Take Heart! I have overcome the world.

Reading for today: 2 Chronicles 35-36 & 1 Corinthians 1

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

You might wonder why our focus verse for today is from John when the daily readings are in Chronicles and Corinthians. This week is FUEL, a National Youth Camp in which young people from all over the country gather to learn and grow in their faith. And the theme for the camp this week is ‘hupernikao’ … a Greek word that means ‘overwhelmingly conquer’.

Every day this week, except for today, we will pull from the daily readings as well as the daily FUEL themes, to explore this theme of overcoming or conquering.

Today, I want to focus on the big picture a bit. Overcome what? How?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

This verse in John is rich in helping to answer those questions. We might think that Jesus, who is the speaker here, is being kind of a downer if we just look at part of the verse. In this world you will have trouble? Not much of a pep talk, Jesus.

But if you’re anything like me, this is exactly the kind of pep talk you need.

The truth.

A little aside: A pet peeve of mine is people who sell things who won’t admit that their products have flaws. Their company is the best thing ever, producing the best products ever, which will of course give me the best results ever…Every. Single. Time. Am I the only one who would always be more likely to believe someone who is honest about the limitations of their product line or who is able to admit that while there are great options, there are also some weaker products to avoid? Rant over.

Jesus is laying out the truth here. “You’re a human person living in this world? Yup, you’ll have trouble. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. Difficulty. Expect that too.”

But he doesn’t leave us there. “Yes, life is hard. Really hard sometimes. … BUT … hold on! You can make it because I have overcome all of it!”

Do you know that in other places in Scripture we’re given specific assurances of overcoming the hard stuff Jesus warned us we would face? Here are a couple of examples:

1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will provide us the means to overcome temptation:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

And Romans 8:31-39 paints a beautiful and poetic word picture of overcoming a variety of troubles. Spend some time while you read this thinking about what you could use some overcoming in… Are you feeling separated from God’s love? Do you feel pain, even anguish that feels unbearable? Persecuted? Hungry for something but you don’t even know what so you keep going after the wrong thing? Are you in need, bare before Him? Or even feel in danger of slipping out of His grip?

Take heart.

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 35-36 and 1 Corinthians 1

His Touch

Matthew 8:1-13 & Luke 7- Jesus heals a man with Leprosy

Before we get into today’s story, we need to understand the Old Testament law dealing with leprosy.  Leviticus 13:1-46 talks in great detail about leprosy.  There, we find that leprosy is a skin disease that is more than skin deep, it’s highly infectious, it defiles a person, anyone with leprosy must cover their mouth (this sounds like a mask), be separated from other people (social distance), live outside the town (this sounds like isolation), wear torn clothes, and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!”

In Matthew 8, we find the story of a man with leprosy.  Instead of staying away, we’re told, “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him [Jesus] and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  I believe this man had great faith.  He knew Jesus could heal him, he just didn’t know if Jesus would be willing to.  And he violated the law so he could get close enough to Jesus to find out.

Matthew 8:3 says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  “I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!”  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”  I find this very moving.  Jesus demonstrated how much he cared for this man by not just healing him – which was astounding enough.  Jesus also touched him.  By touching the man, Jesus would have become defiled – made unclean himself.  And remember, since no-one could touch a leaper, who knows how long it had been since this man had someone actually touch him.  I can’t imagine what that touch meant to the man.

Matthew 8:4 goes on to say that Jesus told the man, “See that you don’t tell anyone…”  We find this same story in Mark, and we’re told in Mark 1:45, “Instead, he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

In this story, I see that leprosy compares well with sin.  Sin runs more than skin deep, it is highly infectious, it defiles a person, and whether we admit it or not, it makes us unclean, and separates us from God.  When Jesus went to the cross, he took our sin on himself, causing him to be defiled.  But he demonstrated his obedience to God and his love for us by doing this anyway.  But Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing for us unless we each have faith in Jesus, come submit before him, and ask to be healed (forgiven).  Are you willing to get close enough to Jesus to find out what he can do for you?

Finally, at the end of the story, the man disobeyed Jesus’ direct command to him to tell no one.  Jesus commanded us to tell everyone.  How are you doing with that?

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 8:1-13, Luke 7

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 11.

Say Yes

Revelation 20-22Revelation_22-12

Saturday, July 22

The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face.  The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God.  They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame.  The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.

Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15.  One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil.  In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).

The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore  and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God.  In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.

Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized.  The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end.   Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ.  Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done.  Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem.  Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death.  (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation).  Death has to be destroyed.  Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon.  God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it.  Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.

For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction.  Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life.  The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3.  God will again make his presence here upon the earth.  The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth.  This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger.  The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.

For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope.  Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity.  Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life.  The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition.  Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed.  But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth.  We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed.  Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.

If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings.  Say yes to God, you can do it right now.  And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism.  And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.

-Jeff Fletcher

(https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-22-12_Inspirational_Image/)

 

Do You Get It?

Malachi 1-4

Malachi

Wednesday, April 26

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

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

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

 

I hope you get it.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

Tough Lessons

Psalm 49-54

psalm-50

January 2, 2017

Once again, David is reminding us how God hasn’t left us. We just feel separated from Him. Is this because God has left us? Or is it because we try to do things our way, on our own? It is hard to see God’s hand in times of trial. When I look back at my life and the “mistakes” I have made, I can now see some of those as times God set me on the right path. At the time, they seemed like I had failed and lost my way. Now, years later, I can see my plan was wrong. This doesn’t mean every mistake I’ve made was God redirecting me! I am human and can make a huge mess of God’s beautiful plans. Thankfully, He can set things right.

Ps 49:7-8 “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him-

The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough- “

Ps 50:15 “But God can redeem my life from the grave, he will surely take me to himself.”

Sometimes we need to accept when things do not go as we planned. This can be true even after much prayer and belief your plan is God’s plan. There are times we need to fail or not have everything go as planned. It is in those times we can learn to rely on God completely. It doesn’t mean God wants us to suffer, however, it can bring us closer and build our strength.

Ps 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

-Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://hiswordinpictures.blogspot.com/2012/01/psalm-501.html)