The Words of the God You Love

Psalm 119

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 

            Back when I was a child, at Church camp when you stood in line for a meal they made you say a Bible verse.  Us young boys learned that John 11:35 was the “go to verse” for quick memorization: “Jesus wept.”   A two word verse, easy to memorize- boom “Jesus wept!” the legal requirements are met, now can I eat? 

            Bonus round—what is the shortest book in the Bible?  2 John or 3 John depending on how you measure it.  2 John has the fewest verses, 3 John has the fewest words.  For fun sake, Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament).  We can argue about anything, can’t we?

            But there is no argument about the longest chapter in the Bible- Psalms 119 is the big winner.  Psalm 119 has 176 verses.  Compare that to the shortest chapter in the Bible – Psalm 117 which has only 2 verses. Not only is Psalm 119 unique because of its length, but its structure is quite unique as well.  Psalm 119 is written as an acrostic poem.  It is made up of 22 sections which are 8 verses each and each section begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beginning with the first Hebrew letter “aleph” and ending with the final Hebrew letter, “taw”.  This was likely a device that helped the student to memorize the Psalm, which good little Jewish boys and girls did.

            Obviously with 176 verses we can’t look at the whole Psalm in one brief devotion and we won’t even try.  I’ll just point out something basic for you to consider and then focus on one section in some detail.

            Something basic for us to consider is that this Psalm is devoted to an appreciation of God’s Word.  Different Hebrew words are used in the Psalm including “Torah”, which can mean: “teaching, direction, guidance and law”; “Debar” which means “word” and “Misva” which means commandment or ordinance.  The entire Psalm is devoted to having a love for God’s word or commands or teaching.   This clear expression of love for God’s word is important.  In many places in the Bible, beginning in the Old Testament in places like Deuteronomy 6:5 , we are told to love the LORD/YHWH/God with all of our hearts.  Here in Psalm 119 we are told to also love God’s Word  or teaching.  Vs. 97 says “O how I love your ‘Torah’ (law/teaching) I meditate (think about/ponder deeply) on it all day long.”

            I don’t know about you but there are only a few things that I’ve ever thought about literally “all day long”. (One of them was my wife back when we first began dating, and another may or may not be Krispy Kreme hot donuts-they are beautiful and delicious and hot).  You usually only think about something constantly if it’s someone/thing that you really, really love a lot, or something that you are really, really worried about.  In the case of Psalm 119 it’s clear that the writer is thinking about God’s Word all day long because he/she loves that Word.

            Is there a difference between loving God and loving God’s Word?  In one way, yes.  There are people who diligently study the Bible simply as literature or history.  They tear it apart and analyze it like someone might dissect an animal or human cadaver or look at tiny things in a microscope.  But in this case, the person writing the Psalm loves God’s Word and thinks constantly about God’s Word because it’s God’s Word and this person loves God wholeheartedly so he also loves God’s teaching, instructions, commandments.  Jesus would later tell his disciples “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).

            Let’s go back to that thing that I said I have literally thought about all day long (not the Krispy Kreme donut, but my wife, Karen, who is also beautiful, delicious, hot and begins with a K- sorry, but I needed to include that in order to embarrass any of my adult children who might be reading this devotion today, you’re welcome).   Because I love my wife I usually try to pay attention to the words she speaks to me. (I’ll admit, I’m not always perfect on this, but in my defense, sometimes she’s just talking to herself and I have to clarify who the intended listener is, me or herself, sometimes I miss the things that I’m supposed to hear).  Part of love is paying attention to the words spoken by the one we love.  So, for the Psalmist, he loved God so he also loved God’s word.  So for Jesus, if we love him we also need to keep his commandments/teaching/words.  So the overall theme of Psalm 119 is “I love God and so I also love God’s word.”

            The section of Psalm 119 I want you to think about is the second section- verses 9-16 which begins with the Hebrew letter “Beth” ב.  It begins with a question and answer:  “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?”  That’s a great question and reveals the important desire that forms the content of this person’s heart.  They love God so much that they want to know how to keep on the right path, the path of purity.  They want to know how to live a life that is pleasing in the sight of God.  The answer is by living according to God’s word.  If a person wants to walk a path that is pleasing to God then he or she needs to follow the word of God.  God has revealed to us, by His word, how to live a life that is pleasing to him.  We need to follow that path. 

            In order to stay on that path of purity we must be intentional.  We need to seek God with all of our heart.  Why do I want to pay attention to and follow God’s word?  Because I’m seeking God with my whole heart.  How do we avoid falling into sin? By putting God’s word deep into our hearts.  He speaks about the Law with strong emotional words: joy (rejoice), meditate and delight.  For him staying on a path that is pleasing to God brings him such joy that he is thinking deeply about God’s word all of the time and finds his delight in doing what God’s word says.

            You can love someone’s words without loving the person, but you really can not love a person if you don’t also care deeply about the words they use to convey what is important and meaningful to them.  The next time you look at your Bible, consider this: out of all the trillions of words that have ever been spoken or written in the history of the world, these words contained in this Bible are the words that were spoken by God to human beings in order that we might know, love and serve God.  So why would we not love the words that come from the God that we love, and why would we not obey the words that come from the God that we love?

            Do you want to keep your way each day pure (pleasing in God’s sight).  Then pay attention to those words each day, think deeply about them, immerse yourself in them, delight in them, find joy in reading and obeying them because you love those words because they are the words of the God you love.

-Jeff Fletcher

Reflection Questions:

  1.  Which words from today’s reading (Psalm 119) will you choose to think deeply about?
  2. Which words from today’s reading will you take special delight in thinking about?
  3. Which words from today’s reading will bring you the most joy?
  4. How will these words from God help you when you find yourself tempted to go in a direction that is not in keeping with loving God?

Planted by the Water

Psalm 1

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

When I was young, we often sang this song during our Sunday School opening. 

“Jesus is my Savior I shall not be moved
In His love and favor I shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters Lord
I shall not be moved.

I shall not be I shall not be moved
I shall not be I shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters Lord
I shall not be moved”   (John T. Benson, Mrs. James A. Pate, Words -1950 New Spring)

When I was researching the song, I found this verse which lines up better with the writer’s words in Psalm 1. 

“Glory hallelujah, I shall not be moved.

Anchored in Jehovah, I shall not be moved.

Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters Lord
I shall not be moved.”  (Alfred Henry Ackley, Lyndell Leatherman; Words, Public Domain)

What a wonderful visual and reminder to stand firm in God.

Psalm 1 is a contrast between a Godly man and a wicked man.  The Godly man isn’t walking, standing, or sitting with the wicked.  Instead, he is delighting and meditating in God’s law, God’s Word.  The presence of God’s Word in his life is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. 

Have you ever seen such a tree?  It is usually bending toward the water, and often you can see the large, exposed roots.  It gets constant nourishment, constant life-giving water because of its proximity to the water.  The tree is fruitful, the leaves don’t wither.  This is the picture of a man rooted in the Lord and immersed continually in His Word.

The last three verses of the Psalm picture a completely different person, a wicked person.

Have you ever seen chaff blowing in the wind?  Chaff is the dry, scaly protective casing of seeds or other plant material.  In Hector, Minnesota where we lived for many years, there was (and still is) a celebration called Corn Chaff Days.  It was an appropriate name, because corn chaff often blew from the large grain elevators all over the streets and sidewalks of this little farming community.  It scattered everywhere, and eventually disappeared with the strong winds, lost forever.  Just like the wicked man. 

Two scenes in God’s creation

  • Strong, firmly rooted tree by the waters
  • Blowing, dusty chaff, cast off and receiving no nourishment

Two men presented

  • Godly man who does not STAND in the paths of sinners
  • Wicked man who does not STAND in the judgment

The choice is ours. 

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15a,d

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Reflection Questions

  1.  What contrasts in nature remind you of the Godly man and the wicked man?
  2. What can you do in your own life to root yourself deeper in God’s Word?

2022 Seek Grow Love

Bible Reading Plan

We are happy to announce a NEW Bible reading plan for SeekGrowLove readers in 2022!

We are going to intentionally slow down and each day focus on just ONE Bible chapter. Through the year we will cover every chapter of the New Testament (reading one gospel in each season) and 105 chapters highlighting the best of the Old Testament, with at least one chapter from each of the books. Much thanks to Bob Jones, Old Testament instructor at Atlanta Bible College, for his invaluable help in selecting the Old Testament chapters we have included.

Print and share the printable reading plan attached below.  Since we are intentionally slowing down and focusing on just one chapter a day it is a great time for new readers (individuals, families, youth groups, Sunday School classes, etc…).  Readers will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s Bible chapter if they sign up as a subscriber at https://seekgrowlove.com/. Seek Grow Love can also be found and liked on facebook to read the devotions there.

An addition this year will be reflection and discussion questions at the end of every devotion which will help us further connect to God and His Scriptures on a personal level. Working through these questions can be very useful for personal contemplation or journaling. Also, they may be used within a mentor relationship or amongst accountability partners. Pray about who God may be prompting you to invite on a journey with you into His Word and His heart. And do you have kids at home – or church kids on your heart? With one chapter a day and discussion questions that can be used during family devotions or by a young person working through God’s word, this is a great opportunity to challenge yourself, your family, your youth class, your accountability partner to SeekGrowLove!

The Whole Counsel of God

Psalm 119 Part 5 (verses 153-176)

Psalm 119 is a beautiful testimony to the words of God. The psalmist meant to refer to the Torah, the first five books, called books of the Law.

But is that ALL that the psalmist spoke about?

The psalmist referred to what he believed were the words of God, but that is because he only regarded the first five as God’s revealed word. However, the church has come to recognize more than that. First, we believe God revealed himself to Moses in the Torah, and that through a lengthy editing process we have those first five books in their form today. However, other books, books of history, like Joshua and Ruth, were also recognized as being inspired by God. Note how that sentence was worded. It was not that “the church claimed they were inspired” or “the church or councils chose them for the Bible.” The church and church councils only recognized the inspiration already in the text. We saw it in the books of the prophets like Isaiah and Malachi, in the apocalypse of Daniel, and even in the Psalmists own words of 119! Later, we would recognize God’s voice in the writings of Paul, in the Gospels, in other letters, including the letters of Peter, John, and the apocalypse given to John. 

These 66 books compose the Scriptures, in both Old and New Testaments. When we read Psalm 119 and the psalmist’s passion for, meditation on, and memorization of scripture, for us this covers ALL these books. The psalmist was this passionate about Leviticus, how much more should our soul sing when reading the Gospel account of the salvation of humanity! How much more should we rejoice in committing to memory the words of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. (John 1)

Read Psalm 119 (or, hopefully, re-read it!) and focus on what we have seen over the past few days:

As you read Psalm 119, see the artistry of one who so deeply loved God’s words, and allow it to show you the beauty of God’s scripture from Genesis to Revelation. 

As you read Psalm 119, praise God for the fact that he would reveal himself in the scripture and how much more he would reveal himself through his beloved Son Jesus Christ. 

As you read Psalm 119, recognize the Torah’s important role in beginning the Revelation of God to his people, and may it propel you to continue to walk in God’s way through the life and teachings of the fulfillment of the Torah in Jesus. 

As you read Psalm 119, pray, meditate and memorize God’s words so that they may be a lamp unto your feet and a light to your path, and that you might keep your way pure. 

As you reads Psalm 119, may you fall in love with the words of God, the Word of God, and ultimately, with the God who loves you. 

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 33-34 and Psalm 119:153-176

A Love Poem to the Torah

Psalm 119 (verses 81-120)

In both Monday’s and Tuesday’s devotion, I threw out a word that I did not explain that is really the centerpiece of the entire Psalm. The very first verse of Psalm 119 tells us how a person can be blessed. “Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.” Those last five words are the focus of Psalm 119. “The law of the Lord.” Transliterated from the Hebrew as “the Torah of YHWH.” (That last word is pronounced yah-way, and is the name of God anytime we see LORD in the Old Testament.)

What is torah? Torah comes from another Hebrew word, yarah. Biblical Hebrew has fewer words than Greek or English, so each word has a range of meanings that depend on the context, but one of the ways to translate yarah would be “to direct, teach, instruct.” When that word nominified is “Torah”. That means the word is something along the lines of “direction, teaching, instructions.” While the word law isn’t wrong, it may not be the best description of what Torah conveys. Instructions, the words of a loving God speaking to his beloved people, are instructions on how to live the best life.

“Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the instructions of YHWH.”

But while that defines Torah, that really doesn’t tell us where to find it. The “Torah” understood as one thing, is the first five books of the Bible, Genesis -Deuteronomy. These books tell us how the Jews became God’s people, how they were rescued from Egypt, and how they were to live in response to that salvation from God. God gave these beginnings of these books to Moses in 1400 BC and had Moses and others edit and change bits and pieces all the way up to about the rule of King Josiah, in 600s BC. These inspired, authoritative, and true books tell us what God likes, dislikes, commands, demands, and desires from his people. 

In the Hebraic culture, the way one went about their day, from caring for their sheep, to planting or harvesting their crops, to going up to Jerusalem for a feast, one had to walk. In both the times of Jesus and the times of Moses, to “walk” in a way was to live that way out. You can begin to see the key ideas around verse one take shape. 

“Blessed are those who live according the the instructions that tell us the commands, demands, and desires of YHWH.”

Throughout Psalm 119, you aren’t always going to read “law”, but the words judgements, precepts, testimonies, and the rest are all words that are speaking about the same Torah. And the Psalmist recognizes their worth. Just today the psalmist’s “eyes fail with longing for your word” (82). The law is his delight (92). He loves both the law and the testimonies of God. (113, 119) These laws are not burdensome and followed begrudgingly. They are the source of life and salvation for the Psalmist. “Sustain me according to your word!” (116) “I am yours, save me; for I have sought your precepts.” (94)

“Blessed are those who live according to the saving, life-giving instructions and commands that YHWH has blessed his people with so we may know him more.”

The Torah commands a lamb to be sacrificed. 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Torah commands us to love God. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…”

The Torah commands us to love our neighbor like ourselves. 

“and the second is like is love your neighbor like yourself. These sum up the law and the prophets.”

The Torah shows us the mind, heart, soul, and desire of God for his people. 

Christ shows us the perfected way of following God. 

While things change, and we are not commanded to keep the Torah in the way Christ kept it perfectly, can we speak with the same kind of love for the first five books the way the Psalmist loved them, the way JESUS loved them? Are we able to speak about the commands of scripture in the same way as the Psalmist, that every command comes to bring life and salvation? 

Jesus saves us through faith before we ever act, and no amount of work on our part could earn salvation. BUT, the commands of scripture are given to show us the best way to live, and the commands of the Old Testament show us the way the Jews were commanded to live and show us insight into the mind of our beloved Father. 

Let us love God’s word the way the Psalmist did 

and may we all be blessed today. 

“Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.”

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 29-30 and Psalm 119:81-120

Don’t Miss the Artistry

Psalm 119 – part 1

For the weekdays of this week, I do encourage you to continue to read through Ezekiel. In Saturday’s devotion, we will catch the highlights of those verses. However, our focus for the next few days will be Psalm 119. The longest chapter in the Bible, by both verse and words, Psalm 119 is worth the time we are going to spend with it. Rather than going through verse by verse (we will do a bit of that on Wednesday and Thursday), I’d like to talk about the themes that come out of reading Psalm 119. We’ll talk about God’s self-revelation, in both the Torah and the whole Bible, and we’ll discuss some ways that we can honor God’s word by keeping it close to us. 

But today, I want to talk about Psalms in general, and this Psalm in particular. The Bible is a dense book. Often we can treat it like a study guide, a how-to manual, a game plan for life. And, these are not incorrect. But that is NOT ALL the Bible is. It is not simply an owner’s manual for our life, but it is a vast collection of biographies, histories, letters, and poems that are inspired by God’s Words, authoritative about our lives, and true in everything it affirms. 

The Psalms in general help disabuse us of our study guide/owner’s manual/game plan approach to the Bible, because they are not always God’s words to people, but people’s words BACK TO GOD. In the Psalms there is rage, despair, longing, frustration, ecstasy, devastation, joy, sorrow, wrath, contentment, love. The whole gamut of the human experience is on display. But more than just these emotions, they are the human experience, recreated and retold in beauty.

Think about your favorite song. Do you hear the twang of a steel guitar? Do you feel the rumble of the bass from the hook? Does the distortion make you want to turn up the speakers to 11? What do the lyrics mean? What do the lyrics SAY? Are those two the same, or is the meaning conveyed not in words but in how they are sung or how the music crescendos at the same time they are singing of silence? Let me venture a guess; you like your favorite song. This genius insight of mine is because we all think our song has a certain beauty. I like metal and the screams of the vocalists and the distortion of their guitars are just wonderful and gorgeous. But more often than not, in metal and rock, the music and the lyrics work in tandem to make the pain, betrayal, loss, anger, and even love of the musicians real and visceral. There is beauty in my favorite songs, and in yours, even if you like country. 

Psalm 119 is also beautiful, a labor of love that took the artist hours of labor spent crafting the art to perfection. Just because God guided the Psalmist doesn’t mean the Psalmist didn’t put his blood sweat and tears into crafting a beautiful poem in honor of God and his word. What I want you to notice today is the beauty. Read all of Psalm 119. Read it from start to finish, top to bottom. But DON’T MISS THE ARTISTRY. Think about why the Psalmist used this word in this place. Why? Does one line jump out at you? Why is that? Does one line not sit well with you? Why do you not connect with that line? 

Moreover, think about the breakdown of the Psalm. There are 22 sections of 8 verses of Psalm 119. In your Bibles, there may even be a strange mark and word. For many this would be something that looks like an X and the word “Aleph” or “Alef”. The translators are helping you see that this poem is an acrostic. The first letter of each verse is aleph. Eight times over. Then the same with beth, then gimmel, so on and so forth. The artist had to be intentional to work out each line to build off the previous one, but also each verse needed a new word. That takes time, commitment, dedication. Artistry. 

Don’t miss the artistry. 

Don’t miss the passion or the beauty of this psalm. That is why when you saw””Read all of Psalm 119” and you skipped that and kept reading the devotion, you really should go read the entire Psalm today. The beauty the artist wanted to display for God is in the text, and I don’t want you to miss it. 

Don’t miss the artistry. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 25-26 and Psalm 119:1-40

Listen Carefully

Ezekiel 3 & 4

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, reading an article for work, and I found myself nodding off. Which isn’t funny, unless you know that I sit on a physioball rather than a traditional office chair…which means I lost my balance when my body relaxed and I almost fell off…then it’s hilarious! 

As I woke up and caught myself, I refocused on the article and realized that I hadn’t comprehended a word of the article. I had to reread it several times before I could understand the point the author was making. 

Have you ever found your eyes moving across the page, but not reading? Have you sat through a lecture (or gasp, a sermon!) but not hearing? 

As if Ezekiel’s vision of a four faced creature wasn’t extraordinary enough to hold his attention, God specifically says, “Listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you”. 

This is pretty much the same thing that happens when adults are speaking to children and when we want to be assured of their attention we say, “Look at me when I am talking to you.”

The message that God was giving to Ezekiel was that important. The task that Ezekiel had to obey was literally the difference between life and death. God wanted to make sure that he had Ezekiel’s full attention.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture tells us to “listen carefully”. Obeying God’s Word is a matter of life and death. Whenever we open up our Bibles, we need to read, not just with our eyes, but with our hearts. When we do so, that is when our lives are transformed into Christlikeness. 

Let’s be extra attentive today as we read the Word of God.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 3-4 and 1 Peter 3

Don’t Quit

Jeremiah 35 & 36

We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today!  He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular.  And, he didn’t quit!

At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers and sisters for over 20 years – warning them again and again of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways.  Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God.  But as a nation, they don’t get it.  They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.

The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator.  Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then?  God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry.  God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV).  Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him.  And so a great project begins.  Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down.  Perhaps the people will listen.  They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot.  How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?

Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people.  One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials.  “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.

Here’s the king’s chance.  He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago.  But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better.  His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack.  Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.

Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words?  To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed.  And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive.  Totally lost.  Over a year’s work, gone.  But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first. And perhaps much of what we read today in the book of Jeremiah comes from this second labor of love and obedience and great persistence.

God’s Words are priceless.  Some will hear and respond and pass it on. Like Jeremiah they are motivated to live by, love and share God’s words in order to save themselves and their hearers  (1 Timothy 4:16).  But others will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it.  It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them.  Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word.  The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well.  Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up.  They kept at it – writing, sharing, reading, speaking and living God’s Word.  They persistently worked striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath.  Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?

-Marcia Railton

Sorry we were late in sending today’s devotion out.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 35 & 36 and Hebrews 9

Strive for FULL Restoration

2 Corinthians 13

Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians 13 and Paul is writing to the people of Corinth, even though he has already visited them twice but still they are unable to perform the will of God and be faithful righteous believers. In verse 11 Paul writes “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!…” We see that even though the Corinthians have all of these issues in their lives he calls them “brothers and sisters” because he loves them so very much that they are family to him.

“Strive for full restoration.” Paul wants us to be the best version of ourselves. I was just recently baptized and I have been working on restoring my relationship with God. As Kyle McClain said this past week at General Conference everything takes time, and the longer we go without praying and reading our Bible the farther we stray from God. Love God and trust in him and he will guide you. And closing with verse 14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

God bless.

Thank you, 

Samuel Turner

This week we will get the pleasure of hearing from some new SeekGrowLove writers – and some not so new, too. Samuel is a high school student I enjoyed spending some time with at FUEL and General Conference. Thank you for writing, Samuel! Congratulations on your recent baptism! It will be fun watching God guide you as you continue seeking Him and striving for full restoration!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 13 and Job 23-24

Hupernikao: Overwhelmingly Conquer

Reading for today:

Ezra 7-8 … 1 Corinthians 5

It may not seem like there’s much of a time gap between chapters 6 and 7 in the book of Ezra, but if you were to look at a timeline of Persian rulers (and why wouldn’t you?) you would notice that between Darius (chapter 6) and Artaxerxes (chapter7) they skip a whole ruler: Xerxes.

And that name may ring a bell if you’ve ever read the book of Esther (if you haven’t, you definitely should). The book of Esther spotlights Jewish exiles who chose to stay in Persia rather than return to Israel, and Esther’s heroism in rescuing them from annihilation.

“…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

Like Esther, Ezra had a purpose to fulfill in his specific place and time.

We learn that this godly man was a descendant of Aaron, which established his right to function as a priest and teacher (7: 5-6). Ezra also knew the Word of God and lived it, which was one of the most important features of his life. He was skilled in understanding God’s law and explaining it to others.  Ezra’s commitment to know and live God’s Word was one reason for the impact he had for the Lord in his time.

Preparation. “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach” (7:10). Our heart must first be put right with God before our life is truly ready for Him to use fully. Certainly, he can use anyone, anytime…but if we want to be all that God designed us to be, we need to start inside. Other translations of this verse use words like “dedicated, devoted, firmly resolved, and set his heart” to give us a greater picture of what this preparation might look like.

Power. “The hand of the Lord his God was upon him” (7:6). Because of this invisible and powerful hand upon him, the king granted him “all his requests.” I don’t think it’s any accident or coincidence that God’s hand acted on Ezra’s behalf, helping him in his endeavors. After all, Ezra was a man who had “devoted his heart” to seeking God’s ways. What a lovely illustration of God actively intervening to act on behalf of those who actively set their hearts on Him.

In chapter 8 we see Ezra, again, preparing not only himself, but all the people for their trip to Jerusalem.

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” Ezra 8:21

As we seek God in prayer and fasting, we honor him and set our hearts on Him. We acknowledge that we don’t possess a power great enough to overcome that which is before us, but we know HE does, HE is.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:37

The Greek word translated as ‘more than conquerors’ in this verse is “hupernikao” which means “overwhelmingly conquer.” It doesn’t mean “barely eek out” or “just get by.” It indicates a crushing victory.

Picture a wrecking ball.

You and I don’t possess wrecking ball kind of power on our own, but this verse tells us that through our great God, we have that power in us, available to us.

Ezra knew it.

And he knew how to utilize it, too. Not by looking within himself– but by preparing, dedicating, setting his heart on God’s word and trusting that God’s hand would overcome.

“I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me…”  Ezra 7:28

hupernikao

it’s fun to say

– Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 7-8 and 1 Corinthians 5

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