Saturday, July 30, 2016

HOPE! - Signs and Wonders

The official says he believes Jesus, but he doesn’t believe in Jesus until later, not until after he sees his son healed. He says he believes in the words of Jesus – that he will keep his promise and that he’s not lying to him – but he doesn’t truly believe in Jesus himself until he sees the sign – his son is healed.

When Jesus first meets this official, he seems slightly annoyed with him. This might seem a bit harsh, as this man’s son was dying of disease and he was desperate for some help. But it is only because of his son’s near-death experience that this royal official even needs Jesus. He would have gotten along just fine without Jesus had his son not gotten so sick. Jesus is aware of this. This is why he says to the man, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

And John reminds his readers that Jesus had said before that “only in his home town is a prophet not honored.” This event took place in Cana, a town that is very near to Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. In both places, it seems, people knew who Jesus was his whole life. They were familiar with him and they didn’t have much faith in him because they had gotten used to having him around. They knew there was something special about him, but they didn’t really care about what he did or said unless it benefited them somehow personally.

They were a bit like the Pharisees. They wanted Jesus to perform signs and wonders in order to prove himself to them… or even for their own entertainment. They thought they could get Jesus to alter his purpose and ministry to suit their whims.

The royal official in this story is no different. He sees Jesus as someone who can meet his needs, in this case legitimate needs, but he doesn’t see him for who he really is or care about him personally. And Jesus calls him out on this.  But Jesus also has compassion on the man and his son. He doesn’t turn them away. He heals the boy anyway. Even though the man may have not given Jesus a full embrace at this time, Jesus turns around and gives him a full embrace anyway. He heals his son… and he does so immediately.

And the man believes the words of Jesus when he says his son has been healed. And once he goes home and sees the proof, his belief begins to grow. He begins to realize who Jesus actually is, and what it means to have true faith in Jesus. Not just acknowledging his promises, but living those promises out in real life. Seeking out Jesus not only during the desperate times, but during the good times as well. Loving Jesus for who he is, and not just for what we can get out of him. And this new life becomes a reality not just for the official but for his son as well. And not just his son either, but John tells us that his whole household is saved. His whole family comes to love Jesus for who he is.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

PRAY IT! Thirst Things First - John 4:39-54

Jesus had an honest conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.  The woman at the well then had an honest conversation with the people in her town.  The chain reaction that happens when we let the Holy Spirit move through us as we spread the Gospel message layered with our story is not one we want to just read about, it is one we want to experience now.

And it is possible.

But we need to pray.

As we transition from the story of the woman at the well to the story of the official's son who was healed, we follow along our constant:  Jesus.

John 4:47:  "When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death" (NIV).

What did this man do?
He heard.  He was listening.  He was aware.  He was ready.
He went.  He moved.  He was active.
He begged.  He petitioned Jesus.  Like it mattered.  Because it did.

If we truly want to see, live in, and experience our city, transformed, in the same way Jesus transformed the Samaritan woman's town, we must endeavor to be aware - keeping our eyes and ears fixed on Jesus AND our city.  But being aware is not enough.  Our awareness MUST prompt us to action.  And when we intercede on behalf of our city, we should be praying urgently, as though we believe that

1.) There's a lot at stake (because, there is...) and

2.)  That we have a God who is worthy to be prayed to... and that we have a God who can do something about it (because He is... because we do).

Urging you this week to consider ways WE can pray TOGETHER sincerely and urgently for our city to know Jesus, and for our church to be one that hears the voice of God and the cry of the city, and that goes out to the city.

1 Timothy 2:1-4:  "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Pastor Celia

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

FAMILY IT!--Wednesday Family Devotional--"Thirst Things First"

People are watching, listening, waiting for our stories! We live in a world that is hungry for Jesus and each of us has a beautiful story of how Jesus has impacted our lives. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get nervous sharing. I never know what parts of my story to tell, I wonder if it’s the right time to tell it and of course, wonder if they’re going to think I’m some crazy lady and then never speak to me again. Sometimes too the word "testimony" can be intimidating…like it has to be this well-worded, beautiful story with amazing visuals and an ending where everyone is left in awe. Now that can happen, but your testimony is just your story, part of your story and a summary of your story. You speak it and let Jesus leave them in awe. 

I get less nervous when I think about the impact my story could have; people coming to know Jesus is bigger than my nerves or my fears. This is someone or many people’s eternity we’re talking about. The very cool story of the woman at the well gives us a glimpse of what happens when we tell our story: 

John 4:39-43 ‘Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” 

MANY of the Samaritans…not just one or two, many people in that town believed in Christ because of this woman’s testimony. She was so excited and touched by her encounter with Jesus that she shared it, probably with passion! Like the Samaritan woman, we can see people believe in Jesus because of our testimony. 
Imagine the impact that your testimony could have! Could it impact friends, family? God can and does use our stories to bring people to know Him. Through something you say a friend could become a Christian, a family member, your whole family…your child’s whole class could believe in Jesus through them! It’s good to have our testimonies ready to share, but also we need to be telling people about our encounters with God as they happen! As prayers are answered, as God provides, as He works in your life, share those awesome and exciting stories!
This week as a family at some point…around the dinner table, before bedtime, while on a walk playing Pokemon Go!...share the names of the people you would like to see come to know Jesus personally. Also, talk about and even practice sharing your testimony! What would you say to a family member or a friend that doesn’t know Jesus? What would you tell them Jesus has done for you? What is something that has happened recently that you could share that might let people know how awesome God is! 

Enjoy your time with the Lord as a family!
Featuring guest writer Jessica Whisler

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

EXPLORE IT! - John 4:43-54

After staying in Samaria, Jesus then travels back to Galilee where the people welcome him.

He goes to Cana, the same place where he turned the water to wine at a wedding, and there he meets a royal official who asks him to heal his sick son.

And Jesus seems annoyed because people only seem to believe in him if he performs miracles.

Nevertheless, Jesus says the boy will be healed.

And The official goes back home to find his boy well again.

It is unclear if this is the same event that takes place in Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-13. In those Gospels, Jesus heals in a very similar fashion the servant of a Centurion. Despite the extreme similarities of these stories, there are enough key differences that most scholars believe that these were actually two separate events. Jesus didn’t heal people just one time after all. He did so throughout his ministry.

According to John, this is Jesus' second miracle (after the Marriage in Cana). It is also the second of seven miracles that John documents for us in his Gospel.

John’s Gospel was most likely written for the Johannine community living in Asia Minor. One of the main headquarters of the church at the time this Gospel was written was in the city of Pergamum. And this Gospel has been custom made for those living in Asia Minor at this time. Jesus’ story is laid out in such a way as to show Jesus’ superiority over the various local pagan gods.

In both this story as well as the next story where Jesus heals the crippled man at the pool, we see that Jesus has the power and authority to heal people and to make them whole again. The Greeks had a god who healed – the god Asclepius. But John is showing his Greek audience – and us as well – that Jesus is not inferior to gods like Asclepius. Jesus can heal people too, and he does a much better job of it! John is proving to us that Jesus is superior to all other gods.

Monday, July 25, 2016

READ IT! - Thirst Things First (week 9)

Jesus is the restorer – the healer of all things and people. He has compassion on us even when we don’t see him for who he really is. How has God healed you? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah: Deuteronomy 31:30 – 32:43
From the Former Prophets: 2 Kings 4:8-37
From the Latter Prophets: Isaiah 38:1-22
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Psalm 103:1-22
From the Late Books: Daniel 4:28-37
From the Gospels: John 4:43-54
From the Epistles: Philippians 2:19-30

From the Torah

And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
    hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he.

They are corrupt and not his children;
    to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.
Is this the way you repay the Lord,
    you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
    who made you and formed you?

Remember the days of old;
    consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
    your elders, and they will explain to you.
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of Israel.
For the Lord’s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted inheritance.
In a desert land he found him,
    in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
    he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
    and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
    and carries them aloft.

The Lord alone led him;
    no foreign god was with him.
He made him ride on the heights of the land
    and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock,
    and with oil from the flinty crag,
with curds and milk from herd and flock
    and with fattened lambs and goats,
with choice rams of Bashan
    and the finest kernels of wheat.
You drank the foaming blood of the grape.
Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
    filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.

They abandoned the God who made them
    and rejected the Rock their Savior.
They made him jealous with their foreign gods
    and angered him with their detestable idols.
They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
    gods they had not known,
    gods that recently appeared,
    gods your ancestors did not fear.
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
    you forgot the God who gave you birth.
The Lord saw this and rejected them
    because he was angered by his sons and daughters.

“I will hide my face from them,” he said,
    “and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
    children who are unfaithful.
They made me jealous by what is no god
    and angered me with their worthless idols.
I will make them envious by those who are not a people;
    I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.
For a fire will be kindled by my wrath,
    one that burns down to the realm of the dead below.
It will devour the earth and its harvests
    and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

“I will heap calamities on them
    and spend my arrows against them.
I will send wasting famine against them,
    consuming pestilence and deadly plague;
I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts,
    the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.
In the street the sword will make them childless;
    in their homes terror will reign.
The young men and young women will perish,
    the infants and those with gray hair.
I said I would scatter them
    and erase their name from human memory,
but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy,
    lest the adversary misunderstand
and say, ‘Our hand has triumphed;
    the Lord has not done all this.’”

They are a nation without sense,
    there is no discernment in them.
If only they were wise and would understand this
    and discern what their end will be!
How could one man chase a thousand,
    or two put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
    unless the Lord had given them up?
For their rock is not like our Rock,
    as even our enemies concede.
Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
    and from the fields of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are filled with poison,
    and their clusters with bitterness.
Their wine is the venom of serpents,
    the deadly poison of cobras.

“Have I not kept this in reserve
    and sealed it in my vaults?
It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
    In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
    and their doom rushes upon them.”

The Lord will vindicate his people
    and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
    and no one is left, slave or free.
He will say: “Now where are their gods,
    the rock they took refuge in,
the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices
    and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise up to help you!
    Let them give you shelter!

“See now that I myself am he!
    There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
    I have wounded and I will heal,
    and no one can deliver out of my hand.
I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
    As surely as I live forever,
when I sharpen my flashing sword
    and my hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
    and repay those who hate me.
I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
    while my sword devours flesh:
the blood of the slain and the captives,
    the heads of the enemy leaders.”

Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
    for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
    and make atonement for his land and people.

Deuteronomy 31:30–32:43

From the Former Prophets

One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’”

She replied, “I have a home among my own people.”

“What can be done for her?” Elisha asked.

Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. He said to his father, “My head! My head!”

His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

“Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”

“That’s all right,” she said.

She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”

“Everything is all right,” she said.

When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”

“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”

But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.

Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

2 Kings 4:8-37

From the Latter Prophets

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

“‘This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery:

I said, “In the prime of my life
    must I go through the gates of death
    and be robbed of the rest of my years?”

I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
    in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
    or be with those who now dwell in this world.
Like a shepherd’s tent my house
    has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
    and he has cut me off from the loom;
    day and night you made an end of me.
I waited patiently till dawn,
    but like a lion he broke all my bones;
    day and night you made an end of me.
I cried like a swift or thrush,
    I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
    I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”

But what can I say?
    He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
    because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things people live;
    and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
    and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
    that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
    from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
    behind your back.
For the grave cannot praise you,
    death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
    cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, the living—they praise you,
    as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
    about your faithfulness.
The Lord will save me,
    and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
    in the temple of the Lord.

Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.”

Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign that I will go up to the temple of the Lord?”

Isaiah 38:1-22

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

Of David.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Psalm 103:1-22

From the Late Books

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Daniel 4:28-37

From the Gospels

After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

John 4:43-54

From the Epistles

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

Philippians 2:19-30