Wednesday, September 30

From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.  - Matthew 4:17

Jesus preached that the Kingdom of heaven had come near, that it was at hand...but when we look around at the state our world is in, sometimes it is hard to see evidence of the kingdom of heaven.
Where is the Kingdom??

Whenever a young child opens his/her heart to God and trusts in Jesus...there is the kingdom!

Whenever a man gets off of the couch to climb the stairs to his child’s room in order to kneel and pray... there is the kingdom!

When a family adopts an unwanted child and raises that child in the knowledge of a loving God... there is the kingdom!

When a woman who has been abused and tossed aside her whole life learns to trust again through the love of Christ... there is the kingdom!

When a person battling addiction discovers that in Christ there really is hope for recovery and freedom... there is the kingdom!

When a young executive refuses to cut corners in his career because he desires to please God more than men... there is the kingdom!

When an older man reaches out to a teenage boy who has lost his father, to encourage him and pray with him, and be a father  figure to him... there is the kingdom!

When a couple on the verge of ending their marriage after 15 years discovers that Christ can put the broken pieces of their marriage back together... there is the kingdom!

When a child with special needs is played with, laughed with and loved on by a volunteer... there is the kingdom!

When a teenage girl decides to be baptized in the jungles of Ecuador in front of all her friends, because that is where she first learn to trust God... there is the kingdom!

When a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, finds that someone from her church has paid her rent for the next 2 months... there is the kingdom!

When a man brings $500 worth of Meijer gift cards to the church every few months so that families in need can go shopping... there is the kingdom!

When a suburban family sells their home and their business to follow the call of God to move to Ecuador and start a skate church for street kids... there is the kingdom!

When 700 people give up a few hours on a Sunday to pack thousands of meals for hungry children... there is the kingdom!

Wherever sin is confessed,
relationships are reconciled,
the hurting are comforted,
marriages are restored,
praises are sung,
prayers are offered,
God’s word is applied,
captives are set free,
God is worshipped,
the Gospel is preached,
and Christ is glorified...There is the Kingdom!!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, September 29

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  - John 1:1-5

The Gospel of John was penned by the aged Apostle in about 85 AD. It was the last of the four Gospels to be written. At the time John wrote his gospel, 50 years had passed since Christ has been on the earth. John sits with pen in hand and the Holy Spirit brings back memories.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John didn’t make a single mistake and he didn’t forget a thing!  By the time this book was circulated among the Christian community, the other Gospels were household words. People the world over had already the accounts of the life of Christ as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. These first three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels. The word "synoptic" means "to see together." This means that the first three Gospels contain many of the same stories and teachings, but told from a different angle. Yet, each fully inspired by the Lord.

John's Gospel is different! In the pages of this wonderful book, we see a side of Christ that the other Gospel writers do not touch on in quite the same way.

When Jesus came preaching repentance (Mark 1:15) people thought He was strange. When He began to heal and perform miracles, they thought He was a prophet sent by God, (John 3:2).  When He spoke the Word of God with power, men thought He was amazing (Luke 4:36). However, when Jesus claimed equality with God, men thought He was crazy.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”  - John 19:7

He stopped being a blessing or a curiosity and became a controversy when He claimed to be God, John 14:9!

People still grapple with these truths!  They are willing to accept the humble Christ, the teaching Christ, the meek Christ, the dead Christ, the serving Christ. However, they will not give acknowledgment to the God/Man Jesus Christ. He is still 100 % God and 100% man all wrapped up in one. It is best summed up by Paul in Phil. 2:5-8. In these amazing verses, the Apostle sets forth in clear, concise language, the fact that Jesus existed before Bethlehem. That He willing humbled Himself and came to this world in the condition of a servant. Jesus is God in human flesh!

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  - Philippians 2:5-8

Jeff Frazier

Monday, September 28

Mark 1:15  - “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 6:12 - They went out and preached that people should repent.
Luke 3:3 - He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:8 - Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
Luke 5:32 - I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What do you think of when you hear the word “repent”? Does it sound like an old fashioned church word to you? Do you immediately think of an angry preacher pounding the pulpit and shouting for people to repent of their sin? Maybe you have no idea at all what this word is supposed to mean. I think that most people (even Christians) simply don’t understand the nature of true repentance. 

Martin Luther once said that “most stare blinking at the doctrine of repentance like a cow stares at a new gate.”

Whatever it is, repentance seems to be pretty important to Jesus! Most of us think it means being really, really sorry for the wrong things we have done, or feeling really guilty all of the time, or living with a vague sense of general self-loathing. While it is true that the Bible teaches that we are all sinners, it also teaches that we are created in the image of God and loved with an everlasting love through Christ! The biblical concept of repentance is not just about the first half of that message.

Take the often quoted verse Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Do you realize that the very next verse (which is actually a continuation of the same thought) says, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”? Too many Christians think that repentance is only dealing with the first verse (3:23), but true repentance means to live in light of both verses (sin-3:23 & grace-3:24)! The Gospel is supposed to be the “Good News”, but the announcement that “all have sinned” is not really very good news (it is not even news) without also telling them that their sin can be forgiven and wiped clean by the free grace of God in Christ!
True repentance does not mean we must go through life beating ourselves up spiritually for being sinners. It means that while we cannot rationalize, ignore or justify our sin, we can be lifted out of it by the one who gives us divine grace!

The apostle Paul tells us that it is the kindness of God leads us toward repentance. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? -Romans 2:4

Sin, guilt, judgment and death are in the Bible, but they are only half of the story and these words will not bring anyone to true repentance without the second half of the story. The second is the part about grace, forgiveness, mercy, joy, hope and freedom!

It is only when we can truly acknowledge the first half (our sin and guilt) that we begin to experience the power of the second half (God’s forgiveness and grace). When you put these two together in the human heart, you get true repentance!

Oh Lord God you are high and exalted. You are the Holy One and the Lord of all creation. We are weak and corrupt and undeserving creatures. Yet you have poured out your love on us through Jesus. Teach us the meaning of true repentance that we might become humble and joyful servants – Amen. 

Jeff Frazier

Friday, September 25

Throughout this week we have been examining different aspects of the story of the temptation of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke in order to learn how we should handle temptations in our own lives. Look closely at how the story in Luke’s gospel ends.

Luke 4:13 – And when the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

That is interesting isn’t it? Apparently the devil was not yet done trying to tempt Jesus. Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that they should eventually grow out of temptation when they reach a certain maturity level. I have talked with Christians who become terribly depressed and even doubt their own faith when a particular temptation (which they thought they were beyond) returns to plague them. It should encourage you to know that Jesus himself, while He lived on this earth, was not beyond the repeated temptation to veer off of the path God had set for Him.

Look back at Luke 4:13 again…what was the opportune time that Satan was waiting for in order to tempt Jesus again? 

In Matthew 16, Jesus predicted His own death to His disciples. Peter got really upset about this and told Jesus that he would never let this happen and that Jesus shouldn’t talk that way. In Matthew16:23 we read; Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

But the greatest temptation of all for our Lord has to have been His great struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. The gospel accounts of this struggle (Matt. 26, Mark 14 & Luke 22) do not mention the devil being there tempting Jesus, but it is clear that He was battling the temptation not to go through with what awaited Him at the cross the next day. So strong was this temptation for Jesus that He was actually pleading with God to take it away from Him!

On one hand it may be a bit discouraging to realize that we never completely grow out of or beyond temptation. But on the other hand, isn’t it a great comfort and source of strength to know that your Savior also faced repeated temptations to find some out of or around what God wanted Him to do!?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16

Do you believe that Jesus is really able to sympathize with your weaknesses?

Where in your life do you need to receive His mercy & grace?

Do you have this confidence to approach His throne of Grace?

Take a few moments to thank & praise God for your great high priest – Jesus!

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, September 24

Begin your time with God by reading the following verses.
Luke 4:5 - Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone.”
Luke 4:8 – Jesus answered, “It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
Luke 4:12 – Jesus answered, “It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

These three little verses contain the three responses of Jesus to the three temptations of Satan. Each time he was tempted, Jesus responded with Scripture. Interestingly, Satan himself even quotes a passage of Scripture and tries to twist its meaning it in order to tempt Jesus. But it is pretty hard to trick Jesus (who is the living Word) by using the Word of God. 

We ordinary humans are much easier to trick, distract and tempt. This is all the more reason that we should be feeding on the Word of God. If Jesus found it necessary to use Scripture to deal with His temptation, don’t you think it might be helpful for you too? 

But there is a bit of a problem here – Evangelical Christians have often greatly misunderstood how this actually works in the Christian life. Somehow we have developed this idea that if we know just the right verse at just the right time, we will be able to supernaturally repel the particular temptation we are facing at the moment. It doesn’t work that way. The Scriptures are not magical incantations against temptation, they are not magic words or a spell that repel the devil. (remember that the devil also quoted Scripture!) Jesus was not engaged in some kind of cosmic spiritual wizards duel! 

The reason that Jesus responds with the Scripture when He is tempted is because that is what was inside of Him! He saw the world from a Biblical point of view and when the devil tried to cloud His vision and tempt Him, He (Jesus) was able to naturally respond with the power of the Living Word inside of Him.

What does this mean for us? It means that we do not read the Bible simply in order to find a few individual verses that will help us when we think we need it. The Bible is not meant to be a means to your end. We read the Scriptures in order to be changed from the inside out! We read the Word of God in order to begin to transform our way of thinking! We study the Bible in order to see the world differently!

Psalm 119:9-11 - How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The passage above from Psalm 119 is part of the longest chapter in the entire Bible. There are 176 verses in this Psalm! Do you know what the entire chapter is about? It is about the Word of God. The whole thing is devoted to the beauty, power, purpose and authority of God’s Word.

Close your time with God by thanking Him for giving you His Word.
Ask Him to help your mind and heart to be transformed through the power of His Word.
Close your time by echoing the final words of Psalm 119 as your prayer to God.

Jeff Frazier