Overcoming your Thoughts

Reading for today:

Ezra 3-4 … 1 Corinthians 3

If you were to get the Bjorksnas dresser from Ikea with all of its 678 (just a guess) pieces, are you the kind of person who would meticulously follow the instructions or are you more of a ‘this looks about right’ kind of person?

Twice in today’s passage, Ezra records that the people returning from exile did things “in accordance with what is written”

“Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests along with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his brothers began to build the altar of Israel’s God in order to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2)

“They celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed, and offered burnt offerings each day, based on the number specified by ordinance for each festival day.” (Ezra 3:4)

What makes this even more impressive is what we find out in between these two verses:

“They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.” (Ezra 3:3)

Even though they feared…

They did all these things, so careful to faithfully follow the specific instructions of their God, despite their fear. Impressive.

We’re doing a study in our Wednesday night class right now on a book about changing your thoughts, which leads to a changed life.

The place we’re at in our study currently is teaching us that at the root of any behavior that we might wish to change is a lie that we have (probably unknowingly) believed. We are learning how to identify those lies and create new neural pathways in our brains to (hopefully) eventually develop new behaviors. (If you’re interested, btw, the book is Winning the War in Your Mind, by Craig Groeschel .)

Typically, when we start to practice taking that new pathway, it can feel weird…it can feel uncomfortable…it can even feel scary. But it’s only in acting when we feel scared or uncomfortable that we are able to overcome the existing pathway and create a new one.

This scientific knowledge confirms what the Bible has told us for generations, which is that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

The only way to overcome a falsehood is with the truth. And in order for truth to really permeate our mind it has to become personal to us.

Simply printing out a Bible verse and sticking it to your mirror isn’t going to cut it. Take that verse, pull out the truth as it applies to the lie you are believing and write a declaration.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You struggle with trusting God, so you decide to hang up the verse that says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” to remind yourself of the truth that you can trust God to take care of you.
  • Instead, consider taking that same verse and personalizing it by writing out a statement like this, “God loves me more than I love myself. He knows me more than I know myself. He has my best interests at heart and He can be trusted. If He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, I can trust that he will graciously give me all things as well.”
  • And then even shorten it further, perhaps, to put to memory, “I can trust that God will graciously give me all things.”

Write it. Speak it. Think it. And as you begin to practice a new behavior, rooted in truth, it may feel scary. But press through and keep at it!

Renew your mind and overcome the lies that hold you back from living the life that God intends for you to live.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 3-4 and 1 Corinthians 3

God Sends Answers

1 Chronicles 25-26

Reading through Chronicles it is easy to skim past large sections that seem to drone on for hours. But the fact that the whole book of Chronicles was true history of the Israelites, that was written down for us to read thousands of years later is truly fascinating. The book of Chronicles which starts off with the genealogy from Adam, shows how much the Israelites appreciated and treasured their heritage and lineage. They viewed their history as all the ways God provided for them over the years. 

Chapters 23-26 are devoted to the organization of the temple. It tells in detail the families who served in the temple and how God chose the people to be servants of the temple by being musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers, and temple officials. These positions were cast by lot. The high priest who wore the special ephod was able to cast lots using the urim and thummim. This was one way God communicated with his people. It allowed God to give the Israelites a direct yes (urim) or no (thummim) answer. 

There are many times in the Bible where it tells us that something was determined by lot. For example, Saul was appointed King of Israel by lot, and the lot was cast on Jonathan when he ate the honey he wasn’t supposed to eat according to Saul’s orders (1 Samuel 14:42), and Matthias was chosen as the apostle to replace Judas by lot (Acts 1:26), and to make decisions on how to divide the land to each of the 12 tribes (Joshua 18:6). The Bible records many other times when the people used lots to seek God’s counsel. 

So what can we take away from all of this? God loves his people, He wants to show us His plans for our lives. Part of God’s character is that he is immutable- never changing through the ages. In most cultures today, casting lots is often overlooked as a means of receiving communication and answers from God, but we must not overlook His word given to us – including Chronicles- which show God’s continuity and love to His people. God knows that we are a forgetful people who don’t remember all the many things God has done over the years. Through Chronicles we see a God who kept his promises to the Israelites and who organized the temple and determined its leaders by lot. This same God is involved in our lives as well. It’s filled with the history of God providing for and keeping true with his promises to his people. It was used to remind the Israelites of these things and it can remind us as well how God was working through their lives and how He is and was and will work in ours. And knowing this helps us Stand Firm for Him.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 25-26 and Proverbs 29

So that you may know…

the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

1 Chronicles 1-6

The very last class of my undergraduate education taught me something I’ve remembered for years. I was finishing up my minor and taking my last sociology class. I made a statement during a class presentation that earned me a grade that pushed me into a new academic rank that I thought was impossible to achieve. The presentation was on being a voice for change in society. “If we want to bring about societal change, we need to make some noise!”

I’m going to sound a tad irreverent here. I used to cringe every time a modern agent of societal change preached “Fact-check!” My disdain from the message grew with each passing day that the seemingly one-sided social sermon that I immersed myself in on an almost daily basis, was made light. The noise was bringing change but to me, it was not warranted change.

At first, noise is all I ever allowed myself to hear from the opposing side’s communication. My mind went straight to the need for taking the stick out of the opposing side’s eye. There may have been a beam in there too.

I had to turn off the noise and get myself immersed in something else because I wasn’t helping the situation. I was supposed to be the light that brought change, not the opposing societal view. Right around this time, I started digging into the various things Jesus was called. In the quiet I reacquainted myself with The Light of the World.   

Through my continued immersion in the word, I did something I had rarely done. I actually took the time to read the genealogies of Jesus, the boring stuff, in the beginning chapters of Mathew and Luke. It dawned on me.

In the quiet, I realized that the words so often skipped over were God’s fact-checks! Through these, he made certain we knew who the Messiah was, the one who would bring about the right change. It was all in there waiting to be discovered. The Messiah is exactly who God said he’d be and exactly who Jesus said he was. There are facts that lead to him in the genealogies, the lineages, the “begats”, the “in the lands of-s”, the “in the times of-s”, through the recordings of kings of kingdoms, in the astronomical signs of the times, etc. All fact-checks leading to Jesus Messiah.

The genealogies of Jesus were written by eyewitnesses of his ministry. I love the beginning of Luke:

“Since many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting to me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” -Luke 1:1-4

I took a little more time today reading through the genealogies recorded in 1 Chronicles chapters 1 – 6. They’re fact-checks. They can help us to be prepared with an answer to anyone who questions our faith.  

Through this experience, I have begun to listen to the opposing side before opposing them completely. I have come to value the opposing side’s pleas for fact-checking. They are right. We need truth. But we need to fact-check society as a whole – all sides.

I’m still a bit put off by the societal noise and social pressures of our time. Although it may be true that making noise may lead to societal change, it may not be what God wants for us. There were times when Jesus spoke softly and times when Jesus rebuked. There were times when Jesus was offensive and there were times when Jesus remained silent. He always did whatever he heard from his father. If I’m going to be the light of the world like Jesus, desiring to cause societal change, I need to hear Jesus and heed his statements. I need to do it his way. His way is often the unpopular way but it is the only way that’s going to bring about change that matters. 

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 1-2 and Proverbs 17

Destroy the Asherah

2 Kings 17-18

There seems to be a persistent theme when it comes to the kings of God’s people. There were kings who served Yahweh their God and kings who served false gods. In 2 Kings 17-18, we are told a tale of two kings. The first king, Hoshea, king over Israel in Samaria, did evil in the sight of Yahweh God. During Hoshea’s reign, the king of Assyria came up against him. Instead of relying on Yahweh for help in the time of trouble, Hoshea sought the help of foreign aid and made foreign gods.

He set pillars up and Asherim (wooden symbols of a female deity) on every high hill and under every green tree. He served Idols and worshiped stars. He made the people pass through the fire (sacrificed them to gods) and practiced divination and enchantments.

Over and over again, Yahweh God tells Israel to turn from their evil ways and keep his commandments and statutes, but they would not listen. They became stiff-necked and vain and did what Yahweh God commanded them not to do under Hoshea’s leadership. They put their trust in other gods and did not fear the one true God. The next and last king of Israel did accordingly. As a result, Israel was carried away into exile. God removed them from his sight.

Then there was Hezekiah, king over Judah. He did right in the sight of Yahweh. He removed pillars and cut down the Asherah. He trusted in Yahweh God and clung to him. He kept his commandments. Yahweh was with him and wherever he went he prospered. While all the nations surrounding him were taken into captivity, Hezekiah not only withstood the forces against him, but conquered them because he put his trust in Yahweh God, listened to his commandments, and removed the false gods from his kingdom.

In our times of trouble, will we despise the word of God and serve little self-made gods like Hoshea, or will we destroy the Asherah of our lives and serve the one true God like Hezekiah? We are told by our Lord Jesus that we will have trouble in this life but to take courage because he has overcome the world. In response to trouble, we have two choices to make that can lead to two very different outcomes. We can create and rely on our own Asherah or destroy it and rely on Yahweh God alone through his son Jesus Messiah.

We don’t live in a day and age when most people are physically making objects out of wood to worship or sacrificing their children to other gods. We may however worship and sacrifice to other “gods” that we’ve made priority in our lives over Yahweh God. If we’re not careful, we may find ourselves making our personal lives our priority. We can pursue a self-indulgent lifestyle that involves making ourselves happy, making ourselves financially secure, and making ourselves feel safe. We can sacrifice our time, energy, and focus on all things not God. We’ve got to stop doing this if our desire is to serve the one true God.

Idols can be hidden. There was a time when God ordained the bronze serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of the coming Messiah. It was to be held high for all Israel to look upon and live in the face of death. Yet, we find in 2 Kings that Hezekiah destroys it. Why? Because it had become a symbol of worship beyond what God intended for it to be. What once represented the Messiah who brings life became idol worship.

Have we set up idols of influence in our lives “on every high hill and under every green tree” without even realizing it? Have we become stiff-necked and vain with our priorities and done the very thing God commands us not to do? If we have, there’s hope! Thank God we have repentance and forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Messiah. Identify the Asherah in your life, repent, destroy it, and rely on God. 

-Juliet Taylor

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ! I am thankful for this opportunity to write.  I am a Biblical Unitarian and have been for life (although I didn’t know we had a name until recently). I grew up attending fellowship based off of the teachings of the Way International Ministries. There were some years I spent listening to church online from Living Hope International Ministries, until I found a local church that believed like me. I currently attend Higher Ground Church, now affiliated with The Church of God General Conference. I’ve been with my home church for about 14 years and attend with my husband and two boys. 
We love Yahweh God, his son Jesus Messiah, and long to be with them in the Kingdom of God. Love to all and God Bless! -Juliet

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 17-18 and Proverbs 13

Restored!

2 Kings 7-8


Our God is a God of restoration. There will ultimately be a full restoration, but full restoration can only happen when the world is once again the beautiful, perfect place God created it to be, when His Kingdom is established on earth. Partial restoration, however, has been happening ever since the beginning of time. We read about restoration countless times in the Bible, and if you look, you can see it in our lives today, too. God constantly restores what has been lost to His people, whether it be a physical ability, such as sight, or movement, or a spiritual restoration, such as that of faith, or even the restoration of life.


Today, we read in 2 Kings chapter 8 about a Shunammite woman who lost everything she had during a 7 year famine, but because of her faith in God and willingness to obey, it was restored to her. Now this woman was not new to witnessing God’s ability to restore what was lost. In chapter 4 of 2 Kings, we read about how Elisha rewarded the Shunammite woman’s kindness with fertility, and she bore a son. Sadly, the son later died, but she had faith in God’s power, so she sought out Elisha. Elisha came, and the son was brought back to life; he was restored.


It is clear that this woman had remarkable faith. Perhaps this is why Elisha warned her about the famine that would come on the land for 7 long years, and advised her to leave. So without question, she and her household left their home and stayed in the land of the Philistines for 7 years, until the famine was over. When they returned, she had to appeal to the king to get back her home and all her land. The crazy thing is, right as she was coming to appeal to the king,
Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, (who in chapter 5 was cursed with leprosy, and left Elisha… so it can be assumed that these chapters are not necessarily in chronological order) was telling him the unbelievable story of the miracle Elisha performed in the resurrection of the son of the Shunammite woman. The woman, who just happened to show up during this particular story
time, also gave an account of what happened, and the King was so impressed that he instantly granted her the land and all that she left 7 years ago.


This story speaks volumes of God’s perfect timing, and adds to the common theme we see throughout the Bible of God’s willingness to restore what has been lost to those who are faithful. Look closely at the different ways in which God restores things in your life, and let it remind you to live everyday for the ultimate restoration that’s coming.


-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading devotions can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 7-8 and Proverbs 8

Not What You Expected

2 Kings 5-6


As ignorant, stuck-up, entitled humans, we often think we know what we need. We have this nice little idea of what will make our lives better, and we go to God expecting Him to grant us our wishes. But the thing is, we don’t know what we need; we don’t know how God works or what He plans to accomplish through us, or how He even uses our situation for His glory.


In 2 Kings 5, we read about one particular ignorant human who went to Elisha hoping to be healed of his leprosy, despite being a gentile and enemy of Israel. Now this man, Naaman, wasn’t mistaken in thinking he would receive the help he needed, but what he thought he needed and what God knew he needed were two separate things. When Elisha told Naaman to wash 7 times in the river Jordan, he became angry and almost turned around to head home, because this wasn’t the grand solution he expected to hear. Fortunately, however, his servants reminded him what was at stake, and what he should be willing to try for the sake of healing his leprosy. So Naaman, I imagine quite reluctantly, went down to the river and followed Elisha’s instructions. And what do you know – he was healed!


After experiencing this miraculous restoration of health, Naaman knew who the one true God was (and is), and came back a changed man. Even in the few paragraphs we read about Naaman, we can see a drastic difference in his overall attitude and behavior. God changed his heart. If Naaman wasn’t lucky enough to have those servants around, he would’ve missed out on everything he gained in his short encounter with Elisha. Because of his own pride and desires, he
was prepared to walk away from the only chance he would ever get at healing his fatal disease, and finding a relationship with his Creator.


Naaman’s story can serve as a reminder to let go of our self-conceived ideas of what is best for us, and instead trust God to handle every situation His way. God’s way is always the best way, whether or not we are capable of understanding it. He has a plan for all His children, and this plan has already been set in motion. He answers our prayers in ways we could never imagine,
and sometimes in ways we can’t even see. We have to trust that our loving, heavenly Father knows what’s truly best for us, and that everything He does is part of the ultimate plan He has for us to live together with Him in His eternal Kingdom.


God knows what you need, all you have to do is trust Him.

–Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 5-6 and Proverbs 7

Brought Together by God

1 Kings 17-18

In 1 Kings 17, we are introduced to a widow that was struggling in the time of the drought. Now Elijah had been sent to stay with this widow by God. The brook he had been living at dried up. He needed somewhere to go, and this was where he was told to seek refuge. When he comes upon the widow, she is out gathering sticks to fuel the flames that would cook what she perceived to be her and her son’s last meal.

When Elijah asked her for a drink, she was more than happy to comply. However, when he asked her for some bread, she revealed her situation. She had no bread. All she had was a small bit of flour and oil. She said she was saving this for her and her son, for they were going to eat it and then die. She did not believe that they were going to make it through the drought. In her mind, this was the end of the road for both her and her child.

But then, as we read, Elijah tells her not to fear for the LORD would not allow her to run out of flour or oil until rain came again. He offers her hope. The widow showed great faith in what Elijah said. She did not question this or wonder how such a thing could be promised. She went in and did as Elijah had said. She had faith in God’s promise. And so, as Elijah had said, the flour nor the oil went empty. They had plenty to eat. God had provided for them and kept his promise.

Here was this widow and her son. She is on the brink of preparing their last meal, when Elijah shows up. God used the widow’s home as a place for Elijah to find refuge. And through Elijah staying there, God provided for the widow and her son who were on the brink of starvation. God orchestrates many stories and brings many people together so that they may help one another. God used the widow to help Elijah and Elijah he used to help the widow.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 17-18 and Proverbs 2

Believing God in Tough Times

Acts 27

Paul’s journey to Rome in this passage is anything but simple. When those with Paul on the ship to Rome went days without seeing the guiding light of stars or the sun, they gave up hope of ever being saved. But then Paul spoke. He shared with them what the angel of God had told him. He assured them that although their situation seemed dire, they would be delivered. It was God’s plan for Paul to appear before Caesar and Paul, neither Paul nor those with him, were to be lost at sea before that could happen.

Although this situation and the knowledge that he was to be tried by Caesar when he reached Rome must have been difficult, Paul kept trusting God. When God sent word to him, Paul did not look at the situation and doubt what God was saying. He believed God’s word, and so much so that he shared what God had planned. From the passage we can see that Paul did not even question the way in which they were to be saved- a shipwreck! Here Paul is lost at sea, facing trial by the ruler of the Roman empire and now finds out he is to be preserved for that by being saved through a shipwreck. That is a lot to take in and yet, Paul remained faithful.

This made me think of a time in my own life when I was being driven to an airport on a major highway. A car sideswiped us, and we went across several lanes of traffic, nearly hit a concrete barrier and then swerved back over a few lanes. In that moment, it seemed the vehicle I was in was going to be hit again. The situation seemed taut and like there could be no good outcome. However, miraculously the vehicle I was in and the vehicle that had hit us suffered no injuries and were not hit a second time in the busy traffic. Even in a situation that seemed hopeless, God preserved us, and we even got to the airport on time.

Sometimes, though, in these moments it is easier to think of what could happen, like getting hit a second time or being lost at sea and not on what we should be thinking about- God. But we must look to Paul as an example and trust God in tough circumstances as he did.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 11-12 and Acts 27

Positive Reactions to Negative Events

1 Samuel 29-31

Today’s Old Testament passage continues the story of David and his men while they were living with the Philistines away from Saul. In 1 Samuel 29, David is about to go fight with the Philistines, but several of the Philistine leaders are worried that David is still loyal to Saul and will turn against the Philistines in battle. So David and his men are sent back to their home, Ziklag. Unfortunately, “When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive” (NIV, 1 Samuel 30:3). This event alone would be quite devastating to David, but in addition, some of David’s men were then considering turning on him and stoning him based upon the recent misfortune. 

This rough series of events would be hard to get through alone, but verse six states that “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). His positive reaction to these negative events can be used as an example. Instead of immediately taking revenge on the Amalekites for destroying his home and taking his family and friends, he decides to ask God first. David’s initial response can be used in many situations to choose the wisest action instead of simply reacting in the first imaginable way that is likely unwise. 

After God responds, David and some of his men successfully chase down the Amalekites and get everything back that was stolen. Although they retrieved all their possessions again, some of the men weren’t willing to give back part of the goods to those that didn’t participate in the raid. However, David’s response to this situation is again a positive example that can be applied to many other situations, even today. David disagreed with those men and instead insisted that even those that didn’t participate should receive part of the plunder. He argued that what they had received had actually come from the LORD, not from those that had actually participated in the fight. Further, David didn’t just divide up the plunder between him and his men, he also then gave gifts to others that had been kind to them in the past. As one people united with a common goal to serve and follow God, it is important to remember to share the possessions that have graciously been given by God.

-1st time Devotion Writer who Preferred being Anonymous

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Samuel 29-31 and Acts 9

The Early Church : The Message

John 20


I love the book of John, and I am so glad I get to lead us in this week, because John 20 is one of my favorite chapters. 


This week we are discussing the early church. We will be ending John and moving into Acts. While Luke shows us the crucifixion, resurrection, and later the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost as the beginning of the church, John shows us the beginning of the church here in chapter 20. 


In the opening verses, Jesus is RISEN! Jesus, in John, clearly laid down his life of his own accord, and clearly takes it up again. There is no doubt in the mind of Jesus or the author about what he was doing. Jesus was saving humanity! Jesus was giving the final sign that he is the Messiah, and 8th sign, signifying that he is creating something new. The disciples sprint to see the empty tomb but go away. Mary stays. Jesus sends her to let them know that his words were true, he had been raised, just as he said. He sends her out.


This sending of Mary is mirrored in what Jesus does to the apostles is verse 19. They are sitting in fear, but Jesus shows up and gives them his peace. Then in verse 22-23 we get a weird picture. Jesus breathes on his disciples, post-CoViD, masks, and social distancing, we may feel like Jesus was in their personal space. But he says, “Receive the spirit”. The Holy Spirit, the power, presence, and promise of God to those who would believe in the Messiah, is the very breath of Jesus. What John is showing is that this powerful spirit that shows up in Acts and shakes the city and changes the world, is the breath of Christ. He gives his disciples spirit for power, for forgiveness, for judgement. This is John showing us the birth of the church. 


However, the verses I want us to really see are the last three of the chapter. “Doubting” Thomas gets an unfair, if earned, nickname. Yes he doubted. But no one has ever brushed off a crucifixion before. No one gets executed and wakes up a couple days later. Jesus is the exception to the rule. But when Jesus shows up, Thomas believes, declaring “My Lord and My God.” Jesus recognizes the belief of Thomas and says “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who did not see, and yet believed.”


My brothers and sisters, that is you. Jesus spoke of how YOU are blessed for having faith without sight. Jesus knows that it is a difficult thing to believe, to be the church. But, like Mary, like Peter, like Thomas, like John, we are called, in faith, to tell others the message of the early church, the message that is still true today. “These things (the book of John) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) If you believe, have faith without sight, that Jesus is the Christ, as John has been showing, as Peter and Paul declared, as Jesus himself testified to for 40 days on earth, then YOU have life in his name. That is the message of the early church, it is the message of the medieval church, it is the message of the contemporary church, and it will be the message of the church until the end of the age. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we have life in his name. 


Let us, his breath-filled, Spirit-empowered followers, be his witnesses to the world. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here 1 Samuel 9-10 and John 20