Jesus’ Early Ministry

Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

In Luke 5, we find the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus was at the Lake of Gennesaret (better known as the Sea of Galilee) teaching large crowds.  Peter had been fishing all night, without catching anything, and was washing his nets while Jesus was teaching.  In order to help the crowds hear better, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked Peter to push out from shore.  After Jesus finished teaching, he asked Peter to go into deeper water and let down his net.

Let’s think of this from Peter’s perspective. He was a professional fisherman and knew how to fish – fish at night in shallow water.  What did this stranger know about fishing?  And Peter had fished all night, and hadn’t caught anything.  If I had been Peter, I think I might have pointed out these facts and then might have dropped this uninvited guest at the shore.  Fortunately for Peter, and ultimately for us, Peter didn’t argue (much), he just obeyed – and caught so many fish the nets began to break.  After Peter called his partners in another boat, they loaded all the fish into both boats – but there were so many fish, both boats began to sink.

Peter finally recognized he was in the presence of a great prophet of God, and ashamed by his own sinfulness, asked Jesus to leave. Instead of leaving Peter, Jesus invited Peter to follow Him.  So Peter did something else irrational.  He pulled his boat up to shore, left everything, and followed Jesus.

You might be thinking, “This is an interesting story, but how could this apply to me?”  I’m glad you asked.  

First, we see that Peter obeyed Jesus in a very little thing – taking Jesus out a little from shore.  If Peter hadn’t obeyed this tiny command, he never would have witnessed a spectacular miracle.  Later, when Jesus asked Peter to do something that totally defied reason, Peter also obeyed.  I love the reason he gave in Luke 5:5, “but because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Peter was willing to submit to authority, even though he didn’t understand the rationale – and remember, there may still have been a crowd watching from shore.  Because of his obedience, Peter was then able to witness an incredible miracle.  Finally, when Peter acknowledged he wasn’t worthy, Jesus invited Peter to join Him.  So, Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

I have found that God often builds our faith little by little.  It’s important to obey God in even the smallest of things.  God will then build on those experiences and obedience for the future.  Sometimes, this may take the form of trials.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I believe no one starts as a giant in the faith.  We obey little by little.  We face trials little by little.  And at some point, you can look back on your life and realize, “Wow, God and I have come a long way together.”

So I challenge you to get into God’s word.  As you do, God will prick your conscience and guide your thoughts.  Follow God’s direction, even in the little things.  At some point, you will recognize, like Peter – “I’m not worthy.”  But the good news is, Jesus is still calling people to leave their former life behind and completely follow Him.  This includes me.  This includes you.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

Tomorrow we will read John 2-4 as we continue to SeekGrowLove on our 2020 reading plan.

Jonah

Jonah 1-4

Jonah 4 11 NIV sgl

 

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

Jonah was a prophet

oo-ooh!

but he really never got it

sad but true!

and if you watch it you can spot it

a-doodley-doo!

he did not get the point!

 

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

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

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

 

Emilee Ross

 

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

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

 

Beware of the Buttkissers

1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18

1 Kings 22 5 NIV sgl

Yes, I know, a bit of a sensational title. In fact, I can hear my mom reaching for the Irish Spring to place in my mouth because “butt” is not a church word. Please give me grace just a few sentences longer as I am someone who spends a great deal of time at school with 11 and 12-year olds. I often use a bit of high-brow potty humor for the connection and to make sure that I have your attention.  From here on out, I promise <crossing heart> I will use yes-men, suck-ups, sycophants, or something similar, but we’ll both know that I truly mean <in a whisper> “the ones who kiss b-u-t-t.”

Scattered throughout the last couple of weeks, we have read about the life of King Ahab. Today we will finish off Ahab [spoilers ahead] in more ways than one.  Ahab has grown unhappy that a previously Israeli owned-city, Ramoth Gilead, is now occupied by the Syrian (Aram) people, the very nation that was given over to him by God (1 Kings 20).  No doubt that Ahab’s misintentioned mercy to the Syrian nation (Again 1 Kings 20) has become less than advantageous, contemptuous, or is now, simply biting him in the…rear.  Ahab forms an alliance with Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, who says he will fight with Ahab to take back Ramoth Gilead if he consults the LORD first.  Ahab thinks, “No problem; I have plenty of prophets.”. Enter the yes-men.

‘So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”  “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” – 1 Kings 22:6

Jehoshaphat isn’t convinced by the mass of soothsaying suck-ups for a simple reason: they do not mention God, YHWH, which prompts his head-scratching statement “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” “But didn’t the prophets say ‘the Lord will give <Ramoth Gilead> into the king’s hand?’” You may have heard it before, but it is worth reminding, that not all “lords” are equal in most English translations of the Old Testament.  L-o-r-d means master, which is often used for God, but L-O-R-D is the indisputable proper name of God, the Father, YHWH.  The sycophantic seers have not consulted with the Almighty, but have most likely consulted one another, telling the king whatever they think he wanted to hear.    Ahab confesses there is still ONE prophet of the LORD, Micaiah, but he doesn’t like to use him because he doesn’t like to kiss-up like the others. In fact, Ahab’s reluctance shows that he most likely already knew the truth. Micaiah lives up to his reputation, delivering a Word from the LORD that was unfavorable to what Ahab had already set upon his heart to do.

Is Ahab’s folly not our own? As I read about his fatal flaw, I can feel my own groan, lurch, and tumult described by Paul in Romans 7:15-20, between what I have intentioned in my heart and what the LORD wants of me.  What makes it worse is the body of booty smoochers ready to tell me that fulfilling my desires are what will ultimately make me happy.  In 2020, it doesn’t take much searching to find 400 people that agree with you.  Just because a crowd has formed in agreement with you, it doesn’t mean they (or you) know what’s best.  There are well-established organizations, conferences, websites, movements, forums, etc. that have opposing views to God’s desire for your life.  No matter how convincing the mob, there is only one way to get the truth: The Word of the LORD.  Yet the fact of the matter is as I wrestle with my desire, my pride, and my sin, I’d rather hear comforting, confirming, justifying lies from hundreds than hear a truth from a single person that would convict me and cause me to change. This would mean that the problem doesn’t externally exist in the world I live in, but within me, which is the hardest thing to hear (and the reason why we don’t invite challenging scriptures or a truth-telling Christian friend to the party, i.e. Micaiah)

“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrew 4:12

There is great advice in the word of Jehoshaphat, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”  Before taking any course of action, no matter how great or small, let me stop consulting my social circle of “yes people” and search the Word of the LORD for discernment.  Almost always, our only reluctance is because we already know the answer that is buried not-so-deep within our heart. Let’s pray that God will bring his convicting truth to our aspirations and challenge us to listen to His voice only as He guides us to His way.

 

Aaron Winner

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+22%2C+2+Chronicles+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Chronicles 19-23 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Story

1 Kings 15:1-24 & 2 Chronicles 13-16

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History is a curious thing.  Today’s reading covers two different kings of Judah, Abijah and Asa, from the perspective of two different writers.  It is quite interesting to see what is remembered and omitted and concluded from the lives of these two kings from the two different authors writing at different time periods for different purposes.

Let’s look at Abijah, King David’s great grandson.  It is easy to love the Abijah recorded in 2 Chronicles 13.  King Jeroboam of Israel is closing in with an army twice the size of King Abijah’s of Judah.  But Abijah responds with courage, faith in God and a rousing speech.  He speaks of Israel’s united history under David and God and then records the sins of Jeroboam (& Israel) in breaking with God, the God-ordained priests, and the house of David.  He concludes that, “As for us (Judah), the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him….God is with us, he is our leader.” (2 Chronicles 13:10,12). And then, even though an army twice their size is before and behind them, God gives the victory and Abijah’s army wipes out over half of Jeroboam’s fleeing and destroyed army.  It’s exciting to see how God shows His strength through Abijah.

And then we read the account of King Abijah as recorded in 1 Kings 15.  The details of his life agree completely with what is recorded in 2 Chronicles: reigned 3 years, son of Rehoboam and Maacah, there was war between him and Jeroboam, and his son Asa would rule after his death.  But, absolutely nothing is said of the moving speech or victorious battle or God as his leader.  Instead, the writer of Kings sums up Abijah’s life by saying, “He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3).

Oh, Abijah, we had such hope for you from that one outstanding snapshot of your life.  Your sermon that day was so full of convicting truth – that you forgot?  What went wrong?  How was your heart divided that sin won out?  Didn’t you daily recall how God fought for you?  Did you think you did that on your own?  It is discouraging to see what could have been, or once was, a strong testimony for God crumble and cave to sin and a divided heart.

But, it is also encouraging to see what God can do for His purposes – even when He’s working with and through sinful, broken people.  He can use the Joshua’s, the David’s and the Abijah’s and you and me.  He has and can and will have the victory any time He wants – and He can do it using any one He wants.

It is also interesting to see what one chooses to remember when looking back on history.  How do we portray and ultimately judge the heroes and the villains?  Which statues do we decide to pull down, if any, or why not all?  Everyone is certainly a mix of wise and foolish choices.  Some of our forefathers had some really good, faithful days (like Abijah’s) and these can still be celebrated today.  Remember the Chronicles were written long after these events took place and were written to encourage the returning exiles.  They needed to remember the faithful God who worked through the house of David and the priestly line.  They were being prepared for the coming arrival of a Messiah from the house of David who would be a priest like none before.  It would be helpful for them to remember their history as they prepared for their future.  It was time to bolster their courage and faith and remind them that God is their leader.  They needed the story of Abijah’s Really Good Day and the God who supplied it.

And, it is also valuable to consider the bigger picture of someone’s life to see what to avoid in order to get us where we want to go.  Rather than using our own flawed measuring stick to judge (popularity, wealth, good speaker, etc…), whenever possible it is helpful to know what God thought of the man.  That is going to be what really counts, so that is what I want to pay attention to so I am not setting up heroes for my life that God would disapprove of.

All that and we finally get to Asa – one of the few kings recorded as, “good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2).  And the writer of Kings agrees completely.  There are some beautiful passages you won’t want to miss about God’s provision and Asa’s seeking and working for God wholeheartedly, even when it meant going against some of his family.  Although, for all his wise and courageous decisions, he still had a rough spot towards the end of his reign when he chose to rely on man instead of God – and there was a price to pay for that error.  But it would be a mistake for us to judge and remember Asa only for that sin that sadly would affect him and many others for years to come.

History is interesting, as is our record of it, and our judgement of those who have come before.  But first and foremost lets learn to us it to grow closer and closer to living a life seeking and serving with an undivided heart the God who created all history and present and future.  What would He have you learn from His Story today in order to live better today and prepare yourself for His Future?

Keep Reading His Word and Seeking Him

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A1-24%2C+2+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 15:26-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

The Struggle with Sin Continues

January 3 – Genesis 8-11 

Genesis 9 20 NIV.png

Genesis 8-11 is a story of great hope and promise, and also a tragedy that reminds us all of our brokenness before God. After the great flood that God brought on the earth to remove all the sinful people, He is now ready to start over with Noah and his family. God gives them the same commands that He gave to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (9:1) The story appears to have taken care of humanity’s disobedience; unfortunately, that’s not the case. Noah apparently is just as sinful as everybody else, falling into a drunken stupor, and then something suspicious happens with his son, Ham. While we don’t know exactly what happened in this scene, we do know that it was sinful, as Ham’s son is cursed because of what took place.

 

This story should remind us all of just how broken we truly are. Although we have been redeemed by God through Jesus’ sacrifice and have escaped from the Final Destruction through his death, we still fall short and sin against our God. (Romans 3:23) The apostle Paul tells us his own struggle with sin, by stating that “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) He continues and says that, although his status is “in Christ”, his body still struggles to do the right things and falls into sin (Romans 7:18-25).

 

If you have accepted Christ, you are now experiencing a tension within yourself: the battle between the Spirit and the flesh (see Romans 8). Although you know that you have been saved by Jesus Christ, and desire to do the right thing, your “flesh” still struggles with sin. This is a constant struggle that we will face until Jesus comes back to finally deal with sin completely, in our hearts and in the world. This is a struggle that is painful and reminds us daily that “no one is righteous” before God (see Romans 3:9-12). However, it is a blessing, since God’s Spirit is working within us to clean up the areas where we are still dirty with sin.

 

Today, I challenge you to be aware of the decisions that you make. Is this something that is in line with God’s Spirit, or is it something that would be considered a “deed of the flesh”? (Galatians 5:16-25) Does the action I am about to take bring life or death? Does it build others up, or does it tear them down? Is it beneficial to my faith, or is it a barrier?

 

As you struggle along this journey of the Christian path, I want to encourage you that the hardship is absolutely worth it in the end! God loves you and is with you through this!

 

Talon Paul

 

 

Print your yearly reading plan here –  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read, or listen, to today’s passage here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8-11&version=NIV

Enough

Ephesians 2

2

Every Sunday since before I was born, my family has gathered at my grandma’s house for an after-church lunch. It’s a grandiose affair with a lavish spread of food, a fancy tablecloth, and ALWAYS dessert. My littlest cousin, Greta, prides herself on being Grandma’s helper in the kitchen each Sunday. By no means is she qualified to even step foot in a kitchen—she tries to lick the frosting off the chocolate cake, has a fair share of spills, and screams when not allowed to cut the watermelon. Despite her lack of skills and tact, she is the most willing and enthusiastic helper. While my grandma certainly doesn’t need her help, I think her heart bursts into a million little pieces when little Greta pulls up her stool to the counter with wide eyes and ready hands.

Sometimes I feel a lot like a toddler in the kitchen, like I’m not enough. The truth of the matter is that I wasn’t enough.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

The story doesn’t end there. I am made enough because of who God is and what Jesus did for me.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.(Ephesians 2:4-5)

We can choose to wallow in our inadequacy, or we can embrace grace. I’ve seen the joy that comes when we let go of the burden of not being enough in the beaming smile of a little girl with chocolate frosting on her nose. You are so enough that God wants to use you for His Kingdom.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Ephesians 2:10)

No matter the lies the world whispers in your ear, never stop pulling up your stool to the counter. Roll up your sleeves and do all the things God prepared for you. He’s more honored by your attempts than He is concerned about your results. Frankly, He could go infinity gauntlet style and snap His fingers to accomplish anything He wanted to by Himself. That same God is head-over-heels in love with you.

My friend, you measure up. You have what it takes. You’re enough. Now go do something.

-Mackenzie McClain

How to Avoid Unpleasant Consequences

Prov 1 8

 

When I was in high school I remember my friend and I sneaking out of his house to go hang out with some friends. We left his house about 11:30pm and didn’t get back in until 5:45am  which was 15 minutes before his alarm would go off for school that morning. We were tired and exhausted and couldn’t really function at school. Staying up and sneaking out all night left us at a great disadvantage the next day.
I have made many bad decisions in my life. Many like this story could have been avoided if I had listened to the advice others had given me.  They say you need at least 8 hours of sleep as a teenager.  Well, I got about 15 minutes and it was not enough. 
Proverbs 1:8-16 talks about how fools and sinners bear the fruit of there own actions. I definitely deserved a hard day at school for not listening to the wisdom that was set in front of me.  
 
What wisdom has been told to you that you might need to listen to more carefully? Remember, the consequences may not be worth it.
-Jesse Allen

Same Old Flaws

Revelation 21 and Revelation 22:1-5

Revelation 21-2,3

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” Times and technology may advance but primal human tendencies remain. The flaws that you perceive in yourself are the same flaws that King David, Peter, Elijah and so many others had to deal with. Flaws are a fact of life because we live in a flawed world. One of the reasons we so eagerly await the coming Kingdom of God is because we will finally live in a flawless Kingdom with a flawless ruler! The flaws that we combat in ourselves and others should never become our focus. Instead focus on God’s amazing perfection and promise. Today I’ll keep it short and sweet but take some extra time to focus on the reading in Revelation. Take time to really imagine it as best you can and remember that flaws are only temporary because in God’s Kingdom we will be made new and flawless.

-Lacey Dunn

Entitled

David

man after my own heart

Acts 13:22, 2 Sam 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 12:7-14

If you grew up in church your Sunday school classes were probably full of the stories of David’s triumphs. He was the shepherd boy who killed lions, bears, Goliath and eventually became King. His triumphs were nothing short of amazing. David was even called a “Man after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:22. Yet just like the other characters we have discussed, David was flawed.

In arguably the most famous story of his flaws David ultimately caused catastrophe to befall his entire Kingdom. First off, in 2 Samuel 11:1 it says that David stayed home in his cozy palace instead of going off to war as he was supposed to. Next, since he wasn’t where he was supposed to be he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Even though she was married to a man who was serving in David’s army David decided to send messengers to bring her to him. We find out in verse 5 that she became pregnant.

In an attempt to cover up what he had done David asks for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home from battle but Uriah is honorable and refuses to sleep in the comfort of his home knowing the other men in his army are not able to do the same. Frustrated David sends a note with Uriah as he goes back to the battle front. The note carries Uriah’s death sentence as it commands the commander of the army to send Uriah to the front line of the fiercest battle. With Uriah out of the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son who later died because of David’s sin. Not only that but David was later driven out of his own Kingdom because of the sin he committed. Everyone suffered because of the flaw that David allowed himself to be entitled to do as he pleased.

David suffered for his actions and repented for it. Despite his flaws through grace God used David to establish the throne of Israel even making Jesus a decedent of David. No matter what you have done God sees your potential and can use you in amazing ways.

-Lacey Dunn

Bold

Peter

When being bold can be a flaw

Matt. 14:22-31, Matt. 16:21-23, Luke 22:31-34

I think we all know someone, it may even be the person in the mirror, who seems to have the Frank Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way” playing as their anthem. I believe one such person in the Bible is Peter. Peter seemed to try to be the exception to every rule and push boundaries that the other apostles didn’t dream of.

Remember when Peter walked out on the water to meet Jesus? It doesn’t mention anyone else volunteering but Peter in faith and boldness offered to meet Jesus on the water. This is just one of many stories of Peter stepping up and speaking out. While many times his boldness was a good thing there are times the contrary was true.

In Matt 16 Jesus explained that he would suffer and be killed but Peter rebuked him! Can you imagine taking Jesus to the side and telling him that he was wrong? Jesus set Peter straight on the matter but Peter still didn’t seem to understand.

In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus tells them again that he must suffer and that they cannot go where he is going. Peter boldly proclaims that he would follow Jesus even to death. Later in the chapter (vs54-62) Peter boldly denied Christ three times just as Christ told him he would. I can’t imagine the sorrow in Peter’s heart as he looked into his Savior’s eyes knowing that he had denied that he even knew him.

Peter’s boldness when not thought through was a flaw but Jesus knew there was potential in Peter and even prayed that his faith would be strengthened so he could also help strengthen his brothers (Matt. 16:32). After Jesus’ resurrection Peter boldly spoke about the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaimed the gospel message.

God answered Christ’s prayer and helped shape Peter into an evangelist. If Peter, Jesus and God chose not to focus on Peter’s flaws that tells us that we should also choose grace and not focus on our own flaws or the flaws of others.

-Lacey Dunn