Don’t Withhold the Cure

Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

The Old Testament prophets who spoke for God, including Jeremiah, were entrusted with preaching a lot of doom and gloom. Because God’s children had strayed from his commands, judgment would be coming and the people needed to know. I loved Jeff Fletcher’s illustration in his devotion yesterday of a doctor who could be charged with malpractice if he knew the sick condition of a patient’s insides and knew how to fix it and what changes the patient would need to make in order to cure the potentially deadly ailment, and said nothing. This would be like the Christian who sees the broken sinful world and pretends everything is okay. Don’t withhold the cure.

Jeremiah paints a very vivid picture of a world that is not okay. Chapter 9 opens with the prophet mourning the sinfulness of God’s people. He would love nothing more than to pack up and go to a desert retreat where he could get away from and forget this crowd of unfaithful people. Can you relate? But, rather than abandoning the people in their sin, Jeremiah continues passionately speaking truth for God, over and over, even though his words often seem to fall on deaf ears. He still must speak and write and hold out the cure to these wayward people.

God has had it, too. He aptly describes the situation this way:

“It is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3b NIV)

and again, “They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sining. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:6 NIV)

It sounds to me like God and Jeremiah are describing the sad state of affairs in 2021. So many lies and deceptions abound when attempting to justify and explain and even celebrate sin and sinful lifestyles that fester and grow when individuals and nations and societies have turned their backs on God.

It is as though God is left without a choice. “What else can I do because of the sin of my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7 NIV) “‘Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’ ” (Jeremiah 9:9 NIV). God had drawn up the rules long ago with blessings promised to those who followed and curses to those who stubbornly disobeyed. Many chances had been given. Prophets had been sent to remind the people of the deadly disease and of the cure – repentance, turning away from sin and turning back to God. But these were a very stubborn people who took delight in continuing in their sin and lies and more sin and more lies.

God had given mercy. God had given reminders. God had given prophets. God had stretched out the cure. But, to no avail. So, God says – it is time. It is time to teach your daughters how to wail – death and destruction is coming. (Jeremiah 9:20,21).

Towards the end of chapter 9 an interesting section seems almost out of place…

 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

Perhaps it was written more for us who would be reading Jeremiah centuries later, to remind us of the choice we have. And, the great opportunity we have to boast about our God, our Creator, Our YHWH. He created the cure. His Son is the cure that was not yet available in Jeremiah’s day. Sin is the same and comes with the same consequences – death. People today need to know about the cure. They don’t need to hear you bragging about your dinner, your kids, your car, your job, your grades, your house, your ______ (on social media or at the checkout line). They need to know about the LORD our God who exercises kindness AND justice and always righteousness. The Psalms passages today have some great examples of boasting about our God while holding out the cure. How can you hold out the cure today to a nation and world that is unknowingly in the stages of the deadly disease of disobedience?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

Our God is an Awesome God

Isaiah 41-42 and 1 Timothy 2

Good morning! (Or afternoon, or evening…)

Our God is an awesome God, and He has no problem telling us that!  Isaiah 41 is all about God telling the nations who is in charge.  In certain places, it can seem a little harsh… calling the Israelites weak worms, putting them in their place knowing that their work is worthless compared to God, etc.  HOWEVER, there are also multiple verses where God’s comforting love shows through as he reminds the Israelites not to fear, and that He is there to help and strengthen them (v. 10, 13, 17).  While the passage can be blunt at times, it ultimately is God simply speaking truth to a group of individuals that He cares deeply about.  He wants them to understand how great He is, and how much He cares for them!

In chapter 42 God provides a little more reasoning behind his passionate words towards the Israelites, He reminds them that they are a chosen people dedicated to being a light to the nations (v. 6).  Isaiah has been tasked with sending this message to the Israelites despite the way they continue to reject God.  I can almost feel his exasperation as he does his best to help them understand that they have a purpose, that God has a plan, and that they keep ignoring it! (v. 20) Do you ever feel like Isaiah trying to convince people that God has the best plan for their life?  It can be difficult to speak truth into the lives of others who are not receptive, and it can be hard to see them ignore the need for God in their life.  We must know that it is not our job to convince individuals they need God, He can do that all His own!  Our job is to share the information, model how God can change a life, and continue to pray for their eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened to the truth.

In reality, I think we end up being most like the Israelites ourselves!  We continue to disobey, ignore, or rebel against the purpose God has for us even though we may know exactly what God wants from us.  We all have sin in our lives.  It looks different in everyone!  That is why it is so incredible that God still includes us in His chosen people, and that we all have the same opportunity for salvation and an eternal life with Him in the Kingdom. 

Unlike Isaiah, we are fortunate to live in the time that we don’t have to just tell people salvation is yet to come; we get to share that a Savior has already come, already been put to death for our sins, and has already rose from the grave with a promise of eternal salvation!  We are told in 1 Timothy 2 that God wants everyone to be saved, to come to the knowledge of the truth (v. 4) and that Jesus was a human who gave himself as a ransom for all (v.5-6).  Who can you share some knowledge with today?

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 41-42 and 1 Timothy 2

Let the World See

1 Timothy 1

Welcome!

Today’s passages seem to have some different main themes, so while all of these are valuable, we will be focusing mainly on 1 Timothy 1 for the purpose of keeping this devotional to a reasonable length 😊

1 Timothy 1 is written by a very dedicated and enthusiastic believer, Paul.  Paul is a very impressive man with an incredible testimony (that we get to see a little bit here) and clearly has a passion for the Kingdom.  This is why I sometimes have to re-read his messages to better comprehend just how deeply he cares for people and soak up all the energy for spreading the gospel he has!  Paul tells Timothy that God’s plan operates by faith (v. 4) and that our role as believers is to have love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (v. 5).  I LOVE that description of who Christians should be in the world!  Loving, Good, and Sincere.  Do you think the world today has that view of Christians? Or do you think that unfortunately, the world has the view of Christians who turn to fruitless discussions regarding the law (v.6-7)? 

It can be hard to swallow verses like 1 Timothy 1:9 where it says “the law is not for the righteous, but for the sinful”, if you are a sinner and know a Christian who has fruitless discussions about the law.  However, if more Christians today took their righteousness and expressed the “glorious gospel” that has been entrusted to them (v. 11), I have a feeling that it would be much easier to reach those who do not know the law!  The implied context in this passage is not expressing the idea that once you are a believer you don’t have to follow the law, but rather that once you are a believer your focus should shift off yourself and your “good works”, and move towards reaching others who need to know the law.  Paul models a great example of how to approach others about Jesus, by telling them that Christ came to save ALL sinners, including the worst of them all, which was himself! (v.15) When we openly share the impact Christ has in our lives and humbly recognize that we are all sinners, it becomes much easier to reach those who need salvation just as much as we do.

This is not to say that discussions of the law should not happen amongst believers!  Paul tells Timothy to strongly engage in battle to avoid having a shipwrecked faith (v. 18 -19).  To be prepared for battle, it’s important to know what you are up against and how to combat it!  What is key here is that our battle is not one meant to destroy arguments or put down people by boasting of our own righteousness, but rather our battle is against the evil one who is dedicated to keeping people out of the Kingdom.  Our battle is fighting for the citizenship of an eternal Kingdom, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.  The law is one tool we use to win that battle!  Another tool is our own testimony, another is the story and purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and yet another is simply sharing how amazing our God truly is.

Isaiah 40:28-31 provides a great passage to reach others with; I encourage you to memorize it for the sake of winning the battle!

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.  He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.  He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 39-40 and 1 Timothy 1

The Apostle Paul Refused to Mask Up!


1 Thessalonians 2

If you’ve not read Marcia’s devotion for yesterday, it would be good to give it a quick scan now.  She sets us up well for I & II Thessalonians.  By the way, thank you Marcia, for all the work you do with SeekGrowLove!  These readings and devotions are a great ministry!  It is amazing how often the Old and New Testament readings complement each other.  Isaiah did speak a great deal of judgment, but as always, God never wasted an opportunity to lay out hope for his people.  Isaiah also had much to say about the coming Messiah.  I appreciated Marcia’s suggestion that we note what Paul alludes to at the end of every chapter in I Thessalonians.  If I had known that before, I had forgotten.  


At any rate, let me note just a few highlights in I Thessalonians 2 . . .


Paul was literally driven to preach the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus the Christ.  Neither opposition, nor disagreement, nor persecution could dissuade him.  He was a straight shooter, told it like it was.  He would have nothing to do with masking, hiding anything, or any impure motives (See V. 5).  He provided for his own needs, toiling at his own profession, rather than to be a burden in any way upon the church.  Actually, on another occasion he apologized for that very practice, realizing the church needed to understand and meet their responsibility to care for those who provided for their spiritual needs.  The context of the situation would evidently dictate what is right.  


Notice the tenderness of Paul’s love and concern for the brethren.  He was gentle with them, like a mother caring for her little children (V. 7).  Then in Vs. 11,12, he dealt with them as a father deals with his own children – encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God who calls us into his kingdom and glory.  He was thankful for them, and proud of them as they served and obeyed.  Who are your spiritual mentors, men and women who have taught you, encouraged you, comforted you, and challenged you spiritually?  May we make them proud.  May we walk in their footsteps.  May we build on the foundation others have laid before us!  May we minister to others!  May we be true as we wait and watch for the coming of Jesus!    

-John Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 25-26 and 1 Thessalonians 2

Identity in Christ: You are loved!

Ephesians 2

When you think of the word “love,” what comes to mind?

Our culture would like for us to believe that love is found in sappy movies, romance novels or certain songs on the radio, but that’s simply not the reality.

1st John 4:7-11 reads, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

God created each of us with a desire to love and be loved, but He did that so He could be the one to fulfill that desire and work through us. But His love reaches even deeper.

Ephesians 2: 1-10 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5 made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. “

Let’s unpack this passage a bit. First, while we were still sinners and walking in accordance with our own will and what we wanted to do, God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, even though we didn’t deserve it, out of pure grace. We did nothing on our own to earn that privilege. Secondly, God’s purpose for this was for us to reflect His love and grace to the world so that we could one day enjoy fellowship with Him and Jesus in the Kingdom.

So now that we have received love and grace from God to the point of Him choosing to sacrifice his only Son to bring many of his sons to glory, (as the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us points out) what are we supposed to do? How do we go about letting our Father’s love radiate though us?

1) Spend time with Him through prayer, Bible reading and worship. Just as a bond is strengthened with your best friend whenever you go out for lunch or whatever you may do to spend time with them, our bond is strengthened with God when we make it a priority to spend time with Him.

2) Invest in your personal relationships, whether that is with brothers and sisters in Christ, or people you may know that are not Christians. We are called to the breaking of bread and fellowship (Acts 2:42) but we’re also called to evangelize and share the Gospel (1st Peter 3:15, 2nd Corinthians 5:20).

3) Finally, tell your friends and family that you love them through words and actions. I know this seems obvious, but in today’s society, social media and text messaging takes away from hearing a verbal “I love you.” When we have a friend or family member that is struggling, quite often we assume that just because we see them online, they must be okay instead of going over to their house to check in and keep them company (with their permission of course). So, I encourage you to ponder how you can show your love and God’s love to those around you.

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Song of Solomon 3-5 and Ephesians 2

Identity: Purpose

Continuing on with our theme of identity for this week, today we will talk about purpose, of which there are two kinds: collective and individual.

Having a collective purpose means that we all work together to achieve a common goal. In relation to God, our collective purpose is to evangelize and make disciples of all nations as Matthew 28:18-20 tells us. We also have the responsibility of serving others (1st Peter 4:10-11), and both of these things apply to brothers and sisters in Christ and those outside of our faith.

Let’s discuss some practical examples of how we can love God and love people while striving to make disciples and further the Kingdom:

Most importantly, we are to love each other! (1st Corinthians 13:2, 1st Corinthians 16:14, John 13:34-35). We are also instructed to gather together in fellowship (Acts 2:41; Matthew 18:20). Additionally, we must confess our sins and hold each other accountable (James 5:16, Proverbs 27:17). Finally, Galatians 6 tells us to bear each other’s burdens, lovingly correct those who are struggling with sin and to work for the good of all.

In Jeremiah 1, we find a beautiful example of individual purpose. Let’s look at verses 4-8:

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah’s individual purpose was to be a prophet and be a vessel for God to speak through, though there are many examples of individual purpose in the Bible. We have the Apostles. We have John the Baptist. We have Jesus himself! All of these people had a different individual purpose, but their unique purpose all worked toward the common purpose of furthering the Kingdom. Just like Jeremiah who was chosen, set apart, and appointed before he was even born, God created us with the same intention. Just like He did for Jeremiah, God will be here guiding our steps as we fulfill whatever He has called us to.

Maybe you don’t know what your individual purpose is yet, and that’s okay. But if you continuously trust in God’s plan for your life, you will find out what your purpose is in His timing. However, I challenge you this week to ponder and pray about how you have seen God’s love displayed in your community and/or how people have ministered to you. I also encourage you to seek God’s guidance about what you can do in your personal life to show His love to others in the spirit of bringing our Father’s lost children back to Him.

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 11-12 and Galatians 6

Asaph’s Prayer List

Psalm 83

How often are your prayers only requests for God? How many times, if those requests were fulfilled, would they help others come to know God? In Psalm 83, Asaph thought about how his requests would help others to come to know the one true God.

At the beginning of Psalm 83, Asaph asks God to intervene on Israel’s behalf in the face of their enemies. Asaph continues by listing many grievances against their enemies as to why God should deliver Israel from their enemies. After listing all the problems that Israel is having with their enemies and listing who those enemies are, Asaph asks God to completely destroy their enemies.

Asaph asks God to destroy their enemies as He did in the past during the times of Gideon and Deborah and Barak. He continues to ask God to destroy them to the point that they are like whirling dust or chaff in the wind. In Psalm 83:16-18, his list goes on to ask that God would make their enemies humiliated, ashamed, and dismayed. He says,

16 Fill their faces with dishonor,

That they may seek Your name, O Lord.

17 Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever,

And let them be humiliated and perish,

18 That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord,

Are the Most High over all the earth.”

In these verses, Asaph not only asks for their enemies to be ashamed, dismayed, and humiliated, he also explains why he asks for this. Everything Asaph asked God to do to their enemies, he asked so that they would seek God and know that He alone is Most High over all the earth.

Asaph could have just asked God to destroy their enemies because Israel was God’s chosen people. He could have just asked for protection from their enemies because Israel knows God is all-powerful. He could have just asked for deliverance from their enemies because Israel worships God. But Asaph didn’t. He asked for deliverance so that God would be praised by their enemies and that they would come to know God.

In the same way, we need to be a light in this world that would bring others to glorify God. Matthew 5:14-16 says, “‘You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all that are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they might see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Israel was created to be a nation that would worship God, even when the nations around them didn’t.  Through this, they had an opportunity to spread the truth about God.  Asaph knew this and wanted Israel’s light to shine before their enemies so that they would come to know God and glorify Him.  Similarly, we also are surrounded by people who do not know the truth about God.  We were called to be a light to the world so that we could spread the good news with others and to shine our light before the world so that God would be praised and that others around us would come to know God.

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Job 35-36 and Psalm 83-84

Right Place. Right Time. Right Action.

Esther 3-4

Yesterday, we began to read the book of Esther. Let’s quickly summarize what happened in the first couple of chapters to bring us up to speed for today’s reading:

Chapter 1: King Xerxes, King of Persia, is having a pretty awesome party.  He is serving up an endless buffet with unlimited refills.  He has a few too many refills and calls for his wife, Vashti, because he wants to look at her. She refuses.  He consults with his friends (who might have had a few too many as well),and they decide to execute her as an example to prevent disrespect throughout the kingdom.  Buzzkill. Proclamation in Caveman Voice: Men Strong. Women Weak.  

Chapter 2:  King Xerxes decides it is time for a new queen.  Hmm. What’s a good way to pick my next wife? Personality. No. Virtuous qualities? No. Oh! Beauty contest.  Proclamation in Caveman Voice: Send Pretty Women. Enter Esther – fits the bill. Also, she’s Jewish, although Xerxes doesn’t know, doesn’t care because that doesn’t affect her looks.  Another party.  Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, uncovers a plot to assassinate Xerxes. Mordecai tells Esther who tells Xerxes. Esther trusted. Mordecai trusted. Conspirators impaled.

Have your plot uncovered and being impaled? Unfortunate. But having the car ahead of me pay for my weekly McDonalds run?  Being seated in the section at the ballpark that receives a free loaf of bread? Sitting down at a restaurant and having a meal served on the house? All of this, and more, has happened to me.  I’m a pretty lucky guy.  It seems that I find myself at the right place, the right time.  It’s either that or people just really think that I need food. Being in the correct location at a critical moment is important.  Ask anyone who has ever been late for an interview, or ended up at the wrong Starbucks. But in many circumstances, those two factors are simply not enough.   An equally important prerequisite that isn’t always taken into account (and makes the expression way too long like in the title) is the right action.  Many times you must DO something in order to take advantage of the golden opportunity that is being presented.  Just existing in a place or a moment isn’t enough.

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:12-14

Christians are already in some of the prime real estate for evangelizing.  Christians are in schools. Christians are in workplaces.  Christians are on TV and radio. They make TikToks and podcasts.  I would say that for most of us, we err on the side of being in the world a little more than not.  Having a presence in each of these locations, at this time in history, is not in itself a bad thing.  In a caveman voice: School good. Work good. TikTok, umn, me no say.  But when you sit on your hands and let the world continue to spin in the same way it always has, then you are in the midst of the right location, the right time, but the wrong action.  Simply being an elevated, passive Jew in the kingdom of Persia was not going to save her people from being put to death.  Xerxes, didn’t even know. Being a passive Christian in the same manner is equally reckless. They may not even know. THEY. MAY. NOT. EVEN. KNOW. This is most definitely the correct time. Heed Mordecai’s warning. You MUST become an influencer, not in a manner that will get you more clout or draw attention to yourself, but in a manner that draws attention to God.  You most definitely were made for a time such as this.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light…Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. – 1 Peter 2: 9,12

–Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Esther 3-4 and 1 Corinthians 14

Beat into Submission

1 Corinthians 9

Just like many of you, the familiar John Williams Olympic anthem, “Daaa…Daaa…Da. Da. Da. Da.” has already rang through my ears a handful of times as I watched the opening of the summer Olympic games. It has always marked anticipation, but more so this year, an end to a long sigh created by the indefinite postponement of the Tokyo 2020 a year ago.  While there are no crowds in attendance, the athletes are masked, and there is some political drama that often surrounds countries in participation, the beating of those timpani drums and the blaring french horns help us to remember a place we’ve been before.  All of this solely from a spectator’s point-of-view.  How much more have the athletes participating in the games marked this moment?  A year of extra training and sacrifice to compete at the highest level on a global stage, doing so maneuvering through a world experiencing a global crisis.  These medals given this year are seemingly worth more because of the delay and extra challenges these athletes faced in their training. 

It is fortuitous that our reading befits this moment where we are consumed with this competition for medals and crowing of our victors:

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” – 1 Corinthians 9:26

So, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you are not one of the 15,000+ athletes competing in the summer Olympic or Paralympic games (although, we would welcome any Olympian to read).  You may be accomplished at a single sport, but you’re undoubtedly not at the next level.  You may be dedicated to a fitness program, but you are not sacrificing all of your playtime or rearranging your schedule for your athletic pursuits.  You haven’t hired a trainer.  You haven’t shaved your legs to remove a hundredths of a second from your personal best.  You may not even be inspired to any athletic pursuit simply by watching (although many future Olympians are).  Yet, by being a follower of Christ (not the games), you are being called, challenged, and elicited into a training that is more demanding, more exasperating, and more punishing than any Olympian has ever faced in the context of competition at the games.

While there are several paths of metaphors we could draw from, the one that is most striking are the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians. It is the most intense description, hyperbole that could very well be made literal in some contexts. Ultimately, we must slave away at becoming the most disciplined evangelist, with the purpose of preaching and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ or plainly face disqualification from the prize.

“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27

This is a scary thought.  That my faith must be trained and disciplined in such a way that it would be on that next-level, to compete for a prize that is longer lasting than precious metals.  My evangelism could be record-setting. My ministry could be to a worldwide audience. But what stands in the way is my greatest opponent. Who is it?  Me.  Because I must be willing to give up the life that I could have in order to live for the glory that I am supposed to attain. I must be willing to strike a self-blow, to cut off my hand, to gouge out my eye, and to die daily. Or more realistically, get off my phone, read and pray consistently, have uncomfortable conversations, be filled with the Spirit of God, and let my coach and my God call all the shots. This is what I must do in order to make gains, receiving the strength and knowledge that comes through Christ Jesus. While it must be an incredible experience for the world to see you lower your head to receive your medal as a victor, representing your people and country, how much greater will it be to receive the crown of life which represents a kingdom and people that are far more perfect than the ideals that guide the games we currently watch?  Whether you have started your training already, are coming out of retirement, or beginning your training today, take a good look at your opponent in the mirror.  Size him/her up. You ultimately will have to be disciplined enough to take him/her on, become enslaved to Christ, and with the grace of God, beat yourself into submission, so God can see you through to the victory.

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 5-6 and 1 Corinthians 9

Fully Proclaim the Gospel of Christ

2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Today’s reading is packed with so much good stuff, it’s hard to know what to write about.

I could comment about the overflowing generosity of King Hezekiah and the people when giving to the Lord, as found in 2 Chronicles 31.  But I won’t.

I could stress how God blessed another faithful king, as found in 2 Chronicles 31:21, which says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered.”  But I won’t.

I could comment extensively on how Hezekiah trusted God completely when attacked by the Assyrians, and then God sent the death angel, who killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army.  But I won’t.  (Besides, I prefer the accounts in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37.)

I could talk about how Hezekiah cried out to God when he was about to die, and God added 15 years to his life, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32.  But I won’t.  (Again I prefer the 2 Kings 21 and Isaiah 37-38 accounts.) 

I could even expound on 2 Chronicles 32:31, “…God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  But I won’t.

Since I already commented yesterday about doing things to build up our neighbor, I won’t comment on that even though it is recorded again in the beginning of Romans 15.

Instead, I’d like to point out Paul’s faithfulness in evangelism.  You may remember that Paul had a vision, where Jesus commanded him to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.  In Romans 15:19-22, we read, “… So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. … This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.”

It’s easy to pass over what Paul just said, so I’ll point out that according to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” covers about 14,000 miles (yes, fourteen thousand miles).  When you consider Paul’s mode of travel, and the difficulties he endured (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), you can understand the immense achievement of Paul’s missionary work.

For your convenience, I’ll include 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 here:

… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

The real clincher comes in Romans 15:23, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…”  Did you catch that?  Paul has traveled 14,000 miles and told everyone he could about Jesus.  Paul is basically saying, “But since there’s nobody else to tell (because they’ve all heard now); I’m done here; so I’ll finally come to visit you.”

What an astounding accomplishment.  What an astounding example.

Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.  And part of what was commanded includes making more disciples.  So, through the Great Commission, Jesus commanded you and me to share the good news about Jesus with the whole world.  Maybe we weren’t told as directly as Paul was, but we were told.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say, “since I’ve told everybody I know about Jesus, I need to move on to find more people to tell.”  I think all of us need a good reminder that God still expects us to make disciples today.
–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15