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

 

 

Still Not Alone

1 Kings 20-21

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I neglected to mention at the end of yesterday’s “You are Not Alone” devotion that one excellent way to battle the weary, lonely depression that sometimes falls upon those who speak for God is to find a partner in ministry – work together with one you can mentor.  At the end of chapter 19 Elijah found Elisha.  Some Bible scholars suggest they worked together about 6 years, but I found another that thought it could have been closer to 23 years.  Regardless of the length of time, I believe it is safe to say the apprenticeship was a mutual blessing to both Elijah and Elisha – and likely multiplied the work that either one could have done on their own.  Elisha will have a very long and powerful ministry for the LORD, but what would it have looked like if he had not had the opportunity to serve under Elijah?  Who are you serving under?  Who are you mentoring?

It is interesting that in the next chapter neither Elijah nor Elisha are mentioned, but at least twice a prophet or son of a prophet speaks to evil King Ahab – once to tell him how to be victorious over the attacking Ben-Hadad of Aram, and once to reprimand him for being too leniant on Ben-Hadad when God delivered him into Ahab’s hand.  This is further proof that Elijah was indeed not the only one left to stand for and speak for God.  And proof, that while Elijah had very faithfully performed many deeds and sermons for God – God did not need Elijah.  The Almighty can call any man or woman – or rock – to work for Him.  I do believe when the city walls fall down on 27,000 fleeing enemy soldiers God’s rocks were at work – perhaps others would have merely called it a coincidence or an earthquake (1 Kings 20:30).

It can truly be amazing who and what God uses – even the evilest king who had ever lived.  Sure, enough, when God wanted to show HIS strength against the advancing foreign army – He tells Ahab the winning battle plans through a prophet and Ahab somewhat surprisingly listens and follows along – to a point.  And, in the last chapter of today’s reading we will even see Ahab repentant – for a time.  There is no heart God can’t soften and change or use for His glory.

But, you are just asking for trouble if you choose to hang out with the bad girls (or in Ahab’s case, his wicked wife).   They have done a lot of evil things but how many commandments do they manage to break when Ahab decides he would love to have a vegetable garden for his second palace?  Once, again, sin snowballs.  One leads to another and it grows larger and larger. With serious consequences.

Following the violent murder of innocent Naboth and the stealing of his property, Elijah is sent to condemn Ahab and Jezebel and foretell their own violent deaths – only partially put on hold by Ahab’s repentant spirit.  Isn’t it good to know that God still sees the  cruelty and injustice of the world today and His timeline is put in place to make all things right.  There will be a time when all humanity meets their judge and will be held accountable for all their deeds and the condition of their hearts.  Until that day may we faithfully carry His word – knowing that we are not alone!

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18 as we continue the seekgrowlove.com 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sin Snowballs

1 Kings 15:25-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17

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In our chronological journey through the Bible we took nearly 7 weeks to read and discuss the life and writings of David.  But in today’s reading in 1st Kings (15:25-16:34) we will cover 6 kings of the Northern Kingdom Israel and in 2 Chronicles (17) we will be introduced to a king in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Hold on to your hat – here we go!

THE NORTHERN KINGDOM – ISRAEL (10 tribes) – will have 9 different family dynasties reign (with 19 kings) over a period of 208 years

Jeroboam – rebelled against Solomon’s son Rehoboam – reigned 22 years – evil – set up golden calves for worship so the people wouldn’t return to the temple in Jerusalem – succeeded by his son….

Nadab – 2 years – evil – overthrown by…

Baasha – 24 years – evil – Jehu prophesied Baasha’s family would be ruined – succeeded by his son….

Elah – 2 years – evil – drunk – overthrown by…

Zimri – 7 DAYS – (next time you think you’ve had a tough week – remember Zimri) – long enough to kill all of Baasha/Elah’s family, as prophesied – but he too was evil and when their army (and Omri, its commander) heard Zimri killed Elah and made himself king they marched against the palace – rather than be captured, Zimri burned the palace down around him as he was overthrown by…

Omri – 12 years – evil – moved capital city to Samaria – “sinned more than all those before him” (I Kings 16:25)

Ahab – 22 years – evil – “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.” (1 Kings 16:30)

 

Well, that’s where our reading will leave the nation of Israel today – so far that is 4 of the 9 dynasties – not bad for a quick history lesson.  Do you see a pattern developing for the Northern Kingdom of Israel?  Not a very pretty one I am afraid.  Spoiler alert – NONE of their 19 kings are going to be deemed good and upright by God.   You would think with all the rebellions and overthrowing of the old nasty king, someone better would come along at some point.  But, no.   Can you imagine living in a country with one after another dirty, rotten, scoundrel, violent, unfaithful leaders?  I wonder if the people thought back to Samuel’s words about the wisdom of being led by God rather than a man?  They already had God, why did they think they needed a king?  Over and over again we read, “(He) did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.” (1 Kings 15: 34).  Even when it is no longer Jeroboam’s family line,  the sin continues to snowball.  Unfaithfulness breeds unfaithfulness.  Tomorrow we get to read a ray of hope and inspiration as we watch  a man of faith witnessing in the midst of this evil and tumultuous world.  Never give up -even when evil is on the rise!

The rest of 1st & 2nd Kings will focus on the rest of the evil kings of Israel (from Ahab on) as well as the prophets who spoke for God and worked to turn the hearts of the people to God.

Meanwhile, 2nd Chronicles will continue their retelling of the house of David – what has become the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Quite in contrast to their northern neighbors, Judah will remain under the leadership of ONE family – the line of King David!  And, while there will be a fair number of kings judged to be evil – we will also meet some who seek God and strive to lead their country to do what is right as well.  Here’s the start of our chart for Judah

SOUTHERN KINGDOM – JUDAH – (2 tribes) – from the split to the exile 20 kings in the line of David

Rehoboam – 17 years – evil – David’s grandson – but heart not set on seeking God

Abijah – 3 years – gave a great speech about God as the leader – but didn’t continue to live it out – evil

Asa – 41 years – called good and upright – commanded Judah to seek the LORD – but then at the end of his life put his trust (& treasuries) in men rather than turning to God in his troubles

Jehoshaphat – 25 years  – “the LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.  He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3)
We will get to know Jehoshaphat better in our coming readings, but today I am most impressed with his deep desire to seek God rather than doing whatever is politically/religiously “correct” at the time (following the neighbors).   And, he knew it wasn’t enough for him to do it alone – his desire was to see his whole country following the LORD.  I see great wisdom in his act of sending out godly teachers throughout Judah with the Book of the Law.

You may be feeling surrounded by evil and bad examples.  Don’t give up.  The world needs your light and example and godly teaching just as much as it did back in the day of Jehoshaphat.  How will you shine and spread the word of God today?

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A25-16%3A34%2C+2+Chronicles+17&version=NIV

Tomorrow we get to read several events from the life of Elijah as we cover 1 Kings 17-19 in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Ecclesiastes gets a bad wrap. 

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It shouldn’t but it does. Most people think it is a depressed Old Man Solomon sitting down at the end of his life saying “EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS.” Therefore, most of the book is about how everything is meaningless, life is not valuable, and it would be better to be dead.
But that’s a bad interpretation.
First, let’s look at 1:2. This is the key phrase of the book. Everything hinges on understanding this phrase correctly. And most of our translations do a poor job. That may seem arrogant, but let’s look at the word in Hebrew. The word, (transliterated) is “havel” or “habel”. Literally, it means “mist” or “vapor.” Very rarely is it used in this sense. Many more times it is used of idols, which are “mists” as opposed to God’s “concreteness.”  In its more poetic context, which the passage warrants, it means “temporary”, “fleeting”, “transitory”. The author is declaring “Passing! Fleeting! Un-lasting! Everything changes and nothing remains!” See how VASTLY different that sounds from the usual “eVeRyThInG iS mEaNiNgLeSs!” we normally read?
We need to understand that the central call of the book is about how nothing lasts because it makes the question in 1:3 make SO MUCH MORE SENSE! The author (Qohelet, the teacher, most likely meant to be Solomon, but not for sure) is not simply lamenting that work is hard and not much can be gained. Instead, the author is asking a very pointed question : “In everything I do, WHAT DO I HAVE THAT LASTS? What remains? What is not ‘havel’, not a temporary, fleeting, striving after the wind?”
Now THAT is a question we want an answer to!
This isn’t a depressed teacher moaning about how everything is terrible and nothing matters and that all the stuff we do is unimportant. He is asking (and implicitly promising to answer), “What will be the thing that will last when all the other futilities of life fade?”
He goes on in these first 6 chapters and tells us that it’s not wisdom (1:12-18)[though it is better than folly (2:12-17)], it’s not pleasure (2:1-3) or possessions (2:4-11), it’s not labor (2:18-23) [though labor is a good thing (2:24-26, 3:12-15)]. The justice and oppression of men is havel, those who seek after money will realize it is havel.
Look at what the author says in 3:14 “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it.” The eternal, so far as we know now, the thing that is not havel, temporary, fleeting or futile, is the work of God.
We leave this section of Ecclesiastes without the answer. There are some depressing things the author says, but once we have the answer for “what does a man gain? what LASTS?” we can reevaluate those passages in light of the answer.
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ecclesiastes to find yet another wise answer to the questions of life on our walk through God’s powerful word – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Way Wins

Proverbs 19-21

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I encourage you to read these chapters focusing again on what stands out to you.  Depending on where you are at in life right now, different words of wisdom might stick.  Here are some that stuck out to me:

19:11 – A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

I’m someone who tends to hold grudges.  Especially if I wasn’t asked for forgiveness.  When someone asks, I am usually willing to offer it, but the thing is, people don’t always ask.  And sometimes I perceived I was wronged when the other person doesn’t see it that way.  This proverb reminds me that it is better to forgive and move past an offense than to let it sit and weigh me down.

19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Accepting correction isn’t easy.  I tend to bristle at it (especially when I know it is something I did wrong, or need to change).  It puts my defenses up, and I imagine many others feel the same.  But when we accept proper discipline, we come out better.  We learn and grow, and don’t continue to make the same mistakes.  It is an important part of life to heed Godly advice and discipline, even when we don’t like it.

21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

This one is an encouraging one to end today’s thoughts.  Sometimes it can feel like in this world, evil is winning.  That people have made their plans, and they are succeeding despite it being contrary to God’s ways.  So here is your reminder: they won’t win out in the end.  Nothing can succeed if it is against the LORD.  We might feel weighed down and defeated when we see evil prevail, but we know how it ends.  We know who wins.  And it isn’t evil.

I’m writing this while life is weird.  We are stuck at home, not going to church (I don’t think I have ever not been to church on Easter Sunday), many people not going to jobs, not having dinner with families, not enjoying a dinner out.  But we can have peace when we remember that no matter what is happening now, God has a plan, it will come to be, and we can look forward to eternal life.

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 22-24 as we continue seeking and growing in God’s way during our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

A Cheerful Heart in Difficult Times?

Proverbs 13-15

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Disease, murder, rioting, losing your job.  There is a lot happening in our country right now that weighs on the heart.  Those are a few things that are affecting the whole country, but don’t forget about loved ones dying, car accidents, fights, floods, financial strife, break-ups, and a whole host of other bad things that happen to people every day.  How can we possibly stay happy when so many lousy things are happening in our lives?

Proverbs 15:15 says that a miserable heart means a miserable life, but a cheerful heart fills the day with song.  You might think that the verse is only stating the obvious; if I feel sad, I am going to live a sad life, and if I feel happy, I am going to live a cheerful life.  However, this is a proverb meant to teach us, and it is trying to tell us that we have a choice as to how our heart feels.  You get to choose if you have a miserable heart or a happy heart.  You still might be thinking, dude, how in the world do you expect me to choose to be happy when my mother just died, or my best friend was just diagnosed with cancer?  That is some heavy stuff for a person to deal with, especially when it involves someone you love so dearly.

I was having a bad day some time ago because of something happening with someone I love, and then it hit me.  God loves this person even more than I do so I wonder what His day is like?  Then it hit me some more.  God knows and loves every person in the world and there are many millions of them dealing with bad stuff every day.  I was down in the dumps because of the one person in my life, so God must have been super-duper down in the dumps because of all the people He loves so dearly that were suffering in some way.  However, I knew that couldn’t be true.  I just don’t picture God moping around up in heaven.

So how does He keep a cheerful heart?  I know, I know, He’s God so He can do anything, and we don’t begin to have the capabilities He has.  Though, I think there are two main reasons He is not overcome with sadness and these are reasons we can also be happy when bad things happen.  First, He focuses on all the good things that are happening.  His heart is made glad when He sees someone feed the poor, go to church for the first time, be baptized, or when someone praises Him for all that He is.  In the same way, we can also choose to focus on the good things in life.  Second, He knows what is coming, a Kingdom on earth where there is no more pain and suffering.  There is not one bad thing that can happen to you that can take away your chance to be in the Kingdom if you have made the choice to accept the gift of eternal life.  That reward FAR outweighs anything that can happen during this very short lifetime.  All that bad stuff becomes quite insignificant when you realize it has no effect on your salvation.

Will you be sad if your mother dies?  Of course, but it is your choice if you want to mope around for months or years and continually dwell on her death.  Or you can appreciate the great memories you had with your mother and focus on what is good in your world.  Hopefully, you can also look forward to seeing her again in the Kingdom after she gets done with her long nap.  Those twenty or fifty years without her in this life may seem like forever, but that amount of time is insignificant when you consider you will get to spend infinity years with her in the future.

You may be thinking, what if my mother was not a Christian and will not be in the Kingdom?  There is more sadness when that hope for her is gone.  It seems like we will be sad when we reach the Kingdom and some of our loved ones are not there with us, but we know that there will be no sadness in the Kingdom.  How can that be?  My guess is that we will understand that justice needed to occur, and we will be ok with the punishment they received because they deserved it.

Bad things are going to happen to you and those you love, but you have a choice to be happy or not.  Don’t dwell on what makes you sad, think about what makes you happy.  Moreover, don’t let the bad parts of life rob you of the joy you can feel knowing that Jesus will soon return to establish the Kingdom for us for an eternity.

Rick McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+13-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 16-18 as we begin a week of devotions with Stephanie Fletcher on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In the Healer’s Hands

Psalm 30 

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Living in the time that the world is currently facing, I connected with Psalm 30 in a deeper way than I would have previously. With fear, chaos, and anger running rampant with the COVID-19 outbreak around the globe, an overwhelming hunger and desire for the intervention of God becomes more apparent. When we are captivated by this whirlwind of emotions, the future becomes clouded by a veil of uncertainty. It becomes almost impossible to visualize and focus on anything aside from the noise. Almost like the static that you hear on an old tv when a channel doesn’t work. It begins to consume us. It’s debilitating. 

 

When we allow all of the tragedy that has invaded our world to be at the forefront of our mind, we give up the opportunity to spread the Word of God. We can’t focus on reading our Bibles, praying, or even fellowshipping (via Zoom, of course). All we can focus on is what is right in front of our eyes. The “bigger” picture is completely eliminated from view. 

 

The problem with this is that we are focusing on something that, while horrific, is completely out of our control. And because we are so burdened by it all, we aren’t taking the time to come before the LORD and put all of this in his hands.

 

We are choosing to not depend on the ONLY being who can actually bring healing and peace upon the world. 

 

So, today, I urge you. Read Psalm 30. Make it your prayer. Pray it into existence. We serve a God of healing. We can rejoice and be glad in his goodness and mercy he pours upon us. He will restore the Earth. We can take confidence in that. 

 

Leslie Jones

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+30%2C+2+Samuel+24%2C+1+Chronicles+21-22&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 108-110 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Feeling Weak

Psalm 102-104

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I didn’t have to read for long in today’s passage to find something that might apply to me.  He had me at the intro to Psalm 102: “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.”  I have been there more than once, recently, what about you?  Verse 2 also got my attention as it sounded eerily familiar to my week: “Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.  Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.”  Yup!  Come on God – we are working on a time schedule.  We need an answer and we need it now.

At our house we are making college decisions.  Well, it is my son’s decision, but it has been weighing heavily on us all as it seems unclear to any of us what the wisest answer is, and we need an answer very soon.  With so many different implications for the future and not able to visit any of the top contenders this spring, and with new information and opinions emerging daily, it is truly tiring.  And I am weak.

It doesn’t feel good to be weak – especially for those who relish being in control or regarded as strong.  The psalmist writes of how this anguished state is affecting his appetite, health, sleep, and relationships.  We have seen some of that.  He has been reminded once again of his frailty, limits, shortcomings, weakness – and it hurts.

But, in his weakness he still knows where to go.  To the One who sits on the throne.  “But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.” (Psalm 102:12).  The tone of the psalm changes from personal despair and questioning in the first 11 verses – to hopefulness – because he knew where to go when he was weak. Humbled, and at the feet of the all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and compassionate Creator, he gains a new perspective.  When we can put ourselves in His presence we know we can rely on Him no matter how weak we are on our own.  We know, “He will arise and have compassion…He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” (Psalm 102:13,17).

It reminds me of the poor kid who has been ruffed up by the bully on the playground, again and again.  He knows he is weak – and it hurts.  But this battered kid puts his broken glasses back on his tear-stained face and says to the bully – “Yeah, but my Daddy is stronger than your daddy.”  And, sure enough, Dad just arrived and is waiting at the gate.  It’s okay to be weak, when you have the strongest Daddy in the world!

I know you may be facing issues, decisions, and heartaches much larger than making a college decision.  And you may be struggling with feeling weak.  If you aren’t now – you will be later.  Weakness has a way of finding us all.

I want you to know what I want my son to know, and what I need to remind myself of over and over again.  God has good things in store for you.  He is a good God to His children.  Be His child.  Keep seeking Him.  I pray for you what I pray for my son and family.  “Dear God, we thank you for your greatness, power, wisdom and love.  Thank you for being what we are not.  Thank you for the gift of Your Son and your perfect plan.  Help us to sit at your feet, in Your presence, humbled, and drawing our strength and hope from You.  Help us to see You at work.  Even when life seems muddled, difficult and painful and we feel like we are being beaten up, give us your eyes to see how You ordered and provided and blessed.  We want to seek You first.  Please show us how to do that.  Help us to see your greatness – and share that with others, boasting of our Daddy’s goodness and strength.  Thank you for hearing our prayers and responding, quickly.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring – well, we don’t even know what today will bring.  But we are thankful we are not alone when we put ourselves in His presence.  In our weakness, He is strong.

 

A Weak Momma at the Feet of a Great Big God on His Throne,

Marcia Railton

 

PS – One great way to put yourself in His presence is through reading His Word.  Dig in.  He is there.

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+102-104&version=NIV

Tomorrow we jump back into the events of David’s life as we read 2 Samuel 5:1-10 and 1 Chronicles 11-12 in our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

I found it all oppressive, UNTIL…

Psalm 73, & 77-78

Psalm 73 17 NIV

Yesterday we read the short short story (2 verses) of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10).  He prayed.  God granted his request.  Remember, we don’t know the timeline for the life of Jabez.  Since he had requested from God the expansion of his territory (amongst other things) I feel it is most likely that this answer didn’t come with a snap of the fingers  -though God can certainly work that way when He wants to. I wonder if this answer was achieved over a period of time, with some persistence and wisdom and work required from Jabez.  But still – it sounds so simple and sweet. A fairy-tale ending in just two verses. Jabez prayed.  God granted his request.

But, what about the times when the answer isn’t coming.  We may be praying hard – with a good measure of persistence, wisdom and work, too.  But, it’s just not coming together like we thought a good God would do.

I think of Job and the 41 long, difficult, trying chapters of his story – before the final 42nd chapter when we see God finally shower Job once again with double the blessings.  It would be great to read the book of Job today to remember Job’s anguish – and God’s answer.  Or, you can read Psalm 73 – it is like a mini book of Job boiled down into one powerful psalm.

The author of this psalm begins by acknowledging that he knows God is good.  And, yet, he personally had nearly lost his way and his faith because of his own serious struggles while simultaneously watching the wicked prosper.  He saw boastful, callous, violent, evil men succeeding and growing in popularity and wealth, all while denying and even mocking God.  Are we sure this wasn’t written in 2020, perhaps during a Covid-19 epidemic?  Haven’t we seen and heard the same thing this week and shook our heads and asked, “Where is God?  This isn’t right or just or fair?  The world is too messed up!”  And we sink down deeper in our despair.   As the psalmist said, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me…” (Psalm 73:16)

UNTIL…

Yes – keep reading!  The good stuff is coming – just like it came for Jabez and Job and the psalmist,  it is coming for you and for me.  Though it does require a little bit of action on our part.  The psalmist reveals the secret.  He wrote, he was oppressed UNTIL he, “entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” (Psalm 73:17).  Look to God.  Put yourself smack dab in His presence.  Intentionally seek Him out.  Change your focus.  Consider the whole timeline, the big picture.  Look into the future.  Consider the consequences and coming judgement.  Rest in knowing God has got this.  And He has got me.  And if you let Him, He has got you.

The rest of this psalm has beautiful passages of God’s strength, guidance, comfort, plan, wisdom, & protection in any and every situation.  Don’t miss the chance to read it for yourself and soak it in.  Which verse is your favorite in Psalm 73?

 

Also, don’t miss out on the powerful truths in Psalm 77 & 78.  Psalm 77 begins much the same way Psalm 73 did – in agony and despair.  And maybe you have been there yourself sometime?  Perhaps you have asked yourself, “Has his unfailing love vanished forever?..Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:8, 9).

And yet – here again we will see a great turn-around.  In a few short verses he will be writing, “Your ways, O God, are holy, What god is so great as our God?” (Psalm 77:13).  What makes the difference?  What happened in-between verse 9 and 13?  Did he win the lottery?  Did he get all his wishes granted in the sudden snap of his fingers?  It had looked so hopeless.  What changed?

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

His situation did NOT change.  His thinking did.

What he was focusing on changed.  He rewired his brain, his thought processes, his attitude, his words, his outlook.  He remembered the good God had done.  He meditated on God’s work.

The anguish and oppressive depression doesn’t have to win, even in a situation that appears so bleak.  You may find yourself in the dark, questioning God.  You are not alone.  But, don’t allow yourself to remain in the dark.  Keep stepping towards the light.  You don’t have to wait until your circumstances change.  Instead, change your view.  Enter His Sanctuary.  Search for the good things He has done – in the past and today.  Seek Him.  Read His Word. Remind yourself of His power, faithfulness and love.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73%2C+77-78&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will jump back to 1 Chronicles – for just one chapter (6) as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

He Watches Over Me

Psalm 121, 123-125, 128-130

Psalm 121 1 2 NIV

Today’s Bible reading is 7 Psalms, each titled  “A song of Ascents”.  They were written to be traveling songs.  I know there isn’t much traveling going on right now, but remember when we would travel to visit family and friends and exciting destinations?   Remember the great fun of planning a trip and hitting the open road – though sometimes there were unplanned surprises around the bend.

Several years ago, right after church the three kids and I were taking the 2 hour jaunt from our hometown in northern Indiana up to my native Grand Rapids, Michigan to enjoy a Sunday dinner with my extended family.  Half-way there, my tire blew and we were stranded on the side of a busy highway.  I did what I could in my dress in the rain, but it quickly became obvious I was going to need some help (and this was back when all my kids were shorter and weaker than I was).  How fortunate for us that an off-duty police officer who was taking his son to the circus saw us in our distress, covered us with his protection, gave of his time and changed our tire for us.  With great relief we thanked him, watched them leave and continued on our way – for a matter of yards.  It didn’t take much for our old spare tire to shred to bits and there we were on the side of the road again, with no spare and our Good Samaritan just out of sight and getting further and further from us.  But with one phone call, my brother left the family dinner table, drove an hour, brought my parent’s spare tire that fit my van, changed the tire and followed us all the way to our destination.

There was no doubt I knew I was very protected and watched over and blessed on that journey, even though it was far from the journey I had planned or expected.  The journey was not without trouble or danger or delay.  It didn’t go according to my time schedule.  But my God was watching over us every step (and tire) of the way.

In today’s psalms the Israelites are traveling up to the temple – to Jerusalem on Mount Zion – to worship the One who never forsakes them.  They don’t have to worry about flat tires, but there would have been many other possible dangers along the way.  In the 8 short verses of Psalm 121 the word “keeps” (also translated “watched over”) is used 6 times.  How comforting to remember the times – over and over again – that God has watched over the Israelites.  And the times that God has – over and over again – watched over me.  And, this protector is not weak.  He is not asleep.  He is not surprised.  He is here.  He is powerful.  He is the Creator of the Universe.  And He cares for you and for me.  We must lift up our eyes to seek Him and acknowledge Him.

You may not be planning a trip today – but you are no doubt on a journey.  A journey of life that includes some unforeseen challenges and flat tires along the way.  Sometimes we will feel weak and stranded. But, Praise God, we are being watched over.  The Maker of Heaven and Earth is keeping us safe.  He is not sleeping on the job.   We can rejoice in rising up to thank the One who protects and guides and cherishes His children, even when our journey has some bumps along the way.

Also, remember God often uses people to do His work.  How will you be a part of God’s rescue of someone who feels weak and stranded and perhaps ready to give up?  How will you provide protection from the dangers on the road?  Maybe you thought you were off-duty and heading to the circus, but God will show you someone who needs your help along the way.  You will arrive just a little later and a little wetter to the circus; but, someone will know you cared – even if you couldn’t provide a permanent fix.  Maybe you will be the brother who leaves the feast to help someone in need get going in the right direction.  God has provided for you.  He has blessed you and supplied you with what you need to be a very valuable part in His rescue of others.  Rejoice in the way He has watched over and provided for you – and let Him use you today.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+121%2C+123-125%2C+128-130&version=NIV

Tomorrow we continue the events of David’s life as we begin 2nd Samuel, chapters 1-4 on our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.  It’s a great time and place to jump on and travel with us.  Look up and seek Him!