The Greatest

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


The arena was a hill called Calvary. In this corner, a Roman soldier. But he was not just any soldier. He was one who had faced many foes and fought many battles. His discipline in training, courage in combat, loyalty to his superiors paved the road for his rise through the ranks. For his greatness he was rewarded with the rank of centurion, captain of 100 soldiers. He wore his fancy helmet and armor like a heavyweight belt and carried the short vinewood staff, a symbol of his rank, like a trophy. These were his tokens of greatness.
In the other corner, well, that sight was not so pretty. There stood a pitiful peasant rebel, claiming fulfillment of a silly Jewish legend about some coming King. This “Messiah” came to deliver the people and destroy the Roman empire, he’d been told.  He was an enemy of the state and any enemy of Rome was an enemy of his. It was not enough that He be defeated. This level of insolence demanded humiliation as well. And so, as if pouring on points in a blowout, the captain stood aside, allowing his soldiers to have their way with no limitation.
But his humiliating tactics produced unusual results. Instead of the usual cries for help or mercy, the centurion heard Jesus give instructions for the care of His mother, and the centurion watched as He recruited a thief. In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance; His countenance flashed determination. This was familiar. He had seen it somewhere before. He was seeing discipline in training, courage in combat. He was witnessing a soldier defiantly determined to obey His Officer’s command. This great man was now a spectator to greatness and he knew it.

Eye of the Tiger
Insert the soundtrack from Rocky
right here? Two great fighters in one public ring, with only one possible victor. Like Apollo Creed, this Roman captain probably wondered why this Man fought with such resolve.
“Why won’t He just give up? Stay down. Take off the gloves. Stop fighting!” he thought. But Jesus would not stop. John tells us He did not stop until He declared “It is finished.” There was a reason for Him coming to this world. There was something He was assigned to do. And until He had finished His task he would not take His last breath.

In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance, His countenance determination.


There is an assignment, a purpose for which you were born and that task is no easy one. Unfortunately for many of us, our assignments lead to difficult situations in an arena called Calvary. And Calvary is a very public place. So not only do we suffer and struggle but, oftentimes we do it while people look on and wonder why we do not just give up. Forget this God thing! Give up on faith! Stop fighting! But if we stop fighting there is a centurion somewhere that will never start believing.

Finished
What an amazing feeling. To be able to declare that you completed the task to which you were assigned. That you did not give up. To be able to say, “Father I did what You asked me to do. It is finished.”
Not only did the centurion hear Jesus say that He finished His task, but both Matthew and Luke record that He also witnessed the response. Soldiers who valiantly perform in battle usually receive a medal, or they are thrown a parade. However, the affirmation that followed Jesus was one that the centurion had
never seen.
All of creation responded to the completed work of Jesus. The earth shook and the sun refused to shine. The veil that hung in the temple ripped from the top down, exposing the inner chamber of the Most Holy Place. God the Father needed this Roman captain—and everyone around—to know that His Son had completed His mission.
There are no pictures of this moment, yet the mind can envision the great Roman Centurion—fancy helmet removed, no trophy in hand—kneel before Jesus whom He now recognizes was so much more than the greatest Soldier that ever lived.
He declares breathlessly, “This must be the Son of God.”
Because Jesus finished the task, the soldier finally saw the Savior. It is tough. You are going through it. You want to quit, but remember there is someone who is watching you and they will only follow your Commander if, even through pain, you finish your task. So fight the good fight, finish your race, and keep the faith. Do not stop fighting!

STUDY AT THE CROSS

How long does it take to know who Jesus is?
Many talk about sanctification—or becoming holy—as the work of a lifetime, but is it possible to know Jesus in an instant? With a character and work as deep and wide as the ocean, Jesus does not seem to be the most comprehensible person in the history of the world. Join us as we explore what is possible in an initial encounter with the incarnate God.

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Day 1
Do you know Jesus? Do you think you know Jesus? Can you describe Him to someone with the same specificity and endearment as you do a family member? I invite you try. Grab a pen and paper, or open a new note on your phone and tell about the Jesus you know. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Day 2 - Corinthians 13:4-7

Look back over your description. How long has it taken you to know that about Jesus? I have noticed that a lot of what I know about Jesus has been taught to me through my own personal shortcomings. Max Lucado suggests an exercise in his book, A Love Worth Giving, in which you insert your name wherever it says love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Try it. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Day 3 - Read Mark 15:39

In this verse we encounter a centurion, a Roman soldier in command of 100 men. The centurion was not Jewish, more than likely not acquainted with Scripture, and definitely not a follower of Christ. Many of us encounter people like him everyday. The question is do we see them as one step away from being believers? I invite you to think of someone who can be your accountability partner in praying that God makes you a kingdom-minded person, a person who sees everyone as a potential resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Day 4 - Read Mark 15:39

Awe-inspiring, right? There had to be something awe-inspiring about Jesus’ death. Read the surrounding verses, and make
a list of the details about of how Jesus died that led the centurion to react the way he did.

Day 5

The way we die can stir more conviction than the way we live. What I mean by that is, the way we go through things can have more impact on people than the way we come out. Have you ever gone through something in your life and did not know that you were being observed, and someone was blessed by how you conducted yourself? Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Have you ever thought about the possibility that the calamities in your life may be the only encounter with Jesus people have? The shaking and storms that you experience can be the testimony someone needs, to know who Jesus is. Pray with the your prayer partner from earlier that all that you experience will help lead someone to Jesus.

Day 7

The Centurion exclaimed after being with Jesus only a few hours something that takes many of us a lifetime to get: “Surely, this is the Son of God.” We must keep in mind that at the cross, anyone, regardless of time in the faith, can come to the same conclusion: Jesus is who He said He is.

 


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Covered

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


The covers were pulled off. Naked and surprised, a young woman is grabbed from a man’s bed and snatched into the damp dawn of morning. Head spinning, hair matted, half naked, tears spill down her cheeks to the thin sheet she managed to wrap around herself.

“Adulteress!” they shouted, spewing hatred at her as they dragged her out of the bedroom. As dawn broke and the sun rose, she was again grabbed from the cell where she had been held, leaving the sheet behind. But no sheet could cover her shame. Not a blanket in town could hide her from the death sentence she deserved.

But where were they taking her? Why her? Why now? Why couldn’t they have just let her go? Where is the man who had invited her over? Why was she the only one being dragged through the streets, adding to her shame?

Feelings of betrayal and anger, humiliation and remorse rose in her throat until she choked on both her guilt and her tears. Oh, what she would give to have back in her grasp the small sheet to cover her and the nakedness of her condemnation. As she walked behind the priests, she recounted the events of the night. It was supposed to be fun. She could taste the salty tears drawn from the well of virtue she had traded for shame. Although the Pharisees may have trapped her, she knew deep inside it was a bed she had made for herself. It was in fact her fault. She had indeed committed adultery, and was by law condemned to die. But like this? Here, in front of the temple? Was it not her husband’s job to bring an accusation, not these people who looked at her as dirt?

Then she heard His voice, the One they called Teacher, the One who both healed diseases and fed the masses. Why would they bring her to Him? A sudden wave of terror raced through her veins and stalled her feet until the Pharisees were dragging her to the front of the crowd. They threw her down at the feet of Jesus.

It was bad enough to be shamed before her friends, and paraded as an adulteress through her community, but now to be thrown before Jesus, the Teacher? She could not look up. She wept and trembled, and felt the eyes of everyone on her. A harlot. An adulteress. A sinner. The law said to stone her. But, then she was a sideshow for the Pharisees. They treated her shame with indifference and focused only on trapping Jesus.

“What should we do with this woman caught in adultery?”

She was still cowering, but Jesus bent down, eye level, and wrote in the dust. Confusing and even angering the Pharisees, they want Him to engage, take a position.

“What should we do with her?”  Air is thick with anticipation and judgment, and at fever pitch, accusers silently, and in disbelief looked down to see the guilty secrets of their own private lives spelled out in the dust.

Jesus said decidedly, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

With judgments in hand, but the truth at their feet, no one picked up a stone. No one could. Did He write their individual sins, or a single statement that caused them to do some introspection about their own unrighteousness? The Bible does not tell us, but what we do know is that they all began to leave, one by one, starting with the oldest down to the most pious.

She braced herself and awaited the judgment of her fate, but Jesus calls her attention to His ruling.

“Where are your accusers?” He asked gently. She looked up, maybe expecting to see angry eyes, but instead saw no no one—only compassion. In Jesus’ eyes she found relief, and gentleness unlike anything she had ever experienced. It was a kindness, unattached to physical expectations and lust. It was pure, unmatched mercy.

Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus.

Surely, the Pharisees had left, but what about this Teacher? He alone could condemn her, but instead she finds more mercy, more grace, an abundance of forgiveness, and a pardon for her sin’s deserved punishment. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When tossed before the feet of the Savior, the sinner finds no condemnation. She no longer needed the sheet to cover her sins, because she found comfort and covering in the redemption of Christ.

Within this story is the summation of the gospel: confirmed sinners caught daily in the act of falling short of the righteousness of God; paraded through the communities of heaven as the beloved creation who fell; accused by Satan, and brought before God, condemned to death. Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus. Jesus, the Redeemer. Jesus, the Rescuer. But the gospel doesn’t end at forgiveness. He tells the woman to go and sin no more. This is evidence that an encounter with Jesus doesn’t just end with forgiveness, but it leads to life transformation.

She longed for earthy covering from her sin. But God had offered her more than a temporary cover. He offered her freedom. While Jesus does not condone sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save (John 3:16, 17).

The world may have accused you.

Your family and friends may be against you.

The writing in the dust covers that.

Your sins may be haunting you.

You may be struggling right now, consumed with guilt and shame.

Find yourself at the feet of Jesus.

The Blood of the cross covers that.

You may be broken and ashamed, hiding under the sheets where you hope no one can see.

The Mercy of Jesus covers that.

You may feel condemned, because
of a mess you may have gotten yourself into.

The Love of Jesus covers that, too.


And whom the Son sets free is truly free indeed. (John 8:36).

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Kimberly Mann is an associate chaplain with the Office of Spiritual Life at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.

By Any Means Necessary

Tenacious. Unstoppable. Perseverant. Usually these are words used to describe many sports heroes. Have you ever in your prayers or testimonies described God with one of these? Are they not accurate? I believe the Bible is full of stories of a tenacious, unstoppable, perseverant God.

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Day 1 - Read John 8:2,3
This is a dramatic situation and would be unacceptable in our time. Do you see the extent to which the teachers of the law and Pharisees are after Jesus? Have you ever wanted to prove someone wrong that badly? Has anyone ever gone the extra mile to expose you? Tell us about your experience on social media using the #MessageMag.


Day 2

Is it our “duty” as Christians to point out sin and pull the veil off wrongdoing? Were the Pharisees and teachers wrong for what they did? Why or why not? Share your views using the #MessageMag tag.


Day 3 - Read John 8:4-6

When we encounter people who don’t have our best interest at heart, the temptation is to see ourselves as the victim and ask, why me? What is interesting here is that the text specifies that this had less to do with the woman, and more to do with Jesus. Have you ever been through something you thought was about you, only to find out you were just a bystander, collateral damage? Has God ever taught you that it is not about you? Tell us about that on social media using the #MessageMag tag.

Day 4 - Read John 8:7,8

Once in a while God blesses us with a tough moment of clarity. Have you ever been overwhelmed with your own shortcomings? Isn’t it usually followed with an awe-inspiring view of God’s grace? The people here didn’t seem to have that, but we at Message want to know if you have. Let us know on social media using the #MessageMag tag.

Day 5 - Read John 8:9

This verse is quite curious. Why did the people walk away? Why did they leave in descending age order? Pray and contemplate this, then let us know your thoughts via social media using the tag #MessageMag

 


Day 6 - Read John 8:10,11

Sometimes it’s of value to note what Jesus didn’t say or do. He doesn’t point out that she made a mistake. He doesn’t point out that her situation is her fault. Instead He draws attention to the fact that there’s no one pointing out her faults anymore. Is that a part of our role as Christians? Showing that there’s “no condemnation”? Search, speculate, and share your thoughts with us with tag #MessageMag.

Day 7 - Read John 8:2-11

An observation you may have made was that there were many people who were in the presence of Jesus on this day, but only one found forgiveness. Is it possible that this woman would not have ended up at the feet of Jesus if she hadn’t been in the compromising position she was? Is it possible that her shortcoming was the means by which God orchestrated a confrontation? Has there been a time in your life when God took one of your dark yesterday’s and turned it into a bright tomorrow? Share your testimony with us using the #MessageMag.

I believe that God will do whatever He must to get us to the feet of Jesus. There are no means too dark, dank or despondent that God cannot or will not use. He will save us by any means necessary. Those means will always be Jesus.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Hometown Hero

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


Good coming-home stories take us back to the place where it all started. The rags-to-riches stories of successful athletes, business owners, physicians, or musicians that nobody thought would make it, all defy the limits. We often learn of the teacher who believed, or a coach who saw the talent beyond the circumstances at home. These redeeming stories of hope inspire the soul and are an all-out assault on labels placed on people.
When Jesus went home He was not the same person who left. Now He was a rabbi, a healer, and hope-giver who has followers. He knew what He was about, and His reputation preceded Him. But this is the latest download and update for those at home. They knew who He was; they knew His sisters; they knew the house He grew up in, but who is this guy? No, at His homecoming, Jesus received no celebration, pats on the back, smiles and waves from the neighbors, or a key to the city. Even the homies from around the way didn’t bother to throw a party.
Instead, they doubt and question Jesus. Mark writes the story this way in chapter 6:
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” (ESV)*
In other words, “Who is this guy?”
He is the founder, CEO, and lead attorney of earth’s Innocence Project with the sole mission to be an advocate for those who have sinned, and to save through His grace those who come to Him in faith. He is unbeaten on the road, flawless in His execution, and has found His niche.
Don’t hate, He is simply about His Father’s business. Being on the road changed Jesus, but doing His Father’s work, and living His purpose changed Him more. He was unrecognizable. And that was a good thing for the world.

The “haterade” flowed like water at home though. Who do you think you are? How dare you return home and speak like this?

It is out of our emptiness that we fill ourselves with the blood of others who we have limited, and even killed with labels we have placed on them. Humans were labeling pros in the time of Christ, and today we carry on the tradition. We even do it to ourselves. Labels on birth limitation, and they often shackle their captives emotionally without the possibility of parole. We limit each other. We incarcerate each other. Those who take the risk of a prison-break are sometimes tried by a jury of peers and found guilty of attempting to exceed expectations. Jesus had broken free, and wanted the people in His hometown to be free as well. They, however, could not be. They would not be.

Who is this guy?
Deeper yet, what happens when the blessing we need does not appear the way we expect? Jesus simply came to be a blessing, and the limits of his community, and His home stood in the way because He is not Jesus talking with a manwhat they expected. We treat our retuning children this way. We miss blessings because the person or vision did not fit the description. Too young. Too bold. Too much. Labels. Limits. We are missing out! How many years will we waste because we have no faith in the generation that is coming home? How long will we let our best minds, and most talented give their best outside of the city walls?

Who is He we ask?
An earlier chapter in Mark says that while in a storm that threatened shipwreck, and the lives of all aboard, Jesus is sleeping. He is labeled as not caring. All they could see was imminent destruction, but Jesus reminds them that He is not limited by storms and waves, and the fear of losing His life. He simply says, “peace be still.” Who is this guy? He speaks and nature listens.
Jesus then steps on the shore and strips off the label of “crazy demon-possessed man” from an outcast who was living among the dead. Jesus gave this shackled man unfettered freedom of life. Who is this guy, that even demons obey Him?
Jesus then rips the label of “incurable” from a woman by the mere touch of her hand to His garment. He is not done yet, because He deals with the biggest label of all, death. He rips the label of death off of Jarius’ daughter and she is brought back to life.
If I were there that day, I hope that I could say, “Jesus I want you to do your thing right here. You are always welcome here. Here is the key to the city, and I can’t wait to see what you will do right here at home.”
Who would He be then? The Savior of the world, the slain Lamb of God, and the coming King. The One who can free us from our limits and labels. Jesus/Savior.

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Baron A. Sovory is a pastor, husband, father, and youth leader in Southern California.

*Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Too Much Jesus

Too much religion. Too much church. Too much Jesus? For many it is hard to drive to the store without running into some sort of ministry. Steeple after steeple, cause after cause. It seems as if someone is always trying to find a way to spread the “Word.” Have you ever wondered if someone could have too much Jesus? Can you be around Him so long that you get weary of His presence? Let me ask a question that may be more relevant: Is there a time when you can get so familiar encountering Him that He no longer influences your life in the miraculous way He is capable of? As we continue exploring the different encounters people have had with Jesus, let us look at those who were exposed to Him the most.

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Day 1 - Read Mark 6:1

Sometimes it is hard to think about the reality of “God with us.” This verse uses a very interesting word when it comes to describing where Jesus was going: hometown. Can you imagine what it was like to live in the same town and see the development of the One who was to save the world? Have you ever wondered? Tell us what you think about this. We at Message would love to hear it.


Day 2 -Read Mark 6:2

I must admit that in writing this, it just dawned on me that Jesus not only had a hometown, but also a home church. To get a real feel for the amazement that those who were in the synagogue experienced, the next time you go to church, look at one of the children in your congregation and try to see them as the King of the universe. Envision them as having all power and authority. Tell about this exercise. Can you do it? Does it make you chuckle? Tell us about it.


Day 3 - Read Mark 6:2,3

From the last section, are the questions that were asked truly preposterous? There is something to be said about the effect of familiarity. Has God become familiar to you? When was the last time Jesus truly blew your mind, or caught you off guard? Read Hebrews 13:8, Romans 11:34, and Isaiah 55:8, 9. How do these fit together? What do they say about being “familiar” with God?

 


Day 4 - Read Mark 6:4

It seems as though the hardest setting to share and live the Gospel in, is around those who call you family. The ones that know you the best are often the hardest to reach, because either they know your story, or are not open to what you have to say because of history. Jesus seemed to experience this also in Nazareth. The people believed they knew Him so well that it was a foreign possibility for this man to be the Messiah. Is there someone who has been trying to talk to you, but you do not listen to them because you are close? Is there someone God has put on your heart to reach out to, but you are hesitant to do so with because of the nature of your relationship? Write out a prayer. Do not say their name if you do not want to, but write it out, and if you are willing, share your prayer so we at Message can pray with you for that situation.


Day 5 - Read Mark 6:5

It may amaze you, but you have the power to stifle God’s power in your own life, and those around you. The people of Nazareth somehow found a way to get the Bible to say “He [Jesus] could not . . .” Is it possible that God has intended to do some things in your life, but your expectation of Him is that He will be and do what He always has? And has that perspective limited what actually happens? Can you by the power of the Holy Spirit identify something you may be limiting God from doing? Let us know here at Message. We would love to pray for you in this.

 


Day 6 - Read Ephesians 3:20

Make a list of the things in your life you are looking for God to show His power in. Then make a list of what you think the best outcome would be. Read the verse above again and erase, or rewrite your answer. I am convinced that no matter how fantastic our scribbling get, God can exceed them. In your own way, praise God for what He is going to do with your list. If your praise takes the form of a song, poem, picture, or anything else that is shareable, we would love to be blessed by your praise here at Message. Share it with us.

Day 7 - Read Mark 6:6

I pray that God takes you and me to a place that our name can never appear in this verse. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, I look forward to God dispensing His word in such excess that we will amaze Him with the abundance of our faith.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 





Undercover Boss

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


There is a popular television show called Undercover Boss in which high-level corporate executives leave the comfort of their office and secretly take low-level jobs in their company. It is riveting television. These bosses, using disguises, infiltrate their own company to study it to see how things work, and how their employees feel about their jobs and the company. It is funny at times to see the CEO of a company putting on a wig, mustache, and glasses, and then taking out the trash. As we read John 3:1-20, it seems like an episode of Undercover Boss. Nicodemus, the guy in the passage is a boss. In verse one he is called a “ruler of the Jews.” He is a powerful and well-recognized man in his society. But he wants to ask questions of this young, up-and-coming new teacher. And it probably is not a good look for a ruler like him, a boss, to be seen asking questions of this young guy.

So he goes undercover. Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of night so that he cannot be seen and recognized by those in his fan club—by those who follow him. This ruler is in a weird position because in most circles he is the teacher. But here he comes to Jesus to ask questions and inquire about things.

The initial dialog portrays Nicodemus as trying to engage in cocktail party, networking talk. He said to Jesus, in essence, in verse 2, “I’ve been checking out your references and your reputation, and it seems like you have it going on.” Now the usual way this dialog works is that the person who received that compliment should reciprocate. Jesus should have said to Nicodemus how much he admired him and his body of work as well.

But Jesus took this conversation in another direction. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (verse 3). These are confusing metaphors and quite contradictory. Being born, which is a quite powerless image, and entering the kingdom, which represents a place of power. You can see how confusing it was to Nicodemus by his reaction. He wondered if he had to go back into his mother’s womb and come back out.
Jesus was having a conversation with an undercover boss, and showed us some powerful things about the Christian life by His imagery. In speaking to someone who understands having power and knowledge, and who is accustomed to depending on human strength, Jesus used surprisingly powerless images.

Jesus compared the start of the Christian experience to birth. If I remember anything about when I was first born (and I do not) it was my most helpless and vulnerable time. I was completely dependent on someone else for everything. We are so helpless that our entrance into the world, the birth process comes about because of the efforts of the mother and those delivering the baby. The baby does not give birth to his or her self, which is a telling lesson for us as we consider how the process of conversion happens. It is through the power of Christ that we are born again. We do not birth ourselves spiritually (so stop pushing).
As if He had not confused Nicodemus enough, Jesus then used another image that showed lack of effort. In verse 8 Jesus described wind blowing and not seeing it. Wind? Seems weak, right? But if you have ever seen wind move a seemingly immobile piece of debris and deposit it in some far-off place you understand its power. Maybe Jesus was trying to help Nicodemus and us—to understand the process by which we grow. We are not the wind; we are the piece of paper on the floor. And God’s spirit moves on us gradually and slowly, and causes us to be moved. Sometimes we wish it was a tornado, but Jesus describes a calmer wind. But I guess the good news for us is that the wind still moves things. And God’s spirit still changes us, even if it is not as fast as we may want it. Nicodemus, the undercover boss, did not expect this. He had come to depend on his own strength, but Jesus kept pointing to being powerless under the control of God. It makes us uncomfortable as well. We are accustomed to getting things, and accomplishing things based on our knowledge, capabilities, gifts, and connections, but in this system that Jesus is describing all of them go out the window. The Christian life is based on the acknowledgment that we are powerless, and

God is all-powerful. He is the One who is able to save.

Recently I saw a real tear-jerking episode of Undercover Boss. At the end of each episode, the boss reveals who he is and gives promotions, gifts, and awards to some of his or her employees. Well, in this episode, after the boss revealed his identity to an unsuspecting dedicated worker he then gave her a new home. She was homeless with her kids. His act of kindness blew her away.

The twist in this Bible passage is that even though Nicodemus comes in as the Undercover Boss, he discovers that Jesus is the real boss. He is the one in full disguise and Jesus is the one doling out gifts. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus is God under the cover of humanity. And in Him God gave, and gives us, the best gift He can ever give—
His Son. He extended that gift not just to Nicodemus, but also to all of us. And anyone who accepts that gift gets another gift, eternal life. To think about it, it almost blows you away.

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KYMONE HINDS, his wife, and their three energetic children live in Memphis, Tennessee He pastors two churches, Overton Park, and Journey Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches. He also speaks, and blogs regularly on different life issues. You can connect with Kymone via twitter@kymonehinds, or on his blog at comejourney.org.

THE SECRET OF SEARCHING

Deep and wide: A familiar description that accurately depicts the real estate of being a Christian. We all from time to time have the unction to go deeper. It also dawns on us periodically that our God is wider than the breath of our imagination. Hopefully this drives us, like it did Nicodemus, to have a confrontation with the Christ. Talk to us about your thoughts via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

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Day 1 - Read John 3:1, 2

Is it not immediately interesting that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night? What would cause someone to have a conversation with a stranger after dark? Curiosity? Fear?


Day 2 -Read John 3:3

Is it just me, or is Jesus making a statement that has nothing to do with what Nicodemus just said? Has it ever seemed as though what God has allowed to happen in your life has nothing to do with what you pray about? You talk to Him about peace and you always deal with stress. You converse with Him about love and you are always lonely. Do you have any experiences like that?


Day 3 - Read John 3:4

I believe that in my lifetime I have had some legitimate observations that God did not consider. There were some things I thought should happen that did not happen. I believed a certain way should have been taken that He closed off. Have you ever disagreed with God?

 


Day 4

Job was one who had an observation for God. God also had a response for Job. Listen to the beauty of God’s way. Watch Bob Sorge— God could have left Job. http://youtu.be/9FZ5uM_YfB4


Day 5 - Read John 3:5-8

Jesus explained what it is to be born again.
The struggle Nicodemus was having is one that most of us have had. How do we, who are not naturally attuned to the spiritual, decipher the spiritual? Jesus uses something comparable to try to make it clear. He says, “We must be born again.” We must have a spiritual awakening from the womb of our previous mindsets. Have you had any “awakenings?” Talk to us via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

 


Day 6 - Read Philippians 2:5-11 & John 3:9-15

It cannot be overemphasized how central the Gospel is to be in Christianity. Look at what Jesus did, and then look at what Jesus says as His words conclude. Can you see what searching leads you to?

Day 7 - Read John 3:16, 17

Very often our seeking out of God is rooted in selfish desires and yearning for personal comfort. I believe God has to sometimes make our journey an adventure so that we can loose ourselves in the process. It’s only when we loose ourselves that we are truly ready for the secrets of God. He gave all so
that we can have more


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 





Don’t Wait Your Turn

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


So a few years ago I ventured out into the wild unknown for a dangerous hunting trip—Black Friday. I camped out the night before to secure my spot in line. I had my eye on a digital camera that was on sale. I had to have it. After I waited what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened, and I was pushed and shoved aside by others who wanted the camera too, but were too impatient to wait their turn. It still bothers me that they got the deal  and I did not, all because they did not wait their turn.

But those hijackers had something in common with the mother in Matthew 15:21-28. She was after something, and  what she was in search of was so important to her that she was willing to go to great lengths to get it. In fact, the best word to describe her situation is desperate.

Her daughter was oppressed by a demon—by something bigger and stronger than they could ever dream of fighting off—and this was breaking the heart of this mother. There is nothing harder for us than to watch someone we love suffer, and feel helpless because there is nothing we can say or do in the moment to make things better. But truth be told, if we could we would go to any lengths to fix it.

We could imagine that this mother had tried all of the things that were at her disposal (visiting top professionals, trying the home remedies her friends recommended) with the great hope of resolve, but still nothing. And just when she was at her breaking point, Jesus came to her town.

Yes! she must have thought. Here is where the good news starts, healing happens, problems get fixed, and we all get happy, right? Jesus is in her town. But when she cried out to Jesus (verse 22), He ignored her (verse 23).  Rather than flinch at His rejection, however, she kept on pressing Him so much that the disciples asked Jesus to tell her to knock it off.

What happens next is quite shocking.

Says Jesus: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24). Say what now, Jesus? It appears that even though He came to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, He had a special mission to the people of Israel first. And while that may seem difficult to read, He was fulfilling the assignment on which He was sent.  His disciples would be dispatched later to minister to those outside of the nation of Israel. Jesus was not being exclusive here, but focused.

He had focused His earthly ministry on reviving within Israel an understanding of God and His mission for them. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:6 when He sent them out,  “go. . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus prioritized His mission to Israel so that He could send them out to everyone to carry this good news!
So here Jesus tells this mother who is in a desperate situation that He was not sent to her people—in other words, Jesus was saying to her, “Woman, wait your turn!”
What would you have done? Would you have gone home and taken your pager with you so that you would have something to alert you to your turn?
Not this mother. Her desperation releases a faith that will not be denied: “Lord, help me!” (verse 25). Clearly, she was not leaving Jesus’ presence without the blessing she sought.

Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (verse 26).
Say what now, Jesus? Did you
just compare me to a dog?” she must
have thought.

Growing up, my best friend had a dog. She loved that dog, and I did too. We played with him and enjoyed his company, and when she got married, he made an appearance in the bridal party. I had always noticed that when I stayed for meals, he always ate when we ate—in fact, we would toss food to him. He was part of the family.

Was Jesus priming the woman’s faith somehow? Was He hinting at something? Was He hoping to signal something such as “You’re a part of the family”?
Her response? “Jesus, if all I can get are the crumbs, I’ll take it!” (see verse 27).

This mother’s desperation released a faith that caused her to be persistent, to not wait her turn, and to see even the crumbs of Jesus’ blessing as more than enough! She affirmed Jesus’ power. If all He gave her were crumbs, that would be more than enough. Jesus was so impressed, that He rewarded her faith and healed her daughter.

Are you desperate enough for God’s blessing in your life that you are willing to not wait your turn? Can you imagine how our lives would be affected if we exercised faith like this mother, persistent pressing into the presence of God until something happens?

I read somewhere that “well-behaved women rarely make history,” and I think that this could be translated: “to be world-changers, we must have faith to not wait our turn!”

What situations in your life are telling you to be passive, to wait and just accept things as they are? Do you have a family member who has hurt you, made a shipwreck of their lives, and you sit by and watch them while harboring the pain inside? Maybe God is challenging you to not listen to the whispers of life that are saying, “Wait until they come around.” This may be your time to cut to the front of the line and exercise desperation, and cry out to God for Him to deliver, and not leave until you hear from God.

What issues internally are you struggling with that you have told yourself, “I’ll grow out of this; time will make me lose my appetite for it”? What if God wants you to recognize your desperation, refuse to wait your turn, and consistently and persistently seek Him for the power to overcome now?

What assurance of God’s salvation in your life are you hoping to experience later in life, and feel as if it cannot be yours now? You think you have to wait until Jesus returns to feel the peace of knowing you are covered by Him. And maybe God is saying, Do not listen to your own internal dialogue. You do not have to wait to experience the joy of salvation. You can have it now!

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Chanda Nunes is a pastor and evangelist from Kansas City, Kansas.

 

CONFRONTATIONAL CHRIST

Many of us know that God speaks, but how many of us have experienced Him responding? Have our prayer monologues turned into conversations? Most can testify that God hears, but what happens when our encounters with Him necessitate a response? These are all questions that I believe His word can address. Join us as we investigate an encounter a woman in a dire situation had with the Savior of the World.

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Day 1 - Read Mark 7:24, 25

Today it is very important to know that God is real. Sometimes He can seem far, and the stories of Him can be perceived as dated, making it feel as if there is a chasm between the Jesus of the Bible and the one we can talk to daily. That is why the description Mark gives of Him is worth noting. Have you ever not wanted to be bothered, or just wanted some time to yourself? Jesus, the very personification of love, appears to want a breather. Have you seen a side of God that was very real to you? We’d love to hear about it here at Message. Send us your thoughts.


Day 2 -Read Matthew 15:21-23

I have a tough question to pose. Has God ever come across as rude in His dealing with you? Was there a time you wondered if He was giving you the cold shoulder? In these verses we see Jesus do something that we do not see Jesus do very often. See if you can spot it. Let us know if you see it, and tell us your thoughts on it.

Let us know your responses: #messagemagazine.


Day 3 - Read Matthew 15:23

Have you ever been introduced to the Jesus who will ignore you? If you notice, the woman who comes to Him is not dealing with what we would call a small issue. Her daughter is dealing with demonic possession, yet Jesus seems unconcerned. Have you been through a stressful or worrisome situation and felt that God did not respond to it with the same passion and expedience that you would have liked?

Do you mind sharing it with us? Make
a short video, if you can, and upload it to our website.

 

Day 4 - Read Matthew 15:24


While growing up in the church I would often hear people say, “God is not a man.” Jesus’ response to the disciples when they insisted that the woman be sent away is a perfect example of this. Though He did not initially respond to the woman, He said to the disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” suggesting that He was not sent to people such as the woman in the passage. Is it possible that Jesus was trying to teach the disciples something through the actions of this “heathen” woman? Has God ever used an unlikely method to teach you something? We would love to hear your story.


Day 5 - Read Romans 8:28

It may not seem like a verse that is connected to our story of study, but I ask that you take notice of something. Here is the verse in the King James Version:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It dawned on me a while ago that I have a tendency to interpret the Bible in a selfish way. I like to apply verses like this to myself and not as they really are. Yes, I believe that God will work out things for my good, but that is not what is really being said here. Instead, things will work together for the good of “them.” “Them” may or may not be “me.” Something may happen to me that is for the good of someone else, and vice versa. This woman was “ignored” by Jesus so that the disciples could see an example of real faith.

 


What happens in these verses is profound. It is of note that this woman is a Syro-Phoenician. Syro-Phoenician people tended to be Baal worshippers. Jewish people in those days would not customarily speak to them, much less women from that region. Finally, it was traditional for females from that area to be called “dogs” by Jews. The faith of this woman gave her the victory over being treated the way her god had more than likely treated her. It gave her victory over being treated and talked to like every other woman from her region had been by Jewish men. To top it off, this was coming from the Lily of the Valley, Jesus the Christ. No wonder Jesus was enthralled by how she responded.

Day 7 - Wrap Up

I invite you to pray and examine how you respond to the things that God allows you to encounter in your life. Is your response one of rare faith that warrants the attention of Heaven?
Will you cause God to smile because of the special faith deposit now working inside of you? I look forward to hearing your “rare response” to God’s unexpected revelations in your life.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 


 




When Jesus Says Goodbye

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


John 21:15-17

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

Saying goodbye is hard to do when you know that it could be the last goodbye. It is in the last goodbye that the reality of the status of our relationship with a friend, parent, child, or spouse stares us in the face. This goodbye needs hope, comfort, and understanding.

It was by faith in God the Father that Jesus believed He would live again. His last goodbye to His mother is a touching one. Jesus—with the salvation of the world resting on His shoulders—reflected on what would happen to his mother once He was gone. He connected her to one of His disciples and a close friend, John, to make sure that she would be taken care of. Jesus said goodbye, but He didn’t do it without making sure that she was cared for.  This is the way Christ is, He leaves nothing undone. He takes care of business. Even after He rose from the grave, He folded His burial robes. He left no loose ends.

So when it came to Peter, Jesus saw some loose ends. Peter had walked on water, had declared that Jesus was the Son of God, and had tried to defend Jesus forcibly when He was arrested.  But Peter had created a rift between the two of them. In the critical and dramatic moments after Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and led away like a common criminal, Jesus’ friend Peter denied even knowing Him.

This was no minor break in friendship; it was major. This is the kind of break most relationships do not face, let alone come back from.

Jesus died on the cross the next day, carrying with Him the debt of the world. He rose again three days later in glorious power. Then, to confirm in their minds what they had learned, heard Him teach, and witnessed for themselves, He appeared to His disciples three times. On the third visit, however, Jesus would soon return to His place at the right hand of His Father. It is during this visit that Peter and Jesus spent some time talking. Before He said goodbye, Jesus sought to tie up a loose end.

Imagine the chilling guilt surging through Peter as Jesus looked at him.

“Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus asked.

Jesus was not asking if Peter loved Him the way we love food, TV, or our mobile phones.  He was asking him do you “agape Me?” the highest form of love. Do you love me above everything else?

“Yes, I do love You,” Peter said.

The love that Peter responds with, assents to, commits to, however, is not that same love Jesus asked about. Jesus asked about agape love, yet Peter responds with a phileo love. In other words, Peter is saying that the love he has for Jesus is a friendship love.

The status of their relationship has just gotten real.

Peter had love to give, but it was not a love above everything. Instead of Jesus rejecting it, He gives Peter the responsibility to watch over His lambs, those who would come to Jesus after He was gone.

Jesus repeats His question to Peter twice more. The second time, asking Peter if Peter has agape love for him and, similarly to the first time, He told him to “tend his flock.”

However, the third time, Jesus does something that is so amazing.

This third time asking Peter if he loved Him, He acknowledged where Peter was.

“Do you phileo Me, Peter?”

In order to restore this relationship, heal the injury, Jesus did not need a grand profession that they would always be “besties” or a profession of other great things that Peter would do for Him in His name.  He needed the truth. He asked this based on where Peter was, and not where He wanted him to be, or even where he will be ultimately. Jesus still loved him and He accepted what Peter had to give.

Jesus will not leave loose ends for us. Though He knows many are not yet sold out for Him, He meets us all where we may engage in relationship to Him. Though we are imperfect, and often overconfident in our commitment to Him, He has not cut us off. He knows where we are in relationship to Him, He just wants to get us to His agape so that when He comes back, we can together say goodbye to this world.

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ERIC PENICK is an associate youth director for junior high, senior youth, and young adult ministries for the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

CONFRONTATIONAL CHRIST

Raise your hand if you like confrontation, intense encounters to resolve an issue or to get a point across. Those are the meetings that can many times come across as an intervention or attack for those involved. It can be invasive, uncomfortable, and nerve-racking, but for some reason being confrontational seemed to be an integral part of the personality of the Prince of Peace. Jesus was always initiating conversations that would make the air in the room thin. Why? In this new series in which we ask the question “Have you met Jesus?” we will explore the encounters some had with the Man who was a walking turning point.

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Day 1

Just to show that I am not making it up, I invite you to read the following passages. As you read, ask a few questions. Was Jesus invited to intervene? Was something said that prompted His words? Could Jesus have walked away or walked by? Why did He do or say what He did?

John 9

Mark 2

Luke 15

Matthew 5

John 5


Day 2 -Read John 21

Read John 21

This is an interesting confrontation because it is not with an unfamiliar individual but someone who Jesus has been with for almost four years at this point. It can be extremely frustrating to have someone ask you a question that you think they should know the answer to. To add to the intensity of the conversation, all of the disciples were also sitting around the fire eating and listening. What comes to your mind when you read this story? What do you think was going through the mind of Peter? Why was Jesus doing this?

Let us know your responses: #messagemagazine.


Day 3

Atlanta pastor Wesley Knight recently crystallized a point I believe would be beneficial for our study here. He made note of what Jesus called Peter, both when Jesus found the disciples fishing, and also in the midst of the conversation about Peter’s love for Jesus. Why is this significant? Read John 1:42.

Jesus found Peter not acting like Peter but acting like Simon. Peter was an apostle, but Simon was a fisherman. Peter had seen and performed miracles, while Simon lived on a boat for a living. When God confronts us, is it possible it is because we are not what He has called us to be? He wants more of us, but we are trying to relapse into what is comfortable. What in your life has God moved you from that you find yourself falling back into?

Let us know: #messagemagazine.

Day 4

It seems with this particular instance that Jesus’ confrontation with Peter had to do with his character. This still doesn’t make clear the line of questioning that Jesus takes up once the disciples get on shore. What would your response be if Jesus asked you if you love Him? Honestly. Imagine the Creator of the world and you, the one who has provided all your needs and kept you sane, sitting in front of you asking, “Do you love me?” Read John 21:15-17, and tell us how you would feel and how you would respond.


Day 5

Gary Chapman has a series of books focused on what is called “the five love languages.” He suggests that we all have love languages, or the ways we feel and show love. Chapman distills those ways into these most common profiles: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts.

Is it possible that God has a love language? If you have been in the church for a while you can get the idea that there are many ways to love God, and it is true. What I wonder is if there is a particular way that makes His heart flutter more than anything else? It makes me want to examine more what Jesus’ response to Peter really means. “Then feed My sheep” is what Jesus says. What does that really mean? To help guide you, I invite you to read 1 John 4. Focus on verses 17-21. Talk to us


Day 6

Here’s what I want you to do. If you have done it already, you can skip this portion. Write out a list of people that God has allowed to be in your circle of influence. Then look over the list and write out a list of people that do not necessarily go to church or seem religious, but who are in your circle. This is your new prayer list. The first list is for you to pray to be a spiritual support to those who are already consciously on the journey with Jesus. The other is a prayer list for you to pray for those who you want God to teach you how to love and “feed.”

Day 7 - Wrap Up

As we explore the encounters that different people have had with Jesus we must keep in mind that Jesus is making a perfect people for that place made perfect. He is always looking to refine character and grow faith. I pray that you will examine who you are and what Jesus has called you to be. I hope that you are more cognizant of the sheep that Jesus has blessed you to have the ability to feed for the love of Him.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship church in Buckhead, Georgia.

 


 




Course Correction Now

Although it is set in hell, this tale is about the here and now.


Luke 16:19-31

The rich man and Lazarus is one of the most disturbing parables Jesus shares. Jesus does not mention hell very much, so when He mentions someone burning in hell for eternity, it merits our attention. And boy, does He have it! All we can think is I do not want that to be me. However, it is not this man’s situation, or his location, that Jesus intends to be our takeaway from this story. He has something greater in mind.

The Pharisees have been heckling Jesus for spending time with the sinners of society, namely tax collectors. So Jesus responds by making the case that children of God should, like the Father, have a heart for the lost, and that means using their resources to help them. He then mentions that money, to the unconverted, is like a taskmaster. God’s children must determine if they will serve it or God.  The Pharisees are incensed! They have a lot of money, and they love it dearly. But Jesus lets them know they need to choose. Luke 16:15: “Then he said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God’ ” (NLT).* God will judge us, not by what we do or what we have, but by who we are.

Jesus illustrates it this way: A rich man, with fine clothing and a huge home, lived very well. Outside of his home was a beggar named Lazarus. He was so hungry that he would have gladly eaten with the dogs. Ironically, those dogs slowly ate him by licking his sores, a terrible picture.

But in Jesus’ story the wrong man has a name.

We use the phrase “making a name” to mean to develop a reputation for one’s self. The name a person makes may be good or bad, but it constitutes how that person is known. An affluent man would normally be the one who has made such a name. A poor beggar would likely be identified as nobody, if he were referred to at all. Surely the rich man’s neighbors were well acquainted with him and called his name often. They probably placed his name on invitations as well as awards and plaques. Yet Jesus does not mention his name.

As this rich and successful man goes nameless, the poor and homeless beggar is referred to by name. Jesus turns our human conventions on their heads. While the affluent and successful have a name many humans call, there is no such automatic recognition in heaven. In God’s eyes those obsessed with wealth and accomplishments have already made a name for themselves on the earth. However, those who belong to the kingdom of God have a name written in heaven.

The poor man’s name, Lazarus, means “God will help” or “assistance of God.” His only recourse is to depend upon the help of God. This is the reputation the poor man has made for himself in heaven. So God has a place of rest and comfort prepared for him.

The rich man spent his life depending on his own ingenuity and wealth. He had not thought to rely on God, because he was doing a great job on his own. So he became a servant of money, believing he could care for himself. While material wealth can help people establish cozy lives in the present, there is nothing money can do for us in the life to come. The poor man went to the place his “Help” prepared for him, and the rich man went to the place prepared for those who find their help elsewhere.

Jesus is not telling this parable in order to train our eyes on the hereafter, but to engage our hands and feet in the now. No doubt most of the Pharisees identified with the rich man in this parable, and saw themselves in the man doomed. Jesus’ intent is to invite them, and us, to abandon pride and the worship of wealth, and to love the people God loves. Rather than allow us to carry on with our lives in ignorance, Jesus shares this truth to offer us an opportunity for course correction.

While it is too late for the man in the story, the fact that we can hear and understand the parable means we still have a chance. Jesus wants to shed light on the true condition of our hearts so that we can depend on Him to make our poisonous hearts like His. The telling of this story is an act of grace. It means that God doesn’t want to see us experience the natural end that comes to those who do not depend on Him. He wants us to make a new start together. It is not too late.

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*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Lola RENEE MOORE is a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey. She is a lover of music and literature, and enjoys extreme sports. She resides in northwest Florida, where she pastors the Maranatha and Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist churches in Panama City and Greenwood, Florida, respectively.


They are everywhere. In the streets, buses, and gas stations. They frequent the highways and service streets. You can spot them among the crowds in a congested city. The churches are like magnets for them. Have you ever passed by someone who was homeless? I have. On my way to my climate-controlled, cushioned, comfortable accommodations I am guilty of not sparing much care for the needy. Maybe I have become numb to those who are in need of assistance or, specifically, I have been blinded by my own personal deposit of God’s blessings and have become oblivious. Is there any counsel on this? Let us look to a parable Jesus told about a man who needed help.


Day 1 -Read Luke 1:1-4

Read Luke 1:1-4.

We find this parable in the letter that Luke wrote to a man named Theophilus. Theophilus is believed to have been a wealthy ranking Roman official, and Luke is writing to him to show that Jesus is a friend to sinners and outcasts. If you were to skim the book/letter of Luke, you would notice that he, more than any other author, writes about Jesus’ interactions with women, Samaritans, and those who are unclean. Can you look at your life and honestly say that you are intentional about seeking out those who are categorized as outcasts? Do you see yourself as an outcast? We here at Message would like to hear your thoughts via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,  or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.


Day 2 -Read Luke 16:19

Read Luke 16:19.

It had been awhile since I read this parable, and as soon as I read the first verse, my attention was arrested. In the time of Jesus, to get something such as purple clothes was a tall and expensive task. It continues by saying that he lived in luxury every day. He was not just getting by—he was living in grandeur. I was tempted to judge, but if we were to take an inventory of all that is around us, we might find that in reality we need for nothing. I challenge you to sit down and write out a list of all that you need at this very moment. After you’re finished, read Matthew 6:31-34 and see if you can identify what God’s absolute promise of provision is.


Day 3 -Read Luke 16:20

Read Luke 16:20.

While the rich man is in the midst of his plush lifestyle, Lazarus is outside suffering beyond belief. Not only is he poor, but he is in constant physical pain. I have had to ask myself a very specific question when I read this: Do I care about the pain of those who are poor? Many of us on many occasions have given change or food to those less fortunate. Have we been compassionate enough to inquire about the physical and emotional pains that they have gone through? This next directive is more involved than usual. Find another person who simply wants to help someone less fortunate and take them to get something to eat. Sit down and get to know them. I bet you’ll be amazed. We here at Message would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 4 -Read Luke 16:21

Read Luke 16:21.

Did you know there is a high possibility you are living in excess? I do not know your personal situation, but I’ll bet there is some stuff that you do not use that someone would be ecstatic to have. Pray at this moment, and see if God leads you to give some of your possessions away. If so, we would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.


Day 5 -Read Luke 16:22-25

Read Luke 16:22-25.

What catches God’s attention? What makes His heart flutter? We find that Lazarus is looking for relief, but Abraham says the rich man experienced his “good things” on earth. Is it possible that God is looking for people who are willing to forfeit their comfort now for an eternal comfort later? Read the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30. Focus on verses 29 and 30. We would like to hear about your experience via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, or
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.


Day 6 -Read Luke 16:27-31

Read Luke 16:27-31.

When the rich man realizes that there is no hope for him, he thinks about his family. Many have traveled the way the world has taught us as the way to a “good life.” Went to school, got a good education in order to get a good job, in order to get a good house, and to support a good family. There is nothing wrong with this picture. It is a gift of God. But has His blessing of shelter and security forged a strand of uninterest in helping those less fortunate? If the culture of love is not engrained early, it will be too late to change. I challenge you to sit your family down and talk to them about serving those less fortunate together. If you want help praying for your family, contact us here at Message. We will pray with you through this.

Day 7 - Wrap Up

Go to YouTube and listen to the Erica Campbell song “Help,” featuring Lecrae


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 


 




Invited Yet Unwelcome

Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue.


Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue. So here is the question: If you got invited to the wedding and reception of a gay couple, would you go? Would you feel comfortable sitting at the wedding reception table for the celebratory meal?
It is probably the most unsettling feeling to eat in the presence of people you are uncomfortable around, or people that you do not like. Mealtimes are probably the times we are the most relaxed and at ease. It is hard to be at ease when you are in the presence of people you do not respect or like.
In ancient Hebrew culture mealtimes were even more special and intimate. As a matter of fact, Jews held hospitality as a very sacred virtue. The Jewish Shema states, “The Lord our God . . . is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). They understood that to mean that the ultimate goal for society was to become one in community and relationship. Thus, when entertaining guests, it was absolutely essential to ensure that their needs were met, especially during mealtime. On one occasion Jesus chided Simon, the Pharisee, for not providing water for foot washing to Him and the other dinner guests (Luke 7:44).

 

However, despite their values of hospitality, there were certain people that Jews would never entertain, much less invite into their homes for a meal.

The Jews believed that if a perso2014 The Experience homelessn was sick or suffered some misfortune, it was evidence of God’s disapproval and judgment. They believed that those who were paralyzed, blind, or leprous were cursed by God because of their sins. Furthermore, there were certain groups with whom the Jews would not even socialize. They were chosen by God to represent His will and character in the world. Yet they misunderstood His favor to mean favoritism. But Jesus’ ministry would change all of that.
In this parable Jesus tells the story of a man who prepares a “great banquet” for some special guests. However, when he extends the invitation, they excused themselves. One had just recently bought a piece of land, and probably wanted to go and survey the property. Another had just bought some new oxen to help him plow his fields, and he wanted to go and try them out. Still another had just been married, and maybe wanted to go directly to his honeymoon.
When the host learned that they had rejected his hospitality, he decided in an angry huff that he would extend his invitation to anyone who would come. He ordered his servant to go out into the city streets and alleyways “and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21, NIV).1 Anyone he can find is now welcome. The servant did as he was told, and before the owner’s anger could subside, the hall was furnished with grateful guests. But with space for more guests still, the owner ordered his servant to expand the invite to the countryside and county roads.
The story ends abruptly with a fairly dark saying of the obviously still upset owner:  “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (verse 24, NIV).
Ironically, Jesus told this story while at a banquet of a prominent religious leader. He was surrounded by the very important and powerful, the very group that believes that poor people, sick people, and foreigners are all cursed by God. They could not possibly be invited into the intimate proximity of the chosen ones. They are cursed, and that is why they were not invited to this particular banquet with all the “important” people.
But Jesus’ story reverses that notion. In His story it
is those who are poor, lame, or blind that receive the favor of the master. And it is the privileged ones who are shut out. The owner determines to make sure that the hall is full, so that even if they change their mind they won’t be allowed in. They had their chance and they rejected it, and now their seat has been taken. Now the favored ones are cursed, and the cursed ones are favored.
Could it be that this parable still vividly describes churches today? Are we angry at the dinner table because we do not like being around them? If so, maybe we are the ones who the owner promises will not be allowed to enter the great banquet.
You can take your pick of outcasts and undesirables, and ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable breaking bread with them? We may have started this discussion in the context of members of the LGBT community, and that is a reality-based example, but there may be so much more. What about a drug dealer, a drug addict, a Wall Street CEO, a crooked politician, a prostitute, or an undocumented immigrant? Would they be welcome guests at your table? Maybe you are the one who feels like an outcast.
If you feel as though church is not for you because you do not fit in, or because the people there are cold and snobbish, then the words of Jesus are especially for you. He wants you to know that God’s kingdom is established on the foundation of grace, love, and acceptance. He proclaimed that His “house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7, ESV).2 He welcomes you to His house.
I hope you’re hungry, because the table is set and the food is ready.

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Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

christopher c. thompson has written three books on spiritual growth, and blogs regularly at www.thegrowthnetwork.org. He is also a doctoral candidate at United Theological Seminary.


If you were to take a personal inventory of some of your best days, you would realize that there were some truly joyous days that you have experienced. Maybe it is a golden moment from your childhood, or the moment you met the one you were to be with the rest of your life, or even some academic or occupational accomplishment that you longed for. Whatever it may be, we find in Scripture a very sobering lesson from the one called Jesus Christ.


Day 1 - Read Luke 14:1

Luke 14:1

It may sound simple, and maybe even trivial, but have you ever tried to literally list the blessing and fortune you are currently experiencing in your life? How much “good” is really around you at this present time? I challenge you to take an inventory of what you are blessed with, or fortunate to have at this particular time. Write it out. If you’re comfortable enough, share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 2 - Read Luke 14:12 - 14

Luke 14:12 – 14

The words of Jesus are a practical challenge. How natural is it to want to do nice things for those who have been nice to us? How much easier is it to show kindness to those who we know will have our back if we ever needed them? It seems that Jesus is downplaying the merit of showing kindness to those who are close to you, or have ability and means to return it. Look over your list of blessings and things that you see as fortunate, and see who they benefit. Is it you? Is it family or friends? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 3 - Read John 15:13

John 15:13

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13 (KJV). The extent of love a person can exhibit is dying for a friend. But Jesus didn’t die for only those He called friend—He died for the whole world. I want you to make another list. This list will take serious introspection and honesty. Make a list of people it would be hard to die for. Who is it that rubs you the wrong way? Is there anyone whose presence causes negative feelings to arise in you? Write the names out, and I ask you to pray for them. Read Matthew 5:43-45.

Day 4 - Read Luke 14:15 - 17

Luke 14:15 – 17

With this mind-set I invite you to read the lyrics to the hymn “Jesus Saves.”
We have heard a joyful sound,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Spread the gladness all around;
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves,
Onward, ’tis our Lord’s command,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Waft it on the rolling tide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Tell to sinners, far and wide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing, ye islands of the sea.
Echo back, ye ocean caves,
Earth shall keep her jubilee,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Sing above the battle’s strife,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
By His death and endless life,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves,
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Give the winds a mighty voice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Let the nations now rejoice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Shout salvation full and free,
Highest hills and deepest caves,
This our song of victory,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
Isn’t it interesting who the songwriter says Jesus saves, and who we should tell that Jesus saves?


Day 5 - Read Luke 14:18 - 20

Luke 14:18 – 20

We find in this passage that the ones invited
are all fortunate. There’s nothing that indicates that these are “bad” people who are being invited. In fact, it seems they are all well-to-do members of their society. One has managed their money well and acquired real estate to further their net worth. Another has purchased some necessary upgrades to be more efficient in doing his or her work, and wants to make sure all is in working order. The last has just started the crown jewel of human relationships, and married the love of their life. All of these are blessings, correct? Why then does the Bible call them excuses? What do you think? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 6 - Read Luke 14:21-24

Luke 14:21-24

The next order of the master is radical. He commands his servants to go and get anyone. When the banquet still isn’t full, he then says, in his own way, “Really! Go get absolutely anyone who will come.” The portion that seems harsh is verse 24, where he says, “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (NIV).* This is in reference to those in the previous verses. What does this say about God? What does this say about the kingdom of heaven and those who make it?

Day 7 - Wrap Up

It’s been said that you should not exalt the gift over the giver, the blessing over the blesser. So many of us see ourselves as good, fortunate, and blessed people, but we fall short of the people that make it into the banquet with the Master. We do only for those who are good to us. We take very little thought for those who have no help. Instead of seeing the things in our lives as an opportunity to enrich the life of those less fortunate, we conclude it is nothing more than our own fortune and enrichment. I hope that this study has led you to realize that some of us are too fortunate, and that will be the reason we excuse ourselves from the A List of the banquet of heaven.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 


 




Who’s Who? And Why You Don’t Have to Worry About It

This month’s Experience is an excerpt from the book Christ’s Object Lessons, written more than 100 years ago. The chapter entitled “Tares” presented this parable of Jesus in a fresh light. It’s still fresh.


“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” ’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30).

Christ’s servants are grieved as they see true and false believers mingled in the church. They long to do something to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder, they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ says to them, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.”

Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.

There is in the Savior’s words another lesson, a lesson of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. The real character of these pretended believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who but for this would have remained steadfast.

The teaching of this parable is illustrated in God’s own dealing with men and angels. Satan is a deceiver. When he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully discern his character. This was why God did not at once destroy Satan. Had He done so, the holy angels would not have perceived the justice and love of God. A doubt of God’s goodness would have been as evil seed that would yield the bitter fruit of sin and woe. Therefore the author of evil was spared,  to fully develop his character. Through long ages God has borne the anguish of beholding the work of evil, He has given the infinite Gift of Calvary, rather than leave any to be deceived by the misrepresentations of the wicked one; for the tares could not be plucked up without danger of uprooting the precious grain. And shall we not be as forbearing toward our fellow men as the Lord of heaven and earth is toward Satan?

The world has no right to doubt the truth of Christianity because there are unworthy members in the church, nor should Christians become disheartened because of these false brethren. How was it with the early church? Ananias and Sapphira joined themselves to the disciples. Simon Magus was baptized. Demas, who forsook Paul, had been counted a believer. Judas Iscariot was numbered with the apostles. The Redeemer does not want to lose one soul; His experience with Judas is recorded to show His long patience with perverse human nature; and He bids us bear with it as He has borne. He has said that false brethren will be found in the church until the close of time.

Notwithstanding Christ’s warning, men have sought to uproot the tares. To punish those who were supposed to be evildoers, the church has had recourse to the civil power. Those who differed from the established doctrines have been imprisoned, put to torture and to death, at the instigation of men who claimed to be acting under the sanction of Christ. But it is the spirit of Satan, not the Spirit of Christ, that inspires such acts. This is Satan’s own method of bringing the world under his dominion. God has been misrepresented through the church by this way of dealing with those supposed to be heretics.

Not judgment and condemnation of others, but humility and distrust of self, is the teaching of Christ’s parable. Not all that is sown in the field is good grain. The fact that men are in the church does not prove them Christians.

The tares closely resembled the wheat while the blades were green; but when the field was white for the harvest, the worthless weeds bore no likeness to the wheat that bowed under the weight of its full, ripe heads. Sinners who make a pretension of piety mingle for a time with the true followers of Christ, and the semblance of Christianity is calculated to deceive many; but in the harvest of the world there will be no likeness between good and evil. Then those who have joined the church, but who have not joined Christ, will be manifest.

The tares are permitted to grow among the wheat, to have all the advantage of sun and shower; but in the time of harvest ye shall “return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18, KJV). Christ Himself will decide who are worthy to dwell with the family of heaven. He will judge every man according to his words and his works. Profession is as nothing in the scale. It is character that decides destiny.

The Savior does not point forward to a time when all the tares become wheat. The wheat and tares grow together until the harvest, the end of the world. Then the tares are bound in bundles to be burned, and the wheat is gathered into the garner of God. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

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Why do good things happen to bad people? Why do bad things happen to good people? What is a “good” person? What makes a person “bad”? It is natural to have either a high or low opinion of someone based on personal interaction. Jesus calls His followers to use the same standard of good and bad as He does. In the parable of the sower Jesus makes some very powerful and relevant assertions about who is good and bad. I invite you to join us in seeking the mind of God in this study entitled “Till the End.”


Day 1 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Jesus routinely starts His parables with “The kingdom of heaven is like. . .” In preparation for this study it would be helpful to get to a place where we are mindful of the kingdom of heaven. Go to YouTube and search for “Will You Be Ready?” by Commissioned, or input the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U93vR8R3qFI. While the song plays, read Matthew 6:33 and meditate on what the kingdom of heaven is. Take note of the various similes Jesus uses for the kingdom of heaven in the book of Matthew. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 2 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

The parable of the wheat and the tares is among a number of stories that assume an understanding of agriculture. Very few people in technologically developed places know the ins and outs of farming. Before going further it would be profitable to research wheat and tares. Search for a picture of a comparison of wheat and tares. What do you see? What does it reveal? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 3

Have you ever been misjudged? Has your gender, race, or status ever caused you to be treated a certain way? I would suggest that one of the methods that God uses to teach us to be gracious is to allow us to go through situations in which we yearn for grace. In his book A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado explores “The 7:47 principle.” You can learn about the 7:47 principle by reading Luke 7:36-48. What does verse 47 teach you about love and grace? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 4

Did you notice when you looked at the pictures of wheat and tares that they look exactly the same? Jesus implied that those who are good and bad are almost identical. Think about this implication, that those who are good and bad in the present are nearly identical. What makes a person good or bad? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 5 -Read Matthew 13:30

My church recently had a conversation about what a person can do to make them hard to be around. The answers ranged from someone who steals to someone who is a pedophile. Some talked passionately about how they couldn’t stomach being around people who have been involved in certain activities. The reason this is significant in the context of this study is because of the treatment the Master tells His servants to give the tares until the harvest. He does not tell them to sort and segregate them. He does not order them to be harsh or decisive. Instead He orders that they receive the same treatment that the wheat gets. It’s amazing to think about the fact that the tares received the same attention and care that the wheat did. How should this revelation affect how we treat people? What does this mean when it comes to those who sin openly? Should we change how we view those around us? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 6

Now, you are wondering what the determining factor or difference is with wheat and tares. The only way to know the difference between wheat and tares is that at harvest, wheat bares a light brown kernel, tares bare a black kernel, and you can barely tell the difference until the plant has fully matured. Is it possible that when it comes to people that we do not know if they are good or bad until they have fully matured? If we determine that someone is a tare before they have fully matured, do we not run the risk of stunting growth, and pulling up something that was meant to be in the Master’s barn? Is it possible to truly look at everyone we come in contact with as a potential kingdom dweller? Tell about it if this is something that is feasible in your mind. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 7 Wrap Up

Sometimes it is not “till the end” that we know if even we are wheat or tares. How then can we go about our lives looking at people as such if we don’t know what we are ourselves? I want to encourage you to go about life dispensing grace, love, and mercy, for that is what God has given to you and will continue “till the end.”  


 

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RASHAD BURDEN is a youth and young adult pastor for the Buckhead Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.


 




PRICELESS!

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).

You may have seen some of those awesome credit card commercials where the receiver’s reaction to that something special is considered to be more “priceless” than anything money can buy. Their memorable slogan, “There are some things money can’t buy, but for everything else there is . . .”

One of my favorites includes a toddler who considers a cardboard box more fun to play with than the costly gifts therein. And yet it is from this child’s simple but imaginative perspective that I wish to examine the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price, quoted above in Matthew 13.

Most biblical scholars agree that the essence to understanding this parable is when we seek and find Jesus, that priceless pearl, we realize the Lord is all that we will ever need. While I support that interpretation of the texts by such exegetical scholars, I cannot help feeling there is so much more to this seemingly passing mention.

Taking a page from the world of sales, we find an all-important concept. Sales guru and author Kelley Robertson of the Robertson Training Group states that “the value of a product or service is determined not by the seller but by the buyer.”

So it is when it comes to Jesus and our salvation. What does Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price, really think of us? The writer of Hebrews 12:2 gives us a clue. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Did He not forsake everything that even money couldn’t buy to purchase our salvation? Did He not become our Buyer, our Sacrifice, and our Redeemer? And now we in turn have become His own coveted pearl of great price. Are we willing to sell or give up everything we have to possess Jesus and while in so doing experience exactly how He feels and demonstrates His love toward us?

When I think of the love of the Father and the ministry of the Son and the Holy Spirit, I must agree: “There are things that money can’t buy, but for everything else we have Jesus, and He is simply priceless.”

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KINGSLEY O. PALMER serves as the assistant to the president and director for African American Ministries for several churches in Phoenix, Arizona, and Reno, Nevada.



Day 1 -Read Luke 14:25-30

While reading Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman, I was struck by an observation he made in the preface of his book. He said that whenever Jesus attracted a large crowd, He would find something to say to make them go away. What does this mean personally? How could this have worked evangelistically? Look at some of what He says in some other situations (Mark 5:18-20; 10:21, 22) and share some of your thoughts with us here at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 2

Sometimes you can be in church and around the things of God so much that you get desensitized to how holy, great, and exceptional He is. He is a radical, nearly unpredictable, spontaneous God who is consistently loving, compassionate, and gracious at the same time. Can you talk about Him? Tell us about the “radical” Jesus you have experienced. Tell us about how He’s pushed you to the limit and beyond. Let us know via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 3 -Read Matthew 18:18-22

If you would allow me, I would like to push our understanding of what it can cost to follow Jesus. When Jesus asserts that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (verse 20), do you realize He was telling someone who was looking to join Him that He was homeless? Do you see how He was telling the next person that following Me puts your family affairs on the back burner? Do you see Jesus as One that is ready to turn you away from following rather than fully inviting? Let me ask what He did: are you ready to be homeless for Him? We’d love to hear from you and converse with you concerning these things. Talk to us via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 4 -Read Matthew 13:44-46

Just a heads up that I am setting you up for the next portion of the study. Can you tell us how you searched for the invaluable treasure of Jesus Christ? Can you list all you “sold” to enter into the kingdom of heaven?

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Day 5 -Read Revelation 3:21

Would you consider this quote?

“There are some who seem to be always seeking for the heavenly pearl. But they do not make an entire surrender of their wrong habits. They do not die to self that Christ may live in them. Therefore they do not find the precious pearl. . . . Almost but not wholly saved means to be not almost but wholly lost” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 118).

What keeps you from getting the pearl?


Day 6 -Read Zechariah 9:16 and Malachi 3:17

“The parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls has a double significance: it applies not only to men as seeking the kingdom of heaven, but to Christ as seeking His lost inheritance. . . . He collected all the riches of the universe, and laid them down in order to buy the pearl. And Jesus, having found it, resets it in His own diadem,” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 118).

Tell us, what comes to mind when you realize that, to God, you are a pearl of great price?

I’ll never forget hearing Pastor David Asscherick preach that the kingdom of heaven is not about what you gave up for God but what He gave up for you. In fact, listen yourself. You can listen to it all or skip to minute marker 50:00: http://hopevideo.com/streams/David_Asscherick-Friend_of_God-4-What_Wondrous_Love_is_This.htm

Day 7 -Read Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus came for you and me and did not think His life was too much to pay because we are treasure to Him.


 

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RASHAD BURDEN is a youth and young adult pastor for the Buckhead Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.