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

Overcoming your Thoughts

Reading for today:

Ezra 3-4 … 1 Corinthians 3

If you were to get the Bjorksnas dresser from Ikea with all of its 678 (just a guess) pieces, are you the kind of person who would meticulously follow the instructions or are you more of a ‘this looks about right’ kind of person?

Twice in today’s passage, Ezra records that the people returning from exile did things “in accordance with what is written”

“Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests along with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his brothers began to build the altar of Israel’s God in order to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2)

“They celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed, and offered burnt offerings each day, based on the number specified by ordinance for each festival day.” (Ezra 3:4)

What makes this even more impressive is what we find out in between these two verses:

“They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.” (Ezra 3:3)

Even though they feared…

They did all these things, so careful to faithfully follow the specific instructions of their God, despite their fear. Impressive.

We’re doing a study in our Wednesday night class right now on a book about changing your thoughts, which leads to a changed life.

The place we’re at in our study currently is teaching us that at the root of any behavior that we might wish to change is a lie that we have (probably unknowingly) believed. We are learning how to identify those lies and create new neural pathways in our brains to (hopefully) eventually develop new behaviors. (If you’re interested, btw, the book is Winning the War in Your Mind, by Craig Groeschel .)

Typically, when we start to practice taking that new pathway, it can feel weird…it can feel uncomfortable…it can even feel scary. But it’s only in acting when we feel scared or uncomfortable that we are able to overcome the existing pathway and create a new one.

This scientific knowledge confirms what the Bible has told us for generations, which is that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

The only way to overcome a falsehood is with the truth. And in order for truth to really permeate our mind it has to become personal to us.

Simply printing out a Bible verse and sticking it to your mirror isn’t going to cut it. Take that verse, pull out the truth as it applies to the lie you are believing and write a declaration.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You struggle with trusting God, so you decide to hang up the verse that says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” to remind yourself of the truth that you can trust God to take care of you.
  • Instead, consider taking that same verse and personalizing it by writing out a statement like this, “God loves me more than I love myself. He knows me more than I know myself. He has my best interests at heart and He can be trusted. If He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, I can trust that he will graciously give me all things as well.”
  • And then even shorten it further, perhaps, to put to memory, “I can trust that God will graciously give me all things.”

Write it. Speak it. Think it. And as you begin to practice a new behavior, rooted in truth, it may feel scary. But press through and keep at it!

Renew your mind and overcome the lies that hold you back from living the life that God intends for you to live.

-Susan Landry

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

Wise Ants

Proverbs 30

Have you ever thought about ants as something besides a pest? Before I started researching facts about ants, I just thought about them as annoying insects that carried away crumbs left around your house. However, research proves that ants are much more than just annoying pests, they are also very intelligent and good at working together.

Ants are able to come together as large groups and use all of their intellect as a whole.

Ants are officially the world’s smartest insects and have 250,000 brain cells.

Ants are the only non-mammals who can learn through interaction.

Research is not the only thing that proves that ants are smart; the Bible also describes the wisdom of ants. In Proverbs 30:24, it says that there are multiple small things on the earth that are very wise. The first thing listed that is small but wise is ants. Proverbs 30:25 says that ants are wise because they spend their summer gathering food for the winter, even though they are small. While ants are wise because they gather food for the winter in preparation, they are also wise in the method by which they gather their food; teamwork. Each ant is able to gather some food by itself. It may be able to gather enough food for a month if it works alone, but it wouldn’t be able to gather enough food for the entire winter if it worked alone. But when an ant works as part of a colony, it is able to help make sure all the ants in the colony have enough food for the winter. As Christians, we should be the same way. We should be working together to help each other stand firm in God’s word, instead of trying to do God’s will by ourselves and stumbling in our faith throughout the process.

As Christians, we should be working together to help each other to better understand the Bible. Understanding the Bible gives us wisdom, which in turn helps us to stand firm in our faith. Every person reads the Bible differently and learns different things when they read it. Working together with fellow believers to study the Bible allows us to each learn the things others learned when they read the Bible that we wouldn’t have learned by ourselves. The more lessons we learn from the Bible, the sturdier foundation we are able to build our faith upon.

Not only can spending time with other Christians help you to build a stronger foundation, but it also helps you to draw closer to Jesus, allowing you to live your life more like Jesus. Matthew 18:20 says that where two or three believers gather together, Jesus will also be there in the believers’ midst. When Jesus is in the midst of a group of believers, each believer becomes stronger in their faith. This allows them to imitate Jesus better in every action of their life and to stand firm in their faith throughout hardships with less difficulty.

Throughout our lives, we will all face trials that try to shake us from our faith including people who try to challenge our faith. Many people who try to cause you to fall away from your faith come with reasons and logic that very subtly oppose the Bible. If you try to stand by yourself without surrounding yourself with fellow believers, there is a good chance you may start to fall away from your faith because you start to believe what others say. However, if you are surrounded by other Christians, they can help you find the flaws in the logic and continue to stand firm in your faith. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Just like ants, we need to be gathering with other fellow believers and working together, so that we can stand firm in our faith.

–Kaitlyn Hamilton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 27-29 and Proverbs 30

God Sends Answers

1 Chronicles 25-26

Reading through Chronicles it is easy to skim past large sections that seem to drone on for hours. But the fact that the whole book of Chronicles was true history of the Israelites, that was written down for us to read thousands of years later is truly fascinating. The book of Chronicles which starts off with the genealogy from Adam, shows how much the Israelites appreciated and treasured their heritage and lineage. They viewed their history as all the ways God provided for them over the years. 

Chapters 23-26 are devoted to the organization of the temple. It tells in detail the families who served in the temple and how God chose the people to be servants of the temple by being musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers, and temple officials. These positions were cast by lot. The high priest who wore the special ephod was able to cast lots using the urim and thummim. This was one way God communicated with his people. It allowed God to give the Israelites a direct yes (urim) or no (thummim) answer. 

There are many times in the Bible where it tells us that something was determined by lot. For example, Saul was appointed King of Israel by lot, and the lot was cast on Jonathan when he ate the honey he wasn’t supposed to eat according to Saul’s orders (1 Samuel 14:42), and Matthias was chosen as the apostle to replace Judas by lot (Acts 1:26), and to make decisions on how to divide the land to each of the 12 tribes (Joshua 18:6). The Bible records many other times when the people used lots to seek God’s counsel. 

So what can we take away from all of this? God loves his people, He wants to show us His plans for our lives. Part of God’s character is that he is immutable- never changing through the ages. In most cultures today, casting lots is often overlooked as a means of receiving communication and answers from God, but we must not overlook His word given to us – including Chronicles- which show God’s continuity and love to His people. God knows that we are a forgetful people who don’t remember all the many things God has done over the years. Through Chronicles we see a God who kept his promises to the Israelites and who organized the temple and determined its leaders by lot. This same God is involved in our lives as well. It’s filled with the history of God providing for and keeping true with his promises to his people. It was used to remind the Israelites of these things and it can remind us as well how God was working through their lives and how He is and was and will work in ours. And knowing this helps us Stand Firm for Him.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 25-26 and Proverbs 29

Watch Your Step

Proverbs 4

Have you ever seen the videos of people walking down a street when suddenly they fall in a construction hole? They were too busy watching their phone screen that they did not look where they were going. Because they were not watching, they stumbled and fell into something that was well marked as being dangerous. Maybe you have experienced something like this yourself.

Sometimes in life we can be like this. In our walk of faith, we don’t pay attention like we should. Something other than the path draws our attention and we stumble. In those videos, the person usually walks right into a construction zone that is marked with bright orange cones and construction tape. It is not a secret that what they are walking into is dangerous. However, they refuse to look at their path and keep walking regardless.

Proverbs 4:25-27 tells us to look ahead and to keep our eyes fixed on the path ahead. When we allow our eyes and our thoughts to be distracted by other things, we are more likely to fall into the pit. We need to instead put our eyes away from such distraction and turn to the LORD. We need to keep our eyes on Him and His Word so that when temptation comes our way, we can see it and turn from it. Just as Proverbs reiterates, we need to listen to instruction. Instead of ignoring the warning signs, we need to avert our path away from them. We need to follow the directions that guide us away from the hole. We need to keep our eyes on the path.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 21-22 and Proverbs 4

The Instruction Booklet

Proverbs 1

Have you ever tried to help a child put together a toy train track? There are so many pieces and in the end they are supposed to make a complete track. Some of the pieces make sense and, well, others are like that onion ring you find in an order of fries. No instruction booklet is included, so you are on your own. You attempt to put the train track together yourself based off of what you think it looks right. If you are like me, the end result is a train track with very strange turns and a dead end. It is not the complete figure eight as pictured on the box. If only the factory had sent some sort of instructions, then perhaps you wouldn’t be in this fix.

In Proverbs 1, we learn from that, “the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the LORD”. It tells us that only fools despise the wisdom and instruction that they receive. The Bible offers us so much instruction on how to live our lives. Proverbs tells us to walk in the way of wisdom and here we are told that to be knowledgeable we must look to God. He is the foundation of knowledge and only through Him and the heeding of His word can we hope to access true wisdom.

It is encouraging to know that, unlike the factory and the toy train, God gave us an instruction booklet. He didn’t expect us to just figure it out, but God gave us His word so that we may have wisdom and know Him. Sometimes, though, when we are going through hard times, it can be difficult to remember to go to Him and His word for guidance. Like with the train, the instruction booklet may not have been included, but I could have Googled it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we forget to look for wisdom and instruction.

-Hannah Deane

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

Do Your Homework

Eagerly Examine Every Day

Acts 17

Do you do your homework? This may seem like an odd question to be asking but that’s exactly what the people in Acts 17 were commended for doing. When Paul and Silas went to a place called Berea they were teaching the word of God to people in the synagogues. The people had never seen the scriptures in the light that Paul and Silas were teaching it to them, they had never recognized the truths that were being shared. So rather than just believe what they heard they went ahead and studied it in the scriptures for themselves to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. Essentially they were ‘doing their homework’. They found that what was being taught was true and so came to salvation. We refer to them as the Bereans. The term may sound familiar to you as many church youth groups have held the name Berean in their names. This is a reference to that noble group that studied the scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being taught was true.

In our society today there do not seem to be enough people who display Berean like qualities of ‘doing their homework’. Why were the Bereans noble – because they searched for the truth and they found it! Truth is important to us, but today the truth seems more, and more difficult to unearth. There are many newscasters, commentators, teachers, and yes preachers too who would all benefit from doing a little more homework before presenting information to the public. This would prevent a whole host of misinformation from circulating about. Many people would be better able to discern the truth if they did their homework. If you know the truth of a matter then you will less likely fall for anything false. We should all strive to be like the Bereans and desire to know the truth for ourselves, through diligent research especially when it comes to the word of God!

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 17

Questions for Me

From His Stories

Joshua 5-6 and John 6

When you read the Bible, what do you read it for? Is it merely a collection of stories? Great history? Interesting information? Or are these stories more than that? Do they give us something that will open us up to the Creator of the universe? Will it speak to our thought and memories and give us understanding? We can and should live our lives and order our memories not only historically but theologically, not simply recollecting what happened or what we did but searching out what God was doing. This keeps us from over honoring ourselves in success or despairing in our struggles. Part of the key to enjoying peace is to be continually praising the Lord for what he has done and is doing for us because the stories we read and tell of our lives are not so much about us but about Him. Are you reading to find the principles in the story? Or reading it like a homework assignment?

Today’s devotion is taken from John 6 and Judges 5-6. Some of the greatest stories and life lessons ever written about are in these chapters. Did you read the story of the feeding of the 5000 and see Jesus bring his disciples into responsibility when he asks them, “Where shall we find bread for these people to eat?”. What does that say to you? Or how about when Jesus walks across the lake! Can you imagine the disciples’ fear, amazement and awe? Who is this Jesus? Matthew even records that Peter walks out to see him. What faith! What courage! And then to sink and have Jesus say, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Or how about in the Old Testament when Gideon lays out a fleece and gets an answer and asks again? Did he not like the first answer? Did he doubt? Was he afraid?

So many questions arise from these stories. So many principles to glean from them. Are you wrestling with them? Do you search for God in them? Do you see what God wants you to know? Don’t rush reading these stories but find God in them and use that to understand him more. Happy reading and may you draw closer to God as you work through all that God has to say to you.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 5-6 and John 6