What God Sees

Luke 16

Luke 16 15 b

Luke 16 has a few parables on wealth and the value of giving but what stood out to me the most were verses 14 & 15:  “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (‭Luke‬ ‭16:14-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)   The Pharisees felt targeted because they loved money, and valued it highly. They looked at others and put them down to make themselves feel better. We can not look at ourselves like this, if we do compare ourselves it should be to Jesus, in an attempt to see what we can do to better ourselves, not to make ourselves feel better. Jesus tells them, “God knows your heart,” we can act how we like and put on a mask, but God knows the truth. Faith is not about who seems like the best Christian but about truly being a follower of God. Anyone can act good but we are called to be good followers in the depths of our heart. So we must have pure intentions and be doing what we do for God, not to look better.
Blair

Jesus – the Radical One

Luke Chapter Six

Luke 6 27 28 NIV

In chapter six, Jesus is continuing on in his ministry.  We see that twice, Jesus caused the Pharisees, a group of Jews, to get upset.  Both times revolved around Jesus doing work on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were a sect of Jews that had a high priority and focus on following the letter of the law.  They wanted to make sure they were obeying every letter of the law as well as everyone else.

 

Exodus 35:2 states, “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.  Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”  This was the law that the Jews were to follow, and anyone who did not follow the Sabbath should be put to death.  With that said, I can totally put myself in the Pharisees’ shoes and understand why they would be so upset with Jesus not following the Sabbath rest.  However, throughout Jesus’ ministry, he had quite the radical thoughts and actions.  A superb example of this is found in the Sermon on the Mount when six times Jesus said, “you have heard that it was said… But I say to you.”  Six times Jesus took what was said in the Old Testament and radicalized it.  Jesus flipped the whole world upside down.

 

This trend of Jesus having quite the radical thoughts and actions continues in chapter six.  Jesus goes on to say that we are blessed if we are poor, hungry, weeping, and hated.  He says that in the end times, we will be satisfied, as the kingdom of God will belong to us.  He continues by saying woe to you if you are rich, full, laugh, and people speak well of you.  To the normal person, this would make no sense, but Jesus flips everything upside down.

 

One of the more well-known radical statements of Jesus is found in Luke six as well –  when talking about our enemies.  Jesus makes the bold and radical statement by saying, “love your enemies,” (Luke 6:35).  It’s common for people to disregard their enemies or even act wickedly to them.  However, Jesus tells us to take another approach with our enemies.  He tells us to love our enemies!  This goes totally contrary to how the rest of the world treats their enemies.

 

Jesus was full of radical statements and actions throughout his ministry.  He was constantly turning people’s lives upside down.  We, as Christians, need to follow our radical leader, Jesus.  He showed us the way, and it is our job to follow his lead.  Jesus did not fit in at all in his society because of his radical statements and actions, such as loving your enemies.  With that said, if we follow Jesus’ lead, then we are going to stick out like a sore thumb as well.  Be bold and courageous and live a radical life like that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Kyle McClain

Jesus’ Target Audience

Luke Chapter Five – Jesus’ First Disciples

Luke 5 10 11

Soon after Jesus began his earthly ministry, Jesus went out to find some people who would follow him.  One would think that Jesus would choose his followers from among the elite scholars.  After all, shouldn’t the king of kings have an elite group of close followers?  However, Jesus did not go that route.  Instead, we see in Luke chapter five, that Jesus chose the likes of fishermen and tax collectors to be his select, close followers.  Fishermen had very little to no education, and they would have been close to no one’s first choice when starting a revolution.  Tax collectors, on the other hand, had a poor reputation, as they often tried to cheat people out of their money.  Therefore, tax collectors would have been close to no one’s first choice either.  For whatever reason, Jesus chose this group to be his followers and to take over when he was to ascend to heaven.

 

A big part of Jesus’ ministry revolved around healing people of their ailments.  In chapter five, Jesus heals both a leper and a paralytic.  One would think that after Jesus got done healing people, he would want them to go tell everybody of the great miracle.  However, the opposite is true.  Often after Jesus would heal somebody, he would tell them to tell no one!  We see this in verse 14, as Jesus told the leper to tell no one.  Now, why would Jesus not want others to share of the great wonders Jesus had done?  The answer is because Jesus’ time to die had not yet come.  Jesus still had much to accomplish before his death.  If word had spread too much, they would have had him killed sooner.

 

After Jesus had called Levi, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples, Jesus went to eat with the tax collectors.  This caused the Pharisees to grumble and ask Jesus why in the world he would eat with the sinful tax collectors. Jesus replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:31).  Here Jesus says that his target audience are the sinners rather than the righteous.

 

Too often in church, our focus is on the righteous rather than the sinners.  We design our services, classes, and events for those that are churched and not unchurched.  Perhaps we should consider the words of Jesus in Luke 5:31. Perhaps we should put our focus on the sinners, rather than the righteous.  It is those who are lost and sinners that really need the church!  Our churches should contain people who are not currently saved but are on the road to salvation.  Jesus says it is these kinds of people that he came to call to repentance.  Our target audience should reflect that of Jesus’ target audience.  At the same time, we do need strong Christians within the church to bring up the unchurched.  There is a healthy balance somewhere that we all must find.

 

Kyle McClain

Hungry!

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5 6

As I sit here in a coffee shop the day before Thanksgiving I am currently starving. I made an apple pie this morning and this may be the reason the normal ‘breakfast, no lunch, straight into dinner’ game plan has not satisfied my hunger. This is very fitting for our beatitude of the day and tomorrow being Thanksgiving day. So here it is Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” Ok, so a moment of honesty, I love this one too. But let’s be real the beatitudes are like bacon and how can you not love bacon.  

I don’t know about you but Thanksgiving at my house has two hunger conditions. I’m either starving or completely stuffed from all the food that I just ate. I have a small family. Thanksgiving dinner is normally an ordeal to put together and I generally end up in the kitchen for a good part of the day. It’s actually pretty amazing how a person can be around so much food all day in the kitchen and still be starving. I feel like Thanksgiving is one of the few days where people actually look forward to the dinner they are preparing and try to make sure they are really hunger for it. The normal routine of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner even if we aren’t quite hungry doesn’t apply on thanksgiving. One thing that I can say after all that cooking and putting together a good meal, I am normally pretty satisfied. I am happy with the job that I did cooking and I‘m also happy because I had my fill of good food.

I think that the satisfaction that is promised in this beatitude is deeper than our after Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. First, we should look at what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I want to challenge the way you view righteousness. I don’t believe that righteousness is abstaining from the things that we need to abstain from and do the things we are supposed to be doing. Jesus wasn’t giving a checklist in the beatitudes but he was giving us attitudes and a way of life that we should adopt.

Jesus had a lot of confrontations with the Pharisees and in Matthew 23 he addresses the righteousness of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were righteous in that they checked the boxes but they lacked the true elements of righteousness like mercy, grace, godliness and love. When I view doing what is right I see it as loving people and God with discernment. The rules that God gives us are obviously important but the attitudes of our hearts he wants us to adopt are just as important  to righteousness. I think that we practice righteousness when we try to live by God’s rules and laws and practice mercy, grace and love.

I said earlier that the satisfaction promised here is deeper than our Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. I think Isaiah 55.1-3 shows this. Here God is saying come, eat and be full. He is offering food and water to those who don’t have money. In verse 2 he is saying we labor for things that don’t satisfy like being ungodly or looking for fulfillment in things other than him. He then tells us to listen to him and delight in the rich food that he has given us. Verse 3 says “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” Verse 3 shows us that when we come to God, listen to him and obey his commandments that our souls will live. Besides serving God my goal in life is that my soul would live.

Godliness and living a Christ like life where not only am I sinless but I have adopted God’s heart for him and others is what I think this beatitude is saying we should be hungering and thirsting for. The result of this though is that we would be truly satisfied and have souls that truly live. So as we think about the physical hunger we have to consider what we should really be hungering for and when you are satisfied after that Thanksgiving meal think about the satisfaction that God has promised us when we live righteously.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Daniel Wall

How to Really Honor God

Mark 7

Mark 7 6b

It’s Saturday!
By now we have gone a complete week since Fuel has ended. Some of us maybe have gone back to our old ways, but others may be trying to make their habits (here we go) DIFFERENT!

This week I have been reading through Mark 7! While I was reading, there were two verses that stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Mark 7:6 &7 say, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Jesus was quoting Isaiah. Jesus said this because the Pharisees saw the disciples of Jesus eating with unclean hands. It was against tradition for the Pharisees and the Jews to eat without clean hands. Jesus challenges the Pharisee’s teachings with what it really means to honor God.

Reading that first part of verse 7 stood out because it really got me thinking of myself. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” When we all leave FUEL and other church camps we all sometimes go back to our old ways and just forget what camps like FUEL are actually for – bettering our faith and love for God with the fellowship of our COG family.

We can all show our love for God freely around people we know at places like FUEL but when we come back to modern day society some of us feel like we shouldn’t/can’t show it as much. When you come back to your normal life you have to feel conviction in your heart that you’re going to continue to show God’s love even outside of FUEL. Even though some of us don’t do this, back to what Jesus said to the Pharisees, some of us might honor him with what we say but not really in our hearts. Although our hearts may be unclean, God still loves us and gives us many ways to honor him!

There is no one way to honor God. We all have unique ways to show our love. Some of us might be amazing speakers, some might be fantastic writers, and some like myself love to honor him with music. Just because we have different ways of showing our love for him, doesn’t mean we should hide it. It’s gifts from him to show that He loves us no matter what; and that we should embrace it.

God bless,
Isaac Terrones

In the Pool of Siloam

John 9

John 9 35 36.png

In John 9, we see the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  You know the story… Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and had him go wash in the Pool of Siloam.  After the man washed, he could see.

We’re told the story again as he told his neighbors the story.  Then, we’re told again as he told the Pharisees the story.

The Pharisees are so hung up on the fact that Jesus did this on the Sabbath (and therefore broke the law, so therefore he must be a sinner), that they totally miss the magnitude of the miracle.  They were saying Jesus was a sinner, others were saying, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”  So they were divided.

The Pharisees didn’t even believe the man had been blind, so they called his parents to testify that he was their son, and he was born blind.  The Pharisees asked him again how he came to see, since Jesus was clearly a sinner, in their mind.  The man had a great response:  25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The man then scolded the Pharisees for not knowing who Jesus was, since no one had ever opened the eyes of a man born blind.  Clearly Jesus couldn’t do this if he was not from God.  And if they were really God’s representatives, they should know Jesus.

At this, the Pharisees heaped insults on him, and threw him out of the church.

Jesus found the man, and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man?  (This was a favorite title Jesus used of himself.)  I love the exchange that followed:  36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

This man recognized the amazing transformation Jesus made on his life, he believed, and worshiped Jesus.

For those of us who were born and raised in the church, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the amazing transformation Jesus has made (or should have made) in our lives.  We don’t necessarily acknowledge that “I once was blind, but now I see.”  And how often are we overwhelmed and say, “Lord, I believe” and worship him?

The Pharisees, even though they knew what to look for in a Messiah, were blind to who Jesus was, despite amazing miracles.

So who are you most like in this story?  The man born blind, or the Pharisees?

If you haven’t yet received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, ask him today, “tell me so that I may believe.”  And for the rest of us, today is a good day to focus on Jesus, say, “Lord, I believe”, and worship him.

–Steve Mattison

 

Be Bold with Truth and Love

Acts 4 19 (1)

Acts 4

Despite the change we see in the disciples, the Jewish religious leaders have stayed the same. They continue in the same disbelief they held when Jesus was with them. And because of that, here we see the first of many imprisonments the disciples will endure through the book of Acts. Just as the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to silence Jesus, they will try to continue to restrain his message from his followers. Yet the news of the resurrected Messiah continued to spread.

Despite imprisonments and persecution, the apostles speak out with a growing boldness. We see new converts believing from all neighboring areas. The church that we know, started here and had a passion for what is right and true.

I do not think they were intentionally looking to offend but they were also not afraid to tell the truth if it was offensive. I think today’s church has softened its stance on too many issues to avoid being offensive. There are somethings that we cannot waver from. One being found in our passage today “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Don’t be the one that rejects Jesus but further do not be the one that is ashamed of the truth either. Go and share the message of Jesus with love – not looking to offend but not wavering from truth if it could be offensive.

-John Wincapaw

Justice, Mercy and Faith

justice faith love (1)

Matthew 23

Now that Jesus has turned the tables against the Pharisees in their little word games, he turns his attention to the crowds and his disciples. He begins his final public speech and absolutely destroys the Pharisees. He rips into everything that the Pharisees do, calling them out for their pride and hypocrisy. He acknowledges that these men are the best minds when it comes to The Law; they know The Law backwards and forwards, but they are not good examples. In particular, he calls them out for neglecting the importance and weight of justice, mercy and faith. This is one distinction that sets followers of Jesus apart from followers of The Law.

Justice

Justice is the administration of law. Based on this definition, you would think that the Pharisees understood justice quite well. However, this definition has the connotation of the administration of law on the general population, not just in one’s personal life. What the pharisees got correct was righteousness in their private lives without achieving justice in their public life. Justice is law applied equally to everyone, while righteousness is law applied to yourself. The Pharisees look at themselves, see that they are following the law perfectly and commend themselves for it. The problem isn’t their piety, it’s their pride. God didn’t command them to follow the law so that they might puff themselves up and hold themselves in high regard, but rather to benefit all of society. This is justice. Righteous acts are not righteous because they benefit you alone, they are righteous because they benefit everyone around you.

Mercy

Not everyone can follow the law as closely as the Pharisees. Those men were men who dedicated themselves to the reading of scripture day in and day out. Living the law is the only thing that they know how to do. When they look on the masses and see sin: adultery (John 8:1-11), blasphemy (Mark 14:64), greed (Luke 19:7)…what they fail to see are people. People who fall short. People who don’t live the same lifestyle as the Pharisees. The Pharisees know the scriptures, but they don’t seem to remember how God showed the Israelites mercy time and time again. Instead, they turn their noses up at the sin that they see and tell themselves that they are above that. The truth is, no man is above sin except for Jesus himself. The Pharisees poured over their scriptures to make sure that they washed their hands before meals and tithe even their small incomes. They strained their water for gnats. But they swallowed a camel instead. They failed to show mercy. They failed to show people the mercy that their God showed to them.

Love

Love is at the center of Christianity. Jesus said in Matthew 22 that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love people. Apparently the Pharisees didn’t get that. They were too worried about appearing like God-loving individuals that they didn’t have the time to love God’s people. In doing so, they made all of their love for God worthless. If you only love God, you are neglecting one of the greatest commandments. It is as simple as that. Show your love for God by showing your love to His people.

-Nathaniel Johnson

It’s a Trap!

Matthew 22

its a trap

In this chapter of Matthew, we see many ways in which people are trying to trap Jesus. It turns out that Jesus is a masterful logician and manages to find the perfect response to all the questions that he is faced with. Let’s look at how we can use these same tactics in our life.

The Loaded Question – Matthew 22:15-22

The first trap in this chapter is the one laid out for Jesus by a group of Pharisees and Herodians, Jews and Romans. They ask Jesus if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. If Jesus says that you should pay taxes to Caesar than the Pharisees can come after him for collusion with the Roman government (the Jewish oppressor). If he says not to pay taxes, then the Herodians can go after him for tax evasion. This is a loaded question. It comes with certain assumptions that put the person being asked into a lose-lose situation. A common example that most people are familiar with is, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” If you answer yes, then you admit to beating your wife in the past. If you answer no, you admit to currently beating your wife. The correct way to answer a question like this, as Jesus does, is to reframe the question and tear down the underlying assumption. Essentially, he gives a non-answer. “Give to Caesar what is Caesars’ and give to God what is God’s.” He implies that you should pay taxes but also suggests that the money belongs to God in the end anyways (see psalm 24:1). He also gives the impression that he is neither for nor against the Roman government. In the same way you should respond: “I have never beaten my wife.”

Reductio Ad Absurdum – Matthew 22:23-33

The Sadducees try to get Jesus by using a logical argument called reductio ad absurdum. They took Jesus’ position, that the dead will be raised to life, and pushed it to its extreme limits to prove that it must be false. This is a technique that is often used by people outside the religious community. One example of this is when people argue for abortion. They will inevitably ask you if it is acceptable for a woman to have her baby aborted if the baby was conceived through rape. They are trying to take the pro-life position that it is wrong to kill babies in the womb and push it to an extreme example to show that the position is wrong. However, this tactic shouldn’t work on you, nor did it work on Jesus when the Sadducees tried it on him.  Jesus pointed out that their understanding of the resurrection was fundamentally flawed. They didn’t understand what would take place, that men and women will be raised to be like angels in heaven, without being given in marriage. First, he destroyed their absurd argument: men and women won’t be married at all. And secondly, he proceeded to school them on the explicit statements in the Scripture: God is the God of the living, not the dead. In the same way, you should respond to these types of arguments. First, everyone acknowledges that rape is a horrible act and the perpetrator should not go unpunished. Secondly, one sin does not elicit another; killing children is always wrong.

The False Premise – Matthew 22:34-40

Once again, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question that they believe has no sufficient answer. They ask, “What is the greatest commandment?” This question can’t be answered. No matter the answer that Jesus gives, the Pharisees will not be satisfied. However, Jesus can tell that they are trying to trick him and call them out on it. He knows that the question relies on a false premise: there is a single commandment that is greatest. Jesus refuses to answer the question on their terms and gives them an unexpected response. He says that all scriptural law can be based on two commandments alone. This is a technique that I like to use when people ask me, “How can a good and just God allow children to suffer?” My response is actually quite simple and similar to Jesus’ response to the pharisees. I reject the presupposition that God allows those children to suffer and respond with “God is good and just. And people suffer.” The questioner assumes that those two statements are contradictory when they really aren’t. Rather than going along with their assumption that God is responsible for suffering, you should reject their premise outright.

-Nathaniel Johnson

matthew 22 15

 

Cleansing Your Heart

Matthew 15

 

matthew 15_18

 

In Matthew 15, Jesus is very critical of the religious leaders during his time, which were among the group called the Pharisees. In verses 1-14, the Pharisees had criticized Jesus and his disciples for not following their traditions about “washing their hands” before they ate, as if it was a salvation issue for them. Now, it is definitely a good idea to wash your hands before you eat; in fact, I definitely recommend doing so. However, when we make such small matters an issue for the salvation of others, it becomes a problem.

 

Jesus goes on to tell them that it is the things that come out of our hearts that affect our salvation, not merely the things that we put into our bodies in verse 15-20. You see, God is more concerned about our hearts than he is with our religious duties. Praying and worshiping before God is good, but if it isn’t done with the right motives, it does not profit you at all. We need to develop a heart within ourselves that is truly committed to our God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that “man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH (God) looks at the heart.”

 

Jesus tells us that we can know whether our hearts are good or corrupt by what they are producing in our life. If you are producing evil thoughts, hatred, sexual immoralities, lies, and more, then you need to have a change of heart. However, if you have a good heart that is led by the Holy Spirit, you will produce these things: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

A good biblical example for us to follow would be that of King David. If you know the story of King David from 1 and 2 Samuel, God calls him a “man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What a compliment from the Creator of the universe! Wouldn’t you like to be described by God in this way? You see, David was concerned with the things of God and longed to worship Him. His whole heart was devoted to making his God pleased.

 

I encourage you today to look at your life and ask yourself, “What am I producing?” If you are lacking in some area in your life, repent and start making a change. Although King David was a highly spiritual man, he also fell deep into sin, just like we all do. If that is your situation today, I encourage you to pray to God the same words that David prayed in Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

-Talon Paul