September 11, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 11:1-33

“Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”

You’ve probably said this or sang this the week before we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ. This comes from today’s Scripture when Jesus was arriving to Jerusalem and people were singing his praises as the great teacher, miracle worker he was but this praise did not last long. Of course this was after Jesus cursed a dead fig tree, using it as a metaphor for Israel’s standing before God and turned the tables at the Jerusalem temple, accusing them of turning it into a den of robbers. Jesus went from Hosanna to hooligan just like that.

Sometimes we can experience something similar within the church. Sometimes we experience an amazing season of spiritual fruit, of revival, of multiplication and healing and it’s very easy for others to tag along and proclaim “Hosanna.” But sometimes the fruit seems to stop and the amazing witness turns into hypocrisy like what was seen in the temple. The outsiders and people who were praising God soon criticize and denounce. And through those seasons we must remember that God is sovereign and that God can use it.

I’m reminded of this great truth with a song that came out a few weeks ago. It was written by a worship band that experienced such a trial when a popular well known church fell apart because of the perceived hypocrisy from it’s unhealthy, sinful culture within. This was an amazing Gospel preaching, Bible teaching church that was known as one of the fastest growing churches in one of the most unchurched cities in the United States and it went from 15,000 people attending to within a year and a half closing down it’s doors. Media and lost people had a field day with it. At one time the city praised all of the good the church was doing and within a year and a half they demonized it. There’s been a ton of hurt in it’s falling out but as this song suggests God was sovereign and is in the redeeming business. Sometimes God wants to use us to turn the tables He flipped to create something beautiful out of it. In fact there’s several healthy, thriving churches that was created out of this and just like Jesus was crucified after the praise, He uses that crucifixion to give us new life. As the songs says He can “Paint the beauty we split, Write redemption a script.”

If you have time, listen to the song below and think about how God can redeem our sins and hypocrisy that people seem to so quickly turn against us with at times.

• What has God made beautiful out of ashes in your life? Share in the comments below.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

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September 9, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 10:32-52

In todays passage, we read about two requests made of Jesus.  Jesus and His disciples are walking to Jerusalem.  The conversation left them filled with awe, while the people following behind were overwhelmed by fear (v.32).  Jesus told them once again of His impending death – how He would be betrayed, sentenced to die, mocked, spit on, whipped and killed – and that He would rise again three days later.

Immediately following this, James and John make a request of Jesus – to sit on His right and on His left in Jesus’ kingdom.  This made the other disciples upset (v.41).

When they arrived at Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting alongside the road.  He made the second request that day – he began crying out to Jesus to be healed – to see.

Two requests made in one day of the One who is able to grant them.

The first appears to be motivated by selfish intentions – the second by desperate ones.  The first invoked anger by others – the second concern.  The second was granted by Jesus – but not the first.

What does these teach us about making requests to God?

  • We must ask in His Name.

If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  John 14:14

  • We must have proper motives.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  James 4:3

  • We must ask in faith – believing God will do it.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  James 1:6-7

  • Power comes when our lives reflect the Kingdom.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16b

We serve a powerful – able – God!  Ask big things today – and believe that He will answer!

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

September 8, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 10:1-31

Mark 10:1–31 breaks down into three separate interactions: a question about divorce, the children approaching Jesus, and the rich young ruler. From these three interactions, we see a clear message about the heart of a true disciple. In all three scenarios, someone is leaving—a man from his wife, the children from Jesus because of the disciples, and the rich young ruler after not receiving a favorable answer.

The story of Jesus and the little children is the positive example. We read this and think about the phrase “child-like faith.” But consider also that, although the disciples tried to turn these kids aside, Jesus wasn’t having it. These kids wanted to be close to Jesus, and that reflects the heart of a true disciple—nothing stops or distracts a true disciple from seeking Jesus.

In the first 12 verses, we have the Pharisees questioning Jesus about divorce. Of course, in the words of General Akbar, “It’s a trap!” King Herod had recently divorced his wife, the daughter of the king of Nabatea. Considering the political upheaval and war that was caused because of Herod’s divorce, the Pharisees figured that Jesus would inadvertently criticize the king and be in hot water.

Jesus, of course, parried and turned the tables. He essentially says that divorce was not God’s plan, “it was not that way in the beginning” (Matt 19:8). However, because of sin, divorce became a means of protecting women from the “death do us part,” clause in a society when women’s rights were lacking. Additionally, in the culture to which Jesus was speaking, it was considered adultery for a man to have relations with an engaged or married woman because of the offense to her husband. Again, women still had very little rights. Thus, when Jesus says that when a man has relations with another woman, he commits adultery against his own wife, that was something new and unheard of before. That statement elevated women, granting them dignity in a society that offered little. Men were no longer only responsible to other men, now they were responsible to women as well.

Divorce always occurs because at least one person puts themselves first. This hard-hearted selfishness does not reflect the heart of a true disciple, one that seeks self ahead of Jesus.

The story of the rich young ruler is a lot like the scenario with divorce. The rich young ruler wants and seeks Jesus, but not at the expense of his stuff. While divorce illustrates a love of self, this ruler illustrates a love of stuff, neither of which represent a heart of a disciple, which loves and seeks Christ above all else.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

September 7, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 9:30-50

Today as you read this passage, consider the sequence of events. Most Bibles will break this down with headings. It starts with Jesus foretelling His death burial and resurrection. Then He talks about who the Greatest is by referencing their expectations of a Messiah. Then, verses 38-41 speak of anyone not against us is for us, and lastly verses 42-50 are about temptation to sin.

In looking at this sequence it is interesting how Jesus makes clear who He is and who God is and the importance of that, in order to end with the temptation to sin. At first glance this seems like it is a little out of place. But when you look closer it becomes much more clear. We must first understand the greatness of God and what he has done in order to really see and understand the implication of sin. This is exactly what we see in this passage.

So when verse 42 says it would be better to have a great millstone hung around your neck and thrown into the sea than to cause someone to sin we can really see why it is such intense language. The result of sin is the brutal death of Jesus. It is not something insignificant. This is why continuing on it says it is better to lose a foot or a hand or an eye. Sin is not something small that can be justified in our mind. Sin is what fractured our universe. It is what separates us from God.

So the question comes to mind, what is our view of sin? Is it something overlooked and justified? Or do you see it as the thing that put Jesus on the cross? Every time we chose sin we become the reason that Jesus suffered. Today would you confess sin and turn your heart to Jesus and move forward with a different perspective of sin?

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate