that family member or friend that is not saved yet.  The point is that there would probably be more urgency in sharing the gospel for most of us.

The second question to think about is, “Should I really live my life any differently now (not knowing when Christ will return) than if I knew Christ was coming back in a week?”  Should there be just as much urgency?  I think there could be some differences.  For instance, if you knew Christ was coming back now, you would probably quit your job or stop going to school, which is probably not a good idea to do now since we don’t know when he will return.  However, I think an increased sense of urgency about getting your life right with God and talking to others about the kingdom should always be present in our lives.  We don’t know when Christ is going to return, we don’t know when our friends and family are going to die, we don’t know when we are going to die, and there are more people that need to hear about the gospel than we personally have time to tell all of them.

Jesus talks about people behaving poorly if they think their master will not be returning for a long time in Matthew 24:42-51.  He mentions they will be sent to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I think you know he is talking about h… e…double hockey stick.  He tells us to always be alert since we do not know when he is going to return.  Part of being alert is to take the precautions necessary in case he is coming back this week.  Get your life right with God NOW and go talk to that family member or friend before it is too late.

-Rick McClain

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.dailylifeverse.com/posts/2015/02/matthew-24-42)

One Track Mind

Matthew 13-14

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Monday, May 1

I think it would have been an incredible experience to hear Jesus talk when he was here on earth.  His ministry did not last a real long time, but he did have the opportunity to talk to many people while he was here.  I think it is safe to assume that in his limited time teaching the multitudes, he focused on what was most important for them to know.  He often used parables to make the teaching more understandable.  In Matthew 13, Jesus shared 7 different parables with the people.  Let’s find out what he thought was important to share:

Parable of the Sower:  this was a parable about how different people respond when they hear the kingdom message.

Parable of Tares Among Wheat:  the kingdom of heaven was compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but the enemy also sowed tares in the same field.

Parable of the Mustard Seed:  the kingdom of heaven is compared to a mustard seed.

Parable of the Leaven:  the kingdom of heaven is like leaven.

Parable of the Hidden Treasure:  the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.

Parable of the Costly Pearl:  the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls.

Parable of a Dragnet:  the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea and gathering fish of every kind.

It is pretty plain to see what Jesus’ most important message was about.  He had a one track mind about the kingdom.  He would not stop talking about the kingdom.  He talked about the kingdom over and over and over and over; seven times in chapter 13 alone.  This same message is just as relevant today as it was then because the chance to live in the kingdom is still attainable today.  This has to be our number one message the same way as it was Jesus’ number one message.

A couple other incredible experiences would have been to see Jesus feeding the 5,000+ and Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14.  I have questions about these events.  Did anyone actually see the bread multiply with their own eyes (that would have been cool)?  Did they cook the fish or just eat it raw?  Without television or movies, how did the disciples know about ghosts (they thought Jesus was a ghost when he was walking toward them on the water)?  Had they seen ghosts before?  Are ghosts real?  When Jesus walked on the water did he move up and down with the waves or was it more of a steady/smooth walk?  How did Jesus know that Peter lost faith when he started sinking?  Did Jesus actually know what was in Peter’s mind or did God know what was in Peter’s mind and Jesus then figured out what was happening when he saw him sinking?  Perhaps you did not have all of the same questions that I had, but thank you for reading this far.

The main lesson to learn from chapter 14 is about faith.  Peter was able to walk on water until his faith weakened and many people were healed when they had faith they would be healed when they touched Jesus’ cloak.  Another lesson to learn in chapter 14 is to not trust women who please you with their dancing, but I will let you read about that yourself.

-Rick McClain

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/matthew-13-2016/)

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.

 

 

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.

Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

Ezekiel 34-36

Thursday, March 30

 

“It’s Thursday.  Quit being who you were.” – Bob Goff

 

Bob Goff, the author of “Love Does”, has a weekly ritual.  It’s called “Quit Something Thursday”.  Each Thursday, Bob Goff quits something to free up time or shake things up.  He has quit having an office.  He now works on a lobster boat he refers to as the Goffice.  He quit leaving phone messages to minimize the time that is wasted with the back and forth.  He throws away furniture, and has even resigned from the board of a non-profit charity.  Now the idea is not to back out of your prior commitments and become a wild-card liability for the people around you.  Instead, the idea is to give God room to show you something new. Bob Goff suggests quitting habits that keep us from being the best we can be.  On a more moderate scale, he suggests we might quit keeping score, quit sorting through our failures, or quit believing you are who you used to be.

 

So how does this relate to our reading today?  In Ezekiel 34 the sheep were scattered because the shepherd did not care for them; the shepherd only cared for himself.  However, we learn from Ezekiel 34:2-4 that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the flock.  Instead, the shepherd “eat[s] the curds, clothe[s] [him]self with the wool and slaughtered the choice animals, but [he]did not take care of the flock. [He] did not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bound up the injured.   [He has] not brought back the strays or searched for the lost” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).  The shepherds are too caught up in their own lives, their own ideas, their own health and fortune, that they lost sight of their purpose.  If not a shepherd, where is their identity? Thankfully God takes action and tells of the time when David (David’s line) will be the shepherd and God himself will be their God.  We see parts of the kingdom here on earth now, and we wait excitedly for the return of Jesus and the kingdom on earth.

 

We, too are shepherds tending to a flock.  As Christians who are no longer on milk, we have a flock to tend to.  We have a Church who needs us to show up in more ways than to simply fill a seat on Sunday.  As the shepherd cares for the flock, and strengthens the weak, we are called to do the same.

 

So the question becomes: what are you going to quit so that you can tend to your flock? Is your plate overfilled? How will you re-evaluate your obligations so that they align with your true priorities? It’s Thursday – quit something! I am going to quit washing my clothes because it takes up valuable time I could be investing in others…kidding mom, I really do wash my clothes.  But in all seriousness, I will quit placing so much emphasis on how others perceive me, and instead trust that the identity I have in Christ will carry me where I need to go.  What will you quit?

 

“We can’t change much if we don’t quit much” – Bob Goff

 

-Amber McClain

His Promises!

Isaiah 48-50

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Monday, February 20

Isaiah 48 talks about how patient God is and his plan as well. God had chosen Israel, he had chosen the House of Jacob, and they did not follow what he had asked, they had been called transgressors from the womb. Yet even when they did not listen and they turned away from him, God waited and he refined them through the flame. Isaiah 48:10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” God did this for the house of Jacob, and he is waiting for you too. Later in chapter 48 God talks about how he led his people through the desert- they were not thirsty because he caused water to flow out of the rocks, he split the rock for them. He does this for you and I too! He has plans of prosperity for us, all we have to do is be committed to him, and share his love. How amazing are God’s promises!?

Isaiah 49  This chapter is again talking about how God has promised to care for the house of Jacob, and that he will be their savior. He says in verse 16: “Behold I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before me.” Verse 22 says, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold I will lift up My hand to the nations, and set up My banner to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” God is so sure of his promise to Jacob and his house, that he has engraved them on his palms, and they are always before him. This demonstrates the permanence of the promises or covenants that God makes. He is an amazing God, and he will not forget us, he knows you and will remember you, and he is for you, not against you! How cool!

Isaiah 50 is a very short chapter, but it gets right to the point. There are rewards for following God. He has promised us his kingdom. My favorite verse in this chapter is so hopeful and it is important to understand. Isaiah 50:10 “Who is among you who fears Yahweh, who obeys the voice of His servant? He who walks in darkness, and has no light, let him trust in the name of Yahweh and rely on his God.” Even when we feel like we are in darkness, even when we feel hopeless and overwhelmed, God is there and he will always be by our side, and we NEED to rely on him.

-Jana Swanson

Some songs for the day:

“Desert Song” by Hillsong United.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlgUUeQh0CQ

“Always” by Kristian Stanfill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r67f4zYNrmU&list=PLijcA4N7GQ20-fSfNyFA1YRgbnqiuUaLN&index=7

“You Never Let Go” by Jeremy Camp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pn4KQqSrrA

(photo credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/09032014/)
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