Be Alert

Mark 13

Mark 13 37

In Mark 13 we see Jesus telling his disciples that things are going to get bad. Before Jesus comes back there will be trouble politically, physically, and even spiritually. This isn’t what anyone wants to hear, but it is the truth.

Politically- verses 6-9

  1. Leaders will arise in his name saying “I am He” misleading many.
  2. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars. (Isn’t this already the case? My sister is in the navy and they are always preparing for a possible war. Right now the concern is Iran.)
  3. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (We see this, too.)
  4. You will be delivered to the courts. (You may find yourself in trouble for standing up for God’s commands. These persecutions do happen already. Check out the Colorado baker. He was “delivered to the courts” for not wanting to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage couple and recently again persecuted because he didn’t want to bake a cake celebrating someone’s transition from male to female.)

 

Physically- verses 8-9 and 12 and 14-18

  1. There will be earthquakes and famines.
  2. There will be floggings and betrayal that could lead to death.
  3. Some will have to leave their homes to run and hide.

 

Spiritually- verses 22 and 33-37

  1. There will be false Christs and prophets trying to lead people astray.
  2. Some will be found asleep.

 

Jesus says in verse 23, “I have told you everything in advance.” We shouldn’t be surprised when we see things getting rough politically or physically. God will help us with this. If we find ourselves speaking in the courts, He will send the holy spirit to help us (verse 11). If we find ourselves physically dealing with tribulation, we can find assurance in the fact that God “shortened the days” of disaster (verse 20). Jesus puts extra emphasis on the spiritual trials though. Here it is our responsibility to “take heed” and “keep on the alert”. We can’t get lazy about our devotion to our Father. If we are alert and on guard, we shouldn’t be led astray. This is why Jesus warned his disciples and it’s a warning for us, too. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. We do know that he is and that we will want him to find us alert and ready!

-Melissa New

Different – Like Jesus

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Mark 6

 

Wow! It’s now been a full week since Fuel ended, and I’m sure that many of you who attended are, like me, missing your friends, your classes, the sessions, and the overall atmosphere. But hopefully, we have been able to take what we learned that week and apply it to the way we live our everyday lives. How to be (drum roll, please)…DIFFERENT! We can see many examples of how to be different and serve the way Jesus served in Mark chapter 6. I think of this chapter as a sort of series of steps telling us how we are meant to serve.

So Jesus starts this chapter off with saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) The King James version actually says, “in his own country.” So in essence, he’s telling us, “Hey, I know you like your friends, your family, your home, and it’s easy to feel comfortable there, but I need you to GO OUT and share the truth with the world.” It is not God’s will for us to stay confined to our own little nook of the world. We have to go love everybody, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, and love people there.

The next main point Jesus gets to is that when you stop in a town to share the truth with people, they might not accept it; they may simply say “no”. In that case, our job is to “shake the dust off our feet” (Mark 6:11), and move on. Because what happens when we stay in one place, working on bringing the same person to the truth for too long? We miss out on bringing so many other people to the truth! If someone is not willing to accept the truth and live for God, we have to know that it’s time to move on and find people who are. Because our mission is to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.

After the sad and brutal story of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus told the disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31) In order to help other people build a relationship with God, we need to keep ours strong. Luke 5:16, one of the memory verses from last week, says “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” So one important step we have to take in our lives is to take the time to go somewhere by ourselves and focus on our own spiritual health, so that we may be better equipped to go out and make disciples.

In verses 33-44, we read about how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It says in verse 34 that Jesus saw them and felt compassion for them. But he didn’t just push the feeling away and continue on; he acted on his compassion. He did something. It may seem impossible to do what Jesus did, but God provides you with the means to do what you are called to do. And it’s not impossible by the way – if God thinks that you should feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake, you will feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake.

Next we come to Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were astonished when he climbed in the boat all nonchalant after walking out to the middle of the sea to calm the winds for them. Why were they so flabbergasted? I mean, they just witnessed him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish! Well, in verse 52 we read that they “had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Don’t let your heart be hardened. Open your eyes to the things God is doing all around you, and let it affect you. Let it change your mindset, your behavior, the very way you live your life. Because that’s why God let Jesus do these crazy things, so that we could see His power and have faith in Him. Later on, in verses 53-56, we see how the people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus and flock to him, assuming that he can heal them, because they know he has before. Flock to Jesus. Know his Father’s power. Trust in Him. Let Him make you different.

 

-Isabella Osborn

 

 

 

 

1 Timothy 4

Thurs Devo

“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-8

I’ve always had the dream of running a marathon. It’s something that I put on my bucket list in high school. At times, I’ve gotten closer to this dream by keeping up with a running plan and completing 5Ks and 10Ks. Other times, like now, that dream is definitely in the distant future as my running shoes collect dust in the back of my closet. 

As Christians, we have a dream as well. Our dream, or our goal, is to live in the Kingdom of God. This hope should give us the strength to aspire to live righteously. We should be pursuing godliness with our lives with the same passion that an athlete would pursue their sport. However, my pursuit of Kingdom-living can sometimes be like my goal of running a marathon. Instead of inspiring me or causing me to take actions towards that goal, I just add it to the list of things that I might do in the future. This goal doesn’t push me to live in a godly way. It becomes a dream that never affects my reality.

Though running and other sports can have positive benefits, we should be actively training ourselves in godliness. Like Paul says, “Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8). Like running can help me to feel better in my daily life as well as help me to finish a future race, godliness helps us to live abundantly now and in the Kingdom. Importantly though, as Paul describes it in this chapter, godliness isn’t a switch that you can flip on and off. After baptism, you don’t just emerge out of the water a new person who will always make good, godly decisions. Godliness is something that requires training. How do we train in godliness? We follow the example and teachings of Jesus who reveals godliness to us (1 Tim. 3:16, 4:6). So let’s put on our training shoes and get to work! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

***If you would like to read some more about how to train yourself in godliness, check out this article about the topic: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2018/02/11/train-sport-godliness/ 

 

1 Timothy 1

monday devo

“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:18-19

1 Timothy is jam-packed with rich truths that Paul wrote to Timothy, a mentee in the faith. 1 Timothy was written sometime between 62-67 A.D. while Paul was out of prison. He wrote to Timothy, a person who he had known since about 46 A.D. and who was currently ministering in Ephesus, a town in Asia Minor. A majority of this letter focuses on how to ‘do church,’ discussing a range of topics from  worship services to church leadership to interactions between church members. 

1 Timothy begins with an instruction to remind people to not teach different doctrines or pay attention to myths or genealogies (1 Tim. 1:3-4). In doing this, Paul said that the people were promoting “empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.” Wow! That’s a powerful statement. The discussions of the people of the church in Ephesus were not glorifying God. Instead, they were people just carelessly making a prediction about topics related to the concepts Paul taught. The discussions of the people were like junk food instead of a wholesome diet. They tasted good in the moment, but they ultimately produced nothing of value for the people. 

We need to ask ourselves what type of instruction we are filling ourselves with, as well as what types of instruction we are giving others. If are not taking in any instruction or teaching about God’s word, we will starve. God’s word is our daily bread, and we daily have to get into the word to get the nourishment that we need. Once we do, we have to look at the type of teaching we are getting. Are we taking in things that will build us up and draw us closer to God? Or does a majority of our Bible study focus on acquiring knowledge that we could use in a debate or class but ultimately leaves us spiritually unfulfilled? If we are teachers, we also need to ask ourselves these same questions. Is what we are teaching empty speculation, or are we teaching what Paul was teaching? Paul said that his ultimate goal for the instruction he gave was to produce a love that “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). If that is not our goal for what instruction we take in and give, then we need to reevaluate our purpose for that instruction. 

Paul recognized the importance of analyzing the purpose for what we do. When we reject producing pure love as our goal, we can lead ourselves and others down a path that leads to the shipwreck of their faith. In other terms, when we are not placing God’s plan first in our lives, we are choosing to not allow God to work in our lives. Let’s all strongly engage in the battle of our faith. This begins with the spiritual food that we take in. Make sure that you are taking in good things, not empty things.

~ Cayce Fletcher 

The Purpose of the Wilderness

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; All your breakers and your billows have swept over me. Psalm 42_7 (1)If you are not in a wilderness period now, chances are you will probably experience a time like this in the future. It’s the moments where we are spiritually thirsty and hungry for God. It can be puzzling when we are in these moments because we begin to doubt and question God. If there was a word that could be used to define these moments, I would say that it would be “Why.” Why do I feel like this? Why am I in this desert? Why does God seem so far from me? Why won’t he return to me?

Though it can seem presumptuous to ask God these questions, we can find the psalmist asking these questions as well. In Psalm 42, the psalmist says, “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?” (v. 5, 11) Later on, he writes, “I will say to God, my rock, Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” (v. 9) It’s natural to question God during these moments, and even Jesus on the cross asked God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Sometimes, we know the purpose of the wilderness, as Jesus did when he asked God that question. Other times, we may not know in this life why we have to experience the things that we do.

In these times, it’s incredibly important to remind ourselves of two things: (1) we can trust that there is a purpose for the wilderness, and (2) in the wilderness, we can rely on the goodness of God to carry us through. As we think about the ‘why’ behind our wilderness wanderings, it’s first important to ask ourselves how we got to this point. Sometimes, our wilderness comes from forces outside of us, whether that’s circumstances, conflicts with others, or the adversary like we discussed yesterday. We can look at the examples of Elijah and Jesus to see wilderness experiences that were due to the fallenness of the world, not their own failings. Yet, at other times, the wilderness can be caused by our own actions, like in the case of the Israelites.

During these times, we have two options: We can turn toward God or away from him. It’s this choice that will determine whether or not the wilderness experience will help us to grow or to be destroyed. In this devotion, we won’t be able to come to a definitive answer of why bad things happen to good people. But, we can answer the real ‘why’ behind our wilderness experiences. During this time, we have the option to lean on God and learn what it means to walk hand in hand with him. To experience complete dependence on God. The wilderness may be difficult, but it’s also in these moments that we experience more deeply the salvation of God. Going back to the Psalmist words in Psalm 42, we see that our wilderness experiences can make our recognition of God’s love more real and vivid when, after asking why, he says:

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Mt. Hermon (2,814 m – 9,232 ft) on the northern border of Israel

“Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed, therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breaks and Your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night – a prayer to the God of my life” (v. 5-8).

We can pray to the God of our life. In these times in the wilderness, trust in your creator, and he will send his faithful love to you.

~ Cayce Fletcher

Time for Your Examination

Psalm 139 23 24

Psalm 139: 1, 23-24

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I imagine that most of us don’t really enjoy being examined by a doctor. I know I dread it when I go to the doctor’s office and one of the first things they do is ask me to stand on the scale. “Really? I have a sore throat, I’m sure that has nothing to do with how much I weigh.” That’s what I think to myself, but still I dutifully comply. I stand on the scale (why does the doctor’s scale always weigh 5 lb. heavier than the one in my house)?.

Physicians examine us so that they can have an idea of what’s going on inside of us. Is everything functioning properly. Are all the vital organs working the way they are supposed to? Do changes need to be made? Often, at the end of the visit there is a prescription given for some medicine for us to take. Or sometimes a recommendation to make a lifestyle change. Or sometimes, the need for further tests. Sometimes, what is needed is a radical, invasive procedure where they cut into your body… surgery. Most of those things are unpleasant. Sometimes, we avoid going to the doctor all together so that we can avoid hearing his diagnosis. We figure, what I don’t know won’t hurt me.

Spiritually, we sometimes act the same way. We are afraid to go to God and let him give an honest, accurate assessment of our spiritual health. But we need it. We need it more than we need our physical health. We need God to search us… to examine us… to look deep into our hearts and understand our values, our motives, our loves and our hates. We need God to look deep within and discover where our anxious thoughts lie. We need God to call us out on our offensive ways… the ways that hurt others, the ways that hurt ourselves. We need God to prescribe for us the changes that need to be made so that we can experience greater spiritual health.

The hardest prayer, and the most important prayer you can pray, is a prayer of examination to God… “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” Maybe its time you made an appointment with God for an examination. Come to think of it, maybe its time for me to do that too.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

Are You Battle Ready?

“I may never march in the infantry

Ride into cavalry

Shoot the artillery

I may never fly o’er the enemy

But I’m in the Lord’s army!”

Growing up in Sunday School, this song was my favorite, and it is so applicable to our theme this past week. You, as a soldier in God’s army, are fighting in a different kind of war—a spiritual battle. It’s a battle of God and sin competing for your heart. It’s a battle of protecting your flag, the Gospel message that has been placed inside of you. It’s a battle of sharing the Gospel with a broken fallen world that needs to hear a message of hope.

Just as Gideon and his men shouted into battle, you, too, need a battle cry. A word to inspire you, unite your army, and intimidate your enemy. This week, I’ve proposed a few words for you to embrace throughout the year, but don’t stop there. Find words that resonate with you, hold them tight, and live by them each and every day.

Surrendered: In a society that strives for control, surrender isn’t easy, but knowing that who you are surrendering to is more powerful than any another force in this world should give you peace. Like Elijah, choose a place of vulnerability to let God blow your mind. If He can send fire to an altar drenched in water and rain to a scorched earth, just imagine what He can do in your life.

Broken: You can rejoice in your brokenness because you didn’t stay broken. Through Jesus, your wounds were healed and are now a sign of victory. You are a teacup that was shattered but has been pieced back together with gold; you are restored and you have value. God is eagerly waiting to use you in big and unimaginable ways, just like He used Rahab.

Committed: God wants His soldiers to be fully committed to battle. He is jealous for every ounce of you. When Jesus asked three men to follow him, they answered back with excuses and pre-arranged plans, leaving Jesus unsatisfied. When Jesus has a task for you, I challenge you to answer yes, leaving behind your comfort zone and things of this world.

Bold: Boldness rejects popularity for the truth, and comfort for the cross. Just as John and Peter stood up for Jesus, their Savior and friend, be unashamed of the hope that you have. You may receive opposition, but don’t fret because Jesus’ side is going to win the war in the end. Thus, go forth with confidence and boldness.

Connected: You can’t win this battle alone. Stand hand in hand with your brothers and sisters, just as the Early Church modeled for us. The depth of our connection to other believers is dependent on the depth of our connection to God. Abide in Him together with the Church, the Bride of Christ.

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~ Mackenzie McClain

Broken

my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever-4

When suiting up for battle, the biggest lie the enemy tells you is that you’re too broken to be loved by God. The whispers in your head that you are damaged goods, scuffed and bruised, attempt to overpower the innate value that you have because you are God’s child. By trying to hide your brokenness, you fight for the wrong side. Brokenness isn’t meant to be hidden, but embraced.

Scars become stories. Think of the physical scars you have—all those little gashes and scratches tell of what you have been healed from. Scars no longer hurt; instead, they are signs of victory. Just like your body repairs your physical wounds, God has healed you from your brokenness and sin. He has picked up your shattered pieces, brushed off the dust, and glued you back together. Your brokenness is a sign of victory. Jesus conquered death, and in doing so conquered your sin. When you weep and wallow in your brokenness, you send Jesus right back to the grave.

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. When a piece of pottery is dropped, it isn’t thrown out. Instead, it is restored and made even more valuable. This, in essence, is the gospel. You were crushed under the weight of your sin, but God, through the sacrifice of His son, pieced you back together. Where you see your life shattered to pieces on the ground, He sees restoration. If the Creator of the entire universe embraces your brokenness, you should, too.

Moses killed a man. David had an affair. Jonah ran away. Rahab was a prostitute. Noah got drunk. Paul murdered Christians. God could have left these details out, but He didn’t; He transforms broken people and puts them on pedestals to bring glory and honor to His name.

Let’s take a closer look at the story of Rahab, which is found in the second chapter of Joshua. Rahab had lived a promiscuous life as a prostitute, yet God redeems her. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites searching for the Promised Land, sent two spies to the city of Jericho, hoping to conquer the land of Canaan. When the officials of Jericho tried to hunt down the spies, they found safety in the home of Rahab. When the officials come knocking at Rahab’s door, she hides the spies on her rooftop under stalks of flax. This same woman who used to live a life of sin and shame helped save God’s chosen people. This same woman who used to live a life of sin and shame is an ancestor of Jesus, God’s own precious son (Matthew 1:5).

When the enemy stares into your eyes and tells you that you are broken, embrace it, knowing that your brokenness doesn’t define you; your Savior does.

~Mackenzie McClain

Surrender

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Shouting “surrender!” into battle may seem counterintuitive, but I am not suggesting that you surrender to your enemy; instead, surrender to your God. To surrender means to choose a place of vulnerability, giving up control, to give authority to a different power.  In a country where you’re told to control your own destiny and to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, surrender does not come naturally. You must understand that letting go and letting God is not weakness; instead, it takes great strength.

If you want to see God work in your life, you first have to give him something to work with. Today, we are going to read about a man who chose a place of vulnerability so that God would be glorified. The whole story is found in 1 Kings chapter 18, so give it a read, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a quick summary.

Israel is in the midst of a three-year draught as a punishment for their idol-worshipping, until God tells Elijah that it’s finally time to confront Ahab. Elijah arranges for Ahab to gather 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He says to the people of Israel, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah, being the only prophet of the one true God left, challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a competition. The two teams set up altars and placed a bull on top. The god, Baal or Yahweh, to answer with fire will be declared the one true God.

As the 450 prophets call out to and dance for Baal, Elijah taunts them, saying maybe Baal is busy or maybe sleeping. The prophets of Baal grow more and more frustrated, so Elijah calls them all to his altar. Elijah, surrounded by all these people that oppose him, has surrendered all of his control to his God. He surrenders himself even further as he created a trench around the altar filled with water. Elijah has no intentions for personal gain, but has instead surrendered everything into God’s own hands, which he knows are much more powerful than his own. God, of course, delivers and sends fire to the altar. All the people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—He is God! The LORD—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Then comes the icing on top, God sends rain.

That same God who sent fire to an altar drenched in water and made it rain after years of drought is the same God who is fighting on your side. Surrendering isn’t so scary when you’re leaving it all in God’s hands, which are far more capable than your own. This year, let “Surrender!” be your battle cry.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hands will eventually see God’s hands in everything.”

~Mackenzie McClain

What path will you choose? – Jer. 17:5-10

trust in God

Breaking News::

Humans have been found to have an uncontrollable and incurable disease. As of yet, there have been no tests by humans that have been created to test for the disease. Worse yet, this disease can’t be seen; it’s almost undetectable. The only thing that can test for it is God. What is this disease? The conditions of our heart.

 

Though physical heart disease is an important and often fatal problem, we have an even more deadly disease in our spiritual hearts. If we look at Jeremiah 17:5-10, we see a portrayal of opposites that centers around the heart, and more specifically, on who the heart trusts in.

The first person is someone who trusts in mankind. They trust in themselves or in others. In doing this, this person has turned their heart from God. They are like a dead bush, a tumbleweed, in the middle of a desert.

The other person is a beautiful picture of someone who trusts and has confidence in God. They are like a tree planted beside water that stands firm even in hot weather because they are deeply enrooted by the life-giving stream.

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Like our memory verse for this week states, in our lives, we have a choice. We choose who we will trust in. That choice affects everything in our life. It affects our thoughts, actions, and feelings. In our lives, we tend to rely on our feelings and thoughts, the things that make up what the Bible calls the heart, to determine our choices. This shouldn’t be!

The prophet Jeremiah says that the heart is more deceitful than anything else. It’s incurable and unknowable on our own power. Only God can examine the mind and test the heart to know what is in it.

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in this place. God can transform our hearts! In Romans 8:29, it says that God has predestined us so that we would be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Through God’s Spirit, we are being made into the perfect image of Jesus! On our own power, we cannot change the heart. It will guide us down wrong paths that seem correct according to worldly wisdom. But, through God’s help, our hearts can be revived and transformed to become a man or woman after God’s own heart.

 

God’s Spirit works in us in many ways, one of which is through the wisdom that it gives. We learn what true wisdom is from God’s word (Prov. 1:2). James 1:5-8 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” If we come to God and ask for wisdom through prayer, he will give it to us through his word and wise counsel.

This week, we will be talking more about the importance of gaining wisdom through God’s word for choosing the right paths of God. Remember: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”