Is it OK to be Rich?

More than a third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day according to research done by the United Nations.  You might not consider yourself rich if you compare yourself to others in the United States (and many other countries), but most or all of you are probably quite rich when looking at the whole world.  Is it ok to be rich?

Let’s first consider Solomon, the richest king that ever was.  God gave him wealth, possessions, and honor such as no king before or after him (2 Chronicles 1:12).  God made Solomon rich, so the good news is that we have an example of someone who was very rich and it was ok in God’s eyes.

Being rich may be ok, but the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-24 received advice from Jesus that made him sad.  Jesus told him if he wanted to be perfect, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor.  He then told his disciples that it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom.  Jesus had more to say about the matter in Luke 6:20-26.  He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  He went on to say, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”  Jesus was warning us that being rich could interfere with your salvation.

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 says that whoever loves money never has enough, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income, and this is meaningless.  It also says that the abundance of the rich permits them no sleep.  However, it also says that it is appropriate for a person to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their labor during the few days God has given them.  It explains that it is a gift from God when He gives someone wealth, possessions, and the ability to enjoy them.

This may be a bit confusing to hear that wealth can be good or bad.  I think it all boils down to your attitude and how you spend your money.  If money is your master, you are always wanting and trying to get more, and you spend it all on yourself; that is bad.  If you realize that your money comes from God, is actually owned by God, and is not the focus of your life, it is fine to enjoy that gift from God from time to time.

I now want to change gears a bit here and talk about yesterday’s devotion on tithing a bit more.  I said it was not mentioned in the New Testament that we should tithe.  However, there are two verses in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) that talk about the Pharisees giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus scolding them for neglecting justice, mercy, faithfulness, and the love of God, and saying they should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.  I do not consider these two verses a mandate for us today to tithe ten percent of our earnings, although I can see how it can be interpreted that way.  These individuals were giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus said they should continue to do that.  If they had said they were fasting, I think Jesus might have told them to continue to do that, but I don’t think that necessarily means we all must fast today.

I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think the ten percent tithe is a specific rule we must follow today like the many rules they were required to follow in the Old Testament.  However, I definitely believe we should be giving money to the church, and I think it would be fine to look at what they were instructed to do and model that by giving ten percent of your earnings to the church.  I also believe it is possible that God wants some people to give more than ten percent.

Paul never discussed tithing ten percent, but he did talk about giving.  In 2 Corinthians 8:3, he said the Macedonians gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he says, “Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he told them that they should set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income on the first day of every week (1 Corinthians 16:2).  I think if it was still a rule to tithe ten percent, Paul would have mentioned it, but instead he talked about giving with the proper attitude and according to your income.

-Rick McClain

Today’s 2021 Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 55-56 and 2 Timothy 3

To Tithe or Not to Tithe

Our discussion this week about money would not be complete without talking about tithing.  Many believe that we should be giving ten percent of our earnings to the church, which is called tithing.  I must admit that I was very surprised when I researched the topic of money to find that it was not mentioned in the New Testament that we should tithe.  Does that mean we are not required to tithe anymore?

Let’s start with some Old Testament history.  Tithing was a practice back then (Malachi 3:8-12), but if you think you should be following the guidance from the Old Testament, you need to read about all the ways to give money to the church.  I won’t go into great detail, but there were some pretty elaborate rules about giving.  Check out Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Numbers 18:21-32, Numbers 18:8-11, and especially Leviticus 27:1-21.  For example, in Leviticus, if anyone dedicates their house to the Lord, a priest will judge its quality and set a value on it.  If the homeowner wants the house back, they can redeem it by adding a fifth to its value.  You could also dedicate people to the Lord by giving an equivalent value.  A male between the ages of twenty and sixty was valued at fifty shekels of silver, while a female between one month and five years was valued at three shekels of silver.  Of course, we are not under the Old Testament law anymore, so these rules are not in place anymore, including tithing.

Again, the talk of tithing is absent in the New Testament so what should we do about giving money to the church?  I don’t believe there is an exact calculation to follow so I am going to give you my opinion about what should happen.  First, we do not need to follow Old Testament rules anymore, but I think we can learn about God and how he operates by looking at the rules in the Old Testament.  Giving ten percent was a popular theme in the Old Testament.  I think that is probably a good starting point for our giving today.  If God liked using that percentage back then, I think it is likely He still thinks that is a good percentage today.  However, don’t forget that there were other rules for giving that didn’t simply follow the ten percent rule, so it is probably a bit naïve to think that is exactly what we need to do today.

Yesterday we learned that all our money is God’s money, not our own.  I think we need to consider that when deciding on how much to give to the church.  Furthermore, some of God’s money should probably be given to areas outside of the church.  For instance, your neighbor’s house burns down.  God may let you know that it is a great idea to send some money their way to help them get back on their feet.  Should that come out of the ten percent?  That is a trick question.  We should not be concerned about a particular percentage when 100% of the money we have is God’s.  We need to figure out the best way to use that money by listening to God and trying to understand His desires for that money.  I think He may want some to give twenty percent, fifty percent, or maybe even more to the church.  Perhaps, someone is in a tough situation right now and five percent is the right amount.

I do think church is important, and I do think it is important to give money to the church to further God’s work.  I would not want to be selfish in that regard and spend too much on myself and neglect the church.  If you want to know what is important to yourself in life, just look at what you spend your money on and what you do with your time.  If you don’t spend very much money and time on church, then church is not important to you.  If church is important to you, you do not have to tithe to it, but I encourage you to make God’s day by giving an appropriate amount to His work.

-Rick McClain

While this week we are discussing a Christian perspective on money…you can still keep up with your Bible reading plan. Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 53-54 and 2 Timothy 2

My Money

Many people work hard for their money, some have inherited their money, and others make money in many ways.  Most of us feel good about the money we have, even if it isn’t that much, but is the money really ours?  Today we are going to talk about the heart of the matter when it comes to a Christian perspective about money.  The most important thing you need to understand about your money is that it is NOT your money.

Psalms 24:1 states that the earth and everything in it is the Lord’s.  God says that the silver and gold are His in Haggai 2:8.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that we don’t even own our own bodies; they were bought at a price.  God owns everything, including your money.  That makes you the manager.  He is the owner, and you are the manager that works for Him.

If this is a new idea to you, it can be a game-changer.  Have you ever been upset when your car broke down and you wondered how you were going to pay for the repairs?  Let me explain this situation with our new lens.  Let’s pretend you work for UPS (unless you actually do work for UPS; then you don’t need to pretend).  Let’s pretend that the UPS truck you drive breaks down and needs major repairs that will cost a lot of money.  Are you going to be upset about that, or are you just going to let someone know that your truck broke down and ask for a different one to drive?  You aren’t going to be too upset because you don’t own the truck, UPS does.  You know they have plenty of money to fix it and you won’t lose any sleep worrying about the cost of the repair.  When your car, I mean God’s car, breaks down, you shouldn’t be worried about the cost of the repair.  I’d be quite sure God is not up in heaven wondering how He is going to get through this problem.

Let’s try another one.  Someone steals $100 out of your wallet.  That tends to make us upset.  Let’s pretend this time that we work for Wal Mart as a cashier and someone steals $100 out of your cash register at gunpoint.  Granted, being held up at gunpoint would be very stressful, but how concerned would you be that Wal Mart just lost $100?  You wouldn’t be concerned at all.  And God is not concerned about how He is going to help you get by with $100 less in your wallet.  He is pretty capable of finding solutions to help you get by so you should not be concerned when someone steals money from your wallet.

Having said that, it does not give us a license to be reckless with our money.  We are the manager of the money and we still need to act responsibly.  We shouldn’t be driving crazy and we shouldn’t leave our wallets sitting on our front porch.  But if bad things happen when you are acting responsibly, don’t sweat it; God is going to take care of you.

We have one last myth to bust with this new mindset.  Some Christians believe that if they give 10% of their money to God, the rest is theirs to do with it whatever they want.  Again, we don’t own 90% because God owns 100% of our money.  That doesn’t mean you can’t spend any money on yourself.  You are the manager, and you need to decide what an appropriate amount of spending on food, housing, clothes, vacations, etc. would be.

If you are a good manager, Luke 16:10-12 explains that someone who can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much.  It is likely that if you make good decisions with the money you are managing, God will trust you with more.

If you find yourself stressing out about finances, think about who really owns the money.  That should put your mind at ease because we both know that God is not stressing about your finances.

-Rick McClain


Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 51-52 and 2 Timothy 1

Work

Yesterday I tried to convince you that money is not that important.  So…you may be thinking, great, I don’t need to work that much.  Not so fast.  The Bible is pretty clear about the need to work.

Proverbs 10:4 says that laziness makes you poor and Proverbs 6:9-11 states that sleep brings on poverty.  Moreover, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says that we should work and not depend on anybody.  Paul even gave the Thessalonians a rule concerning work.  He said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  He then told them that if someone refuses to work, they should not associate with that person in order that they may feel ashamed.  He said they should not regard them as an enemy, but they should warn them as a fellow believer.  Clearly, we need to work.

Work can bring us down sometimes.  If you are working in a job that you love, you are fortunate; good for you.  However, I think there are many who don’t love their job and are just doing it to get by.  I don’t think you have to love your job, but Colossians 3:22-24 tells us that whatever we do, we need to work at it with all our heart, as if we are working for the Lord, not for human masters.  We need to put forth our best effort at our jobs every day.  If something is worth doing, it should be done well.

Okay, we need to work, but how much should we work?  First, Proverbs 23:4-5 warns us not to wear ourselves out to get rich.  Again, don’t let money be your master.  Second, if you have made a decision to live your life for God, all of your time is God’s time, and He also has some work for you to do.  Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.  If you are a Christian, you have some “God work” to get done.  Although, you shouldn’t try to think of ways that you can do work for God.  It said that God has already planned out your work for you in advance.  You just need to figure out what that work is.  If you are having trouble knowing what you should do for God, pray, listen to others, and be aware of what needs are around you.  God has given you a purpose in life and it is your job to fulfill that purpose.

We have a lot of work to do, but there is also good news for those that work.  Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 lets us know that it is appropriate for a person to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their toilsome labor during the few days God has given them.  It goes on to say that when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, they should accept their lot and be happy in their toil because this is a gift from God.

Think about your own situation.  First, are you working or are you depending on others to meet your daily needs?  Second, are you working with all your heart or do you put forth less effort when nobody is looking?  Third, are you doing the work that God has prepared for you to do or do you use most of your time on yourself?  Fourth, do you work too much due to your drive to make more money?  Last, do you ever slow down enough to enjoy some of the gifts in this world that God has given you to enjoy?  If you struggle with any of these areas, work at it.  😊

-Rick McClain

Today’s 2021 Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 49-50 and 1 Timothy 6

How Important Is Money?

As a Christian, what am I supposed to think about money?  Do I need to give all my money away to the poor?  Can I take a vacation?  How much should I give to the church?  I know money can buy a lot of useful things, such as food, shelter, Bibles, church buildings, etc., but how hard should I work to earn money?  How much money do I need?  Can I put a steak on the grill when I know there are so many people starving?  These questions were gnawing at me because I wanted to do the right thing, but I wasn’t sure what the proper Christian perspective regarding money was.  Therefore, several years ago I set out to find as many answers as I could in the Bible.  I thought of every money term I could think of and looked up every verse I could find with those words.  I found a lot of answers that I would like to share with you this week.

I think many Christians are ultra-concerned about money.  They want to be good stewards with what God has given them.  They know they can do a lot of good with their money, so it becomes very important to them.  I used to think the same way, but my mindset shifted after I completed my study, and I no longer think money is that important.  Don’t get me wrong, we need money to survive, and we can do God’s work with the money we have, but our focus just shouldn’t be on money.  I find it weird to talk a whole week about something I don’t think is very important, but I think it is very important to get our thoughts about money right.

Money is a salvation issue.  Luke 16:13-15 says we can’t serve both God and money.  You must choose one or the other.  1 Timothy 6:6-10 warns that money is the root of all kinds of evil.  I think we have all seen and probably experienced how money can lead to sin.  Have you ever stolen something?  Have you ever cheated on your taxes by increasing a charitable deduction or not even paying taxes on money you have earned?  Have you ever spent your money foolishly on worldly things?  Are you so driven to make money because there is so much pleasure to buy in this world?  These verses tell us that our salvation is lost if money becomes too important to us.

Proverbs 23:1-8 was very confusing to me at first, but once my eyes were opened, it really helped me form my view about money.  The story is about dining with a ruler who provides all sorts of great food and dining with a stingy man who cuts corners with the meal to save money.  The verses say that both situations should be avoided.  It was easy to understand why eating with the rich man and giving in to gluttony was wrong, but why would it be so wrong to try to be prudent with your money and not overspend on a meal for your guests?  I had to read this several times before it hit me that the problem with the begrudging host was that he thought money was too important, even though he may not have had much of it.  Today we call this person “cheap”.  It might seem like you are being a good steward with your money by buying cheaper things, looking for all the deals, cutting coupons, etc., but it may also be a sign that money is too important to you.  I’m not saying you should never use a coupon or look for a great deal, but the point is that you want to be sure that money is not your master.

Psalm 49:5-20 points out the obvious, you can’t take it with you when you die.  Money is quite meaningless when you consider the big picture, living in a Kingdom for eternity.  You can work hard to make a lot of money and buy a lot of stuff, but it is all quite useless to you when you die.  Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:17-22 about paying taxes to Caesar.  He pointed out that it was Caesar’s image on the coin and told them to give back to Caesar what is his and give to God what is his.  It doesn’t sound like Jesus thought money was very important.

Hopefully you are realizing that money is not important, but you still might be thinking, “Hey, everyone needs some money to live in this world.”  That is true, and I think Proverbs 30:7-9 sums it up very well where our mindset should be.  Agur, son of Jakeh, asked the Lord to neither make him rich or poor, but just to give him his daily bread.  He didn’t want to make so much that he would disown God, and he didn’t want to be too poor and steal.  That seems like a pretty good place to be; you have what you need to live comfortably so your focus is not on money.

-Rick McClain

While our devotions this week will be following the important topic of not focusing on money – and having a proper attitude toward and use of our finances, if you’ve been using the Bible reading plan, keep it up! What important lessons are you finding? Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 47-48 and 1 Timothy 5

Masterful Maker – Stubborn Clay

Isaiah 45-46 and 1 Timothy 4

Hello everyone!

Thanks for taking a journey with me this week!  It has been a different challenge for me to focus on a book in the Old Testament, so I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have 😊

We see the phrase “no other than/like/except/but Me” ten times out of the 38 verses in the two chapters of Isaiah we just read.  That is over 25% of the message that has been written in these texts.  Do you think God was trying to make a point that there is no other like Him???  Seems like something He may want us to understand…

Since there is no other God than our God, it makes sense that we acknowledge His power and authority in our life.  He has been identified as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything that lives in it.  We know that He created the world with a purpose of filling it with good things (Isaiah 45:18).  This tells me that everyone, including you and I, has a purpose in their life according to the One True God.  God likes to use analogies to help His people understand His truths.  In Isaiah 45 we see the analogy of God being the potter, molding the clay, His people, to be great works.  In this analogy, God uses some rhetorical questions to help us identify how silly it sounds when we try to take control of our own life from Him.  It’s like the clay asking the potter “What are you making?” or saying “This looks wrong…” (v. 9).  I know I am guilty of being the clay that asks those questions and makes those comments when looking at my own life. 

Depending on where our life is in each season, it can be hard not to question the plan God has laid out for us!  And yet, Isaiah 46:10 reminds us that God knew everything that would happen in our lives from day one.  It doesn’t matter how much we think we have control, because God tells us that “My plan will take place and I will do all My will.”  This can be confusing, but I find it comforting as well.  No matter how badly I think I have screwed up my life, I can have faith that God still has a plan and purpose for me, not necessarily because I am someone that is insanely special, but because I am God’s creation and He has a purpose for ME!

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it can be easy to feel like my life is supposed to have an extravagant testimony or grandiose plan to fulfill.  God’s purpose has to be one of great achievement, right?  That message is easily pushed by modern day Christian messages, especially those targeting youth and young adults.  While I don’t think it’s bad to set big goals to achieve, I also think it is just as important to recognize that God uses everyone in impactful ways that may not lead to fame and glory on this earth like we can get the image of at times.  When Paul is writing to Timothy he does not encourage Timothy to gather a bigger following or perform any miraculous wonders that will be spread throughout the land.  Instead, he encourages Timothy to train himself in Godliness (1 Tim. 4:7) and to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (v. 12).  None of those things scream popularity or magnificent plans!  But all of them are important for fulfilling the purpose that God has set aside for those who follow Him. 

We were made by an omniscient Creator who wants His people to understand who He is so that they can be strengthened as they fulfill the purpose He has for their life.  We may not always know what that purpose is, but we can trust in our God who does.  We may not always understand the journey we are taking, but we can trust in our God to continue to mold us into what we should be.  So if you have questions about your purpose, I encourage you to lean in to the Potter’s hands, open yourself to the not-so-extravagant, and see what amazing things God has already planned for you.

I hope this week was one that made you think, encouraged you, and grew you in your faith!  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your daily readings this week, I certainly have gained a lot from it as well.

Grace be with you all.

Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 45-46 and 1 Timothy 4

More Opportunities

For God’s Children To Have a Relationship with Him

Isaiah 43-44 and 1 Timothy 3

When you read through Isaiah 43 and 44, what do you see?

I see a God who loves His people, whom He has chosen.  I see a God who shows mercy and patience.  I see a protective God.  I see a jealous God.  I see a God full of power and authority.  I see a world full of broken and lost people.  I also see a Father whose children have ignored Him.  I see a Father who knows there are unrighteous people in the world trying to pull His children off the path of righteousness.  I see a Father longing for a way to have relationships with His children.  I see children who do not understand what they are missing.

All of the great qualities we observe in or read about our God can seem far away when looking at the Old Testament and reading that He set His chosen people aside for destruction and abuse, or when we see large groups of people destroyed, or when the barbaric sacrifices of animals somehow allow for the forgiveness of sins.  I feel at times that the God of the New Testament seems to be much more loving and gracious than the God of the Old Testament.  And yet, since creation, God has had a plan for redemption not just for His chosen people, but for all who called upon His name.  The whole thing can be a bit confusing if I am being honest!  I have to remind myself that God has never changed, He has simply created more opportunities for His children to have a relationship with Him.

The Christian faith is one of just that, faith.  We can scientifically prove many of the events that have happened in the Bible did in fact happen.  However, the idea that an omnipotent God who has created everything in existence chose to create a group of imperfect beings to be made in His image with the purpose of praise, but then those imperfect beings were given free will and ruined it so He had to send them away but He still made a way for them to come back to Him but it still didn’t make them perfect enough so He sent a perfect being as a sacrifice for all the imperfect beings but then the perfect being came back to life to offer hope to the imperfect but the imperfect ones kept making the creation less perfect so one day the perfect one has to come back and fix the imperfect forever so that the omniscient one can live with the imperfect ones who will now be made perfect……Let’s be honest, it doesn’t make sense.  God’s grace requires faith to accept! 

1 Timothy 3:15 – 16 says “…This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.  Without questions, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit.  He was seen by angels and announced to the nations.  He was believed in throughout the world and taken into heaven in glory.”  

Our God is a living God.  He has been at work in the nations from day one, and He has had a plan for us to all live in relationship with Him from the start.  Why?  I have no clue.  But faith allows me to know that this is true, and our hope through Jesus Christ allows me to live each day knowing that I have an incredible gift of grace that should be used to praise and glorify the One True God.  Do you accept the completely confusing idea of God’s grace? How do you show that daily? 

(In case you were wondering, I definitely plan on asking God why He gave us free will in the Kingdom…along with many other questions 😊)

-Sarah Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 43-44 and 1 Timothy 3

Our God is an Awesome God

Isaiah 41-42 and 1 Timothy 2

Good morning! (Or afternoon, or evening…)

Our God is an awesome God, and He has no problem telling us that!  Isaiah 41 is all about God telling the nations who is in charge.  In certain places, it can seem a little harsh… calling the Israelites weak worms, putting them in their place knowing that their work is worthless compared to God, etc.  HOWEVER, there are also multiple verses where God’s comforting love shows through as he reminds the Israelites not to fear, and that He is there to help and strengthen them (v. 10, 13, 17).  While the passage can be blunt at times, it ultimately is God simply speaking truth to a group of individuals that He cares deeply about.  He wants them to understand how great He is, and how much He cares for them!

In chapter 42 God provides a little more reasoning behind his passionate words towards the Israelites, He reminds them that they are a chosen people dedicated to being a light to the nations (v. 6).  Isaiah has been tasked with sending this message to the Israelites despite the way they continue to reject God.  I can almost feel his exasperation as he does his best to help them understand that they have a purpose, that God has a plan, and that they keep ignoring it! (v. 20) Do you ever feel like Isaiah trying to convince people that God has the best plan for their life?  It can be difficult to speak truth into the lives of others who are not receptive, and it can be hard to see them ignore the need for God in their life.  We must know that it is not our job to convince individuals they need God, He can do that all His own!  Our job is to share the information, model how God can change a life, and continue to pray for their eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened to the truth.

In reality, I think we end up being most like the Israelites ourselves!  We continue to disobey, ignore, or rebel against the purpose God has for us even though we may know exactly what God wants from us.  We all have sin in our lives.  It looks different in everyone!  That is why it is so incredible that God still includes us in His chosen people, and that we all have the same opportunity for salvation and an eternal life with Him in the Kingdom. 

Unlike Isaiah, we are fortunate to live in the time that we don’t have to just tell people salvation is yet to come; we get to share that a Savior has already come, already been put to death for our sins, and has already rose from the grave with a promise of eternal salvation!  We are told in 1 Timothy 2 that God wants everyone to be saved, to come to the knowledge of the truth (v. 4) and that Jesus was a human who gave himself as a ransom for all (v.5-6).  Who can you share some knowledge with today?

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 41-42 and 1 Timothy 2

Let the World See

1 Timothy 1

Welcome!

Today’s passages seem to have some different main themes, so while all of these are valuable, we will be focusing mainly on 1 Timothy 1 for the purpose of keeping this devotional to a reasonable length 😊

1 Timothy 1 is written by a very dedicated and enthusiastic believer, Paul.  Paul is a very impressive man with an incredible testimony (that we get to see a little bit here) and clearly has a passion for the Kingdom.  This is why I sometimes have to re-read his messages to better comprehend just how deeply he cares for people and soak up all the energy for spreading the gospel he has!  Paul tells Timothy that God’s plan operates by faith (v. 4) and that our role as believers is to have love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (v. 5).  I LOVE that description of who Christians should be in the world!  Loving, Good, and Sincere.  Do you think the world today has that view of Christians? Or do you think that unfortunately, the world has the view of Christians who turn to fruitless discussions regarding the law (v.6-7)? 

It can be hard to swallow verses like 1 Timothy 1:9 where it says “the law is not for the righteous, but for the sinful”, if you are a sinner and know a Christian who has fruitless discussions about the law.  However, if more Christians today took their righteousness and expressed the “glorious gospel” that has been entrusted to them (v. 11), I have a feeling that it would be much easier to reach those who do not know the law!  The implied context in this passage is not expressing the idea that once you are a believer you don’t have to follow the law, but rather that once you are a believer your focus should shift off yourself and your “good works”, and move towards reaching others who need to know the law.  Paul models a great example of how to approach others about Jesus, by telling them that Christ came to save ALL sinners, including the worst of them all, which was himself! (v.15) When we openly share the impact Christ has in our lives and humbly recognize that we are all sinners, it becomes much easier to reach those who need salvation just as much as we do.

This is not to say that discussions of the law should not happen amongst believers!  Paul tells Timothy to strongly engage in battle to avoid having a shipwrecked faith (v. 18 -19).  To be prepared for battle, it’s important to know what you are up against and how to combat it!  What is key here is that our battle is not one meant to destroy arguments or put down people by boasting of our own righteousness, but rather our battle is against the evil one who is dedicated to keeping people out of the Kingdom.  Our battle is fighting for the citizenship of an eternal Kingdom, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.  The law is one tool we use to win that battle!  Another tool is our own testimony, another is the story and purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and yet another is simply sharing how amazing our God truly is.

Isaiah 40:28-31 provides a great passage to reach others with; I encourage you to memorize it for the sake of winning the battle!

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.  He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.  He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 39-40 and 1 Timothy 1

Big Bold Prayers

Isaiah 37-38 and 2 Thessalonians 3

Welcome back friends!

Today in Isaiah 37 we see a glimpse of Hezekiah’s prayer life and the boldness he has when asking God for deliverance.  This boldness is not in an outward appearance…when Hezekiah hears the King of Assyria’s threats he rips his clothes and wears sackcloth, both common practices for those who are mourning or in a vulnerable state.  While he seems unsure, Hezekiah is still willing to ask God for deliverance from this threat, even though we do not hear much regarding his faithfulness or attitude towards God until this time.  In my opinion, this makes his request even more bold because he seems to lack relationship with God!  And yet, we see a prayer for his city to be saved for the purpose that they know God is LORD (v.20), and God delivers!  God sends an angel to strike down the Assyrians and scares away the king (v. 36).  While the appearance of Hezekiah almost seems cowardly to human eyes, God saw Hezekiah’s humility and his acknowledgement of the one true God and rewards him for that!

In chapter 38 we see Hezekiah again boldly ask for healing from God.  This bold request for healing shows Hezekiah has confidence in God’s power and knows God can do amazing things.  It’s easy to think, “If I had experienced an answered prayer like Hezekiah I would always pray boldly!”, however, we experience answered prayers daily, but I know I am constantly reminding myself to pray boldly with the concerns I have!  Maybe it’s just me, but when I get caught up in the brokenness of the world it doesn’t always come as my first instinct to offer up a prayer.  Sometimes I may first try to find a solution on my own, other times I may just ignore the problem, or maybe I just sit in the problem!  Although it may seem unlikely, Hezekiah can be a great example of how to pray boldly and have complete trust in God’s power to answer those bold requests.

When we look at our passage in 2 Thessalonians, we see Paul’s encouragement to bold and consistent prayer.  In this chapter, Paul is specifically requesting prayer from the church to guard against the evil one and for the gospel to be spread and honored (v. 1 – 3).  Paul also asks and reminds the church to pray for them to have strength to carry on in good things such as spreading the gospel and working hard to provide for immediate needs.  These requests may not seem as bold as asking God to destroy an army, but I do find them much more relevant to our lives today, and still just as difficult to remember to pray for!  Spreading the gospel is an easy thing to say, but doing so truly does require great effort, dedication, and strength.  Asking for help in this is certainly a bold task, mainly because if you ask God to help you spread the gospel, He is going to put you in places to practice that!  Paul writes “Do not grow weary in doing good” (v. 13), which tells me to expect that doing good will be wearisome.  In this letter we can see the benefit in not only praying bold requests for ourselves, but also praying boldly to encourage our brothers and sisters. 

You may not know, but the Church of God has over 600 fellowships of believers outside of the United States.  We have a LOT of brothers and sisters in Christ that can constantly use our prayers for strength, encouragement, and deliverance.  If you are interested in knowing more about our fellow believers, I encourage you to go to https://lhicog.com/ to learn more about what bold prayers you can bring to God on their behalf!

One thought I had (and maybe you did too) during today’s reading was ‘What about when prayers aren’t answered?’  I prayed about this thought, and here is what I felt based on our reading for today:  We must faithfully know that God’s purpose is greater than our own.  I do not believe there are UNanswered prayers, but rather prayers that have an answer yet to come or an answer we do not want to hear.  There are other stories in the Bible where bold prayers are not answered the way that people want or when they want…  I think of David and Bathsheba’s son dying after David prayed and fasted, Hannah diligently praying for her future son to be born, or Jesus himself who prayed to not have to go through the horrible crucifixion process!  We may not be able to comprehend the purpose God has, but we are always invited to pray with boldness and faith.  We are also invited to pray for “peace in every way” (v. 16) for ourselves and our fellow believers when the prayers don’t result in what we want or when we want them.  I look forward to a day when we will never have to bring another bold request to God because we will be living in a perfect Kingdom where all believers can constantly rejoice in God’s holy presence and perfection!  Until that day, let’s continue to boldly pray and praise our amazing YHWH.

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 37-38 and 2 Thessalonians 3