Make Today a Festival

Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30 

Just 37 days until Easter. We get to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, April 4 this year. Our church is already planning a special weekend that includes a prayer walk and a special outdoor worship service. I love religious holidays. We have time to think about the true meaning of the celebration. This Christmas we sang, read Bible stories, and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ for several weeks. We had multiple Services including a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We also have special services for Thanksgiving which allow us the opportunity to express how truly grateful we are.   

In Leviticus 23 the Lord’s appointed festivals are given to the people. The sabbath was observed each week with rest from regular work and a sacred assembly. The Israelites were to hold festivals, sacred assemblies and offerings at appointed times annually. Each had special meaning. These festivals were reminders of what God had done, to thank Him for what He was still doing and also provided an occasion for interaction with the LORD through worship and offerings. An opportunity to break from the everyday routine and focus on the LORD. The (1)Sabbath, (2)Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, (3) Offering the Firstfruits, (4)Festival of Weeks, (5)Festival of Trumpets, (6)Day of Atonement and (7)Festival of Tabernacles began.

As Christians, we daily set aside time to spend with the LORD and we regularly assemble with other Christians to join in Worship and Praise through our Lord Christ Jesus. We daily walk with God and follow the example of Christ. How blessed are we to live in a time when we can openly celebrate the major holidays, and we can also celebrate every day because our God lives in us by His Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:11) We can praise Him for every good thing we experience every day.  He is available to us at all times through our mediator Christ Jesus. The book of Hebrews explains that through Jesus, we can continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  The passage also reminds us that we should not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16) So let’s dedicate every day to the LORD. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30

Lessons from Jacob’s Dream

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 27 & 28 and Matthew 14

In Genesis 28, we find the story of “Jacob’s Ladder.”  Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, and had “stolen” the blessing intended for Esau.  Jacob was on the run to move in with his uncle, roughly 500 miles away, so his brother Esau wouldn’t kill him.  That night Jacob had a dream with angels going up and down a ladder between God and Jacob.  When God spoke to Jacob, He didn’t condemn him for his trickery; instead, He extended the covenant to Jacob that He had made with Abraham and with Isaac.  God promised Jacob that he and his descendants would inherit the promised land, his descendants would be numerous, and all nations on earth would be blessed through Jacob and his descendants.  God also promised He would be with Jacob wherever he went.

When Jacob woke up, his first response was surprise and fear.  He named the place “Bethel” which means “the house of God”.  He set up this stone pillow as an altar and worshiped.  Finally, he dedicated his life to God.

According to “The Wiersbe Bible Commentary” by Warren Wiersbe, “The ‘if’ found in many translations of verse 20 can also be read ‘since’.  Jacob wasn’t making a bargain with God; he was affirming his faith in God.  Since God had promised to care for him, be with him, and bring him back home safely, then Jacob would affirm his faith in God and would seek to worship and honor Him alone.”

I see several applications for us.

As I understand it, the ancients believed gods (with a little “g”) were local, and if you left an area, you left the protection of the local god.  In this encounter, Jacob thought he had stumbled into the “house of God”, but found that God isn’t limited like that.  Since God would be with him everywhere, everywhere can be the house of God.  According to James 4:8, if we come near to God, God will come near to us.  

Once Jacob encountered God, his first response of surprise and fear quickly turned to worship.  When we first encounter God, we may also be struck with surprise and depending on the circumstance, fear too.  I think it is important for us to continue on to the worship stage as Jacob did.  Note that the altar he built wasn’t for offering sacrifices, it was really more of a memorial that reminded him of his encounter with God.  When we encounter similar milestones in our own lives when God has done something noteworthy for us, I think it is important for us to set up a memorial of some sort.  Ideally this is something physical, that we can look at and be reminded of what God has done for us.

Jacob’s next step was to dedicate his life to following God.  I think this step is imperative for us.  Given what God has done for us so far, our natural response should be, “Since you have brought me this far, and since you have made such great promises to me – the promise of eternal life if I remain faithful until Christ’s return, because of these things, I will live the rest of my life for you, God.”

As the story continues, Jacob had many hardships throughout his life.  Despite them all, God was still with Jacob. And Jacob remained true to God for the rest of his life.

Psalm 46:7 says, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”  God kept his promises to Jacob, and he will keep his promises to us.

The real question is, will you remain true to Him?

–Steve Mattison

Called to Worship

Psalm 134 & 146-150

Psalm 150 2 NIV sgl

What’s your favorite song? Not the one that makes you sound sophisticated to your friends or the one that is just a current fling, but the one that is your favoriteWhat’s the song that makes you wanna roll down your windows and sing out as you drive along? (It’s hard to narrow down, I know. There are many “emo” bands from the mid-‘00s that are contenders for me.) For many of you, it’s probably a song that is ‘happier”: they probably have upbeat lyrics, a fun melody, a catchy tune. (For you music nerds, probably a major key, rather than minor key.) The reason those kinds of songs may be your favorite is because music reaches into a deep part of what makes us human; joyful songs uplift our souls.
Joyful songs uplifting humans has been true across time. As we have been reading the psalms, we are of course reading the songbook(s) of the Jewish people. These were not just words on the page, but were a collection of songs that the people would sing. These songs, these Psalms we are reading today are songs of JOY, songs of SHOUTING, SONGS OF JUBILATION! Each one of them are the happy, joyful, exuberant songs that, were they sung today, would make you want to tilt your head back and let loose a “joyful noise” with everyone around you. I wish we could hear exactly as they sounded when they were sung as the people worshipped in the temple or on their way up to the temple mount.
The first and last psalms (134, 150) are short, but even the longest psalm (147) is written in a nearly breathless ecstasy. They are read quickly, at a pace that rushes along. This is because in all of them, there is a repetition of phrases. Search all the Psalms together in NASB on Bible Gateway. The effect of the repetition is quite striking and intentional by the author. In our minds, we may think that the author should have used different word or phrases to be interesting. Remember, when something is repeated, that is something the author wants us to remember. These songs are making use of something akin to a “chorus”. They wanted people to easily remember the song as they walked up the mount and sang.
Moreover, these psalms show us that the cacophonous world we inhabit is not just a torrent of noises, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Instead, Psalm 150 invites the praise of the instruments of the people. Trumpet and lyre and timbrel and cymbal, (and drums and guitar and piano and voice); ALL are called to give glory to God our maker and creator. Even more is the section of Psalm 148:7-12 where the psalmist asks the inhabitants of the earth to praise the Lord. But what is called to praise? Sea monsters, hail, and fruit trees, along with mountains and cattle. The list shows us that it is more than humans that are called to worship; we are to be the forefront of creation, but creation will praise its creator, and we have a choice to make in who or what we praise!
Today is Sunday. Today, above all days, is the day when we think about God who made us, who raised his Son from the dead, and who rules over us all. Find the song that allows you to worship him, crank it up in your headphones, in your speakers, in your car, and sing to the glory of the Lord. (To get “Jesus turnt” try : Amazing Grace by Phil Wickam, Glorious Day by Passion, or Church Clap by KB.)
Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD!
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Speaks

1 Chronicles 23-25

1 Chronicles 25 1 NIV

I remember the song that came on the radio immediately after receiving the text that a dear woman of God was being placed in hospice care following her 4 year battle with cancer – I Can Only Imagine.  And God spoke to me.  My friend and mentor was getting closer and closer to the dark sleep of death and we would be separated from her for a time.  But at Jesus’ resurrection she will rise and be closer to Jesus than ever before!  I wonder – will she sing and dance or fall silent at his feet?  I Can Only Imagine.

I remember the song that echoed in the rafters as the Family Camp worship band led worship at the close of a Family Camp which had come at a time of great searching and pain for our family when we were unsure of what was next but felt God leading us away from the church that was home – These are the Days of Elijah.  And God spoke to me.  “There is no god like Jehovah”.  Yes, Elijah, Moses, David had trials, too.  They were unsure, they questioned, they experienced pain, and God showed up for them in mighty ways, just as He was revealing himself for us, one day at a time.  “There is no god like Jehovah”!

I remember the song that just last night my daughter started to sing as I read aloud the Bible reading for the day from Psalm 108 – “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”  The tune probably wouldn’t sound familiar to you because my 3 kids wrote it out and practiced it over and over with piano, guitar and voice to remember it now, 4 years later, during our devotions.  And God spoke to me – through the words of David and the tune of my children.  God is worthy of praise – through all the years and generations and ages.  Sing to Him and tell the nations!

Music is powerful.  People choose and leave churches based on the worship style.   Many report that during the time of online church they miss most not meeting to sing together with the body of Christ.  It is interesting that the most popular post on this site was one titled after a rousing and uplifting worship song which vividly brings to mind God’s might and protection – The God of Angel Armies.

But what gives music its real power is that GOD speaks through it.

In our reading today we have 3 chapters written for the Jews returning to Jerusalem after many year of living in captivity.  They are reminded of how to be God’s chosen, holy people – and that includes the temple worship spoken of in these chapters – 1 Chronicles 23-25.  We read in 1 Chronicles 23:5 that King David himself provided the instruments for the 4,000 Levites selected to lead the people in musical worship to their God.  Chapter 25 lists the heads of the families selected, “for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals.” (25:1).  Often we think today of prophesying as foretelling the future.  But more generically, and often used in the Scriptures, prophesying is simply speaking for the Lord.  To be God’s mouthpiece.  To say what God wants to be said.

God speaks.   And sometimes that is done with a tune, set to music, with instruments and voices lifted high.   Sing to the Lord – and listen for what He is speaking to you today.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chronicles+23-25&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back in the songbook of the Bible: Psalm 131, 138-139 & 143- 145 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Which verses would you make into a song to sing today?  

Do you have an interest in writing one devotion for this week?   If so, drop me a line at grow16br@gmail.com and we can discuss.

 

 

A Call to Worship

Why we Should Give Praise to the LORD

Psalm 95, 97-99

 

psalm 95 1

I got so excited reading Psalm 95 today because of my enduring joy and love for worshipping God in song. Growing up, music was something that I would consider a “constant”. It kept me grounded in some of the most difficult moments of my life, and it helped me celebrate my greatest victories. When it was hard to pray, or if I struggled to read my Bible like I should, worship was still a peaceful, easy place for me to meet with God. As I got older, worship was where I developed my deepest relationship with God. It has always forced me to be vulnerable and open. 

 

But as I have grown in faith and maturity, I have discovered that coming to the LORD in song has absolutely nothing to do with how it makes us feel. That is a plus of course–what we gain from pouring out our heart to God is incredible. But ultimately, coming before the LORD in praise and worship is something we should do because God has earned it. 

 

Let’s think about it. When we go to church…Or in our current case, when we watch our church services online. Most of the service is centered around teaching, edifying, even sometimes, convicting us. Worship is a specific time to give back. It’s about adoration and proclamation. 

 

O come, let us sing to the Lord;

    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!   (Psalm 95:1)

 

What a special opportunity we have to come together in unity to shout to the LORD with gladness for all of his goodness and mercy that he has poured upon us. That is amazing! And it is something we shouldn’t take lightly. 

 

So whether you are musical or not, I urge you to take some time to make a joyful noise to the LORD. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give to our God who has everything. And that is a gift worth giving. 

Leslie Jones

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+95%2C+97-99&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be a little bit of everything: 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22 & Psalm 30 as we continue with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Strike up the Band!

1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 32a NIV

As our Bible reading today we have just one chapter in the book of 1st Chronicles (chapter 6) – still in the genealogies.  This chapter is devoted to the tribe of Levi.  Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob and his descendants would be the ones God chose to be the Levites for the nation of Israel.  They were set apart for service to God.  They would be the care takers of the tabernacle (where people sought God), and later the temple.  From their tribe would come the family line that would serve as priests and the most holy role of high priest, which later Jesus himself would take upon his shoulders.

But, that’s not all – some of the Levites (those listed in verses 33-47) – were given the responsibility of temple musicians.  They were to play, sing, and make music to the Lord – to lead the temple-goers in their worship of the Most High.

I love that God created us to enjoy music.  I love the power of music – just read any article on music and the brain or music therapy – or better yet – listen to the nurse as he plays his guitar in the hall of his covid-19 ward.  Or witness the miraculous turn-around of the struggling infant when his big sister sings to him the song that she always sang to the baby in her mommy’s belly.  Or hear the band play as the Titanic sinks.  Music grips us and moves us in many ways.  Let music be a source that moves you toward God as you come to worship.

As our church has gone online during this time of isolation, I miss the community lifting their voices and instruments together in worship.  But even now, music remains as a powerful means to move us closer to God.  Look up the words to an old hymn.  Pick up an instrument you have neglected too long.  Thank those who have used the gift of music to lead you into meaningful worship.  Share with your family a song that reminds you of God’s love, character and promises.  Search for Bible verses about music.  Play worship music as you go about your day.  Research how many instruments are listed in the Bible?  Post a song of Christian joy and hope on social media.  Write your own psalm of praise – maybe you will even set it to a tune.

Music was a powerful part of worship long ago, it is still today, regardless of our situation – and it will be in the future as well.  I love the verses in Revelation where the faithful will sing in worship to God and the Lamb Jesus Christ as the Kingdom of God is preparing to unfold.  Let’s get started practicing today to be a part of that choir!  God and His Son are worthy of our worship!  Sing it out!

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+6&version=NIV

Tomorrow we go back to the Psalms – 81, 88, & 92-93 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Love!

1 Peter 4 8 NLT

 

“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:7-10

 

We are told by Jesus that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God… [and] love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31) We are also told by Paul that if we don’t operate out of love, “it profits [us] nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love, without a doubt, is the defining characteristic of someone who has been saved by Jesus Christ (see John 13:35). However, what does this “love” look like? Is it merely something we say to each other, or is it something much greater?

 

This passage in 1 Peter 4 has been my crutch throughout my brief time in ministry. I am absolutely thankful to my mentor in ministry for showing me this passage, as it has helped me through years of hard times and heartbreak. For all of us, there will come times when we say or do the wrong thing and upset someone that is near to us. It is in love that those wounds can be mended and a relationship restored. As my mentor taught me, “You will mess up eventually. The difference is in whether or not they know you love them. If you show love for those people, they will forgive you. If they don’t know you love them, that relationship may never be restored.”

 

Love is an action; it is something that is shown to others through deed, not just word. Love is something that is felt and seen, not simply something that is heard. You need to show love to others in order for it to be real. Sometimes it is as simple as showing up to a graduation ceremony or taking someone out for a meal, or as difficult as forgiving an individual for a serious sin against you. Love can be shown in a variety of ways, but still needs to be shown, not just said.

 

How will you show love to others around you today? This week? This year? Is there someone who needs a phone call or a comforting shoulder to cry on? Is there someone who needs a roof over their head, or a meal in their stomach, that you can help provide? What are you willing to do to show love?

 

Talon Paul

 

We are preparing to Seek Grow and Love in 2020 with a chronological Bible reading plan.  Now is a great time to download and print your plan  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and subscribe to SeekGrowLove.com to receive daily devotions based on each day’s Bible reading.  Show your love for your Heavenly Father by reading His love letter to you.

I believe, I believe

strengthened in his faith.png

Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

–Romans 4:20-21

There is a line in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” that I find myself playing repeatedly in my thoughts whenever I become discouraged or tempted to completely forsake any number of particular dreams I have. Little Suzy had finally come to believe that Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus and she dared to ask him for the biggest thing she could imagine, a house for her and her mother to live in; complete with a big tree in the backyard from which a swing hung. Christmas day had come and was just about over, when she finds herself sitting in the back seat of the car with her mother and Mr. Gailey, Santa’s lawyer. As they drive through a quaint subdivision, little Suzy says over and over, “I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe”, with so little enthusiasm that the movie-goer can practically feel the hope drain out of her heart. With one last gigantic sigh, Suzy looks up and out the window to see the exact house that she had asked Santa for. All of a sudden her downtrodden countenance becomes full of life!

Now please don’t mistake my comparison of Santa Claus to the Almighty, but I do think that God instills in each one of us really big hopes and dreams that He alone can execute. In today’s scripture, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Roman believers by reminding them of how big God is and how there is nothing that will prevent God from fulfilling a promise that He makes to those who call Him Father. Abraham and Sarah’s situation was laughable when put next to the promise that God had made them – but the soon to be father of many nations “strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God”.

How about you? Is there a call, purpose, dream, vision that you completely believe came from God and you have no idea how he’s going to get it done considering your present circumstances? I have several and I have my days when I look up to the sky and ask God, “Were you really serious about this because I don’t see it happening.”  The reasons for any delay are as varied as the number of hairs on your head, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten. He’s waiting for the perfect time to bring your dream into fruition.

In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your hope alive and it starts with diving into His Word daily. The more you immerse yourself into what God has already done, the easier it will be for you to state, “I believe, I believe, God loves me, and I believe.”

Dear Friend, God sees you, He hears you, and He’s making something beautiful of your life! So be encouraged and remember to give Him Glory.

Bethany Ligon

 

Daily Diving Into His Word!  Indeed, a great way to keep your hope alive in 2020.  A great way to help you SEEK God and His kingdom First (not with your left-overs).   A great way to strengthen and GROW your faith.   A great way to motivate you to LOVE God and others.  SeekGrowLove – it’s our new blog name and we are gearing up to jump into 2020 with daily devotions based on a chronological reading of the Bible in a year.  Later today the reading plan will be available to print from the SeekGrowLove.com site.  Print it and share it with your friends, family, and church group.  Help them SeekGrowLove, too!  Follow the site to receive daily devotion emails based on your reading for the day.  The plan starts January 1 with Genesis 1-3.  I can’t wait to see how God is going to reveal Himself and work with His children as we read through His Word in 2020 and sharpen our SeekGrowLove skills. 

Praying for your journey, 

Marcia Railton, editor

Seek Grow Love

(We had a name change last night!   What was formerly FUEL Bible Reading Blog – Grow16BibleReading has changed to a simpler SeekGrowLove.com.  Here you will still find daily devotions from various writers, all based upon God’s unchanging Word, encouraging and instructing us on how to Seek His Kingdom, Grow in Our Faith, and Love God & Others.  SeekGrowLove.  In the New Year we will begin a Chronological Bible Reading Plan – but more on that tomorrow.  Now for today’s devotion from Bethany!)  

Hebrews 4_14

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate and unexplained kinship with them? The connection between you and your new friend provides the opportunity to relate in unique ways. 


About a decade ago, I was attending a fairly large church and looking for a small group Bible study to become involved with. The church had an online catalog of all the small groups that met and I chose to visit one that coincided with my demographics – single and thirty-something. 


Within minutes of meeting the existing members of the Bible study group, it felt as if we had known each other for years. We talked about ourselves and eventually our conversation turned to where we had grown up and gone to school. We discovered that two of us had attended the same high school – I was just a few years younger. While we didn’t know each other back in the day, we realized that we had a few mutual friends. Our instant familiarity now made sense. 


There’s something special about the people that you grow up with – even if you don’t know them at the time. You share common experiences, mutual friends, and a general understanding of the community that helped shaped you as an individual. 


For my friends and I, we were able to share more deeply, quickly and our friendships are still some of the most important more than 10 years later. 


Hebrews 4:16 starts off with “Let us THEN approach the throne of grace with confidence…” What allows us to do this? What’s the THEN there for? We need to back up and read verses 14 and 15 to be clued in. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, because the one who sits on the throne is able to sympathize with weaknesses because He had been tempted in every way, as we are, yet was without sin. 


Jesus is familiar with what it’s like to live on this earth with all of its guts and glory because He’s done it Himself. Jesus is not a high priest who is oblivious to our situations. Our confidence comes from knowing that He can relate to us. The mercy and grace that we are offered is because Jesus first walked in our shoes. He knows what we need, when we need it, how we need it and why it’s needed. 


What an incredible gift this is to us! To know that our Savior is approachable because He can relate to our needs is such a comfort. 


So let this be your reminder that there is nothing too big or too small for you to bring before the Son of God. You will find all that you need to sustain you. Have confidence in this Good News.

 

Bethany Ligon

Share Your Story

Luke 24

Luke 24 33 34 NIV

What if social media existed at the time the events of Luke 24 took place?

Which one of the women would have been live streaming on Facebook the angels telling them that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb – that he had risen.

How many retweets would there have been of the news that Jesus had spoken to the men on the road to Emmaus?

How many people would have seen the SnapChat story of Jesus eating broiled fish with his disciples?

What hashtags would have been used with the Instagram photo of Jesus’ ascension?

If social media existed at that time, there is no doubt in my mind that the news would be viral and everyone worldwide would have heard the news in a matter of hours.

Why is it then that even with today’s modern methods of communication, there are still those who do not believe, much less know about Jesus?

I think it’s because it takes a personal encounter between someone who already has a relationship with Jesus to tell someone else about the risen Lord. Just like it took in Luke 24. The gospel is best shared when it can be associated with a personal story or testimony. Do you have your story ready to share with others?

Just like the women who went to visit the tomb or the disciples who walked 7 miles to Emmaus and then ran 7 miles back to Jerusalem (all in one day) you too have a testimony to share with others.

In the coming New Year, look for ways to share your story with someone who needs to hear that #JesusLives.

Bethany Ligon