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What They Say. What He Says.

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week Jesus, having informed his disciples that Lazarus was already dead (John 11:14), decided nevertheless to go to his friends in Bethany near Jerusalem.  We see in John 11:17-20 that, when Jesus arrives, Lazarus had already been dead for four days.  We also see the presence of “many Jews” with Mary and Martha.  They’ve come to console the sisters in the death of their brother.  So, Jesus arrives in the area in a public way with many witnesses to attest to the timing of his arrival and the pre-existent fact of Lazarus’ death and burial.  This is important because what’s about to happen is so amazing… so profound… that people might have a really hard time believing it had actually happened –if there weren’t so many eyewitnesses.


But before we get to what happens, we need to examine some astonishing things that people say about Jesus at this moment… and what he says about himself.  That’s the whole point of this study:  To answer the question, “Is Jesus who he says he is?”


To begin, Martha goes out to meet Jesus as he is arriving in Bethany.  Look what she says:

  • “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” -John 11:21-22


If you listen carefully to people, you begin to recognize that they speak from the perspective of their own beliefs about reality.  They bring certain assumptions to bear on what they say.  Let’s consider some of what Martha reveals about her beliefs in this simple yet stunning statement:  First, she clearly believes that Jesus could have preserved Lazarus’ life “had he been there.”  Second, she believes that God hears and honors every request Jesus makes.  Third, she believes that “even now” --though Lazarus is already dead, Jesus could still receive whatever he asks for from God.  Note that Martha is making no assumptions about what Jesus’ will is or whether he would ask God for anything…  her statement reflects a simple but deep faith in Jesus’ position with God and a complete dependence on and acceptance of his will for the outcome.  Look how Jesus responds:

  • “Your brother will rise again.” -John 11:23


Ever gone to a funeral and heard someone say, “well, at least they’re in a better place?”  It seems like the polite catch-all thing to say when you don’t know what else to say at a funeral.  And do we suppose that the person who says such a thing has any confidence at all about whether what they’ve said is true?  But here, at Lazarus’ funeral, Jesus is not doling out canned pleasantries to make Martha feel better.  What he says here is just a simple reality confidently expressed.  He’s so certain of the fact of Lazarus’ imminent resurrection that he doesn’t even sense the need to say something like “surely” or, “I promise,” or even the now-famous “truly, truly.”  Jesus just casually lays out a simple statement of the truth of what will come to be known as one of the most amazing events in all human history.  Yet Jesus expresses it so casually that Martha misses the point at first, as we will see.  


There’s so much more to examine in this conversation.  Until next week!  We love you.


Dean A.

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The Pastor's Posts
A Day of Celebration?

Roe v. Wade has been overturned and for many friends and family I know that this is a time of celebration. If you feel like this is a win for life and the sanctity of the life God has created then you and I are thrilled that this decision has been handed down.


I also know that I have friends and family that are concerned about this ruling and the impact that it will have on our communities and for those who are hurting. Not everyone who is “pro-choice” sits on the side of abortion as a beautiful option. These feelings and concerns need to be heard as well, because ultimately this ruling will have an impact on our community.


So, how do we respond as a church?


We live in a part of the country that is relatively quiet so we may not experience the protests and rally’s that other parts are experiencing. But, as we are like other churches we are filled with people with varying opinions. And we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. So, as a church we will: love one another as Christ loved us, we will be humble in our own opinions and response to the issue because we know that this ruling won’t solve the greater cultural crisis that we are experiencing. If others shout at us, we won’t shout back. We will need to be ready to pick up the cross of Christ which means sacrifice and not the sword of the world which seeks to work through power.


The conservative church has been chasing this car for a very long time. I’m afraid that now we’ve caught it we won’t know what to do with it.


Passion led us here. Now will we have the stamina to do the real work?


There are already over 1400 children in the foster / adoptive system in New Hampshire and we are struggling to find Christian homes to step up and provide solutions. What if that number doubled for us, what do we do. Our government welfare support systems seem overwhelmed already. What do we do when new children and families are added to the numbers? Church we must be part of the solution.


We must not see this “victory” as an end all to the issue of abortion and family health. This is just the beginning, and if the church doesn’t step up with real life giving solutions then we will prove to be empty vessels shouting in the wind. The work is just beginning church, and we are called to us the tools that Christ has provided. The work entails providing life to those who are struggling. Sacrificing our own time and resources for those in need. Working with the government to make sure that all of the citizens are able to prosper in this life.


Galatians 5:22 are the marching orders.


“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

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Kingdom Connections

Seeing their faith he says "Friend, your sins are forgiven." Luke 5:20


Last Sunday, we covered the story of Jesus healing the man who was brought through the roof by his friends (Luke 5:17-26). Our focus on this particular passage is often on the religious leaders who miss who Jesus is. Or we focus on the paralyzed man whom Jesus heals physically but also spiritually by stating that his sins are forgiven.


But there were also those friends. I picture four of them, each taking a handle of the stretcher. Jesus says that seeing "their" faith, he proclaims that this man's sins are forgiven.


I think the actions of these men are important. I think they are Kingdom of God actions. First off, they recognize that Jesus is someone who can heal their friend from this terrible condition. Second, I think the fact that they bring this man to Jesus is important.


Life in the 1st Century was hard. They didn't have all of the modern conveniences to make our lives comfortable, or at least less complicated. Think about your daily routine, the things that help get you going during the day. Imagine taking 90% of that away. How do you think your life would change by not living in the time and place we live now. I can guarantee it would be a lot more difficult. I can imagine that many of us wouldn't have enjoyed the many years that we have enjoyed here on this earth, me included. If I had the same physical illness that I have now, I would have been looking at a very short life.


Daily routines were challenging, managing a household was hard, work was undoubtedly more challenging for many people. Try adding on the burden of caring for someone who was paralyzed. Those who were seriously ill often found themselves on the streets begging just to stay alive in that day and age. In that day and age, physical illness was also seen to be a result of sin in your life, and nobody wanted to be associated with sinful living. Yet, here are these men who take time to get this man to one who they think can help solve his problem. They were friends of an outcast. They weren't afraid of getting their hands dirty or helping out one who was in dire need.


The religious folks are often called out for passing over those in need. But not these men. Their faith and willingness to help those out who are in need provide an opportunity for healing. They are involved in life-giving actions. They have Kingdom hearts.


My prayer is that we will be a people, not just trying to crowd around Jesus' feet so that we can feel good about ourselves. My prayer is that we will be like the friends who see a person in need and bring that person into Jesus' presence so that real healing can occur.


The religious leaders will leave this gathering seeking self-righteousness and pointing fingers in condemnation. The lame man will leave this gathering healed and forgiven because a couple of his friends had the courage and desire to introduce him to Jesus, the One who saves!

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Well-pleased and Loved

At our core, we all long to hear the words "you are beloved, with you I am well-pleased." Those are the words said to Jesus by his Father, our God.


"As he (Jesus) was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased." - Luke 3:21-22


The world will tell you that you deserve to hear those words; reality tells us a different story.


We all do things that don't please others, even God. A lie, slander, breaking a town law, hurting someone we love intentionally or unintentionally. All things that keep us from receiving the prestigious "perfect human being award."


The good news is that because Jesus received these words and then acted on them, we too can hear God tell us, "you are beloved, and I am well-pleased with you."


If you are in Christ, then this is how God sees you as He sees Jesus. Do you live in this truth?


Jesus heard from His Father and walked in that truth.


We have now heard it from God our Father, and we need to walk in that truth as well. This means living a life that follows the example Jesus set before us.


Jesus followed the commands and will of God, and that is our task as well. Not out of duty as if we have something more to prove in self-righteousness, but out of privilege as we have been called sons and daughters of God.


Go forth and walk in that truth. God loves you and is pleased with you.


Pastor Nick

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Easter Life - Letters to the Prisons

From our ongoing series, Letters to the Prisons


Hello, everyone.  We miss the face-to-face fellowship we had with you.  We’re hopeful that someday soon we can return and worship God with you in person.  Meanwhile, we’re thankful that our great God and Savior is always there even when we can’t be.  We encourage you today:  Draw near to God (1 Samuel 14:36; James 4:8; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Hebrews 7:19, 25; 11:6).


Since Easter is near, we’re going to pause where we are in our study of John to consider what is perhaps the greatest thing Jesus ever says about himself.  All along we’ve been considering what Jesus (and others) say, and we will get to this passage eventually in our study of John.  But our celebration of Easter is so important that we’re going to “skip ahead” to touch on this profound thing that Jesus says about himself:

  • I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” -John 11:25


There is nothing subtle or difficult to understand about this.  There’s no huge interpretive challenge to face when trying to determine what Jesus says here, nor is there any way to misunderstand what he means by what he says.  We’ll see this even more clearly when we see the circumstances during which he says this amazing thing (Read John 11 if you’re interested in “skipping ahead.”  We’ll get there eventually!).  Still, what Jesus says here is clear enough.  It is quite plain.  Quite simple.  And, as we’ve seen, Jesus backs up what he says.  

If you decide to read ahead in John 11, you’ll see one way Jesus does that right then and there.  But more importantly, what we celebrate at Easter is how Jesus backs up this claim after he has been falsely accused, unjustly condemned, mocked, beaten, tortured, crucified, stabbed through the heart with a spear, pronounced dead, embalmed, and buried for three days.

What does Jesus do?

He gets up.  

He neatly folds the cloth that was wrapped around his head and leaves the tomb

–Alive.

Friends, of all the things Jesus might have said, what he did says so much more.  We could consider that simple quiet act of getting up from the dead forever, but for today don’t walk away from this without considering the other thing Jesus says in John 11:

  • Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  -John 11:25-26


We pray, dear brothers and sisters, that your answer to Jesus’ question is “Yes!  I believe!”


A great preacher once said, “there’s no problem bigger than ‘dead and buried.’”  And then he shouted, “I SAID, there’s NO problem BIGGER than ‘DEAD and BURIED’!!!”  He’s right.  Jesus solved that problem.  Do you think he can help us solve ours?  We’re certain he can.  And the proof Jesus offers –that he got up from the dead-- is what we celebrate at Easter.  


Happy Easter!  We love you!  We’ll resume our study next week! 


Dean A.

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"If only" is not a phrase to live by.

"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit...And you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia."

1 Thessalonians 1:4-7


Thessalonica, a church that changed the world because Jesus changed them. They imitated the Lord and became an example to their whole region.


I don't know a single Christian that would say that our lives don't change or don't have meaning when we come to Jesus. If that was the case, why in the world would we even decide to put our hope and trust in Him? The whole premise of the Christian life is that we follow the One who brings great change and who has given us the promise that we are a new creation because of Jesus. There is so much hope in that statement: We are a new creation in Christ Jesus.


One of the problems is that we don't actually live that life, the new life. I'm not saying the new life is easy; it might actually be getting harder. What I'm saying is that we often put our hope in the idea that the world around us will change instead of focusing on how Christ is changing us. Or maybe I will start to feel better when these other people change. One of the ways in which this comes out is in the blame game.


  • "If they would only do this, or stop doing this, then...."
  • "If we just had the right people in political power, then we could...."
  • "I can't get ahead in this world because my boss/workplace is...."
  • "You just don't know what they did to me; I can never forgive them for...."
  • "My spouse does not satisfy me; I'd be better off without...."
  • etc, etc, etc...


The blame game gives power and control to other people instead of allowing God to have control. If you can always blame other people well, then you never have to stick around, you don't actually have to change, or circumstances are always out of your control."


When we blame, we actually give control of our lives over to other people. And though we say we want to be able to make our own choices or live the way that we want to live, blaming is often easier because it always puts the ball in someone else's court. Blame gives us the right to complain without taking any action. Blame also lets us sit in the seat of the past instead of taking hold of God's promises for the future. And the promises are abundant!


John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


John 8:36 - So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.


Philippians 4:19 - And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.


Psalm 27:1 - The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear?


Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.


Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Matthew 6:31-33 - So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


Ephesians 3:16-19 - I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.


2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!


And this is just a sampling of the promises found in Christ Jesus. What do they all have in common:

  • Don't worry.
  • He is working all things out.
  • You are a new creation.
  • Christ is working in you and for you.
  • The Holy Spirit is providing the power to make it through your day.


What Jesus has done for you is to provide you with a new life in a new kingdom. God's kingdom, a kingdom that is going to last into eternity. Our life here on this earth is just a pinprick in the grand scheme of eternity. Why are we worrying or stressing about a pinprick?


I'm not saying that this life will be all roses and chocolates when we start to follow Jesus. I'm more of a realist than that! Christ bore the cross for us and asked us to bear the cross as well as we enter into his new kingdom. That's a pretty tough statement. Life might be tough because we will find ourselves on the "outs" with this world. The world acts quite a bit differently than God's kingdom. So we should expect some push back, and we probably should feel like we don't really fit in here. We must unlock ourselves from this world, unlocking our expectation that it will act like the kingdom of God or that we can "make it" the kingdom of God. This is just a good way for us to cast blame because "those other people won't get their acts together."


Blame says, "the problems in my life are because of other people." God says, "I've set you free from the hold of this world, and you can live as a new creation." We need to continue to have our minds renewed so that we can take on a more future-focused and solution-oriented direction in life. [Christ has given us a future and has provided the solution to the problems of this world!] We get to walk in that!


Can we stop giving control to other people and circumstances and allow Jesus to have that control? Now is the time to take our eyes off of this world and focus them squarely on Jesus and who we are in Him. Take hold of God's promises and claim them as your own because He has given them to you. You can live in the hope that Jesus has provided!


If you are having trouble with this, we would love to help. There are brothers and sisters who would love to encourage you on your journey in Christ. If you are really bogged down in the grief of this world, I would love to help you work through that as a pastoral counselor. Check out this link for more information on that process. FBC Hope


We know that life can be tough. It's a good thing that we get to lean into a Savior that proved Himself more powerful than this life.


Let me leave you with this prayer today found in Ephesians 3:16-19:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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What Do We Do When A Christian Leader Falls?…..Again

My Thoughts on Ravi Zacharias


The news broke within the last few weeks that beloved apologist Ravi Zacharias had truly engaged in behind the scenes sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his ministry. There has been a lot written on the story, and there are various opinions about what that means for Ravi and his reputation as well as the RZIM organization going forward. It is not my intention to add to the overabundance of noise but to speak a few sentences on my thoughts as a pastor and church leader.


Like many church leaders, I greatly admired Ravi’s work because of his ability to paint a picture of who God is, the work that He has done through history and specifically the cross, and the necessary response of us as humanity to turn back to Him. I always felt like Ravi was building a solid case for Christianity. I have heard that many people came to Jesus because of the work of Ravi Zacharias. 


In a time like this, especially with the new revelations coming out, we again realize that we are not saved because of a mere man. We are saved because of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s call in our lives. Let me refer to a quote by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, a Twitter influencer. Jennifer Michelle Greenberg is a survivor of sexual abuse and an advocate for those who have experienced it. 


“If you feel you were lead to Christ by Ravi Zacharias and feel shaken, please hear me: You were not saved by any man, but by the Holy Spirit working through a sinner. Regardless of his wickedness, the Spirit who called you is Holy. Cling to God. Do not fear. He is faithful.”


We can be confident in our relationship with God because the Holy Spirit has called us out and welcomed us into the family of God because of Jesus Christ’s great sacrifice for us on the cross. This is where our confidence is found.


Ephesians 2:8-9 - For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.


Acts 16:30-31 - “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”


If you have experienced a shake-up in your faith because of the actions and hypocrisy of Ravi Zacharias, please seek comfort from the Lord and ask Him to give you a renewed confidence in your standing as a child of God. You are not asking God to make you His child again, as if you had lost that connection. That standing is already secure. You are merely asking God to again fill you with the hope, promises, and confidence that comes through Him. Fellow brothers and sisters know that you are loved completely and fully by God.


But we still have the question, sitting on the table, about what to do with Ravi Zacharias and his ministry. There are many opinions about that. Some would say that we have to burn all his books and tapes, never to be influenced by him again. That Ravi’s life and behavior has a direct connection to the fruit of the organization’s ministry. Others would say that God will judge Ravi, so we need to drop the matter and let it go as it has a chance to divide the church even more. After all, don’t we see sexual sin throughout the Bible? Shouldn’t we just consider Ravi another in line with the story of King David? King David was a great man and leader, and his slip-up didn’t disqualify his work. Ravi was a great prophet voice in the wilderness, calling people to Jesus. Hasn’t his passing closed the door on this issue?


The door has not closed because this man spoke influentially for the Lord while living a double life of blatant and destructive sin. The door has not closed because, again, another prominent leader in the Church has tarnished the name of those who lead for the sake of Christ. And most importantly, the door has not closed because there are still victims out there. 


The official report coming from RZIM shows a pattern of sexual misconduct, secrecy, deception, and even rape on the part of Mr. Zacharias. This happened over decades of service in the Lord’s name. The difference we see in Ravi Zacharias and King David over the sin of rape is that King David fell on his face in repentance when it became known. King David was willing to live in the consequences of his sin and suffered the punishment for that sin. King David was repentant. What we see in the testimony of Mr. Zacharias is one of continued deception and denial even when confronted with the allegations that turned out to be true. This is why we can’t just close the door.


There is a sickness in this world called sin. God speaks pretty harshly for those engaged in sexual immorality because it is a sin that tarnishes and destroys the profound beauty that God created for marriage relationships, which is ultimately a picture of Christ and His Church. 


1 Corinthians 6:18-20 - Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.


There is a sickness in the world called sin, and we see it continue to creep into the Body of Christ. This is not a new struggle, and we are not unique in our own struggle. When we attempt to cover sin up, we damage the Holy Name of God because we are His people and His representatives here on this earth. We must no longer do this. Men and women now is the time for action. If there are secrets that we are keeping in our lives, now is the time to confess them and seek help. If we find ourselves caught in this deadly trap of living a sexually loose life, then we must aggressively seek to get out from under that as it will continue to build destructive patterns in our lives. As we have seen by the testimony of Ravi Zacharias. Men and women, if we find ourselves addicted to pornography, we must cleanse that from our digital devices, our subscriptions, and viewing habits. But maybe most importantly, as the church, we must seek to restore and not destroy those who come to us in need. If repentance is on someone’s lips, we must hear and help and not cast away. We honor those who come in confession because they are turning their hearts away from something that has held a tight grip on them for a long time. Let us give voice to the victims of sin and hear the confession of those in repentance. May we be a people focused on grace and compassion.


We all have to decide what to do with Ravi’s teaching. Honestly, at this point, I can’t stand the sight of his pictures, and I won’t be able to open up one of his books or watch one of his videos without seeing the victims that were preverbally left on the side of the road while he was preaching Jesus. Maybe a time will come when I can separate the man from the material. But not yet. We all have to let our conscience dictate that for us. 


Ravi Zacharias’s story is now one of an extremely flawed man, with little or no repentance for the harm that he caused to others. The Church will continue to feel the ripples of these actions for a long time. Let us not dismiss them because we will further communicate the message that we are against victims. Let us continue to pray for our leaders and those who hold high profile ministries because the enemy desires to take them out to destroy the Church. I am thankful that I don’t have to decide the state of other’s souls. Instead, look to God as the one who is our high and just Judge. If there are logs in our own eyes, let’s seek to remove them and model repentance and healing from the sins of this world. 


When a Christian leader falls we are, again, reminded of the great hold of sin on this world and we seek to be a people that repents of our own sin and keep our eyes focused on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


RZIM Report

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A Word of Hope for a People Under Pressure

We are about to start our journey through the 1st letter to the Thessalonian church. This is a note from Paul to this newly founded group of Jesus followers. I'm not going to give away the points of the letter just yet, but this really struck me.


Acts 17:11 - "The people here [Berea] were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,..."


What an amazing testimony for the church in Berea as well as a harsh critique about the people of Thessalonica. The Thessalonians were lacking in character. What we know is that Paul and his other travelers had to leave the city of Thessalonica because a mob had risen up against them. Yet, in his letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul says this.


"We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father; your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 1:2-3


What an amazing set of statements. The people of Thessalonica were low in character, but yet here we have a group of Jesus followers that Paul can't stop praising because of their faith and work in the community.


We are going to begin our dive into the Letter to the Thessalonian church over the next few weeks. Hopefully, we will find encouragement from the words of Scripture as it shows us the testimony of a people, under great persecution, who stood strong in their faith. May we be a people who look to them for encouragement as we face our own trials and temptations in this life. This is going to be a great study.

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God is Love

1 John 4:7-11

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.


The Apostle John gives us an amazing set of verses here. First off, we are to love one another. Ok, we can try and do that. But then John takes us through what love really means. And guess what, we can't do it. Love it from God, and not only that, but God is love. The way that God shows His love for us is that He makes a sacrifice. He doesn't just make a little sacrifice, like skipping TV for a week or cutting down on the sodas for a little while. (By the way, these are great things for us to "sacrifice" for a little while!). God makes the biggest sacrifice that He can make. He sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and live with us - but wait, that is not all - and to die on our behalf.


God knew that we could never get out from under the weight of our sin. It's built into our nature. You could say that it's who we are. We are naturally separated from a Holy God. There is no latter to climb, no step to stand on, no tower that we can build that will get us close to this Holy God. The only way we get close is by having Jesus come down to us.


John reminds us that we did not love God, and that is why he made His sacrifice. No, God loved us. And because of God's love, we can truly love Him back. And it doesn't stop there. Because of God's love for us and the love that we can give back through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love people around us as well. "Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another." There is the command. We must....love one another.


Take a moment right now, put down what you are doing, pause the TV show, and decide what is that one act, that one thing, that you can do today to show love to your neighbor?


Do you have your idea? Good. Now let's go out and do it!

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Judgement and the Church

This article was found by one of the FBC elders. Really good stuff to think about.


5 Ways Judgmental Christians Are Killing Your Church

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The Church and Temple Life

Over this last year, it has become apparent that the church needs to meet in some fashion to fulfill its purpose and mission. We need each other, and nobody can deny that. 

COVID-19 has totally changed the landscape of what it means to be the church in our day and age. Is it a location, or is it a people? Most followers of Jesus would naturally say that the church is the people. But even with that answer, we are pretty quick to add our thoughts on meeting and gathering as a body. The Scriptures speak to the importance of meeting as a fellowship of believers, such as places like Hebrews 10:25, which says: “...not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing,...”. And to tell you the truth, this is a natural response to the year that has tried to keep us apart. It’s a natural response, but is it a Biblical response? 

What is the appropriate response to being the church when we cannot meet like “normal” since March 2020? My first thought is that we should go back and see how those early Christians handled the situation. Acts 2:42-47 gives us a pretty good picture of what went on during those first “church services” as the church was being formed.


42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now, all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day, they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47


Look at that. The church met every day both in the temple and in each other's homes. See, we need a church building or a central location! If we examine the 1st century and the early church workings, we might uncover a slightly different take on this story. 

Yes, they indeed gathered in large groups. They did go to the temple to teach, pray, and worship. But the temple was a much different place than our modern-day church. For the 1st century Jewish follower of Jesus, the temple was undoubtedly an extension of their past worship experience. It was a natural place to gather because everyone gathered there. Everyone gathered at the temple those who believed in Jesus as well as those who didn’t. This is why the Apostles were getting themselves in trouble; they preached about Jesus in a very public Jewish place. It was a natural location to go to because they were coming to a place where everyone would gather, both believers and those they were evangelizing. 

One of our favorite ways to describe the Christian experience is that we are in a new family. This is absolutely Biblically true. But what size constitutes a family gathering? I would pose the idea that the 1st century church considered those home gatherings as their “family gatherings.” Acts 2:46 tells us that they broke bread in their homes. The home was the place where authentic relationships were formed. 

But back to the temple. The temple was convenient. It was central. Everyone went there, and so it was a natural place to gather. We would do well to keep in mind that the temple was part of the larger community where worship happened and where the general business of the day happened. What we’ve done as a modern church is to take this idea of the temple as our central place of worship and place our churches within that mold. We’ve created new temple experiences and have allowed those experiences to be our primary experience. We are just following along in the footsteps of those first Christians who came before us. They met at the temple regularly, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Then something happened. The temple was basically cut off for large gatherings because the people were scattered. Acts 8 begins to tell the story of those early Christians in the Jerusalem area as they came under great persecution. Most of them were forced to disperse to other parts of the world. 

Many of these scattered followers of Jesus would land in towns and cities that contained a Jewish synagogue. Well, there you have it, another central place for worship. The problem was the 1st century synagogues were nothing like the temple experience. There were little or no worship experiences happening in the synagogues. The synagogue system wouldn’t start to take on that role until much later. 

So what was a synagogue, and why did believers go there? The synagogue is a Greek word that means a gathering of people. Why do they gather? A whole lot of things. Synagogues were used for a “variety of communal needs: as schools (Josephus, Antiquities 16.43), for communal meals (Josephus, Antiquities 14.214-216), as hostels, as courts (Acts 22:19), as a place to collect and distribute charity (Matt 6:2), and for political meetings”. So, when we see Paul going to the synagogue to preach, he is just going to the town’s central meeting place so that he could preach the Gospel to his Jewish brothers. Think about it this way, going to the synagogue might be like us going to the town hall, or better yet, the local pub down the street. These are the kinds of meeting places where the people who need to hear about Jesus and find a relationship with Him go.

It’s more reasonable to think that the “main” church meetings were happening more frequently in places like the home. We see Lydia as an example of that in Acts 16. She became a follower of Jesus, and she had a pretty wealthy household, and so more than likely, the church met there. Going back to Acts 2, they broke bread in the home.

We must be very careful that we do not try to hold on to a temple experience as the first believers tried to do. I’m not saying that they relied on the temple, but according to the Scripture and their early practices, it looks like the temple model began to become a foundational part of their faith in those early days. It took God shaking things up for them to break out of that mold and become the mobile church that we see in the rest of the Scriptures. A gathering of people who go to other people to share the Good News about Jesus Christ.

There is nothing wrong with seeking out a central common location to have large gatherings. I love getting together with a lot of people to sing praises to the Lord. It’s fun; it’s energizing, it’s comfortable. But let me throw out this challenge; maybe things are being shaken for us like in those early church days. And because we are being shaken, we need to be on the lookout for the new ways God will move in his people. Just like they did in the 1st century.

We are a family, but maybe it’s time for the family to get away from the ongoing family reunions and seek out those places to meet and minister where those who are lost can be invited to see who this Jesus is. Maybe this is when we look to go big, but we do it by going small. Some modern-day leaders are calling them micro-church experiences. Perhaps the breaking of bread in the home is the new way of doing church in 2021, at least for the time being. I’ve been encouraged by some of the stories I’ve heard about groups from within the FBC body, both ministry teams and small groups, gathering together to minister to one another. This is church.

So let's not get discouraged if the doors to our larger buildings are closed. Let’s embrace that and find new and creative ways to get together with groups of people who might never darken the doorway of a “church.” There are people like that out there. Maybe we need those larger buildings to be closed for the time being for the health, growth, and wellbeing of the future church?


(I close this by saying that I am not a 1st century historian, but I am one who is looking to the Scriptures and studying the 1st century to understand better the culture that helped define Christianity.)


(This temple talk doesn’t even attempt to cover the temple versus tabernacle models of worship. The tabernacle model, a mobile vehicle of worship, is a whole other illustration of how the Body of Christ works.)


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Previous Posts
What They Say. What He Says.

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week Jesus, having informed his disciples that Lazarus was already dead (John 11:14), decided nevertheless to go to his friends in Bethany near Jerusalem.  We see in John 11:17-20 that, when Jesus arrives, Lazarus had already been dead for four days.  We also see the presence of “many Jews” with Mary and Martha.  They’ve come to console the sisters in the death of their brother.  So, Jesus arrives in the area in a public way with many witnesses to attest to the timing of his arrival and the pre-existent fact of Lazarus’ death and burial.  This is important because what’s about to happen is so amazing… so profound… that people might have a really hard time believing it had actually happened –if there weren’t so many eyewitnesses.


But before we get to what happens, we need to examine some astonishing things that people say about Jesus at this moment… and what he says about himself.  That’s the whole point of this study:  To answer the question, “Is Jesus who he says he is?”


To begin, Martha goes out to meet Jesus as he is arriving in Bethany.  Look what she says:

  • “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” -John 11:21-22


If you listen carefully to people, you begin to recognize that they speak from the perspective of their own beliefs about reality.  They bring certain assumptions to bear on what they say.  Let’s consider some of what Martha reveals about her beliefs in this simple yet stunning statement:  First, she clearly believes that Jesus could have preserved Lazarus’ life “had he been there.”  Second, she believes that God hears and honors every request Jesus makes.  Third, she believes that “even now” --though Lazarus is already dead, Jesus could still receive whatever he asks for from God.  Note that Martha is making no assumptions about what Jesus’ will is or whether he would ask God for anything…  her statement reflects a simple but deep faith in Jesus’ position with God and a complete dependence on and acceptance of his will for the outcome.  Look how Jesus responds:

  • “Your brother will rise again.” -John 11:23


Ever gone to a funeral and heard someone say, “well, at least they’re in a better place?”  It seems like the polite catch-all thing to say when you don’t know what else to say at a funeral.  And do we suppose that the person who says such a thing has any confidence at all about whether what they’ve said is true?  But here, at Lazarus’ funeral, Jesus is not doling out canned pleasantries to make Martha feel better.  What he says here is just a simple reality confidently expressed.  He’s so certain of the fact of Lazarus’ imminent resurrection that he doesn’t even sense the need to say something like “surely” or, “I promise,” or even the now-famous “truly, truly.”  Jesus just casually lays out a simple statement of the truth of what will come to be known as one of the most amazing events in all human history.  Yet Jesus expresses it so casually that Martha misses the point at first, as we will see.  


There’s so much more to examine in this conversation.  Until next week!  We love you.


Dean A.

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The Unexpected

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Today we’re considering John 11.  In verses 11-13 the disciples are clearly confused about the severity of Lazarus’ condition, but Jesus sets them straight:

  • Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” -John 11:14-15


Let’s consider for a moment what’s just happened.  A messenger from Mary and Martha has arrived to inform Jesus that Lazarus is ill… not dead.  That messenger traveled at least a day’s journey to get to where Jesus and his disciples were.  Then Jesus waited two more days before even deciding to travel that day’s journey back to Bethany in Judea.  Meanwhile, Jesus informs his disciples that Lazarus has died.  How did he know?  He’s nowhere near Bethany where Lazarus is…  This is one of those near-casual moments where Jesus’ deity is apparent.  


Even more shocking:  Jesus knows Lazarus is dead…  and he’s glad he wasn’t there.  What?!


These are some very unexpected responses.  From a human perspective, it is very difficult to make sense of what Jesus is doing and saying at this moment… even with the benefit of being able to read ahead to see what becomes of it all.  For his disciples, in that moment, it must have been mind-boggling.  Interestingly, Thomas (called by many “doubting Thomas” --we’ll see why when we study John 20) takes a sort of “fatalistic” leap of faith when he says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).  Whether Thomas meant dying like Lazarus did or that they would all be killed along with Jesus when they return to Judea is uncertain.  Either way, Thomas didn’t expect things to go well.  Yet he chose to follow Jesus anyway.  Is that like us?  Or not?


Even more shocking:  We’ve also caught another glimpse of Jesus’ purpose for Lazarus’ suffering and death:  Belief.


We know already that Lazarus’ illness is for God’s glory (John 11:4).  But we also learn that Lazarus has died “so that you may believe” (John 11:15).  These are not what most people would typically consider to be “good reasons” for a person to suffer and die.  When we sit with people in their suffering and distress, do we comfort them by saying “It’s ok.  Jesus loves you and this terrible event has occurred for his glory.  Do you believe in him now?”  Somehow, that approach just doesn’t seem to make sense.  And yet here we see Jesus’ purpose and plan for Lazarus’ suffering and death clearly explained… in writing.  


Is God’s purpose for the pain and suffering people endure always the same?  Not likely.  Are his purposes for people’s pain and suffering always so clearly communicated?  Definitely not.  Is it a good idea for us to try and guess what God’s purpose might be for someone else’s suffering?  Nope.  Do people sometimes benefit from the suffering God allows in their lives?  


Ask yourself that question…  prayerfully… and see how God answers. 


We love you.  Until next week! 


Dean A.

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Walking Confidently Through Our Days

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone.  We’re studying John 11.  Last week, we saw Jesus doing the unexpected.  Do we expect that Jesus will do the unexpected in our own lives?  Maybe we should!  Why?  Because, as we will see in this chapter, God’s good and loving plans for us go far beyond anything we could ever imagine or expect for ourselves.  His ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9).


On the way to seeing God’s good and loving plan for Lazarus unfold, Jesus has a very important lesson for his disciples. They’ve questioned the wisdom of returning to Judea (John 11:8) so soon after the attempt made on Jesus’ life there (John 10:31).  Look how Jesus replies:

  • “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” -John 11:9-10


We could consider this statement for a long time and find many valuable lessons.  The short version of one of those lessons is this:  Jesus walks confidently “in the day” knowing that he is on God’s appointed timetable following his perfect will.  So, he can safely return to a place where people want to murder him at God’s appointed time for God’s appointed purposes.  How does that apply to us?  Are we capable of walking with such confidence through our lives? John himself has an answer.  Having walked with Jesus and experienced this whole event first-hand, he offers us a perfect and perfectly challenging way to understand how Jesus intends us to apply what he has just said:

  • This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  -1 John 1:5-7


We may not know what God’s perfect plan is for our lives, and we could waste a lot of time guessing what the plan is.  But instead, we should recognize that we have a lot of information about how to conduct ourselves while we’re waiting for that perfect plan to unfold:  We are to walk in the light.  If God is light (he is), insofar as we are walking according to God’s word in a way that honors him --at all times and in all circumstances-- we can walk in confidence, knowing that God’s perfect plan for us will prevail, even if what we’re walking through is really hard, or really painful, or we would really rather do something (anything!) else.  This goes back to what we observed last week.  It’s not about how we expect things to go or what we expect Jesus to do… it’s about his plan and how we choose to conduct ourselves even as we wonder what God’s plan is.  Interestingly, Jesus makes his plans known to his disciples right then and there:

  • “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”  -John 11:11


But, even knowing the plan, the disciples still don’t get it…  they misunderstand the gravity of what’s happened to Lazarus, and they don’t yet understand what Jesus intends to do (John 11:12-13).  So, Jesus needs to be even more blunt and to the point.  And he will be.  We’ll look at his response next week.  Meanwhile, what is God up to in your life?  Do you trust him enough to follow him?  We love you!


Dean A.

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Meeting Our Expectations

From the series Letters to the Prison

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In John 11:4, Jesus said something unexpected:  Lazarus’ terminal illness is for the glory of God.


This week, Jesus does something unexpected:

  • Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.             -John 11:5-6


So, let’s be plain about some things here:  

Jesus can heal a total stranger from a distance.  Immediately.  

  • We saw him do this in John 4:46-54.

Jesus can heal a man born blind on the spot (John 10).

  • The blind man was a stranger.  We’re never told his name.

Jesus loves Martha, her sister (Mary) and Lazarus --this very familiar family.

  • Yet, when he hears that Lazarus is gravely ill, he waits.  For two days.
  • And does nothing for Lazarus during that time.  Remotely or otherwise.


Interestingly, in the next few verses, look what happens:

  • Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again? -John 11:7-8


Jesus finally gets around to deciding to go to his beloved friend, Lazarus (who lives in Judea), and then his disciples want to stop him.  In their defense, we’re going to see that the disciples misunderstood the seriousness of Lazarus’ illness.  Why risk everyone’s lives going back to “enemy territory” if Lazarus is going to recover on his own, right?  


But things just aren’t happening the way we might expect them to.  We would expect that a loving friend (who happens to be God in the flesh) with the power to heal would rush immediately to the aid of his dying friend.  We would expect that the men following Jesus would do just that… follow him without question.  Especially after everything they’ve seen so far.


Others in this account have expectations, too, as we will see.  And yet it’s not about what anyone expects.  It’s about what God has planned to do.  God has higher thoughts (Isaiah 55:9) and wiser plans.  We don’t possess even a fraction of God’s unfathomable wisdom.  So, when we, in our limited wisdom, try to impose our expectations on God… and then when God doesn’t meet our expectations of him, how do we respond?  Do we question?  Do we doubt?  Do we resist God’s plans for us when they don’t match what we’ve planned for ourselves?  Do we disobey because we think we know better?  Do we even seek the counsel of God at all?  Do we, through prayer and study, work to discern God’s will for our lives?  We need to ask ourselves these things frequently.  And answer honestly.  And act accordingly.  We love you!  Until next week!


Dean A.

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Delayed, But Not Forgotten

From the series Letters to the Prison

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In John 11:4, Jesus said something unexpected:  Lazarus’ terminal illness is for the glory of God.


This week, Jesus does something unexpected:

  • Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.             -John 11:5-6


So, let’s be plain about some things here:  


Jesus can heal a total stranger from a distance.  Immediately.  

  • We saw him do this in John 4:46-54.


Jesus can heal a man born blind on the spot (John 10).

  • The blind man was a stranger.  We’re never told his name.


Jesus loves Martha, her sister (Mary) and Lazarus --this very familiar family.

  • Yet, when he hears that Lazarus is gravely ill, he waits.  For two days.
  • And does nothing for Lazarus during that time.  Remotely or otherwise.


Interestingly, in the next few verses, look what happens:

  • Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again? -John 11:7-8


Jesus finally gets around to deciding to go to his beloved friend, Lazarus (who lives in Judea), and then his disciples want to stop him.  In their defense, we’re going to see that the disciples misunderstood the seriousness of Lazarus’ illness.  Why risk everyone’s lives going back to “enemy territory” if Lazarus is going to recover on his own, right?  


But things just aren’t happening the way we might expect them to.  We would expect that a loving friend (who happens to be God in the flesh) with the power to heal would rush immediately to the aid of his dying friend.  We would expect that the men following Jesus would do just that… follow him without question.  Especially after everything they’ve seen so far.


Others in this account have expectations, too, as we will see.  And yet it’s not about what anyone expects.  It’s about what God has planned to do.  God has higher thoughts (Isaiah 55:9) and wiser plans.  We don’t possess even a fraction of God’s unfathomable wisdom.  So, when we, in our limited wisdom, try to impose our expectations on God… and then when God doesn’t meet our expectations of him, how do we respond?  Do we question?  Do we doubt?  Do we resist God’s plans for us when they don’t match what we’ve planned for ourselves?  Do we disobey because we think we know better?  Do we even seek the counsel of God at all?  Do we, through prayer and study, work to discern God’s will for our lives?  We need to ask ourselves these things frequently.  And answer honestly.  And act accordingly.  We love you!  Until next week!


Dean A.

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Lord Over Illness

From the series Letters to the Prison

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We’re continuing our study of John and starting chapter 11.


In the first three verses, we’re introduced to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who live in a town called Bethany (not to be confused with the “Bethany across the Jordan” mentioned in John 1:28).  This family is significant in Jesus’ ministry.  The sisters are mentioned in Luke 10:38-42 and Mary is introduced as the “one who anointed Jesus” (John 11:2).  We’ll see that event later when we study John 12.  Meanwhile, we see also that Lazarus is “one whom Jesus loves” (John 11:3). Doesn’t Jesus love everyone?  Of course, he does!  But clearly this family had a very special place in Jesus’ earthly ministry, as we’re about to see.


One thing is made plain in this introduction:  Lazarus is seriously, gravely ill.  That fact gets mentioned three times in three verses.  Jesus makes it four for four when he says:

  • “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” -John 11:4


Jesus says a lot in this verse.  Let’s consider a few points:

  1. Lazarus’ illness is indeed terminal and does indeed lead to death (as we will see in John 11:14 and 17).  Yet we will see Lazarus coming back from the grave (John 11:43-44).  Indeed, Lazarus spends more time dead than Jesus himself does…  Yet, we will also see a plot to kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11).  And where is Lazarus now?  Not biologically alive.  So, what does Jesus mean?  The “death” Jesus is speaking of here is not a literal physical death.  Believers like Lazarus do not escape a natural death of their bodies.  But they do escape the “second death” (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; and 21:8) of their spirits.
  2. Lazarus’ terminal illness…  which will lead to his death… and then to his resurrection… and then, eventually to another biological death…  is for the glory of God.  Pause to consider that for a moment.  How should that reality impact our views on our own suffering?  How are we therefore to pray about such suffering?  Should we ever pretend to know God’s specific purpose for anyone’s suffering?  What about the suffering that we inflict on ourselves through our own sinful actions… the consequences of our choices?  These are massive questions that we aren’t necessarily authorized or qualified to answer.  We must consider such things carefully and prayerfully.  Especially as we interact with others who are grappling with their own suffering.
  3. Jesus once again equates himself to the God who shares his glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8) yet nevertheless glorifies the Son (John 8:54 and 17:5).  How is that possible?  How does that even make sense?  It does only when we begin to recognize the dynamic relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  It is a mind-blowing relationship –the Godhead… the Trinity.  God in three persons yet nevertheless one and the same God… entire in authority and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise!  Amen!


That’s profound enough and we’re only four verses in.  We hope that you will read and re-read this chapter and just soak in all it has to offer.  Until next week!  We love you!

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Is Jesus Who He Says He Is?

From the series Letters to the Prison

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We’ve spent the last two weeks considering the example of how Jesus interacts with his enemies in a loving effort to help them understand the truth about him and who he claims to be.  And yet, despite all his efforts:

  • Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. -John 10:39


This is a dire condition of the heart of Jesus’ enemies:  They are impervious to logic and reason, willful in their rejection of Jesus, and determined to remove him from their lives at any cost.


Is that like us?  We see this very attitude about Jesus even today.


Nevertheless we see here that Jesus escaped yet again from the clutches of his enemies.  As we encounter this willful unbelief and active resistance to Jesus and see that God’s plan and timing prevails regardless, we find that there is much to consider about the realities of God’s sovereign control and man’s free will choices and how those two realities interact.  We see throughout Scripture that man’s free will choices matter --and matter eternally.  And yet, running alongside that profound reality is the truth of God’s sovereign and supreme control over all things.  This is the sort of thing we could consider our whole lives, and it’s too much to unpack in these letters. 


As John 10 closes, we see that Jesus departs from Jerusalem for a time:

  • He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there. -John 10:40-42


John, as always in the gospel of John, refers to John the Baptist –not the Apostle John who wrote the gospel.  We see also that, while John the Baptist never performed any sort of public miracle (sign), Jesus certainly did in fulfillment of everything John the Baptist said about him.  So, Jesus again demonstrates through public signs that he is who he (and John the Baptist) says he is… and many believed in Jesus.  


As we move into the next chapter, we’re about to see perhaps one of the most profound and shocking public miracles Jesus ever does during his ministry on earth.  If you’ve been reading John 11, we encourage you to read it again.  And again…  while you’re doing so, be watching for the subtle almost casual way Jesus’ deity reveals itself.  Far beyond the obvious and dramatic raising of Lazarus from the dead are all the ways Jesus’ sovereignty as God manifests in even the simplest actions and conversations along the way.


As our study of John progresses, we hope that you are as excited as we are to take a slow tour through one of the most amazing chapters in all of Scripture.  But before we go, what is your answer to the Main Question:  Is Jesus who he says he is?  Is it “yes?”  Then how can you take courage and bolster your confident faith in Jesus as we see what’s coming next?  Is your answer “no?”  What would it take to change your mind?  What proof would be enough to convince you?  Until next week!  We love you! 


Dean A.

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A Day of Celebration?

Roe v. Wade has been overturned and for many friends and family I know that this is a time of celebration. If you feel like this is a win for life and the sanctity of the life God has created then you and I are thrilled that this decision has been handed down.


I also know that I have friends and family that are concerned about this ruling and the impact that it will have on our communities and for those who are hurting. Not everyone who is “pro-choice” sits on the side of abortion as a beautiful option. These feelings and concerns need to be heard as well, because ultimately this ruling will have an impact on our community.


So, how do we respond as a church?


We live in a part of the country that is relatively quiet so we may not experience the protests and rally’s that other parts are experiencing. But, as we are like other churches we are filled with people with varying opinions. And we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. So, as a church we will: love one another as Christ loved us, we will be humble in our own opinions and response to the issue because we know that this ruling won’t solve the greater cultural crisis that we are experiencing. If others shout at us, we won’t shout back. We will need to be ready to pick up the cross of Christ which means sacrifice and not the sword of the world which seeks to work through power.


The conservative church has been chasing this car for a very long time. I’m afraid that now we’ve caught it we won’t know what to do with it.


Passion led us here. Now will we have the stamina to do the real work?


There are already over 1400 children in the foster / adoptive system in New Hampshire and we are struggling to find Christian homes to step up and provide solutions. What if that number doubled for us, what do we do. Our government welfare support systems seem overwhelmed already. What do we do when new children and families are added to the numbers? Church we must be part of the solution.


We must not see this “victory” as an end all to the issue of abortion and family health. This is just the beginning, and if the church doesn’t step up with real life giving solutions then we will prove to be empty vessels shouting in the wind. The work is just beginning church, and we are called to us the tools that Christ has provided. The work entails providing life to those who are struggling. Sacrificing our own time and resources for those in need. Working with the government to make sure that all of the citizens are able to prosper in this life.


Galatians 5:22 are the marching orders.


“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

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How We Choose to Obey

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone!  We’re continuing our study of John 10.  But before we move on:

One more thing to consider about how Jesus interacts with his enemies:  Everything Jesus says and does is carefully and wisely tailored to encourage his enemies to embrace the truth… so that they can have eternal life and peace with God… and live forever in his kingdom… and Jesus does that because of his perfect, eternal unfathomable and unquenchable love for them.  Does the love of Jesus --even for his enemies-- have an impact on how we choose to interact with others?  It should! 


In fact, let’s look even further back for a moment…  in our discussion of John 10:1-30, we had also suggested reading Ezekiel 34 to see the connection between God’s promises to the “sheep” in Ezekiel’s day and the fulfillment of those promises as they began to unfold in Jesus’ day.  But there’s one last portion of Ezekiel 34 to consider.  We’ve studied God’s promises to his flock and Jesus’ claims to be the fulfillment of those promises.  Further, we saw Jesus giving us some very clear ideas about how he was going to fulfill those promises.  But we haven’t yet considered Ezekiel 34:17-24.  Those verses contain a message for the sheep…  and a warning:  

  • “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.                                                -Ezekiel 34:17-24


The short version of the point of this warning is:  How we treat one another matters because it reflects the true nature of our hearts –and, therefore, our true standing as part of God’s “flock.”  God is the one and only True Judge of anyone’s heart.  Those of us who think we’re capable, qualified, or authorized to judge one another are only looking for reasons to justify our sinful behavior towards each other.  If we judge others to be unworthy of our kindness, love, patience, or forgiveness –or if we decide they don’t deserve to have their basic needs met, then we’re “off the hook.”  In this way, we convince ourselves that we don’t have to treat others the way God wants us to treat them when the reality is that we’re supposed to love and bless even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  We want to nit-pick one another so that we can ignore the weightier “matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23)… and trample one another.  God abhors this attitude.  


Friends, we who claim to be part of Jesus’ flock are his ambassadors in this world.  Therefore, how we choose to behave at every moment, in every circumstance, with every person matters… eternally.  We need to consider such things carefully.  Pray, dear friends, that we would always have Jesus’ supreme and perfect example of how to love before us at all times.  We love you! 


Dean A.

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Submitting to God's Plan

From the series Letters to the Prison

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We’re continuing our study of John 10 and the conversation between Jesus and the people who want to stone him to death.  Read that sentence again.  Jesus, the One who claims to be the Almighty and only righteous God of the universe and the only Perfect Judge of all people, is attempting to have a reasonable conversation…  with people who want to murder him.  Friends, if you ever want to see even a glimpse of the profound and true love that God has for all people, watch how he interacts with his worst enemies.  We need to take a lesson from this:

  • 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”                       -John 10:37-39

From the beginning of this conversation (which started in John 10:24), Jesus has:

  • Spoken the truth… boldly, clearly, plainly, patiently --and not hatefully.
  • Listened carefully to the opinions and reasoning of his enemies (John 10:32-33).
  • Reasoned from the Scriptures (John 10:34-36).
  • Reasoned from obvious, apparent, and public evidence (John 10:25, 37-38).
  • Appealed to that evidence so that they might accept the truth--even if they don’t believe him. And even if they don’t like him.


Is this how we interact with the people in our lives?  Even the ones we like, let alone our most bitter enemies?  This is not the only place Jesus sets such an example.  We should always be paying close attention to Jesus.  He is our best example for how to live in a way that honors God in all circumstances.  Meanwhile, despite Jesus’ flawless behavior towards his enemies:

  • Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. –John 10:39


Note also, by the way, how Jesus composes himself in these interactions by submitting always to the will and plan of God the Father.  Consider these three truths about Jesus:

  1. Being God, he is perfectly right and perfectly just in both his judgment (2 Timothy 4:1) of and vengeance upon all mankind.  Look what Paul says: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  -Romans 12:19
  2. Jesus has the power at his disposal to utterly wipe out his enemies right then and there: Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? -Matthew 26:53
  3. And yet, Jesus always submits to the will of God the Father… even to his own harm: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” -Luke 22:42


We must consider these things carefully in every interaction we might face.  We love you!


Dean A.

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