A Most Encouraging, Comforting and Exciting Passage

Rev 21 4

We are excited about beginning our New Testament Bible Reading plan this coming Sunday.  The rest of this week we will be hearing from various writers on what God’s Word means to them.  Today, we are pleased to hear from Seth Ross, the Executive Director of the Church of God General Conference and Atlanta Bible College President.

 

Over the years, I have found certain portions of Scripture have come back to encourage me over and over. Revelation 21 is one of those chapters that encourages me when I’m down, it comforts me when I’m in pain, and it excites me when… well, all the time. When I’ve lost people close to me (grandparent, parent, etc) the particular verses below have given me comfort in what God has in store for us. On days when I’m not sad, this same passage excites me about what is coming and it gives me strength to make spiritual decisions that might not make sense to most people. In this special chapter, in this special section, there’s one special verse that gives me a sense of how much God loves for each of us individually and how much he really cares. This is what can encourage you to read the rest of the Bible through the year to see what else God has in store for you.

REVELATION 21:1-4
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

TO MEMORIZE
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4

 

-Seth Ross

 

 

A New Thing for the New Year

Jer 29 13

I thank God for you – the readers who are reading today.

I thank God for those who have written devotions for us for the past two and a half years – and for those who will commit to writing a week in the New Year ahead.

I thank God for what He has done and what He will do!  For me.  For my family.  For the Church of God.  For God’s World and for His Plan for the Ages.  He is always at work!

I thank God for revealing himself through His Word!  How incredible that He has chosen to share Himself with me – and you – there in each and every page, chapter and verse of His Inspired Word.

God can choose to reveal himself in an earthquake, fire or thunder from heaven.  And, sometimes He has and He does and He will.  But more often – each and every day – He is ready to reveal Himself – His love, His faithfulness, His majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His wisdom, His commands, His Son, His plan of salvation, His light, His life, His Coming Kingdom.  God reveals himself to those who seek Him in His Holy Word.

I am excited about a New Year starting this week and I would love to encourage you to join with us at grow16Biblereading.wordpress.com in reading through the New Testament (as well as Proverbs and various theme weeks).  We will be reading one chapter from the Bible every day and you can sign up to receive daily devotions based on the chapter assigned for that day.  Each week we will get to hear the thoughts of another Church of God writer to guide us in seeking Him in His Word.  If you wish to sign up for the daily emails visit https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/.  On your computer – click on the follow button in the right hand column.  On your phone – click Menu, About and then the follow button.

The rest of this week we will be looking at the importance and benefits of God’s Word, and then on Sunday, January 6 we will jump into Matthew chapter 1, reading one chapter each day.  We chose a Bible reading plan that would not be too challenging or daunting for any age or experience level, and could still be combined with another plan for those already committed to a different Bible reading plan.  So grab a friend or family member, youth group or small group to help motivate and build accountability to together spend 2019 seeking Him in His Word.

Praying for Your Faith Walk,

Marcia Railton

A New Kind of Love

1 John 4 7 a (1)

 

Once we are walking in the light, a new commandment and responsibility are given to us.  From the beginning God gave us a commandment that we should love God and love our brothers.  John tells us that if we hate our brother we are still in darkness, and that we are walking in the darkness (I John 2:9-11).  But now that we are abiding and walking in the light of Jesus, a new commandment of love is given to us.  This new kind of love is much deeper and demands much more from us—it is not a love that simply demands that we love one another, but takes us to a deeper level of commitment to one another.  Once we are truly walking in the light of Jesus, we can do no less.

John further explains this new commandment of love that we are to follow, in I John 4:7-11.  In these verses, John explains to us that love is from God, and that this deep love was shown to us when God sent His son into our dark world, and gave him to be a sacrifice for our sins.  We did not deserve his sacrifice, and will never deserve it, yet God loved us so much that He was willing to freely give His son and allowed Jesus to die for us.  John concludes his thoughts with this statement:  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4: 11).  What John is telling us here, is that we are to go way beyond simply loving everyone.  He was not talking about a nice warm feeling for others, or a desire we might have for others to experience happiness.  What he was talking about is the willingness to allow that love to be a sacrificial love for others. It is the kind of love that is given even when people do not seem to deserve our love.

With the crucifixion very near, Jesus spoke to his disciples.  He explained many things to his friends as they ate that last supper together.  One of those things was a new commandment that he gave to them.  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34.  It would only be a few hours until they would begin to understand the extent of his love for them and what he was meaning when He spoke these words to them.  A little while later he again spoke about this new commandment, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you” John 15:12-14.

Putting our brothers first, above ourselves; putting the needs of our brothers before our own needs or wants—these are ways to express the love that John talked about and the way that Jesus said we should love one another.  And as we walk in love we are an example to the world.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35.

 

-Luke Elwell

Showing your Light through what you Say

Matt 12 33

 

The last few days I have been talking about following the Light which is Jesus, and yesterday I gave an example of how to show our light through forgiving others. I will continue along with another way we can show our light to others. I truly believe that one of the simplest ways people show who they are is through what they say. It can be one of the most obvious ways to show your light in the world and for the world to notice that there is something different about you.

 

Whether it be foul language or gossiping, people will see who we truly are by the things that we say. We have the ability to be a hindering block or a light to those around us. The way we speak can either confirm to people that we are different or that we, as Christians, are just like the world. Jesus makes it clear we are to be different in how we speak.

 

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” – Matthew 12:33-35

 

Theses verses warn us that if we put bad things into our hearts and minds they will eventually come out through what we say or what we say about others. We often fall for the lie that what we say and how we talk doesn’t matter that much, but in the book of James we can see just how important it is to watch what we say.

 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”- James 1:26

 

We want to make sure we are being the light by what we say. We need to make people wonder what it is that make us different from the rest of the world, and I promise you that people will notice!

 

-Luke Elwell

Showing your Light through Forgiveness

 

matt 6 14 15

Yesterday I talked about being the light to the world around us, and how we are to point people to Jesus and to the glory of God. Today I will be talking about a simple way that we can be the light to others and to just be different from what the world and our natural desires tell us to be.

 

Forgiveness: this one can be really tough for a lot of people, myself included at times. But the Bible makes it clear for us, as Christians, as to what we are supposed to do at those times when we feel like we have been mistreated or cheated by someone. The world tells us that when someone does something to us we need to get them back. But when we choose to follow Jesus we need a new way of thinking. Jesus calls us to forgive, but Jesus doesn’t just call us to forgive once, but to forgive over and over again.

 

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! Matthew 18:21-22

 

Forgiving others shows the world the light we have inside us, and if we forgive others the world will notice. Forgiving others shows that we have accepted and embraced the forgiveness that God has showed us. I can speak for myself that God’s forgiveness is a lot more than seven, seventy-seven, or seventy times seven times. Paul reminds the Gentiles of this very thing in Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It’s also a great reminder verse for us today. So show your light today by forgiving someone who you have been holding a grudge against, and acknowledge and accept the forgiveness that God has shown to you through Christ.

 

Matthew chapter 6 —- 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

-Luke Elwell

Being the Light

Matt 5 14

 

Yesterday I talked about the entrance of Jesus to the earth. I talked about him being the Light and how the darkness will never be able to overcome the light that Jesus brought to the world.

Now it our responsibility as believers to walk in the light and to be the light.

 

I was reading awhile back about John the Baptist, and I came upon John 5:35 where Jesus talked about John the Baptist. In this verse Jesus said, “He was a burning lamp and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light”.  I believe that that is now to be our goal—we are to be a lamp to show people to the true Light, Jesus.

 

Jesus even calls us the light of the world. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”         Matthew 5:14-16.

 

These verses are clearly stating that in order to show your light you must have works, and those works are showing others that you are walking in the Light. We are supposed to be that light to the people and the world around us. Just as John was a burning lamp that showed the people to the true Light Jesus, we are to do the same, and be a lamp that guides the way until the true Light comes back to this earth. We do this not for our own glory, but to show people to their Savior Jesus, and for the glory of God.

 

As John the Baptist wisely said “He must increase, but I must decrease” –John 3:30.

 

-Luke Elwell

New Beginnings

 

the Light has come!

On this Christmas morning I think back to the beginning of the world when God said, “Let there be light”, revealing that light was in the plan of God since the beginning of time. Shortly following the beginning, sin and darkness slowly crept into the picture when Adam and Eve decided to turn their backs on God and His commands. But darkness would not win because God wasn’t done with us yet.

 

New Beginnings:

 

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life,a and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

 

The birth of Jesus marked the start of the new beginning that God had planned for since the beginning of creation. And it showed that God wasn’t going to leave us in the dark, even though we deserved it. God sent his Son to save us and to be a Light for all men. If we choose to walk in his ways and commands and make him the Lord of our lives we can walk in the Light.  When you walk in the Light of Jesus the darkness will never be able to overcome you. So no matter what you received for Christmas this year, just remember that we were given the ultimate Christmas gift a little over 2000 years ago in our Emmanuel, “God with us”. God gave his son to the world to restore the Light, and to make sure we would never have to unwillingly walk in the darkness ever again. Thank God for His son and new beginnings!

 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

-Luke Elwell

Preparing for the King

_Let every heart prepare him room_

Yesterday we looked at how we should anticipate the King and His second advent just like the Wise Men anticipated His first advent. We now have our own “Star” to turn our eyes towards and to follow. Today we will look at how the Old Testament prepared the way for our Lord and how we now have the same opportunity to prepare the way for His second coming and how we need to be prepared and ready.

 

It’s Christmas Eve and we are almost to Christmas day, the day we have been preparing for at least the past month. Whether we are going out to buy that last minute gift, or we are getting food ready for Christmas day, we are all probably busy preparing in some way today. I am constantly reminded of the forefathers of our faith in the Old Testament who gave us a little glimpse of the coming Christ and helped to prepare the world for him.

 

Joseph, for example, was left for dead by his brothers and when given the opportunity to get his brothers back he had mercy on them, and then he gave credit to God, saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” –Gen 50:20.   Jesus was placed on a cross by the very people of whom He was supposed to be the King, yet during his pain and agony he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

 

Moses delivered the Israelites from pharaoh and his army. Likewise, Christ delivered the world from death and sin for those who choose to follow him. Abraham followed the commands of God and left his home country, and later was willing to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac.  God was willing to provide Jesus, His son, as a sacrifice for us. The list goes on and on, but the point of mentioning these patriarchs is to recognize that they were preparing the way for the Lord and showing us a glimpse of what was to come.

Christmas is a reminder to us also, that as we prepare for our celebration tomorrow, we also need to believe that Jesus will come back to this earth (maybe tomorrow) and in the same way prepare ourselves and our hearts for his coming and the great celebration. When I think of being prepared I am reminded of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25.

1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13

None of the ten knew when the bridegroom was coming, they only knew that he was coming. When he did come, five were wise and five were foolish. The only difference between the wise and foolish was in their preparation, or lack thereof. We have the same privilege as our patriarchs of knowing that Jesus is coming, yet it’s left up to each one of us to choose whether we will be prepared. I promise you that it’s a celebration you do not want to miss out on!

 

“Let every heart prepare Him room”.

 

-Luke Elwell

Looking For and Following the Star!

Romans 8 24 a

This week, as we look forward to Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, we will look at his birth and what that means going forward for us. Just as the wise men looked for and followed the star to find Jesus, we also have a “Star”, Jesus, to look for and to follow.

 

As Christmas draws near I, like so many others, am filled with anticipation. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year. I remember growing up as a kid and being filled with so much excitement and anticipation counting down the days and looking forward to Christmas Day! When I think back to the anticipation I felt, it reminds me of the anticipation that the wise men must have felt. No one really knows for sure where the wise men came from, but it is believed that they could have come from the Babylon area, a journey of 800 miles.  If that’s true, they must have really been waiting for and anticipating the sign of the star that would show them the way to the “King of the Jews” –Matthew 2:2. They must have been watching and waiting for the day when that star would appear so they could honor and worship the King.  Once they saw that star, they followed and never looked backed, but followed that star until they found him.

 

If I were to relate this story of the wise men to myself and the time we live in now, following the first advent of Jesus, I am reminded of the anticipation I have for the second advent of Jesus when he will come back and when God himself comes back and “makes all things new”- Revelation 21:5.

 

Romans 8:23-25 beautifully states how we should be anticipating the return and coming of our King!

 

“23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

 

The prayer that I have for myself and for everyone who reads this is that we anticipate and long for the coming of the King as much as the wise men did.  May we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly”, may we turn our eyes to the risen “Star”, Jesus, and follow him and never look back, until God sends him back to this earth at his second advent.

 

-Luke Elwell

 

 

Our Hope in the Wilderness

choose joy

This week, we’ve been taking some time to rest and reflect on what it means to wander through the wilderness. Through the complex stories of the Israelites, Elijah, David, and Jesus, we see both the types of wildernesses that we may face in this life as well as the ways that we can ultimately overcome the wilderness and make it out of those difficult seasons.

As we’ve discussed this past week, these are the four Wilderness Wandering Lessons that we learned from these stories:

  1. The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.
  2. Remembering past victories can help to steady our heart in the midst of our current despair.
  3. When the desires of our heart lead us away from God, true repentance leads us back.
  4. God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

If you find yourself in a time of wilderness wandering, don’t despair. Many have been there before you and have made it out and used that time as a witness for God’s deliverance. Remember, one of Satan’s ultimate goals, as I mentioned earlier this week, is to steal your joy. One of the primary fruits of the Spirit is joy, and that joy should be evident in your life. The Israelites and Judeans knew what it was like to lose their joy when they were exiled from Israel at the end of 2 Kings. But, as we read in Jeremiah 31:2-3, 11-13, God promised that Joy to the Israelites and Judeans and he promises that Joy to you too.

“This is what the Lord says: They found favor in the wilderness – the people who survived the sword. When Israel went to find rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you… For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the power of one stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant with joy because of the Lord’s goodness. I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief.”

By living our life in Christ, our joy is made complete (John 15:11). When you find the hurt, isolation, or pain of life weighing down on you, pause and remember that we can overcome through Christ. Trade your grief for happiness, your mourning for joy. We can celebrate. We can overcome. Because the joy of our Lord is our strength.

~ Cayce Fletcher

***Click on the following link to listen to one of my favorite songs by Rend Collective called the “Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Learning this song can be a reminder to you to choose joy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2B6Yw0zy70