Thursday, August 1

Our apologies, there will not be an audio version available today. 

There is so much of a focus on this rich young ruler and his response that it is easy to completely miss the disciples and their response. Did you notice them? 

“Who then can be saved?”

The disciples are shocked at Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler. Jesus is teaching a new doctrine and the disciples are having a difficult time accepting it. However, they really should not be surprised. Jesus’ previous messages leading up to this conversation were just as disturbing (Mark 9:33-10:16). Read through those verses and look for these astounding claims that Jesus makes:

  1. The last shall be first and the first shall be last
  2. Whoever is not against us is for us
  3. “If this is the situation between a husband and a wife then it is better to not marry!”
  4. The kingdom of heaven belongs to little children

The disciple’s entire doctrine is being completely shattered the longer that they are following Jesus. Now they are beginning to question whether or not they will enter into eternal life. Can you hear the concern in their voices as they now question Jesus just as this rich young ruler did? What about us? “We have left everything to follow you!”

It is one thing to lay down at the feet of Jesus the things of this life that drive a wedge in between us and our relationship with Christ. It is another thing when we make a decision to rely on Jesus for everything that we need day by day, moment by moment. The disciples are living in complete dependence on Jesus. They chose to follow him when he called them, but now they are completely reliant on him for everything. If they stop following now, they will have lost everything. 

Does this describe our relationship with Christ? How closely are we following Jesus? How does our daily living prove our complete dependence upon Him? Every day of our lives should be a movement towards greater dependence upon Jesus Christ.  We can measure our progression in this Christian walk by one thing and one thing only: The daily increase in our dependence upon Christ. The greater our dependence, the closer we are following.

Jonathan Goble

Wednesday, July 31

Our apologies, there will not be an audio version available today. 

We concluded our devotional yesterday with the idea that we cannot accept the commands of Christ without first accepting his love for us. This is no different than any other relationship in life. We all know the saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a sophomore in high school. He had been struggling with some things in life and wanted to get together and chat. His parents were divorced. He did not have a relationship with his father. Neither of his parents attended church with him. He was struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide. He was struggling with his identity and his sexual orientation. After six months of meeting together, many hours spent together, and many tears shed, this young man decided that he was going to “come out” and make known that he was now gay. He began by sharing with everyone at school. As word got around, some of the students in the youth group began talking to me and asking questions. I called this student and asked if we could get together and talk. I explained to him that this decision did not change our relationship, it did not change my love for him, and that I still wanted to meet with him. However, I informed him that since he was now committing to a sinful lifestyle that I could no longer allow him to sing in the worship team. I explained that I would have to make this decision with any student that would knowingly commit to a lifestyle of sin, regardless of that sin. What the student heard was this, “you are a terrible person, I can’t believe that you would do this, I hate you.”

We can pour ourselves into people, love them as well as we can, and still they will completely miss our love for them. Instead, with selective hearing, they will hear the one “negative” word spoken and that word becomes the summary of the entire conversation. Nothing that is said or done to show love is recognized. Parents face this same problem with their students. Whenever discipline is administered the students see only the negative and receive it as a lack of love rather than a movement of love. 

The rich young ruler had this same problem. He completely missed the goodness and the love of Jesus. He misunderstood the good news of the gospel message. Instead, he took the one word that appeared to be “negative” and walked away dejected. Our kids and students do this very same thing. Believe it or not, We do this same thing with God. 

The entire gospel message is good news. The message of the gospel is that God himself has exchanged his life for ours. Jesus coming to earth is good news. Jesus dying on the cross is good news. Jesus rising from the dead is good news. Jesus asking us to die to ourselves is good news. Jesus asking us to pick up our cross daily is good news. Jesus asking us to give up certain things in our lives that are keeping us from him is good news. 

Another saying you may be familiar with is this: “God loves us so much that he refuses to leave us as we are.” Often times, this refining is difficult, maybe even painful. However, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice. Will you receive the gospel message, the entire gospel message as good news, even if it costs you a great deal? 

What might God be asking you to lay down at the foot of the cross so that you can follow him? 

- Jonathan Goble

Tuesday, July 30

Our apologies, there will not be an audio version available today.


It is so easy to read this passage as just another teaching moment for Jesus. Jesus never misses an opportunity to teach. Here is Jesus using this rich young ruler to give a message to his disciples on the topics of "Salvation" and "The Cost of Following Jesus." We read it that way because so often we approach scripture with an academic mindset. We want to strengthen our intellect, know more about God's word, know more about the person of Jesus. The danger in doing this is that we can gain an understanding without allowing our hearts to be engaged and transformed. This is not simply another teaching moment for Jesus. In this short narrative, Jesus is reaching out to the lost, just as he reaches out to you and I. Consider this:

1. This rich young ruler ran up to Jesus and fell face first, on his knees, before Jesus (Mark 10:17). There is little doubt that this man was sincere in his desire to know Jesus, and receive what Jesus offered. When you first came to Jesus, how was it that you came into his presence? Were you running? Did you fall on your knees in worship? How can you relate to this rich young ruler?

2. When this rich young ruler asked Jesus a question concerning eternal life, we are told that Jesus looked upon him and loved him (Mark 10:21). Jesus was not using this man for anything, nor did he have an agenda. Jesus was simply loving this man. What is your view of Jesus? Is he your teacher? Is he someone that has an agenda and just wants to use you? Or, is he someone that views you as the object of his love? How does the way that you view Jesus effect your relationship with him?
3. It is very probable that this rich young ruler was a religious leader. At the very least, he has been a Jewish boy since birth. He has been raised in a religious household, and has lived an upright life. To his best knowledge and ability he had lived an obedient life to God. Yet, we find this man questioning, and wanting more. In what ways do you strive to live an upright life? Do you ever find yourself questioning like this rich young ruler? Have you been seeking righteousness in total reliance on God's Holy Spirit? What does it look like to live a life that is completely dependent and reliant upon God? What does it look like to live a life that is defined as walking in step with the Spirit?

Take a moment today and ask the Lord to reveal his heart for you. John tells us in his letter that we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). it is impossible to love God if we have not truly experienced his love for us. The rich young ruler missed this. Because he missed this crucial point, he was not able to accept the message that Jesus brought to him. Before we will accept the commands of Christ, we first must come to know and accept his love for us.

- Jonathan Goble

Monday, July 29

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If my garage is any indication, I am not great at letting go.  There are pieces of scrap lumber, tools that I haven’t used, a door that I took from the garbage heap when the East Campus lobby was remodeled a couple of years ago, all my kids outside toys, half completed projects and any number of other miscellaneous items.   I always have some idea or project in mind and will certainly need all this junk that litters my garage to help me complete it.  I am not a hoarder (at least not yet) but there are some clues to that fact that I have problems “letting go”.

Last week we studied the call to “Go” from Matthew 19.  This passage recorded the conversation that took place between Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler.  Take a look at the passage once again:

Matthew 19: 16-22:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This passage says a lot about what we value, about what is most important to us and about what matters most.  We know nothing about this person or what he thought about after Jesus told him to sell everything that he had.  We only know that he went away sad.  I have often wondered if he got home and had a change of heart, if perhaps he decided that Jesus’s offer to him was in fact of greater value than all that he possessed.  I guess I have hoped for that because otherwise this text carries such a sense of tragedy and that does in fact seem to be the reality.  I wish that he had come to his senses but in the end he seems blinded by what he values most, his wealth.

Here is the penetrating question that Jesus ultimately confronts the rich young ruler with and subsequently confronts us with as well…what do we value most?  What do we cling to tighter than all else?  Jesus certainly could have challenged this man’s claim to have kept the law perfectly, but that was not the conclusion that Jesus desired him to arrive at.  The issue that Jesus confronts is not one of external obedience.  Jesus chooses instead to direct him inward, to that central place of his heart.  He takes him to the place where his values are formed and at the end of the day forces him to answer the question of “what is ultimately the ruling God in his life?”

Even as Christ followers, even if in the past we have loosened the grip on that which occupied the central place in our heart in order to invite Christ to rule our lives, the truth is that we can find ourselves taking hold of old gods.  There are many things that war for that place in our lives and yet it can only be held by one.  You see, I believe that the “call to go” that we have been studying all summer long begins by choosing to obey the call to let go.  We struggle at times because our tendency , like the Rich Young Ruler, is to consider that cost to high of a price.   The reality is that what we have in Jesus, the invitation that He extends to follow Him, to be found in Him and to join Him in His kingdom is of greatest value.  It is when that truth is rightly understood and penetrates our heart that we loosen our grip, let go of our gods and place Him in His rightful spot on the throne of our hearts.

My prayer today is that we would allow this week to be a time where we can evaluate what rules our own hearts and invite Christ to remain our greatest value.

Pastor Sterling Moore

Friday, July 26

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1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

You are the best representative of Christ that the people in your world know today.
There is a court scene in Isaiah 43:12, “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, that I am God.”  Do not step back from the people that God places in your path of life.  Even though you might be an introvert or fearful of speaking up for the hope that you have, God is counting on you.  If we do not tell people about Jesus, how will they know?  Do not count on someone else.  God is sending you.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but wants everyone to come to repentance.”  While Jesus tarries, the work of the church and each one of us individually is to communicate the hope of the Gospel.

Will all who come behind us find us faithful?  What one word would the people who observe your life use to describe you?

Philemon 6 “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  The Scripture clearly states that we cannot understand all that we have in Christ unless we are active in sharing our faith.

Do not miss God’s future blessing because you refuse to go to a place that you have never gone before.  Finish the race that God sets before you every day!


Thank you O God that you have poured out your love into my heart through your only Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I desire that the world around me can see a clear testimony of your love in my life by my words and acts of love today.  AMEN

Roger Crites

Thursday, July 25

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Galatians 3:22
“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

 When we have confessed our sin in true repentance, we are set free from the penalty of sin.  We are ushered into the presence of God with freedom to worship Him alone and serve him with all of our heart and life.  What do you do with the freedom and time God has given you?  Are your days filled with what makes you happy, or do you seek to be obedient to the purpose and plans God has designed for you?  Happiness is overrated!  We are to delight in the joy as God offers to fill our lives daily with His blessings.
He has blessed you to be a blessing to the people that He places on your path of life.  
Each morning, commit to the Lord your willingness to be obedient through acts of love and kindness to those in your neighborhood, family and at your work.   

God asks an all important question in Micah 6:8; “And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 
 If the people in your life were asked to testify on the witness stand in God’s holy court room as to your obedience, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ?  To your fellow man do you act justly?  Does mercy overflow out of your life to the people that God places in your path?  Do you puff yourself up with pride, or do you truly walk in humility with God?  Keep a journal or record of how God is using you each day to bless someone else.  In the words of William Care, “Only one life and soon will pass.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

The people in your world are counting on you to live transparently so the light of Christ will shine through you and see your good needs and give glory to our God.


O God, regardless of how I feel, I choose to trust and rejoice in you.  You alone are the one who will reveal your plan and purpose for my life.  I will trust, day by day, in your faithfulness to me.  Bless me to be a blessing today.  AMEN

Roger Crites

Wednesday, July 24

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2 Thessalonians 1:11
“We pray that our God may constantly count you worthy of his calling and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.”

What is God’s purpose for your life?  His purpose for you will unfold in your life day by day.  When I have taught workshops on “Knowing God’s Will”, all in attendance thought that there would be one lone purpose that God had for their lives.  The reality is that God often has several opportunities for you to serve Him throughout your life.  Rather than seeking God’s purpose, seek God.  

Jeremiah 29:11-13
“(11) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (12) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  (13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

You cannot realize the plans God has for you until you seek the Lord with all your heart.  No half measures!  No occasional visits with God.  He wants all of you.  I know a person who tells me that she attends church to say “Hi” to God.  He is not blessed because we decide to occasionally visit Him or slip Him our prayer requests. You will only find God and know His purposes and plans for you when you seek Him with all your heart.


O God, help me see in you the hope and healing that you alone offer to all who trust completely in you.  I desire to see you as the one true, everlasting God who has mercy on those who seek you with all of their heart.  Thank you that you accept me as I come to you, just as I am.  Yet, you love me so much that you have more for me than I can imagine.  Create within me a true vision of your holiness and your hope as I walk with you by faith.  AMEN 

Roger Crites

Tuesday, July 23

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2 Peter 1:3
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Your knowledge of Jesus and obedience to Him will give you a godly life to the fullest.  Are you reading the Gospels?  Do you know what Jesus did?  Are you living your life to the fullest for Jesus everyday?

Start your day with prayer.  Whenever you wake up look in the mirror and recite Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Regardless what lies ahead of you in the new day, find joy in the Lord.  Throughout the day have a conversation with the Lord.  A prayer less life is a powerless life.  I have made it a practice to pray Psalm 139:23-24 often during the day:  “(23) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  (24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” When you ask God to search your heart, the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind anything that is not pleasing to the Lord.  Do you find yourself, anxious or worrying about what you cannot control?  Cast all of your anxiety on Lord for He cares for you.  Take a few moments and a sheet of paper and make two columns.  On one side list everything and everyone in your life that you cannot control.  It might be a long list.  You might become angry because you want to control your life.  On the other side list everything that you can control.  Under God’s direction, we are to live our lives based on what we can control and give up worrying about people and things in our lives that are beyond our control.

Listen to the Lord’s leading.  Are you willing to follow?


Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may trust in your Name.  AMEN

Roger Crites

Monday, July 22

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Matthew 28:18-20
“(18) All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  (19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Runners feel the tension as they lean forward on their mark, waiting for the starter’s gun to release them to go toward the goal of winning the race.  Are you focusing on the purpose and goal that God has set before you?  Hebrews 12:2 commands us to, “Fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.”  

Our faith which has its beginning in Him is also completed in Him; he is both the start and the end of the race.  Jesus is the supreme witness who has already run the race as an overcomer through His obedience to His Father.  He has overcome sin and death on our behalf through his sacrificial death and the power of His resurrection.  Jesus has given us power.

Are you plugged into Jesus the power source or have you short circuited yourself by focusing on your limited power?  Prayer keeps us in constant communication with God.

Pour out your heart to God.  There are no magic words in our communication with God.  The only way to know the direction that God is leading you is to faithfully listen and follow Him.

“The giant step in the walk of faith is the one we take when we decide that God no longer is a part of lives.  He is our life.” – Beth Moore


Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Lead me O Lord and I will faithfully follow you. AMEN.

Roger Crites

Friday, July 19


But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the LORD,  “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.   Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”   - Jonah 4:1-3

For the second time in this story, Jonah prays.  In the first part (Jonah 2) he prays when he's desperate, when he's in the belly of the fish, in the depths of the sea, and it looks like he's going to die, and he wants to live. "Oh, God!, help me. Let me live. Forgive my disobedience." and God hears him and gives him grace.  
In his first prayer, Jonah's going to die and he prays, "God, let me live." This time he's in the middle of this amazing triumph of life, he prays, "God, let me die."  At this point, he doesn't really want to die.  This is like an adolescent. "God, I want my own way, and I want it to be the destruction of the Ninevites." "Please," he says twice in this verse. This is not a polite please; this is an annoying two-syllable please that kids use when they are whining - “Puh-leeaase!” 
Notice that Jonah says in his prayer, "is this not what I said when I was still at home? "  Now, in fact, Jonah didn't say anything like this back home in the first chapter.  The truth was that he said nothing at all, he just ran away out of fear.  Now he conveniently remembers himself as the champion of justice. "I saw this one coming." He claims he always knew God was going to go soft.
There's something else going on in this prayer that would be very apparent to its readers. It's important for us to see this to get the tension. Jonah says, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God." He's quoting here one of the most famous confessions of God's identity in the history of Israel.
Exodus 34:6 - And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming,  “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
God is revealing here, not just His reality, not just His power, but His character...His heart. This was so sacred to Israel. This was the most prized revelation of God's identity in the history of their people. Any devout Jew knew these words by heart.  They knew these words like we know the words to the song, Happy Birthday.  Only Jonah leaves something out. This would be glaringly obvious to any Israelite reading this text.  Let’s compare the two texts...
Exodus 34:6 - the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Jonah 4:2 - I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,
What word is missing?  “faithfulness” 
What is going on here?  Did Jonah just make a mistake?  Was this simply an innocent omission?  I don’t think so.  Jonah is intentionally impugning the character of God.  He is saying (in effect) “Oh sure God, You abound in love, but what about faithfulness to Your Word?  You said You were going to punish Nineveh....well?  What about it?”
How does God respond?
God is so patient with Jonah. Jonah goes on this tirade and impugns God's character, and all God says in return is, "Is it right for you to be angry?"  Jonah doesn't give any answer. Jonah gives God the silent treatment.  (it may seem ridiculous to us, but don’t we often do the same thing when we ignore the clear Word of God?)  
In the next part of the story we are told Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city, and waited to see what’s going to happen. I think Jonah's still hoping...forty days...Nineveh is going to get blasted.
Then there's this odd little part of the story. If you've ever read through the book, you may have wondered about this. It is such a strange account. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. (4:6) That word "provided" is going to recur here, same word as provided a great fish back in the first chapter. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. (4:7)  That seems like a dirty, little trick, doesn't it?  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said,  “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (4:8)
But God said to Jonah,  (Here is that question again) “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”  “I do,” he said.  “I am angry enough to die.” (4:9)
Does that seem a little immature to you?  (me too)  It's like God's dealing with a five-year-old here. You understand there's something here going way, way deeper than Jonah just worrying about getting a sunburn or something.
God is trying to teach Jonah about His heart for people.  It's a funny thing, God seems to have have a harder time saving Jonah than He does saving Nineveh.  When Jesus came, the people that Jesus had the hardest time with were not the people that everybody considered the big sinners...not the prostitutes, not the tax collectors, not the people that you'd obviously associate with a place like Nineveh. The people Jesus had the hardest time with were people who considered themselves the spiritually mature. They had these superior, judgmental, unloving hearts. It's a funny thing.
People matter to God. The jobless person. The homeless person. The wealthy and successful person. They just matter to God. God is not like you & me. God doesn't look at categories like we do, and think, People in this category, they’re my kind of people. I like these kinds of people. But people in that category over there, I can let go of them without much pain. People matter to God. Depressed people. Educated people. Divorced people. People with different politics than yours. They all matter to God. Conservative people and liberal people. Muslims. Atheists. New Age people. Every color of skin. Asian people. Hispanic people. Caucasian people. African American people. Gay people. Old people. Young People.  All People matter to God. Every one of them!  And they should matter to us too.
Jeff Frazier

Thursday, July 18

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Yesterday we saw how Jonah obeyed God (even if he did not have the purest of hearts) and God used his act of obedience to reach the great city of Nineveh.

On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed:  “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  - Jonah 3:4-5

The point of the story is people of Nineveh are overwhelmed by an awareness of their sin. It's not because Jonah gave this eloquent sermon. It's just God. It's just the Spirit of God falling on people. Their hearts are broken, "Oh, God, we've been so far off track. We've been so wrong." They repent the best they know how...the best they know how.
God looks at this poor miserable people... We're told later on, when God talks about Nineveh, that this is a people who do not know their right from their left. That's a way of talking about people who do not know right from wrong, a people who are totally morally lost.  God, being God, is filled with compassion when He sees the Ninevites repent.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.          - Jonah 3:10
He has mercy on them and gives them His grace. He says, "I forgive."  They have turned away from their violence and their aggression and their sin, and they are repenting.  They are receiving grace. Now the story could end happily ever after, except for one tiny little problem (can you guess what it is?) - Jonah.
Jonah looks at all this... Now, you would think he'd be thrilled. This is the greatest spiritual achievement of his ministry. It is a whole great city of Assyrians, and they are brought to God through his preaching, and his wasn't even preaching wasn’t even any good; because when God moves it's not about human effort.  He has never been used by God like this. 
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  - Jonah 4:1
Jonah can't take it.  He thinks, “This cannot happen!  This should not happen!”  He looks at Nineveh repenting and being forgiven by God, and he says, "This is terrible, this isn’t right!"   The Hebrew text actually implies that Jonah saw it as “evil”.  Think about this for a moment, what is great to God, Nineveh being forgiven and receiving grace...appears evil to Jonah.
Jonah was okay when grace was being given to him, but now it's going to Nineveh.  Now Jonah is not okay.  Now Jonah is really mad.  Ann Lamott writes, "You can tell you have made God in your image when it turns out He hates all the same people you do."
I imagine Jonah thinking to himself -”C’mon God, You said You were going to blast them, and I took you at Your Word. I told them, 'Forty days, Nineveh and it's Sodom and Gomorrah’re all gonna get it!   Now it's not going to happen?  God, I'm going to look like a fool.  What’s worse is I'm going to go back to Israel, Your people, and it's going to look to Your people like I like the Ninevites. I don't like the Ninevites, God. I thought You didn't like them either.”
At the start of the any Israelite reading you and me, we think God's big problem in this book is, "What are you going to do about Nineveh?"  That is sin city.  Those people are degraded and vile.  We think God's big problem is, "What are you going to do about Nineveh, about those evil people over there?”
That's not God's big problem. God's big problem is, What am I going to do about Jonah?  What am I going to do about the man of God with a smug, superior, resentful heart?  What am I going to do about my own children who lack compassion and grace?  That's God's big problem.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one of God’s big problems.
Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, July 17

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Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”   - Jonah 3:1-4

We should stand and give Jonah a round of applause at this point, because it’s the only time in the story that Jonah gets things right. Everything else gets mixed up in his disobedience, his running away, and his stubborn pride.  But here, in this brief moment, Jonah finally obeys.  Now I want to pause and reflect on this for just a moment, because I know that we all get stuff wrong a lot of the time.  Like Paul says in Romans 7, we do the things we don’t want to do and we don’t do the things God wants us to do.

But amidst our struggles and failures, there are moments... moments when we get things right.  Moments when you resist the temptation to talk negatively about that person. Moments when you feel frustrated with your spouse, but you hold back your sharp tongue.  Moments when you might act lustfully or impulsively... and you resist.  It is important to know that in those moments, when we obey, even if it seems small  (even if it’s just one verse in the whole book of Jonah) it pleases God.  We need to know that our obedience matters... because it does. If Jonah didn’t obey God, if he didn’t go, we wouldn’t see what we are about to see happen in Nineveh.  So Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh.
But just because we obey God doesn’t mean the circumstances are going to be any less daunting. As soon as Jonah arrives in Nineveh, the reality of this situation sets in...Jonah travels one third of the way into town and stops (remember that the text says it would take 3 days to travel through the entire city).  He’s probably already frustrated; he’s probably seen more sin and evil than he can stand. And so he stops and gives what may be the shortest sermon in human history. It’s 8 words long—only 6 if you read it in the original Hebrew.  A six word sermon!?  
And Jonah’s message is incredibly vague. It lacks all the characteristic features of Old Testament prophecy. There is no word from the Lord, there is no naming of sins, there is no appeal for the victims of injustice.  And most importantly, there is no mention of God. What happened to “Go and proclaim the message I give you?”  What’s going on here?
Several Biblical scholars scholars think that even though Jonah obeys, he still has a prideful and stubborn heart, and he is unable to see any possible good coming out of this situation.  But as we have seen throughout this story, whenever we think things are heading down, God is up to something great!  (even in places like Nineveh)  After Jonah’s one day march and six word sermon, the text says, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” - Jonah 3:5a
The people farthest away from God. The people least likely to believe come to believe in God. And not just some of the people, it’s all of the people, even though Jonah is only 1/3 of the way through town.   And they didn’t just believe in God...
“They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”  - Jonah 3:5b
Sackcloth was an abrasive covering made of goat hair that was worn in public as a sign of repentance. Does that sound like something a respectable person would do? Is that something you would do?  Well here, even the people of privilege and power are doing this. Think of Donald Trump publicly fasting. Think Paris Hilton putting on sackcloth. These are public acts of conversion made by all the people of Nineveh.
“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.”   - Jonah 3:6
The king of Nineveh, of whom the prophet Nahum wrote,
“Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall.”
And here this brutal dictator gets off his throne, takes off his royal robes, and falls to his knees before the mercy of God. Now you might be thinking, “Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous.” But God is just getting started. God didn’t just reach the people, the nobles, and the king, God reached the very laws of the land.
And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything.  Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”   - Jonah 3:7-9

The point? - Never underestimate what God can do with one simple act of obedience!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, July 16

To download an audio version, click here.

The book of Jonah (which we are studying this week) is unique in that it is not primarily a record of the prophets words, but of the prophets interactions with God.  It is a story told in four parts/four chapters.  In chapter 1, Jonah runs from God because he does not want to go to Nineveh.  This chapter ends with Jonah being thrown overboard during a terrible storm at sea, and being swallowed by a great fish (sent by God).  In chapter 2, Jonah prays.  In fact, there is no plot action at all in this chapter, it is just Jonah’s prayer, but what a great prayer it is!  He cries out to God from the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea...and there in the depth, God hears Jonah.  He hears him and loves him and refuses to let him go.  So God causes the fish to spit Jonah back onto dry land, and Jonah is rescued from his own sin and death.  

God is up to some great things in the life of Jonah, so it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine what Jonah must now be thinking.  “Ah-ha! I’m alive. I’m covered in fish vomit, but I’m alive. God heard my prayer and he saved me. I should do something about this. I should write this down, I should write my spiritual memoirs, I’ll call it ‘Tuesdays with Jonah.’ But heck, why stop with just the story. I should build a church, right here where God delivered me, on the beach. Beautiful location, there’s lots of parking— wouldn’t that be a miracle. I’ll call it the Church of Whales, because that won’t be at all confusing.  And we’ll do baptisms by throwing people off boats, and we’ll have testimonies from pagan sailors,” and on and on and on...

It’s not hard to imagine that Jonah wants to get started on his new life. He wants to forget about all his past disobedience and move on to the bigger and better things, which is where we pick up our story from Jonah ...Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”   - Jonah 3:1-2
Does that sound like God has moved on to bigger and better things?  Not at all.  God has not moved on.  God is not going to just forget it.  God calls Jonah a second time, “Jonah, I want you to go to the great city of Nineveh.”  Do you notice that the focus in the call of Jonah is not really on the message (yet), it is on the word “GO”?  
Unfortunately, all too often we focus solely on the opposite word, “Stop.” I know too many Christians who think God’s primary focus is for them to stop doing this, stop doing that, stop, stop, stop. I hear this all the time when people tell their story of coming to faith, and they say something like, “I gave my life to Jesus and then I stopped...” and then give me the list of sins they’ve tried to put off.
Don’t misunderstand this, it’s a really, really good thing to put off habits and behaviors that are sinful or harmful or not of God. But the heart of Christian discipleship is not the word stop.  If it was, we’d all be better off just staying home and hiding in the basement. The heart of Christian discipleship is the word “GO.”
When God calls Abraham, he says, I want you to leave behind your city, your family, your stuff.... and “Go.” When God calls Moses, I want you to stop being a shepherd in Midian and “Go” back to Egypt.  After his resurrection, Jesus told his followers, “Just as the Father sent me, I am sending you.”  In other words, “GO!”
At the heart of Christianity there is a movement, an outward focus, a going that we can easily forget as we face the demands of our lives, but God doesn’t forget why he has called and saved Jonah... to go...And where is Jonah called to go?  To Nineveh, which, as you know, is not a good place to be going. 
God says, “That’s where we are going.” And when you get there, God says, I have a new message for you. If you remember back to the first time God called Jonah, he told him to “Go to the great city of Nineveh” and what... “Preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
And Nineveh, indeed, was a horrible place. This is the empire whose armies ravaged the northern tribes of Israel and left the dead bodies piled up along the roads. If any city in the world at that time deserved judgment from a holy God, it would be Nineveh.  But now God says, “Go to the great city of Nineveh” and what... “Proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Now I don’t think this means God is getting soft on sin. But God is telling Jonah, “I still want you to go to the Nineveh, but when you get there I want you to stop and listen closely to me, because I have a particular message for the people of Nineveh, one that you might not expect... one that you might not come up with on your own... one that might surprise you... because God is up to something great.  
And so Jonah goes...and so we too go where God leads and speak the message God gives us - The Gospel!
Jeff Frazier

Monday July 15

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The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.   - Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah was a prophet; he was not a priest. Priests served in the temple. They offered sacrifices. They led worship. A prophet was different kind of character altogether.  A prophet was a reformer, an activist.  Prophets were often asked to do and say hard things, and they were rarely ever appreciated for their role.  Israel always had a lot of priests, but generally just one prophet at a time because that was all Israel could stand.
One day the Word of the Lord comes to this prophet Jonah. Life is not easy when you are a prophet. The Word comes to Jonah and says, "Go to Nineveh." When you hear from God, and sometimes you will, it may be just three little words, but they can change your life. "Go to Nineveh." Jonah was a prophet, but he was a prophet to Israel, for crying out loud.  Why should he go to Nineveh?  If God wanted him to prophesy against that wicked city, why couldn’t he just do it from Israel?   But the Word of the Lord comes to him, "Go to Nineveh and preach." It's very striking how this is expressed.  Not go to Nineveh and preach to it; go to Nineveh and preach against it, the text says.  This is a very daunting task.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. In the seventh and eighth centuries BC, Assyria was the great world power. It chewed up and spit out countries right and left.  It would put the populations of countries that it defeated on death marches.  It practiced genocide basically as state policy.  When Israel was split into two sections, there was a northern kingdom, ten tribes up there, and the southern kingdom, just two tribes. The northern kingdom, those ten tribes, was captured and basically obliterated, by Assyria.  the southern kingdom had to pay tribute to Assyria and they would have made those payments directly to the city of Nineveh.
Assyria was hated so much...this is what a prophet named Nahum said about Nineveh, which is the capital, kind of embodied Assyria, "Woe to Nineveh" (Nahum 3) "woe to the city of blood...full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims, piles of dead." Now think about this, "...bodies without number, people stumbling over corpses...your injury is fatal."  Nahum here is predicting the fall of Nineveh. "...your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?"  Nineveh is so hated. Not just cruelty, but endless cruelty. When it is destroyed Nahum says, people are going clap; they are going to stand up and clap.
If you want to understand how an Israelite felt about Nineveh, think of Al- Qaeda, think of Nazi Germany, think of a power that killed your children, enslaved your brother, brutalized your sister. Nahum said very, very strong condemning words about Nineveh, but where do you think Nahum was when he said those words? He was in Israel. He was a long ways away from Nineveh.
Then the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah, "Go to Nineveh."  Learn to speak Assyrian and tell them face to face that they're facing judgment. Jonah says, "Lord, Nahum got to taunt them from a distance. Couldn't we like send them a telegram or something?" "The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, 'Go to Nineveh.'"
How did the Word come?  Was it a burning bush?  Was it a still small voice?  Was it an angel?  Was it a vision?  Was it a dream?  Was there room for doubt or discussion?  The text doesn't say.  Was there a Mrs. Jonah?  If so what did she think about all of this?  The text doesn't say.  It just says the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, "Go to Nineveh."
Nineveh was not at all in Jonah's comfort zone.  What do you do when God asks you to "Go to Nineveh."? Nineveh is the place God calls you to where you do not want to go. Nineveh is the person you don’t want to face.  It is the issue in your life that you don’t want to deal with.  How do you respond?  Because God will say that to you.
We know how Jonah responded, he ran, he ran away from God.  This is really a pretty ridiculous thing to do when you think about it...God is omnipresent!  Where is he going to go? 
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.   - Psalm 139:7-10

But Jonah knows this about God, he knows that he can’t really get way from Him.  He is running to get away from his own awareness of God’s presence in his life (do you ever do this?), so he heads in the exact opposite direction, for the city of Tarshish.   Nineveh is located in Northeastern Iraq today, Tarshish was a wealthy seaport in Spain!  This was the opposite end of the known world!  Tarshish was well known for it’s prosperity and wealth through trade.  Perhaps Jonah thought he was running to a place of security and comfort...but what often seems safe and secure from a human perspective, turns out to be trouble.  

Jonah will eventually learn that the only truly safe place in this life is in the center of God’s will!

What do you do when God calls you to "Go to Nineveh."Do run toward Him or do you run away?

Jeff Frazier

Friday, July 12

Our apologies - there will be no audio today.

I think that one of the greatest examples of the sufficiency of Christ is found in Judges 7 when Gideon goes into battle against the Midianites.  This is Judges 7: 1-7

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.”

Imagine being Gideon for a moment.  You have been called in the midst of your weakness to lead Israel against the Midian oppressors and in response you have amassed a large army to free your people.  You are likely filled with fear and anticipation as the battle approaches, battling between the trust you want to have in the One who called you and the doubt that you have in your own ability to overcome what is in front of you.  In this moment, some reassurance would be great.  Before the big moment arrives, God tells you that you have “too many men.”  That seems hard to believe given the years of suffering and the brutality that your people have suffered at the hand of the Midianites.  Too many men sounds like a good thing.  It increases your chances for victory and offers hope to those going into battle.  It really seems impossible to have “too many men” given the circumstances and yet that is exactly what God tells Gideon.

The results are incredible.  God takes an army of over 32,000 men prepared for battle and reduces them to a group of 300 men.  This is hardly an army.  This is just a large mob but this is what God intends.  Now the promise that the Angel of the Lord made to Gideon in chapter 6 (16) saying, “I will be with you, and we will strike down all the Midianites…” is about to come to fruition.  You will need to read the rest of Judges chapter 7 to see how the battle unfolds but once again, Christ is up to the task that he has called Gideon to.

The question I want to consider this morning is “why”.  Why did God chose to reduce Gideon’s army to a mere 300 men when over 32,000 had responded to go into battle?  We have been talking about the sufficiency of Christ all week and now we see the culmination of this in Gideon’s life.  Now that Gideon’s army has been reduced to a fraction of the original group, it is clear that the results will be determined by something other than himself, that his call with be fulfilled in the person of Christ.  When the battle was over and the victory was won, it would be clear that God had provided and that Christ was in fact sufficient.

I believe that we often times experience a similar reality in our own lives.  It is very easy in a culture of surplus to apply credit to anyone other than Christ for the victories that we experience in life.  As a matter of fact, the fact that Christ is sufficient can easily be lost on us because we live with dependence on so many other sources other than Christ.  There are times in life that we experience a season of “reduction” similar to what Gideon experienced.  Perhaps it is a loss of a job, or a relationship that deteriorates or our health or any other number of things that we have come to count on but in one way or another, our army is reduced.  Without a doubt, this is often times painful, sometimes embarrassing and never welcomed but in the midst of the reduction, we experience Christ.  It is when we lose our ability to count on everything else that we discover that the victory is ultimately God’s to begin with and that Christ is sufficient.  There is no better place to be. 

Pastor Sterling Moore

Thursday, July 11

Our apologies - there will be no audio today.

This morning I want to return to the experience of Gideon in Judges 6 and his interaction with the Angel of the Lord.  Begin by reading Judges 6:1-12

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land.10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joashthe Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges chapter 6 reminds that Israel at the time had lived in oppression for over 7 years.  The Midianites had left Israel with next to nothing.  In order to merely survive, they were forced to hide out in mountain clefts and caves.  Their crops were destroyed, their homes were taken over and they existed in their own land in a place of weakness.  Gideon himself, when the Angel of the Lord spoke to him, was attempting to thresh wheat in a winepress in order to hide his effort to gain food from the Midianites.  The Angel of the Lord greets Gideon in verse 11 saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  This must have been one of those moments when Gideon looked around to see if there was anyone else standing there.  Mighty warrior seems like a bit of exaggeration for a guy who is hiding in a winepress in order to avoid his enemy.

I think this is an important detail in Gideon’s experience with Christ.  Gideon’s immediate objection later in Judges 6 implies that he did not see himself as a mighty warrior at all.  He could not fathom that he would be the leader that God would use to free Israel from the oppression of Midian.  The title that the Angel of the Lord greeted Gideon with did not fit Gideon’s own view of himself, however, it was not what Gideon saw in this interaction that mattered, but rather what the Angel of the Lord knew.  Gideon could only see what he knew about himself but the Angel of the Lord saw something more, He saw who Gideon was in Christ, and what Gideon was capable of through Christ.  He was in fact, a mighty warrior.

The same is true for us.  I am often limited by my awareness of my failures and shortcomings.  The good news is that God has been in the business of calling those who are weak in order to be used by Him.  The disciples are the perfect example.  There was nothing about that group of men that anyone believed had the potential to change the world.  Acts 4 records how the leaders of Israel saw Peter and John saying, “They were unschooled and ordinary men” and could only explain the impact of their leadership and the message that they shared by noting that “these men had been with Jesus”.  The call of God in our lives in not limited to that which we are capable of.  Often times we will find ourselves being called in the midst of our weakness.  Much like Gideon and the disciples, our potential for kingdom impact has far less to do with who we are and much more to do with who Christ is.  This is where we experience the confidence and freedom that comes with our call to go, knowing full well that it is Christ who goes with us and it is Christ who ultimately accomplishes the call.  We too can say with Paul about his calling in Christ, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corthinians 2:9).

Pastor Sterling Moore

Wednesday, July 10

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Psalm 34:1-8

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

These words were written by King David.  David writes this Psalm under duress.  Saul has become completely jealous of David and the popularity that he has gained in the kingdom and has already made attempts to kill David.  David has no option but to flee and it is in the midst of all of this that David writes these words...” The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

It is very easy to live completely consumed by fear and if we are honest, there is a lot to be afraid of.  Watching the news for 30 minutes in the evening seems to breed fear.  There are reports of violence all around us, unrest in unstable nations, economic concerns, environmental issues and it goes on and on.  Everyday it feels like I hear about how the air we breath and the food that we eat is killing us.  It’s overwhelming.  If you have children, the fear has a tendency to increase exponentially.  Will we be able to protect them, to provide for them, etc?  We can find ourselves living in a culture dominated by fear and it can become crippling to our faith and to our lives.

Psalm 34 and the presence of the Angel of the Lord speaks directly into this culture of fear.  David has every right to be afraid.  The most powerful man in the Kingdom of Israel has decided that he wants David dead and there is very little that David can do to convince him otherwise.  But this would not be the fear that would define David.  David describes the Angel of the Lord as “encamping around those who fear him”.  David’s concern was rightly placed.  Even in an effort to preserve his own life, David’s primary concern was to honor God above all. He understood what it meant to “fear the Lord” above all else.  The result of this for David is clear....deliverance.  David was delivered from his fear and would ultimately be delivered from his enemy.  This of course is not a promise that we will be delivered from experiences of pain and sorrow, we know too well that this is not the case, but rather the we will not be left alone in our fear.  The fear of the Lord for David produced a fuller perspective of his circumstances. He was able to see more that the threats that were surrounding him.  He was able to see how the Angel of the Lord was protecting and providing for Him in the midst of the threats and as a result, he exclaims “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

Jesus is the sufficient one.  He know our fears and meets us in the midst of them.  He redirects out attention back to matters of first priority so that we like David can experience our deliverance in Him.  Then we too will say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Sterling Moore