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2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-45

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Josiah was only eight years old when he became king, yet he still did what was right. This was unlike many of the other kings that ruled in Jerusalem. We are told in these chapters that this young and inexperienced king did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

It is amazing how zealous King Josiah was. He was truly grieved when he discovered, from the reading of the Book of Law, how far his people had strayed. He tore his clothes and audibly wept. I feel like this should inspire modern day Christians. It seems as though evil has become an ordinary thing that we see happen every day. We have news stories of murders, burglaries, and other reports of violence and suffering flash across our phones on a daily basis. Does this evil pain us the way the evil of Jerusalem pained Josiah? Or have we grown numb to this constant occurrence?

Not only did this pain Josiah, it also sparked a change. King Josiah did something with this revelation. He tore down the high places and idols built to glorify and worship false gods. He sought to destroy the things in Jerusalem that went against the LORD. He completed this quest with passion. He wanted Jerusalem to again turn to the LORD.

This should also inspire us. It is one step to see what is happening, but it is another to take action. What are we doing to combat the darkness? There is so much pain in this world. How are we being proactive?  It is easy to become complacent, but we must aspire to do all that we can as Josiah did. Josiah is an example of someone that truly sought the LORD.

Because of Josiah’s heart and his commitment, the LORD promised him that he would not see the destruction of Jerusalem. Josiah, however, was eventually killed in battle. This came about, though, because he did not heed the warning which God had sent him. We need to constantly look to the LORD and seek him as Josiah tried to do during his reign.

Therefore, let us allow the things we see to inspire us to also seek change. Let us, as Christians, be a city on a hill and reach out to the hungry, wounded, and lost. Even opening the door for someone or buying someone’s coffee in the drive-thru behind us can make another person’s day. This life can seem difficult at times, so let us be a light that keeps the creeping darkness at bay in the lives of many people. Josiah did not only grieve for the state of Jerusalem, he took action to better it. In the same way we should not be satisfied with only grieving for our world. We too, like Josiah, should seek to be the difference that we wish to see in this world.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+22-23%3B+2+Chronicles+34-35&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Zephaniah 1-3 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

A Price to Pay

Nahum 1-3

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These three chapters make up the entire book of Nahum. At the beginning of this book we are told that it is the vision Nahum was given. This vision prophesied the downfall of the wicked city of Nineveh.  The language in this book is very vivid and paints a terrifying picture of the price that those in Nineveh were to pay.

God had been patient with Nineveh, but as Chapter 1 (v.3) reads, “The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” The people of Nineveh had for too long relished in the ways of the flesh. The LORD could no longer tolerate the filth that they spread.

If you may recall, this is not the first time that we are introduced to the people of Nineveh in the Old Testament. A previous book, Jonah, describes how the people of Nineveh had before turned against the LORD. Eventually Jonah made it to Nineveh and told them of what God planned to do because of their wickedness. The people of Nineveh repented of their ways and the LORD preserved them. However, in Nahum, we learn that the people of Nineveh had again turned from the LORD.

An interesting part of this event is how it would have been in the grasp of the people of Nineveh to avoid such a fate. Chapter 1 even talks of how we can look to the LORD in times of trouble. It tells of his goodness and his care for those that trust in him. If only the people of Nineveh had continued to turn to the LORD rather than to sin.

Sometimes, though, it can be easier to turn away from the LORD. When we turn toward him, there are many tempting things of the flesh that we have to turn away from. Taking part in these sinful acts is not usually difficult on our part. It is easy to sin. However, the consequences that follow that sin are usually never easy. Our sin creates many issues for us in life.

This can be paralleled to how we use our time on a daily basis. Watching another episode of our favorite show on Netflix may be easier than getting work done, but in the long run, which one counts? Watching tv may feel good in the moment, but as we look back on our day, we will feel less accomplished and possibly even stressed because we may feel behind on our work. If we had worked hard at the start, we would have avoided the stress and been left with a feeling of accomplishment.

So, if we initially put in the effort to turn to the Lord and trust in him, he will be our refuge. We will be able to avoid some of the heartache and discipline that would have followed us if we took the easy way out and fell into temptation. That does not mean, though, that if we follow the Lord, we will avoid all kinds of trouble. On the contrary, there will always be storms that we face in this life. If we turn to the Lord, though, we will have a rock to stand firm on during these storms. We will not be blown away by the heavy winds.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nahum+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 as we continue the story of God’s people in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Problem with Pride

2 Chronicles 32-33

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There are many lessons that we can learn from reading these chapters in the Bible. One of these lessons is that a proud heart can cause much trouble. For both Hezekiah and Manasseh this was an issue. Hezekiah did not want to credit the LORD, while Manasseh disregarded the LORD.

It is easy for us too to fall into this. There are times where we pray for guidance. However, once we receive the guidance we asked for, we neglect to go back to God and we just continue with our lives. We do not take the time to acknowledge the LORD’s hand in what was done and we do not do so until we feel we are again in need of him. It is easy for us to forget what he has done. The reality too, is that sometimes we like to think that we found the answers on our own. However, we would not have been capable of finding such answers without God. This situation is similar to Hezekiah when he allowed his heart to be proud and did not credit God with the successes of Jerusalem. He wanted to receive the glory that was owed to the LORD.

Other times, though, we may be able to better relate to Manasseh. During these times, we may be in outright rebellion toward God as Manasseh was. We want to do what we want. We may feel as though we do not need to listen to God because we are proud and think that we know best. We may say, “I know what I am doing.” That is until we receive a wake-up call and realize that we were not so wise in our thoughts and actions. We come to understand that we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. What a humbling experience this can be for our proud hearts!

This actually reminds me of a time when I was packing for a several month stent of studying abroad in Ireland. I had limited space, so I was trying to pack as lightly as possible. Because of this, I disregarded my mother’s advice to pack a small towel. I thought I was being smart. I will just get a towel when I get over there. “I know what I am doing”, I thought. This disregard for guidance offered to me by someone older and wiser than me resulted in me having to use a t-shirt as a towel for several days. Turns out that securing a towel in an unfamiliar country is not always so easy.

While this example is small in comparison, I think it shows how easily we can turn to ourselves rather than to others, and more specifically God. Even though the downfall of both Hezekiah and Manasseh were great, God forgave them when they repented. Because of the love our God has for us and the sacrifice of his son on the cross, we have the ability to be reconciled to him. That truly is something to be thankful for.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+32-33&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Nahum 1-3 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A New World

Isaiah 64-66

As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.

God called Jacob and He made the descendants of Jacob his Holy people. These are the ones who call on the name of the Lord. Yet today, there are those in Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, America, Canada, Samoa, the Philippines and all over the world who know the name of the same God who called chose Jacob so many years ago. Even though they were his chosen people, God said, “Here I am, here I am” to a nation that was not called by his name (65:1). God has called Christians to the same promise that he called the Israelites. Indeed, He says “I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory…I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations…and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory” (66:19).

Eight hundred years later, God sent a sign by the name of Jesus. Jesus himself performed sign after sign, from healing the blind (John 9) to raising the dead (John 11). The final sign was being raised from the dead himself, but this was different from the sign that he performed by raising Lazarus, for Lazarus returned to the grave. Jesus never returned to the grave; to make sure there could be no confusion, Jesus was taken up into the sky in the presence of his followers (Luke 24). The fact that Jesus was taken up is key here because it signifies his resurrection to something new, just as Isaiah prophesied that the world will be transformed into something new.

The closing words of Isaiah state that just as the new earth will endure, so will we. We will endure from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath. That is, we will continue living indefinitely. But the final verse takes a turn from the uplifting words that precede it; it promises destruction to God’s enemies, those who rebelled against him. It does leave you with a few questions though, what does it mean for their fire to never go out? It might point to an eternal suffering of those rebels as is believed by many Christians. I am not entirely sure, but asking questions that make you examine your own beliefs is important for growth. We must always be humble and accept that these prophecies are complex, and we may never fully understand them until the end has come.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+64-66&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Better Things are Coming

Isaiah 59-63

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Isaiah 59 describes what it is like to be separated from God as we are now. Our sins are responsible for the barrier between us and God. Because of this barrier, there is sadness, there is depravity and there is a hope for something that cannot be attained. Everything in this world is touched by this separation. Our attempts at justice are a pale reflection of the true justice that God promises. In the American courts for example, there are instances where innocent men are punished, and guilty men go free. This is not justice, but it is the closest that we are able to get to it because of our human nature. We try to imitate true justice as well as we can, but we will always fall short. We even fall short in our pursuit of truth. Even when truth is proclaimed, there will be some who accept it and some who won’t. Truth is meant to have the power to convince anyone.

The following chapter speaks of what it will be like when that barrier is broken down, when God establishes His perfect kingdom. Everything that we love now, that brings us joy, will be replaced with something better. It says, “I will bring gold instead of bronze and silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood and iron instead of stones.” If you had no possessions and someone asked you if you’d like $20, you would be excited and would gladly accept it. But if you knew that later someone was going to give you $1000, you would be grateful, but not nearly as excited. This is the way it is in God’s perfect kingdom. When thinking about the coming kingdom, we often lament the things that we will miss doing in our current lives if Jesus were to return today. “I can’t wait for the kingdom, but I’d like to finish college first.” Or, “I’d like to have children first.” There are so many things that we look forward to in this life, but here it says that the good things will be replaced with something better, and more than that, we will still have some of the good things that we already enjoy! It says that iron is replaced with silver, but also that stone is replaced with iron. When we think about our future in God’s kingdom, it can be hard to imagine, but we have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and that he will give us something so much better than all of the good things we have now.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+59-63&version=NIV

Tomorrow we finish the book of Isaiah with chapters 64-66 as we continue working through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Let the Rains Fall

Isaiah 54-58

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There is an endless cycle of the outpouring of God’s word followed by Man’s obedience and satisfaction before Man disobeys and becomes dissatisfied. This can manifest itself over the course of generations, as is the case in the story of Noah. God is with Man in the Garden and Man knows God. Man is obedient but his obedience quickly turns to disobedience. Once God decides it is time to pour out His Word, He speaks to Noah and Noah listens. Then the cycle repeats. We see an obedient generation in the early kingdom of Israel under David which becomes disobedient in a matter of generations. The cycle can also be seen in the life of individuals. I was fed the Word from the time I was an infant; I grew up with it and accepted it. Then I became disobedient as I became a teen only to see God’s word in a whole new light and to be brought back to obedience and satisfaction in God. In fact, I have seen this cycle no less than three times in my own life. The cycle can be a minor affair, not having to represent a complete falling out with God but instead moments of spiritual hunger and moments of spiritual contentment.

Isaiah 55:8-11 is a wonderful metaphor for this cycle. We see that God’s word is like the rain, for it exists for a purpose; it exists to nurture the earth and to bear fruit. At times the rain can come as a veritable monsoon, as in the days of the early church when men were prophesying and speaking in tongues and the church was spreading like wildfire. It can come and it can go without warning, bringing with it the full force of a thunderstorm, forcing everyone to watch in awe. It can also come gently in the night and no one will hear it.

Droughts can stretch on seemingly endlessly, but survival is still made possible by the preparations that we make during the rainy season. We store up food for ourselves so that we won’t go hungry. Droughts are tough. Some people don’t survive. Some are victims of their own inaction, unable to survive because they didn’t reap a harvest while it was available to them. Yet still others seem to be innocent, faithful in the harvest and responsible in the draught, but they fall victim to it nevertheless. It is possible that there was water nearby and all they had to do was search for it. Sometimes it requires the wisdom to move on from a place to survive a draught. After all, there is a reason that not many people live in the desert.  The draught is difficult to overcome but one thing is certain: the rain will come again.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+54-58&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 59-63 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

His Strength and Battle Plans

2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46, 80 & 135

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David was a small man compared to Goliath. Based on some Egyptian recordings, men of the time would stand around 5.5 feet tall. Now Goliath was either 6’9” or 9’9” depending on if you look at the Septuagint or the Masoretic texts. Either way, David was significantly smaller than the champion of the Philistines, yet God gave him the power to triumph over the giant. We have a few similar stories in the conquest of the Levant (the region where the Israelites were led to settle by God). When Joshua led Israel to defeat Jericho, there was no reason to believe that a small army could conquer such a well-fortified city, so God conquered for the Israelites. The defeat of king Og is another story of the Israelites conquest against a giant, and again, God conquered for the Israelites.

This story of Judah versus Assyria is really a story of David versus Goliath. Assyria was the ancient near east’s most powerful nation. The Assyrians turned Ninevah into a wealthy city and a center for culture and art. They also coerced all the surrounding nations into vassalage in order to fund these massive feats of architecture. This essentially means that the king of Assyria demanded large sums of gold and silver from the nearby kings in exchange for the “protection” of the Assyrians, which is a euphemism for, “Give me money or I’ll kill you and enslave all your people.” It’s a pretty good setup they’ve got going on. At the beginning of the passage you’ll see that Hezekiah is one of those kings who is a vassal to Sennacherib. Judah manages to cough up 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. That’s a lot of money. Even with that generous donation, Assyria couldn’t leave Judah alone. Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem, mocks their God and insists that they will be forced to eat their own excrement if they stay on the side of God.

Choosing to stay on God’s side usually isn’t that difficult for me, but when the cost is eating your own filth, it certainly adds some weight to the decision.  Many kings of Judah and certainly most, if not all, of the kings of Israel would have submitted to Sennacherib’s will, but not Hezekiah. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God will take care of everything, like he always does. Once again, God conquers for the Israelites.

We often want God to act through us, to perform some mighty feat of strength or wisdom with ourselves as the focus. However, God often chooses to do things without us so that we can know that the glory is his and his alone. We want to be like David, to be a man after God’s own heart, but also to be like David, a man who performed valiant feats. Let us remember that it is God’s will that will be done and not ours. We can build up fortresses for ourselves but they won’t save us. Our God is a mighty fortress, an ever present help in trouble. Nothing we create will ever be as effective a shield as Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A9-19%3A37%3B+Psalm+46%2C+80%2C+135&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 49-53 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Has Answers

Isaiah 5-8

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Today’s reading contained some pretty grim and possibly confusing stuff. In some sections it seems the people of Judah are completely doomed for destruction, while other parts tell of a coming protection. If you have come here today looking for an explanation and clarification on all that took place in these chapters – I’m sorry to say, I haven’t got one. Mainly because one perfect answer doesn’t exist. Scholars, theologians, historians, have all made attempts at understanding biblical prophecy. There has yet to be one universal agreed upon interpretation. The language barrier is one reason, as is the lack of context and historical gaps. If you want to know more about today’s reading and other prophecy, I encourage you to do two things. One, reach out to your local pastor with your specific questions. He or she would love to help you digest the Old Testament. Many have a wealth of biblical knowledge and bookcases stocked with resources. Plus, during this Covid time, many pastors are feeling a disconnect with their congregation, unable to meet under normal circumstances. They would welcome your questions and this opportunity to serve.

My second bit of advice is to follow that in Isaiah 8:20, “Look to God’s instruction and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (NLT) Isaiah goes on to describe the type of darkness these people experience as a sort of wandering aimless search for answers. He paints a picture of people looking at the sky and shaking their fists at God. These people sought psychics and other mediums for answers, instead of seeking the LORD’s instruction. Whenever you are reading scripture and stumble upon a passage that confuses you, look to what you know to be true about God. Some of these Old Testament passages can be tricky and may produce the picture of God as being only angry and vengeful. Be sure to look to ALL of God’s instructions and teachings. Personally, when reading doom and gloom in the Old Testament, I try to keep in mind what God says about Himself as being “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV). I love this verse in Isaiah, because right in the midst of confusing prophecy, he gives us an answer, encouraging us to seek “God’s instructions” known to us through scripture.

This advice from Isaiah can also be applied to other aspects of our lives when searching for answers. I would say all aspects, except I’ve not yet found the part in scripture that explains calculus. Math aside, when we face difficult or confusing challenges, wandering in unknown darkness, we as believers are encouraged to seek God for the answers. We can approach God through our wonderful redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whether these answers are revealed to us by understanding scripture, receiving peace, or prayer, answers exist. I am experiencing some personal challenges in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends sent me a text reminding me to seek answers from God during this trial. Her encouragement applies also to you, and whatever your current struggles may be. The last part of Isaiah 8 reminded me of her words. I want to share some of them with you as a closing thought.

“It may seem like the pain, loss, confusion, and hole in your heart, are the only things you will ever know, but please remember, the Lord has a plan for you and He is there to listen to you, He is there to listen to your cries of anguish and despair. And He will console you, but you have to ask Him for His help. Please don’t shut yourself out of His sweet  and divine presence, my dear friend. Ask Him to give you guidance for what you should do next. How you should proceed with your life. Ask Him for His wisdom so that you can understand what lesson He wants to teach you, how He is trying to mold your character. And also maybe think of what He wants you to ask Him. What is HIS will?”

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin another prophet writing at a similar time – Amos, chapters 1-5 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

God’s Jealous Love

Isaiah 1-4

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Today, we begin the book of Isaiah. This book is full of poetry, prophecy, but also includes some narrative sections, as we will see tomorrow. Isaiah speaks of the coming judgment and future restoration upon the nation of Judah. The book contains lament over the nation’s sin, warning against God’s wrath, and the promises of a wonderful future for the faithful. As I read through the first four chapters, a single theme stood out to me. These passages reminded me of God’s passionate love and desire for our hearts. Like in the song “How He Loves” God is jealous for us.

The verses in Isaiah 1:10-15 express God’s disgust at the people’s empty rituals and sacrifices. While they may be executing all the correct religious actions, they are done without sincerity. Simply going through the motions. This is something we can fall privy too, as well. Routine worship. While Covid may have interrupted our usual routines, it is important to keep our worship sincere, in whatever form it may take.

While a rather grim verse, the verbiage in Isaiah 1:28 hints at a key factor regarding God’s love. Isaiah claims, “But rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who desert the LORD will be consumed.” Those who desert the LORD. It does not say those the LORD has deserted. God does not walk away and leave us. He is always ready to accept a repentant heart. At a time when you may be feeling particularly lonely, remember, God is always ready to receive you.

Finally, Isaiah 1:22 struck me as bittersweet, but very true: “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are frail as breath. What good are they?” Don’t misunderstand, Isaiah and I are not advocating for hermit life. There are plenty of verses in the New Testament, whole chapters written by Paul, that explain the need for church community. Our faith is not something we are meant to go about alone. However, this verse tells of one of the most important life lessons: people will fail you. The only ones we can truly depend upon is the LORD and His son, our redeemer. In fact, it is when we live from a place of securely trusting in God, we can have better human relationships. When our trust and hope is put in God alone, we become more ready to accept and forgive the failures of those around us.

The themes of God’s overwhelming jealous love for us are evident throughout the first four chapters of Isaiah. God’s anger over the people’s worship of idols, promises of a bright future, and redemption for the faithful exemplify God’s desire to be our number one priority. God knows the worship of idols and sin led lives will not fulfill us. That is why his anger burns so strong against His people in scripture like today’s. For He knows what is best, and they are not listening. He is not a narcissistic God who is angry and pours His wrath out in a desire to be right. He is a God of mercy who longs to bring His people to Him so they may experience true and abundant life.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Isaiah 5-8 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Jonah

Jonah 1-4

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The story of Jonah is a strange one, isn’t it? Never mind the whole getting swallowed by a whale thing, Jonah himself is not a particularly estimable character, yet we have a whole book in the Bible named after him. I love the VeggieTales song “Jonah Was a Prophet” from their first theatrical movie Jonah. The chorus sums up the story quite nicely:

Jonah was a prophet

oo-ooh!

but he really never got it

sad but true!

and if you watch it you can spot it

a-doodley-doo!

he did not get the point!

 

Jonah just might be the world’s most famous hypocrite. He was shown mercy from God and rescued. He later rebukes God for being too merciful towards the people of Nineveh. I usually read this story with a sort of warning, “Don’t be like a Jonah,” someone who misses the point. But what made Jonah do these things? I don’t believe Jonah was just simply unintelligent. We are told he was a prophet. He must have been somewhat learned or at least skilled in communication for God to have chosen him to be His mouthpiece. So, while Jonah acts stupid throughout most of this story, he surely must not have been stupid.

What is it that changed for Jonah? What made him become so blind to God’s truth. Looking over the story, I think there are two things: pride and disappointment. In the final chapter of the book, when it becomes evident God is not going to destroy the city of Nineveh, Jonah becomes angry with God. He basically tells God he knew God wasn’t actually going to destroy the people and accuses God of wasting his time by sending him there (verse 2).  It seems Jonah forgot his place as God’s servant. In the following verse, Jonah expresses disappointment. Jonah had hoped the Ninevites would be destroyed and becomes so wrought with this lost hope he fades into depression. Jonah’s pride and disappointment blinded him from seeing the truth about God’s compassionate mercy.

Are you a Jonah in your own life, right now? Has your pride or disappointment prevented you from seeing God at work? Our lives have undergone many changes over the last several months. With so much cancelled and shut down, disappointment almost seems like the new normal. Pride can also take hold during these pandemic times as we can become jealous of those whose lives seem to go on relatively unscathed. I have felt both these things, especially the disappointment. It can be blindsiding and out right devastating when something we have hoped and planned does not happen. While I have not the magic words to make the pain disappear, I do know I must not let it blind me from God’s truth. Remember where our hope and treasure truly lie, in the coming Kingdom of God. Fix your gaze upon those everlasting promises and don’t be a Jonah.

 

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan