See What You Can Do

1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

In 1 Samuel 25 we are introduced to Abigail. If you haven’t yet – go read her story now. Abigail – intelligent and beautiful, a safe place for the servant to come speak truth, she “lost no time”/”quickly” – woman of decisive action, generous gift-giver, humble and contrite, willing to accept blame (even when it more rightly belonged to her husband instead), thinking ahead to future ramifications, eloquent, known and praised for good judgment, discerning and a peacemaker. Not promoting peace by just keeping her mouth closed or looking the other way, but from speaking up and standing up for what is right and just.

I can learn a lot from Abigail, as well as from her servant. The servant who warned Abigail of her husband’s foolish treatment of David confided in her and said, “Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his household” (1 Samuel 25:17). Think it over – and see what you can do. Wise words of advice from the servant. I too often overthink myself into non-action. I get stuck in the ‘think it over’ stage. I might feel I have discerned a situation well and see the foolishness, wickedness or injustice but become paralyzed by what to do about it by overanalyzing or fear of getting personally involved. Or, just as unhelpful – I can come up with lots of solutions of what other people could or should do to fix the problem. But not Abigail. She thought it over and saw what she could do and “lost no time” in getting it done. Twice it says she “quickly” mounted or dismounted her donkey. She is wasting no time hem hawing around. There is action to be taken – and she will do it.

However, even though Abigail acts decisively and quickly – she also avoids erring on the side of rash, reckless behavior she might regret later. When she returns home to a drunk husband she doesn’t engage him then but waits til morning to tell him of all that had transpired. She still takes the time to wisely interpret a situation and choose the best time, not necessarily the first chance, to intervene and speak.

And, God takes care of the rest. I imagine it was scary for Abigail to approach David and then confront her husband – not knowing how either of them would react or what it would mean for her future. When we are called to act we usually don’t know what the results will be – either short or long-term. But we can know that God is faithful in providing for His children who have stepped out in faith to right wrong and peacefully pursue justice.

But wait – how did God provide for faithful Stephen in Acts? Like Abigail, Stephen was also a courageous, eloquent person of action and wisdom who boldly served his master and spoke for his king, Jesus, in the face of wicked opposition. He saw that disaster was hanging over all those who had rejected Jesus and he had considered what he could do – speak in Jesus’ name. And he did it faithfully, regardless of the outcome. A life cut short and the agony of being stoned to death doesn’t seem like much of a reward for bravely doing the right thing. But, when you read the description of Stephen there is an amazing amount of peace. He is not in fear or second-guessing his words or actions. He is full of the Holy Spirit and he is allowed a glimpse into heaven and sees, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). Even at his last moment before “falling asleep”, he is at peace with his Lord Jesus and even with his adversaries.

We don’t need to know the immediate outcome before courageously taking action and speaking up for what is right. Disaster is indeed hanging over so much of the world today. It is time for God’s children to think it over and consider what each one can do. And then take action, quickly mount your donkey, open your mouth, speak His words. You can be confident – you might not know the outcome, but God’s got His children.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

David and Stephen

1 Samuel 23-24 and Acts 6

Today’s Old Testament reading includes strong, powerful David sparing King Saul’s life in a cave when he could have easily taken revenge and killed the king, clearing the way for his own rule and prosperity. Strong, bold, but full of mercy and God-fearing appreciation for those God had placed in power.

Today’s New Testament reading tells of Stephen, “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). But, not everyone was a fan. Just as David and Jesus had run into opposition, now it was Stephen’s turn. Jealousy, arguing, false witnesses ensued. Stephen remained steadfast. I love the descriptions of this man. Those who argued against Stephen, “could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” (Acts 6:10) and even the Sanhedrin saw that, “his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). We will read more of Stephen’s story tomorrow.

Motherhood is on my mind today. The characteristics displayed in today’s reading of both David and Stephen are characteristics I want to help develop in my children. Strong, bold, full of grace and wisdom and the Spirit of God, also able to face opposition and remain steadfast and godly.

We do not hear anything about Stephan’s family or mother. We know very little of David’s mother – though in yesterday’s reading we learned that he cared for and provided for the safety of his mother and father when Saul was seeking to kill David (1 Samuel 22:3). Just like the Disney princesses (and princes), they seem to have grown and developed with no maternal influence mentioned. But, we know, for better or worse every child ever born has had a mother. It is perhaps a good reminder to me that God doesn’t NEED me to grow my children into the Davids or Stephens or Hannahs or Marys he wants them to be. But, what a privilege to get that opportunity to do my best in His Spirit to develop those characteristics in my children. And, I am so thankful for the mother who did that for me.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 23-24 and Acts 6

The Early Church : The Power of the Church

Acts 2

So far this week, we have been speaking of “the early church”, but that is a bit anachronistic. Because, today, we come to the founding, the start, the inception, of the church. Pentecost is a Jewish high holy day, one of the great feasts through the year, and it is 50 days after passover. Pentecost, of the Feast of Weeks, of Shauvot was to commemorate the giving of the Torah to the people of God. On THIS Pentecost, something new was given. 

In verse two of chapter two, we see that there is a great sound, along with fire that came among the people. But verse four is where the new thing God was doing happens. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”. Of course, reading a verse like this, a few questions come to mind. What is the Holy Spirit?What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?How is this new?


The Holy Spirit is the personal, powerful, presence of God. In John 13-17, Jesus teaches his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come, guide, teach, comfort, and council them. In Acts, the Holy Spirit speaks to the apostles and decides on what the church should do. (See Acts 8:29 and 15:28-29) The Holy Spirit is listed alongside the Father and the Son in certain salutations and greetings to the church, and as part of the authority in which we should be baptized as believers. The Spirit, in other places, is like water poured out on people, as fire that burns up the chaff, as wind that moves over the face of the world. It is not easy to pin down. It’s not easy to understand.


However, these followers weren’t getting a strong theological point on the Spirit. They were drenched in it, spoke various languages by it. To be filled with the Spirit in the book of Acts was to display the power of God in signs and miracles (like speaking in tongues or raising the dead, keep reading Acts!). But they were also filled with the Spirit in order to be bold. (Acts 4:31) The power of God was in all these people, changing both their outward actions and their inward personalities, making them into people who could confidently face anything that came their way because they were connected to God by his Power in the authority of Jesus. 


And the Holy Spirit had never worked that way until Pentecost. This amazing, moving, shaping, guiding power of God had come upon specific people, leaders like Moses and prophets like Aaron. When it came upon these specific people, they could lose the power of the Spirit, like Samson or Saul. But in Pentecost, anyone who believed that Jesus was the Messiah was given the Spirit to speak the word. That is why Peter quotes Joel in vs. 17-21. It proves that Jesus, in giving his people the Spirit, he was both fulfilling prophecy and giving them the power they would need to be his witnesses. 


Monday, we were left with the difficult question : will you follow Jesus?Yesterday, we were left with another doozy : will you be his witness, near, far, and to the ends of the earth?


Today, I want to encourage you : you can’t do it! (That’s not helpful!) No, those questions are too big for me and you. But with God, all things are possible. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the grave is available to you in grace. You don’t HAVE to follow Jesus on your own, or be a witness in your own wisdom and power. You can join with the early church, and this power will come upon you and empower you. Peter said “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Holy Spirit, his power and presence, will be in your life, guiding and teaching you. It will fill you to the brim with power, but more importantly with courage, with confidence, with grace, with forgiveness, with hope, and with love. 


The more I study the Holy Spirit, the more questions I have. But I have learned one thing : I want more of it in my life.


Join me in asking for God’s Holy Spirit to fill your life, today. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 2

The Early Church : The Fate of the Apostles

John 21

In John 21, Jesus has a number of more appearances to the disciples. After the disciples go fishing, Jesus shows up on a beach, and feeds them. Jesus takes the time to “restore” Peter. After asking him three times if Peter loved him, and hearing Peter’s three replies, he says in 18-19


“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”


Very often, when we first start following Jesus, we may think “Well, now life will be good!” We may hear preachers say “just pray and believe” and then life will go really well. And Scripture itself says that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) But we need to be careful before thinking this means we won’t have troubles, pains, and even death in spite of, or even CAUSED BY, following Jesus. Jesus himself warned his followers that they would have trouble (See John 16:33; “you will have trouble”). And the early church, especially the lives of the disciples, prove that we will have trouble. 


Most of our knowledge of the apostles come from church tradition; we don’t know the following, but it is generally accepted. Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias were all crucified by Rome. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alpheus were both killed in Jerusalem by the ruling authorities. Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus/Jude and Bartholomew/Nathanel were all killed while speaking of their faith. Paul, the thirteenth apostle “to the gentiles” was beheaded after a long time in prison. Only John, as Jesus prophesied, died of old age. 


I don’t bring this up to scare you or to make you depressed. I want you to know that a bunch of hillbilly fisherman from the backwoods of a small nation oppressed by an Empire changed the world. The truth of Christianity is proved in these men. They gained no power, no prestige, no wealth, no control by dedicating their lives to the gospel message. They truly believed, to the point of death, that a man named Jesus lived, taught, died, and was raised again. They didn’t go out conquering with armies. They gave their lives so others may find life. They lived knowing that God would work everything out for the good of those who love him; because they were called according to his purpose, they would be raised according to his son. 


That is the kind of passion and dedication I want to have for Jesus. I am asking myself “if Jesus sent me to speak his name, would I go? Would I be willing to die to make sure that others could find life?” I want my answer to be yes. 


How about you? How would you answer that question? Jesus is turning to you and saying “Follow me!

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 11-12 and John 21

How Did They Forget?

Judges 3-4 and John 5

As I was reading through Judges chapters 3 and 4 I had visions of Chuck Norris. If he was armed with just one wooden pole with a metal tip (an oxgoad) could he take down 600 men like Shamgar did to save Israel? (Judges 3:31)

And, have you ever seen Forged in Fire, a competition between craftsmen who make handcrafted weapons and then put them through various tests to see which will be judged the best? I bet the judges would be impressed with the 18 inch double edged sword left-handed Ehud made that sliced through King Eglon’s belly until even the handle sank in surrounded by fat and the blade came out the back. A pity to have to leave such an impressive sword behind as Ehud cleverly escapes with his life and then leads an impressive rebellion against Eglon’s Moabites. 10,000 Moabites were killed that day and Israel victoriously rules over them for the next 80 years. (Judges 3:15-30)

And it’s hard to decide who should get the Wonder Woman award of the Bible. Both Deborah and Jael are incredibly strong and worthy candidates. Deborah, the wise judge of Israel who is bolder than Barak. She agrees to ride into battle alongside the captain of the army who wouldn’t go without her. And when the exhausted commander of the enemy army thinks he’s found safe haven in the tent of Jael, he sleeps, and she drives a tent stake through his temple and into the ground. Those, are some strong, brave ladies! (Judges 4:8-22)

God did indeed provide some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to fight for Israel when they were in need, surrounded and afflicted by their enemies, if they called out to Him. But, what got the Israelites into these messes over and over again? Hadn’t Joshua helped them clear the land and give them rest? The problem is – they didn’t stay faithful to the Lord. “They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” (Judges 3:7b NIV).

How could they forget God? After all that God had done for them, over and over again through the generations. What caused their falling away, over and over again? The verse immediately preceding explains what happened. Judges 3:6 says (with my added pronoun descriptions), “They (the Israelites) took their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) daughters in marriage and gave their own (Israelite) daughters to their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) sons, and served their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) gods.” They forgot God because of who they chose to marry. Their spouses brought false and foreign gods into their marriage, into their homes, and before long into their hearts and minds and children and future generations, too. You can’t become one with an unbeliever, or a false god worshiper, and have it not negatively impact the way you love and serve the One True God. And when they served false gods it wasn’t long before God’s anger brought devastation, invaders and great trials upon them.

We all know what to look for in the perfect mate – we’ve watched the Hallmark Channel, too! She/he makes me feel special and happy, has a great sense of humor, would make a fantastic mom/dad, loves all the things I love, makes me want to be a better person, has a lot of social media friends, is super polite and friendly, has a great shoulder to cry on, shares my political and moral persuasions, even my parents like this one, has a great work ethic, we agree on the correct number and kinds of kids and pets, is so much fun to be around, is talented and smart, is quite romantic, will be a great provider, is kind to the earth, speaks my love language, is a fabulous cook and likes to clean toilets, is even good-looking, doesn’t mind my (fill-in-the-blank), and we are madly in love soul-mates.

Nope. Not a good match. Don’t tie the knot. Try again.

This time, first and foremost look for and insist upon one who loves and serves the One True God, just like you.

Period. That’s the most important. It is not a negotiable. It is not a character trait you just hope develops with more time. It is not worth the risk when the wrong spouse so easily leads to forgetting and falling away from God. It’s not worth the risk of falling into God’s wrath. “Don’t be unequally yoked with believers”, Paul said (2 Corinthians 6:14). Moses said, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughter for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). If she/he isn’t serving the One True God they are serving false gods, even if you don’t know what those gods are named, just yet. It will leak unto you and your children and the generations that follow. Save yourself the heartache. Don’t even look at, date or consider as a mate one who doesn’t make the grade in God’s number one trait for your soul-mate spouse – he/she most love the Lord your God first and most.

I want to end today with a quick look back at what we started with today…God sending some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to lead and save His people. I suggest that the toughest, most courageous, wisest, strongest and most capable of them all is Jesus. These are not the adjectives most often associated with Jesus. We first think of him as a gentle, loving, humble, innocent, accepting, nice, merciful, meek, forgiving, helpful servant, a king who rides on a donkey and is crucified. And while those are not wrong, they don’t reveal his full character. Jesus was tough. We have only read the first few chapters of John and we have already seen him make a whip (impressive skill to have), overturn the moneychangers’ tables and forcefully clear the temple courtyard of the dirty animals and greedy, irreverent men. He wasn’t a wimp! He has questioned Israel’s teachers (and will use some pretty rough descriptions for them). He was wise and discerning and told it like it was. He has called out the Samaritan woman by pointing out how many husbands she has had. He wasn’t blind to sin and sinful lifestyles. And in today’s reading of John 5, after he heals the invalid of 38 years, he says, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14). He didn’t accept sin. He called people to repent and leave behind their sinful ways. And, when they did, he was full of forgiveness. Jesus is tough on sin and chosen by God to offer salvation to God’s children. But not all will receive it. Jesus is no gentle push-over. Are you ready to meet the real Jesus?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 3-4 and John 5 .

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

Wait for it…Wait for it…

God’s Will and Way and Day

Joshua 5-6

Today’s reading includes one of the top 10 stories of the Old Testament – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. And the walls came a-tumbling down!

I love reading the Biblical account of this event. Imagine the army and priests given their marching orders – to March! That’s all, just march around the city once. There will be priests carrying the ark of the covenant and 7 priests blowing trumpets and armed men ahead and behind. And all you have to do is march around the city once and return to camp.

And day 2 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 3 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 4 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 5 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 6 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. This is not how battles are typically won. Are the people of Jericho laughing yet? They had been scared of the stories they had heard of a powerful God who saved His people from Egypt. But, this doesn’t look too threatening on day 6.

Wait for It…Wait for It…

And just keep up with your marching orders. God’s Will. His Way. And in His timing. Salvation could be right around the corner. Any day now. Don’t give up following God’s way when it seems you aren’t seeing results – yet. Day 7 is coming! Marching, Marching, Marching. His Will. His Way. His Day.

It is also exciting reading of the archeological evidence discovered at the site of old Jericho. The only place where archeologists have found all the walls fell down – outward. Also found were storage jars full of grain that had been burned along with the rest of the city – showing that the city was destroyed during harvest season (as recorded in the Bible) and not following a long siege. Just as the Bible records, the walls of Jericho fell, the city was thoroughly burned and then abandoned for a long time.

The God of Joshua and the God of the Battle of Jericho is still the God of today. His army tactics can be surprising. We have never seen a war won this way before. But because we know the final outcome, we know who reigns victoriously in the end, we will keep following His marching orders. His Will. His Way. His Day.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway hereJoshua 5-6 and Psalm 56-58

Remember

Deuteronomy 9-10

The year was 1990-something and it was a Friday night. High school football playoffs were intense that year. We were headed into an away game against one of our biggest in-district rivals for a spot in the next round of playoffs. 

While I wasn’t a member of the football team, I was a member of the marching band. Our high school administration had gotten wind that we might be greeted with some hostility by the hosting team’s fans. Any MHS student who was riding a bus to the game got the same warning and encouragement:

It doesn’t matter who our opponent is tonight.

Remember who you are…

Remember what is expected of you

Make good choices so we can be proud of you!

As I read through Deuteronomy chapters 9 and 10, I can see similar reminders to the Israelites. 

They are about to enter into the Promised Land and they would be facing the biggest, most intimidating opponents on that side of the Jordan.  

Remember who you are…

You are God’s chosen people, not chosen because of your righteousness, but because of God’s great love for you.

Remember where you came from…

You were held in captivity for 400 years and by God’s great hand, you were released to enter a land that has been hand-picked just for you.

Remember what has been done for you…

Even though you are a rebellious people, deserving of God’s wrath because of your disobedience, you have been saved. 

Remember what is asked of you…

Love God with all of your heart. Show the same generosity towards others that has been shown to you.

Remember the promise that has been given to you…

Even though there is a mighty opponent currently occupying the land – it is yours; I am giving it to you.

Believe what will be done for you…

I (God) took you from seventy people and grew you into a nation as numerous as the stars. Believe what I am telling you.

Since the time of Abraham, God had laid out a vision for the Israelites and now the time had come for this particular generation to take action.

I hope that you have realized that God has also given you a vision for the life that He longs to give to you. Does it scare you just a little bit, because you aren’t really sure how it’s all going to come together? 

Richard Bach, the author of “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”, once said, “You are never given a dream without the power to make it come true.” 

It doesn’t matter what kind of opposition you are facing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of past you have lived.

It doesn’t matter that your resources are inadequate.

As a child of God, you possess the power to make it come true.

So remember who you are…

Remember who loves you…

Remember what has already been done on your behalf…

Remember the promises set out for you…

Believe and go do great things! 

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 9-10 and Luke 13

The Spirit Speaking Through Us

Mark 13

            There are a lot of things going on in Mark 13, but I want to focus on verses 9-11 which say, “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

            There are two things that really stick out to me in these verses. The first being the word testimony. In Greek, the word is marturion, and it simply means witness, testimony, evidence or proof. To me, this is very exciting. Why does this excite me? Because it means that we can become proof that Jesus really is the son of God! When we are questioned about our faith we get the opportunity to become living and breathing evidence for Jesus! That, to me, sounds like the best thing I could ever be. Wouldn’t you want a chance to prove that Jesus is real? As an interesting side note, the word marturion is also tied to the word martyr, someone who dies for their faith. When someone dies for their faith, it is the greatest act of proof that someone can give. There is no greater sacrifice someone can make to prove their belief is real. Remember, whether you are talking to a friend, speaking in front of people or sacrificing your life, you will have an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus at some point.

            The second thing that really sticks out to me in these verses is the mention of the Holy Spirit. I recently finished doing a study on the Spirit and it blew my mind in how many ways it works in our lives. Giving us words to speak and teaching us what to say is just one of its functions. The good news is, with the Spirit working in our lives, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or ability to speak because the Spirit will help us when the time comes. This may bring you some relief. It brings me peace knowing that I don’t have to rely on my limited abilities to tell someone about Jesus. I just have to be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit in my life. This should really take the pressure off us as Christians knowing that God, through the power of His Spirit, will help us get His work done.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 31-32 and Mark 13

Listen to Him

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 33 & 34 and Matthew 17

Here we are beginning the 3rd full week of 2021 and so much has happened already. 7 days of careful investigation revealing solid scientific evidence supporting a Biblical view of a miraculous creator (and destroyer) God. And then 7 days of the Old Testament patriarchs of Genesis and fathers of the faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and what they teach us still today about following God with the faith of Abraham. This week our devotions will be following our New Testament readings in the book of Matthew (one chapter a day) to see what God is doing…

Matthew 17 begins with an awe-inspiring mountain-top experience (often called the Transfiguration) in which God’s glory radiates through and around Jesus Christ – showing a snippet of the beauty, majesty and glory of God’s coming Kingdom which will feature His dazzling Son amongst the risen heroes of the faith. Peter, James and John were there to see it – and they were shaking in their boots at the power of the moment and the voice of God heard from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)

But wait…we really can’t start there. Our spiritual journey doesn’t exist only on the glorious mountaintop. What comes before the glory? About a week before the events of Matthew 17, Jesus was telling his disciples that he would face much persecution and even death (before being raised to life) (Matthew 16:21). Bold, strong, impetuous Peter who thinks he knows better than the Son of God tries to correct Jesus – Peter would never let that happen to Jesus. But Jesus isn’t encouraged or amused by Peter but rather calls him “Satan…a stumbling block….you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus continues to prepare his disciples, letting them know that he would not be the only one expected to suffer – but that they too would be required to endure the agony of “taking up their cross” to follow him.

It doesn’t sound fun or exciting. It is hard to get people to sign up for suffering. Peter and the disciples didn’t like the sound of it. Most people today don’t. But it is not suffering without a goal. It is a fight worthy of the cause and the prize. Jesus said those who would suffer for him and lose their life would find it – because after the suffering for Christ – comes the glory. Jesus explained, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28 NIV)

And, a week later, Peter, James and John found themselves on a mountain-top getting a taste of the splendor that will be when God tells His Son, Jesus, it is time to go to the earth to set up a kingdom like none have ever seen before. A kingdom greater than anything set up in the time of the Law (Moses) or the prophets (Elijah) or Jesus’ first coming. God was revealing His perfect plan for His perfect Son and all those who will listen to him.

Contrary to both today’s “prosperity gospel” and Peter’s human thinking, God’s perfect plan does not consist solely of beautiful, bright mountain-top experiences. There is also the ugly, dark and painful cross. For Jesus – and for those who listen to him and carry their cross. But don’t fear, God’s got this. He’s got those who listen to His Son. Our trials will not last forever – but His Kingdom will. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

How can you be sure your suffering will have a reward? Are you suffering for Christ – or yourself? Is your master plan for your life from the mind of man (how can I get ahead and protect myself best?) or from the mind of God (suffer for the sake of God’s Son and look forward to the reward to come)? What will listening to Jesus look like for you in 2021? What will suffering before glory look like for you today?

-Marcia Railton