February 3, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 28:16-20

At this point Jesus is about to leave. This means that the disciples and His other followers were going to be “without” Jesus and His leading. With Jesus not there what would they do? Jesus makes it clear what is supposed to happen. He gives very clear instruction as to what His followers are to do, which includes you and I.

It is pretty incredible that in this moment, in the presence of Jesus, that some of the people doubted. In our world today there are many who doubt Jesus. The encouragement that I see in this passage is that no matter who doubts or why they doubt, Jesus is Lord and all authority in heaven and on earth is His. This is encouraging because as His followers the task He commands is huge and cannot be done without Him. So because He has authority over all we can trust and rest in that He will be with us. Even if He is not physically present He will forever be spiritually present.

There are times where I see the task at hand and I don’t doubt Jesus is God, but I doubt that I can do what he has commanded. When I think of this I am reminded that by having that doubt I am doubting the authority of God over all.

Today, will you fulfill the command of Jesus to go?

Will you not doubt the presence of Jesus and the guidance He promises?

Ask yourself why not if you do not fulfill His commands.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

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February 2, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 28:1-15

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of the most profound tennants of the Christian faith.  It’s essential!  It is history’s most significant event.

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 1 Corinthians 15:14

The Bible teaches that we must believe in the resurrection of Jesus in order to be saved.

That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Can you imagine being one of the first to witness the empty tomb?  The two Mary’s were.  They went to visit the tomb to mourn early on Sunday morning following the Sabbath.  What they saw was nothing short of amazing.  There was an earthquake caused by the angel of the Lord who rolled the stone away from the door and sat on it.  The guards, witnessing this fainted!

The angel speaks to the Mary’s and invites them to be witnesses to the empty tomb.  Then they were instructed to go and tell the mourning disciples that Jesus had risen just like He said He would.

The woman, obeying the angel, ran to tell the disciples. On the way, Jesus meets them.  Can you even imagine this?

The priests were briefed about the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb.  They immediately made up a story about the disciples stealing the body (this story is still told to this day) and paid the guard to lie about it.

Great story, huh?  The best!  But what does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you?  How will reading this impact your day?

Live your day in light of the glorious resurrection of Jesus!

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

February 1, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 27:32-66

Let not the seasoned Christian grow numb to the historical reality of the crucifixion. Verse after verse here details the brutality that Jesus faced on his way to His gruesome death. Take a moment and reread this passage slowly, really soaking in the reality of the crucifixion and its cost to our Savior.

It is perhaps easy to forget the tortuous process when we also know the unconquerable victory that came through it. Indeed, Matthew 28 brings life-changing, world-altering, eternity-defining news that is worthy of our celebration forever. But we cannot neglect to note that Matthew 27 is just as crucial as the chapter that follows it. So why is it necessary for us to meditate upon these sufferings of our Lord and Savior?

We learn an amazing truth when we read Matthew 27 in conjunction with the victory that we see in Matthew 28. We see God’s triumphant kingdom advancing even in the midst of the suffering. Verse 54 tells us:

When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

As Jesus, the Son of God, was hanging from a cross, glory was being given to God. Out of the midst of this horrendous event, God was still able to work good. Indeed, God was able to take the worst and most unjust event in human history and use it for the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity! The death of the innocent lamb paved the way for the bloodstained to be made clean again! That alone is abundant reason for rejoicing and praising our God.

So if God is able to produce the greatest victory out of the most terrible tragedy, we can rest in knowing that He can bring good out of our own troubles. We have hope, friends! What trial is causing you to doubt the goodness of God? Do you trust God to continue to be faithful and good, even in the midst of your hardship? Will you give Him the praise He deserves even if you never see what good may come from your trial?

By: Logan West — Pastoral Ministry Exposure Participant

January 31, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 27:1-31

Yesterday we read of Jesus’ mock trial before the religious leaders. Today, we read of Jesus trial before Pilate. Before we address Pilate, however, we see a brief interjection about Judas, Jesus’ betrayer.

The story of Judas’ remorse and eventual suicide illustrates a definite fact about Jesus’ pending conviction by Pilate—it’s all part of God’s plan. In fact, Matthew cites the prophet Jeremiah to make his point. It’s interesting to note that although Matthew cites Jeremiah, he actually provides a more direct quote from the prophet Zechariah. Before we assume Matthew is erroneous in his attribution, we should consider, as many commentators point out, that Matthew likely has in mind several allusions to Jeremiah and the passage from Zechariah, but only provides attribution to one source, the “major” prophet (a common practice). All that to say, as tragic as the consequences of Judas’ actions and his ultimate fate were, they were all a part of God’s plan.

Now onto the meat of today’s passage, Pontius Pilate was a jerk. I used to feel somewhat sorry for Pilate because I felt like he had been put in an unfair position. From the tone of the passage it seems like he’s trying, however he can, to get Jesus off the hook. He even tried to sway the crowd by making them choose to either release the vile murderous Barabbas or Jesus; they chose Barabbas.  

I used to feel sorry for Pilate before I learned that he used to do things to incense the Jews. The historian Josephus records how he antagonized the Jews on several occasions and dealt harshly with them. However, some recent events had occurred that took the wind out of Pilates sails.

The Roman Emperor Tiberius was a bit of a recluse and had “entrusted the administration of his government to Sejanus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, a cruel, oppressive despot who abused his power. Perhaps an anti-Semite, Sejanus appointed Pontius Pilate as prefect over Judea.” (Holman Bible Atlas) After Sejanus plotted to have Tiberius killed, Tiberius was upset and had Sejanus killed. Tiberius then went about putting others on trial for treason. As you can imagine, since Pilate was appointed by a man that tried to have the Emperor killed, he was trying to stay below the radar. Not only that, before him stands a man being accused of calling himself a King, while the Emperor in Rome is on the rampage for treason.

While Pilate would probably love nothing more than to incense the Jews again by letting Jesus go, it would look really bad for him to overlook a charge of treason. Not to mention the fact that if riots broke out, the Emperor would be reminded of who Pilate was really quick—there was no good option. Thus,

24 when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

Much of what Jesus endured was foretold in the prophets and proof of God’s plan. It seems to me that God had so well-orchestrated events that Pilate, the most powerful man in the region, the only one who actually had authority to execute a prisoner, found himself trapped, unable to help an innocent man.

As you think about this passage today, how does the knowledge that Jesus’ torture and crucifixion was all part of God’s plan encourage you or bring hope in present circumstances? After all, he did it for you!

By: Tyler Short — Connections Associates