The Good News Gospels

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Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

You Are Not Alone

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I just returned from FUEL2018 “Mission” – a great event for youth which brought together students and staff from many states and Canada.  It was better than a week of vacation or band camp or soccer camp or working that good old summer job.    And what made it so powerful was our connection through God’s Word.

I enjoyed reminiscing about a missions trip I had taken with other staff members years ago – a trip in which our mission was to teach about God, His Word, His Son and His Coming Kingdom.  I enjoyed the worship music which helped us praise our Creator (which we read about in Genesis) and remember the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior (as recorded in the gospels).  The general session teachings, classes, workshops and family group times brought Godly men and women speaking God’s Word and how it had impacted them and those they knew.  They spoke wisdom from the Scriptures on who God is, what He desires from His children, who His Son is and how to grow a personal relationship with Him.

And, then we all went home.

Perhaps in some small way we can feel the emotional let-down of the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven and then asked themselves – what next?  They had been so close to God’s representative – his own Son – and now they were separated?  How would they continue learning, growing, acting in his name – without his bodily presence and audible words there to guide the way.

So, too, we can feel a little lost and let-down upon leaving such a spiritually pumped up place as FUEL.  But, remember, you are not alone!

Stick close to your Christian brothers and sisters and mentors.  Get into church this morning – and throughout the year!  Listen well to God’s Words through your pastor and SS teacher and worship leader and youth leader.  Ask questions, look for connections, serve the church body, talk to the lonely, encourage the weak, invite a friend, share what inspired you at FUEL, and then make an opportunity to meet up with some faithful followers sometime this week to encourage and strengthen one another.  In a section sometimes titled “Call to Persevere” the writer of Hebrews gives these directions: “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24,25).  Don’t try being a lone-ranger Christian.  You need the body of believers – and they need you!

And, just as you wouldn’t dream of not eating again until you were back on Manchester’s campus next July, don’t waste away from a lack of God’s Word!  Keep serving yourself daily portions of God’s Word – for this is your source of spiritual food and nourishment.  You are not going home alone when you are going home with God’s Word.  It is here He reveals himself, His love for you, His precious Son, His plan for the ages, His goals and dreams for you, and the Mission He has given you.  It is here he shares all truth and how to be wise against deception and evil.  You can not protect yourself from falling for false worldly Gods if you do not know the true God in His Word.  It is here you learn of His all-mighty power, holiness, wisdom, presence, mercy, forgiveness, as well as His fatherly (good) discipline when needed to help you stay where He wants to bless you.

This blog/email list of daily devotions is one way we want to encourage you to stay in God’s Word every day.  God’s Words are the Best Words.  Every week you will read daily devotions written by someone in our FUEL family who is passionate about God – and YOU – and wants to help keep you connected to Him through a deeper understanding of His Word.  Thank you to Aaron Winner who wrote during FUEL on the MISSION we have!  The week before I wrote on an overview of the Old Testament, so this week we will continue on with an overview of the New Testament.  So, come back tomorrow ready to jump into the gospels!  You can be thinking about . . . what do you most appreciate about Jesus?   What is your favorite miracle?  Favorite parable?  See you tomorrow!

You are Not Alone,

Marcia Railton

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

Spark of Hope

1 Timothy 1—6

No matter how geeky it may sound I will forever love a quote from Hunger Games. President Snow (bad guy) tells the game-maker Seneca Crane about his view of hope.  He says, “It is the only thing stronger than fear.  A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.”  Evil operates with this thought process.  Satan will condemn you for every past mistake yet God offers hope, mercy, and grace. Paul recounts in chapter 1 that he was once a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (vs. 13) but he then goes on to say, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1:14 NIV Before he was Paul he was called Saul and was a murderer of the church. Had he listened to evil he wouldn’t have believed in the hope of the grace that God gives and we wouldn’t have much of the New Testament that we have today. Yet because he didn’t believe in containing the spark of hope that God gave him he went on to spread God’s word and do wonderful things in His name.

Don’t let what has been done in the past prevent you from reaching your full potential as a child of God.  God desires to give you hope, mercy, and love.  He is preparing a Kingdom for you even now!

-Lacey Dunn

All-Star Team

Matthew 10-12

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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.

 

 

Your Name Means WHAT?!? (Joshua 8-10)

Sunday, September 25 – Start of Week 10

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Nikki Green

Do you like your name?  Any clue what it means?  Working as a labor & delivery nurse opened my eyes to many interesting names.  Here are a few that stand out over 20 years: “7” (yes, the number), Anakin Skywalker, Luke Sky Welker, Kal-el Krypton, Beau Ty, A-a (pronounced A-dash-a), Sonny Boy, Sunshine, Tequila, Serenity Bliss (also the name of an incontinence product), Yaz (after the birth control pill that failed), and Benjamin James, The Sequel (not “Jr.” or “II”).  Some of these parents created names, hoping to lead them into a specific character or vocation.  Some were placing blame.  7’s mom was hoping for a rock star, she said.

Hebrew names given to people & places were more than just labels.  Joshua was renamed by Moses (Numbers 13:16), anticipating his later life mission.  “The LORD Saves” was a great name, and great reminder that Joshua would be completing the mission of redemption that the LORD started with Moses.  As we read Joshua 8 we get a glimpse at God’s specific, military direction, and how much better life plays out when everyone follows God’s game plan, not their own.  We get to read the excitement that goes with hiding, ambush, and claiming their promised land.  We also see how God blesses his army with wealth by giving permission, this time, to carry off the plunder and livestock they find.

In Exodus 23:32 the Israelites had been forewarned not to form any alliance with local people.  Joshua had been working hard at living out the destiny Moses prepared him for.  He was a problem solver, military leader, and spiritual mentor.  As we all do, he made a mistake.  When a group of people approached him requesting a treaty, he did not inquire of the LORD.  They showed up carrying mended wineskins and moldy bread, dressed in worn out clothes and patched sandals.  It appeared they had traveled quite a distance and were not a “local people,” but it was all a scam.  They were “local people,” only five or six miles away.  Joshua formed a treaty with these deceptive Gibeonites.  Once he realized the sham, he reduced them to being woodcutters and water carriers.  This reminds me that I intentionally need to consult God, not just think “this seems okay, everything looks good”.  We read that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  The meaning of his evil name is “adversary/one who resists”.

As Joshua continues his calling, he follows what is asked of him by God’s people (and those he’s become responsible for).  Conflict and conquest seem to become a theme for our brave leader.  Chapter 10 describes one of my favorite military strategies.  Who hasn’t ever wished for more time in their day?  Joshua, with complete confidence, knows what will help his men and boldly asks the LORD to have the sun stand still.  The sun stopped and delayed going down about a full day.  Joshua had an all-night march with his men and then took them by surprise.  The LORD threw them into confusion, fought with them by hurling large hailstones from the sky, and gave His people a great victory.

What a blessing to watch someone fulfill their God given purpose.  Joshua’s parents spoke life over him with his birth name, Hoshea.  This name meant Salvation.  Starting with a foundation of “Salvation” and exchanging that name (and need) with “The LORD Saves” (the answer), became a great foreshadowing for his life.  How does your name suit you?  Regardless of the interesting names we were all given at birth, Oh how sweet to know God wants to bless us (like his army), and will call us by name! Isaiah 45:3 says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”

 

Nikki Green considers it a blessing to come from a family of believers.  She’s the daughter of Steve & Betsy (Mattison) Moore.  She married her HS sweetheart, Greg, and they have 3 kiddos (Justin, Natali, & Brendan).  She enjoys teaching Jr. Church, which she’s done since 1989 and loves spending time with her family.  She plays piano at Troy View, while her husband leads worship, and feels blessed to have Dan (& Rachel) Cain leading their congregation.  She loves working as camp nurse-even though most injuries seem to be the FUEL staff! 🙂 She relies on God daily and prays He will use her to further His kingdom.