Access to God

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. Mark 11:15-16

At the time that Jesus lived on earth, the temple in Jerusalem was an architectural wonder. People came from everywhere to see it. Jews from all over Europe and Asia traveled there to sacrifice and to experience God.

The temple was set up with various levels of access. People who were not Jewish were only allowed in the outer court. Jewish women were allowed in the next courtyard. The levels of access progressed with Jewish males, priests and finally the High Priest who could access the Most Holy Place in the inner recesses only once a year.

What had begun as a system of welcoming God to live among His people turned into a system for turning people away from God. Jesus was constantly challenging the religious leaders and teachers of His time, accusing them of making it impossible for people to truly find a relationship with God.

What He saw in the temple angered Him greatly. They had turned access to God in the temple into a money-making venture. His violent outburst of throwing out the commerce in the temple was one of the acts that convinced the high priest that Jesus was a serious threat to the established religion.

Jesus came to break down the false barriers that stand between people and God. When we set up religious systems or rules that keep people from God, we are acting just like the money changers in the temple. God longs for every human to belong to Him. We must pray that God will guide our actions and our words so that we lead people to Him and not turn them away.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. Mark 13:32-33

As Jesus and His disciples traveled through Jerusalem on that last week before Jesus was crucified, they saw the magnificent temple, the great “house of the Lord.” Jews believed that the temple was the holy place where God’s presence really touched the earth. The disciples were in awe of the amazing buildings that made up the temple.

Jesus told them that even the great temple would not survive the judgment that would come. He prophesied that the temple would be destroyed soon, an event that occurred a few decades later when the Romans sacked Jerusalem.

In addition to that prophecy, Jesus told them that God’s ultimate judgment would come one day.

Since that time, Christians have made regular predictions about when the final coming of Christ and God’s ultimate consummation would be. Some people are fanatical about it. Since the first decades of Christian history, some readers of the Bible have been sure that they know when that will take place. Many have been sure it would be in their own lifetime.

But Jesus says they are wrong. “No one knows the day or hour.”

“But only the Father.” Yes the Father knows. The fulfillment of all the aspirations and hopes and promises that are embodied in the gospel are still in the hands of the Father. We cannot know when, but we should be assured that God has His plan securely in place.

We watch. We wait. We trust. No one knows when, but anyone and everyone can know who.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Growing Faith

Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.” Mark 11:22-23

On his way into Jerusalem to face the cross and the completion of His mission on earth, Jesus continued to teach His disciples important lessons about their faith. This lesson on faith is one that most Christians set aside as unattainable, unbelievable.

I don’t think Jesus was really suggesting that we should focus our spiritual energies on reworking the geography of our land. As usual, He was using a dramatic example to indicate a very real spiritual truth. He was telling His disciples that they had not yet gotten anywhere near the limits of their own faith and God’s abilities. There is no “mountain” God cannot move, if we can learn to trust Him to move it.

So how do we increase our faith? The same way we get to Carnegie Hall, as the old joke goes: practice.

Faith increases as a practical result of having trusted God and having found Him trustworthy. The more you do that, the greater your faith will be. No preacher can tell you that God will give you whatever you want if you just try hard enough. Jesus is telling us that as our relationship of trust in God grows, we will know better when and how to trust Him.

There is no limit to what God can do. But God has chosen to limit His work in human affairs. Our prayers, when asked with true faith, have an effect on what God chooses to influence. When we settle for lesser faith, we don’t allow God to bless us with His miracles.

Take the chance today to trust God in something and begin the process of allowing Him to grow faith in you. “Have faith in God.”

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

We Are All Missionaries

Mark and Kim Wyatt are now serving as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) international missionaries in Raleigh NC. They left the United States to become missionaries in Canada. Now they have moved back to their native state to minister to one of the largest and fastest growing international communities in the world: Wake County NC. Jonathan and Shelby Land left Texas to start a church in South Dakota. Daniel and Linda Yang left their home in the United States to share Christ in Toronto, Canada. Travis and Staci Kerns have chosen to be missionaries in Salt Lake City Utah where 70% of the population is Mormon and another 28% “hate everything about religion.” The Lands, Yangs and Kerns are all Southern Baptist (SBC) missionaries with the North American Mission Board.

We are joining together as Baptist Christians this week to pray for North American Missions. As the work of the Wyatts will attest, we live in a global village. North American mission is now also International mission.

One of the things that all of these missionaries have in common is that they were willing to leave the home that they knew, the comfort and security of those places and people, and move to a new place where they were strangers. And they did it because they love Jesus and want others to know about Him.

God may not call you to move to a whole new state or country. But God is calling you to move outside your typical and comfortable place to share His love and salvation with others. Every Christian is called to be a missionary for Jesus. We have experienced the privilege of His salvation. God wants us to share that with others.

Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples among all peoples…” This Great Commission includes us too. It is a commission for the whole church and for each of us who are part of the body of Christ.

To learn more about SBC North American Missions and see the stories of the Land, Yang and Kerns families, visit anniearmstrong.com.

To learn more about CBF missions and see the Wyatt’s story, visit cbf.net/missions.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC