When Evil Triumphs

Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9:1-17

Each day’s new reading through the gospels brings more “favorites” from the life and teachings of Jesus. So it is with today’s – too many great stories to choose what to write about. Since we will be reading John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 and Walking on the Water tomorrow, we will focus today on Herod, his wife (and former sister-in-law) Herodias, her dancing daughter and the head of John the Baptist.

It is a difficult story to stomach. So much evil. Perhaps we have gotten used to questionable leaders and too much violence, and the familiarity of this short passage on Herod and John the Baptist can make it quick to read and pass over. But imagine knowing these people, living amongst them, and hearing of these events for the first time. Imagine sitting down to your morning cup of coffee, opening the newspaper and reading of the events that transpired just last night.

Of course you would have known King Herod was having his birthday party last night – everyone could hear the sounds from his palace. And, yes, the newspaper calls him King Herod, since that is what he loves to be called, even though everyone knows his dad had been the last King Herod (yes, the one responsible for killing all the baby boys of Bethlehem about 30 years ago). In reality, now Herod Antipas was just a “tetrach”, ruling over just one quarter of his father’s territory, all the while being watched over by the real Roman authorities.

Herod had divorced his wife in order to marry his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. The only trouble was this prophet of God known as John the Baptist had been speaking out against this marriage, saying it was unlawful. Unlawful for who? Who’s law was it anyway? God’s? Herod wasn’t one to try to follow all those outdated laws – it was so much easier to just make new laws instead (similar to today’s society which is very good at ignoring God’s law and replacing it with their own).

His wife, Herodias, was not one to stand idly by while a prophet pointed out the sins of her family. Something had to be done. Herod (prompted by his wife) had John arrested, bound and put in prison. But, that wasn’t enough. While Matthew records that Herod wanted to kill John, Mark has a slightly different interpretation of Herod and perhaps digs a little deeper into his motives, relationships and thoughts. Mark says that it was Herodias who, “nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” (Mark 6:19-20) which I am sure made his wife even more livid.

So, we come to the night of Herod’s birthday party and the entertainment for the evening – Herod’s dancing step-daughter (unnamed in the gospels, but Jewish historian Josephus records her name to be Salome). We aren’t told the details (thankfully), but we can guess that this was not a 5 year old girl performing her latest ballet or tap recital pieces for her father’s dinner guests. Whatever the dance included, it seems likely she was being exploited by her mother and ogled (or worse) by her step-father and all his male guests. These men liked her dance so much Herod thought it fitting to offer this dancing wonder anything she wanted (up to half his kingdom).

That’s a lot for a girl to think on – so she goes running out to get her mother’s advice. Herodias is prepared for this moment and she has no trouble involving her “innocent” daughter in getting what she has been waiting for – the death of John the Baptist, in the most gruesome way she could imagine – his head on a platter for her daughter.

Herod is in conflicted agony but sees no way out. The execution is ordered and completed. The head is delivered.

Can you imagine the varying emotions of each and every participant and those who will hear of these events.

What are John’s last thoughts?

Does Salome have nightmares? What does she become?

What do Jesus – and his 12 Disciples feel? If this is what comes of the one who prepares the way of the Messiah, what is the future of the Messiah – of his followers?

Herod will be mentioned just once more in the gospels – when Jesus is arrested, bound and brought before Herod on trial. Jesus remains silent – but quite likely he is remembering Herod and John as well as looking into his future.

Some days it just looks like evil triumphs.

But God is still at work. This is not where the story ends.

Herod will go to war and suffer defeat at the hands of the angry father of his first wife, whom he had divorced to marry Herodias. Later, Herod and Herodias will be sent into exile, where it is recorded Herod dies.

But, that’s not really the end, either.

A resurrection day is coming. A day when John the Baptist will rise from the dead. Can you imagine the reunion he will have with Jesus? I want to see that!

And, a judgment day is coming. Herod and Herodias will appear before the judge. At that time there is only one law that will matter – God’s. And, only one way to salvation – to accept the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some days it looks like evil triumphs – but that’s not how it ends!

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9:1-17

Tomorrow we will read John 6 for another witness of some of today’s events as well as a special teaching on the Bread of Life.

Job Description

Matthew 9 & 10

As we learn more and more about Jesus and find that we are completely astonished by this man, the Son of God – we are left with more questions – what will be my response to him? What must I do to follow him? How do I sign up to be his disciple? What will my job description be as a follower of Christ?

Matthew 9 and 10 give some great guidance for those seeking to follow Jesus. We have the example of Matthew the tax collector who was working hard at his tax collector booth when Jesus came by and said, “Follow me.” That was all it took. No endless paperwork to fill out. No aptitude test – Jesus already knew Matthew’s strengths and weaknesses, as he knows mine and yours – and still he calls – follow me. In order to accept the job, there will be something we must leave behind. It might not be our occupation, as it was for Matthew. It might be our favorite hobby or mindless pastime or those enticing overtime hours. There is simply not enough hours in the day or room in the heart to do everything the world says you deserve to do and effectively follow Christ. A follower will sacrifice, change, give up, adjust schedules.

I am reminded of my dad who never retired from the ministry, but after his kids all grew up, he fulfilled a life-long dream and bought himself a little fishing boat. He loved that little fishing boat, but he loved more his Savior and the people that he worked tirelessly to bring to Jesus – so the boat didn’t get out much.

Which brings us to the second lesson learned from Matthew. As soon as he left behind his tax collector job, he invited Jesus to his house to be his guest – along with all his friends of questionable beliefs, backgrounds, and motives – yes, the “sinners”. You might know a few yourself. Matthew knew his friends and coworkers needed Jesus as much as he did and he took it upon himself to introduce them to one another. When we take on the job of follower of Christ we invite Jesus into our lives, our homes, our family, our circle of friends, neighbors and associates. As Warren Wiersbe says, “God has no secret service” (NT Wiersbe Bible Commentary, p.32). A follower doesn’t cover-up who his boss is. How can you invite your neighbors and coworkers and family to meet Jesus? Take some time to seriously create a list of people you know who would benefit from some time with Jesus (before Jesus returns to judge the earth) and then prayerfully consider how God would have you make the introductions.

When we start really looking at the needs around us – the eternal needs – it is easy to get overwhelmed. Jesus,too, has seen the crowds – like sheep without a shepherd. He instructed his disciples to pray for more workers in the harvest field. We would do well to pray this prayer as well.

A follower isn’t a one man show – rather they have the responsibility (and often joy) of working with others to share the good news. Just as Jesus sent out his disciples to work together (Mark records they went out in pairs), we will find our effectiveness greater when we take the team approach to following Christ. Who are you already working with and who would be a great addition to your current team of Christ followers?

Jesus warns his followers that it won’t be easy – not what you always want to hear at a job interview. But, who wants an easy job? He warns of the opposition his followers will face – from the religious leaders, from the government and even from family. Likewise, we must be prepared to not be swayed or stopped from the task by opposition we face from many fronts. Just as Jesus was persecuted, so will his followers. Expect it and keep working. Jesus says it best, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 NIV). There may be times you will be tempted to take the easy road, give in, hide Jesus. Don’t do it. Remember Jesus’ promise and warning: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Finally, a follower will love Jesus first and most.

How will you pick up your cross today and be his follower?

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 9 & 10.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue learning about Jesus and how to be a follower.

Completely Astonished

Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5

Jesus – how well do we really know him? It is easy to look at passages like today’s and quickly dismiss them as familiar. Oh, yeah, this is where he talks about the parables of the Kingdom of God for awhile, drives out a bunch of demons (whatever those are), calms the storm and heals some people. He was a pretty cool guy.

Indeed, but if we look at these stories more closely can we learn anything that we might not have caught back in our preschool Sunday School days when we may have first heard these amazing and true stories of the Son of God. I enjoyed reading the Wiersbe NT Bible Commentary that pointed out in these chapters of Mark we see that, “God’s servant, Jesus Christ, is the Master of every situation and the Conqueror of every enemy.” (p101). We see him provide victory over danger (the storm), demons, disease and even death! In a world that still has some very real issues with fear, anxiety and worry (and maybe even demons?) – we would do well to take a closer look at this man Jesus – as well as how people responded to him when they were face-to-face with this one-of-a-kind conquering hero servant.

To help me look at Jesus more deeply, I made a chart of what Jesus DID in these passages – his actions and how he responded to various people (and demons). And, then, as I am also interested in how I ought to respond to Jesus – I included how a broad range of people reacted to Jesus, his teachings and what they personally experienced.

My Jesus column included things like:

Jesus saw – both the crowd and then also individual needs

He touched – Peter’s mother-in-law and Jairus’ daughter

He taught – to the crowd in parables and with further explanations for his followers

He slept – in the boat, through the storm (even though we also know some nights he stayed up praying all night)

He spoke – and the demons obeyed

He went with Jairus

He knew power had gone out from him

He ignored what others said (regarding the girl being dead or asleep)

I love the presence of this man. Not shaken by a storm or by a legion of demons (in the Roman army a legion was a group of 6,000 men) or by sickness or even by the science of death or by those who would argue or laugh at him. He knew what they didn’t. He knew he was the Son of God and God would use him to display God’s greatness and power and compassion and wisdom.

And some people (and demons) of his day would see this – and react in different ways. So, on my chart of how others responded to Jesus I included things like:

Peter’s healed mother-in-law – Got up and began to wait on him

Those who heard of Jesus – Brought demon-possessed and sick to Jesus

Teacher of the law – Vowed to follow Jesus

Disciples – Followed him; amazed at Jesus; still terrified – even AFTER the winds and waves obeyed Jesus; questioned who Jesus was (needed to know!)

Demons – Begged Jesus; recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God; and had no choice but to obey him

Those who saw the changed life of the formerly possessed man – Scared of Jesus; pleaded with Jesus to leave the area

The man formerly possessed by “Legion” – Begged Jesus to let him go with Jesus – but followed Jesus’ direction to stay and tell others of what Jesus had done for him

Jairus (synagogue ruler with a very ill 12 year old daughter) – Fell at Jesus’ feet; pleaded earnestly for his sick daughter

Poor, sick, desperate woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and spent all she had on doctors who only made her worse – Found Jesus; secretly touched his clothes, confident this would heal her; when healed and Jesus questioned – she fell at his feet, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth

Mourners – Laughed at Jesus

Jairus’ 12 Year Old Daughter – Raised from the dead and walked around

Saw Jairus’ Daughter Raised – Completely astonished

Even though these events happened 2,000 years ago, there are still those who laugh at Jesus, and those who don’t understand and ask him to leave. I pray our eyes are opened and we spend more and more time, “completely astonished” at what he has done. May we turn to Jesus again and again when we are hurt, scared, fearful, spiritually unhealthy, haunted by demons, and in need of wisdom and hope. May we bring our friends and family to him for healing. May we be active and vocal in serving him and telling of what he has done. And, like the disciples who watched him calm the storm, may we remain a bit terrified at what he can and will do. His reign is not over, in many ways it has not even truly begun. The best is yet to come.

Obviously we can’t take just one passage (of which we still have only brushed the surface) and say we know all there is to know about Jesus. There is still so much more. The things we have already read, like how he told the healed paralyzed man to, “Go and sin no more.” and the stern warnings he had for the ‘holier than thou’ Pharisees. As well as all the exciting things we have yet to read in the coming months and days – washing the feet of his disciples, his prayer for those who will believe, the agony of his crucifixion, the victory of his resurrection, the mystery of his ascension and the completely astonishing coming return of Jesus. Now is the time to get to know him and share him. The best is yet to come!

– Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 9 & 10. Come follow along as we learn more and more about Jesus and how we can respond to him, on our Bible reading plan…

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.

God’s Return Policy

Zechariah 1-7

Have any of you ever bought something and then decided that you need to return it and you check to see what the return policy is before you take it back. In Zechariah, we will read about God’s return policy. The book of Zechariah begins in the 8th month of the 2nd year of King Darius of Persia. Babylon had destroyed the temple in 586 BC. The Jewish people finished building the new temple in 516 BC. This book takes place in 520 BC when Zechariah and Haggai, both contemporary prophets, urged the people to finish building the temple. God had made promises to Israel, and one promise was that the children of Israel would return to their land from exile and the Lord would return to His temple with them. Jeremiah 29:10: “For thus says the Lord; after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good work toward you and cause you to return to this place.” In Zechariah, God was making good on His promises. Fittingly, the name Zechariah means “the Lord has remembered.” The children of Israel were returning to their homeland.

But Zechariah doesn’t just have messages for the children of Israel in 500 BC, it still speaks to us today. Chapter 1:3 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” This is a recurring theme in the Bible since the fall in the Garden of Eden, God, wants to have a relationship with His children, and He has promised if we turn to Him, He will turn to us. It continues in the New Testament, James 4: 8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” So often we, like the children of Israel refuse the offer of a close and personal relationship with the Lord of hosts. God used Zechariah to encourage the children of Israel in what may have seemed like an impossible task, rebuilding the temple. He wanted them to know that they could not do this task on their own but with His help, it would be done. In Chapter 4:6b it says, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” When we have a task that we think we can’t accomplish, we may be right, if we are depending on our might or power. We need to rely on God, and His might and power, when we have difficult times in our life. This verse seems very appropriate for what our nation is going through today. Chapter 7:9-10 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien, or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”  In these verses we find the heart of God and how He wants us to treat others. The world will be a better place when we all take these words to heart and show the love of God to all that we meet and have contact with in our lives. It’s good to know that God’s return policy has no restrictions or exceptions. “Return to God and He will return to you.”

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Zechariah 1-7

Tomorrow we will read Zechariah 8-14 as we continue on our

Why, God?

Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk 1 3 NIV sgl

It is a common question asked through the ages, “Why, God?”  Why do the wicked succeed?  Why do the violent survive?  Why is there injustice in the nation and even in the courts?  Why, God?  Why?

Habakkuk had the same questions.  He lived during the “end” days of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity we have read about the last 2 days.  He had a heart for God and sought to do what was right.  But, what about everyone else?  He was outnumbered, “The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 NLT).  And that can be a hard place to be.  Where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.  And, where was God?  Why was God not taking action to right the wrongs, punish the evil and make things right?

God answered Habakkuk, but it certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting or wanting.  God did see the evil, violence and injustice. and he was taking care of matters – in His time and His way.  He revealed to Habakkuk that He was preparing the wicked, idolatrous Babylonian neighbors to the north to bring God’s judgment on Judah.  Wait, a minute, God – they are even worse than us!  That’s not fair!

If God had a penny for every time He heard that line – but, He owns everything already.

He doesn’t need your penny – or your advice.  God doesn’t need to be understood by His creation.  But we would be wise to accept His sovereignty, as Habakkuk did.  Even when faced with answers He didn’t fully understand or like, Habakkuk realized and accepted that God was in control.  He would punish Judah – and then Babylon – when and how He wanted.  And, He would show His power, His patience, His justice, His grace, and His love when and how He saw fit.  God’s people can rest in that knowledge.  There is a lot we don’t have to know or understand – a lot of “why’s” we can’t answer.  But we can rest in knowing that God knows.  He knows.  He sees.  He’s got this.  He is working out all things.  We can bolster our faith and reliance on God’s way by joining with Habakkuk as He proclaims:

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV

 

In our questioning, in our fear, in our uncertainty – yet we will wait patiently for God.  He WILL set things straight.  His perfect judgment is coming.  Until then, wait and rejoice in God our Savior – He is our strength.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Habakkuk 1-3

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 41-45 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Not Enough

Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 & 79

Jeremiah 38 18 NIV sgl

I believe today’s Bible reading ranks high among the most depressing passages of Scripture.   From the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll by King Jehoiakim which we read about yesterday to the major blows against Judah we read about today another 17 years has passed.  Jeremiah is still preaching, warning, and speaking truth for God, but very few seem to be interested.  In all, Jeremiah will have preached 39 years, his ministry reaching across the reigns of 5 kings of Judah, only one of whom truly listened to Jeremiah and had a heart for God.  If more had responded the way Josiah had, the disastrous events of today’s reading would have been avoided.  But instead, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (chosen by Nebuchadnezzar), is a weak king who lacks the courage to do things God’s way.

Unlike Jehoiakim who scorned God’s word and His prophet, Zedekiah seems to know about God and His power.  He asks Jeremiah to pray for them and he secretly asks Jeremiah what he should do.  BUT – he doesn’t do it.  And, when feeling pressure from Jeremiah’s enemies, he even gives his permission for them to mistreat him and abandon him to die in a deep, muddy pit.  Thankfully, Ebed-Melek was there to petition the king to allow them to rescue Jeremiah.  Even at Judah’s final hour, with Babylon at the city walls, God, through Jeremiah, gave Zedekiah an opportunity to save his life and his city.  He could surrender to Babylon and peacefully accept the “time-out” Judah deserved for her waywardness.  But, instead he runs from God’s plan into a tragic, tragic end for himself, his family, his advisors, his city and his country.  Do you think he regretted his decision as he was watching his sons be put to death, or as his eyes were gouged out?

Suddenly, surrendering to God’s plan doesn’t seem so hard, difficult or painful after all -considering the consequences of the alternatives.  Is there an area where you are feeling too weak, too prideful, too insignificant, too scared to follow God’s plan?  Remember, there are often painful consequences of running from God’s plan.  It’s not enough to know of God and his power and truth.  It’s not enough to ask for prayer and guidance.  You must step up and do what God wants you to do.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 38-40 and 

Psalm 74 & 79

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 24 & 25 and 2 Chronicles 36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Has Answers

Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah 8 20 NLT sgl

Today’s reading contained some pretty grim and possibly confusing stuff. In some sections it seems the people of Judah are completely doomed for destruction, while other parts tell of a coming protection. If you have come here today looking for an explanation and clarification on all that took place in these chapters – I’m sorry to say, I haven’t got one. Mainly because one perfect answer doesn’t exist. Scholars, theologians, historians, have all made attempts at understanding biblical prophecy. There has yet to be one universal agreed upon interpretation. The language barrier is one reason, as is the lack of context and historical gaps. If you want to know more about today’s reading and other prophecy, I encourage you to do two things. One, reach out to your local pastor with your specific questions. He or she would love to help you digest the Old Testament. Many have a wealth of biblical knowledge and bookcases stocked with resources. Plus, during this Covid time, many pastors are feeling a disconnect with their congregation, unable to meet under normal circumstances. They would welcome your questions and this opportunity to serve.

My second bit of advice is to follow that in Isaiah 8:20, “Look to God’s instruction and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (NLT) Isaiah goes on to describe the type of darkness these people experience as a sort of wandering aimless search for answers. He paints a picture of people looking at the sky and shaking their fists at God. These people sought psychics and other mediums for answers, instead of seeking the LORD’s instruction. Whenever you are reading scripture and stumble upon a passage that confuses you, look to what you know to be true about God. Some of these Old Testament passages can be tricky and may produce the picture of God as being only angry and vengeful. Be sure to look to ALL of God’s instructions and teachings. Personally, when reading doom and gloom in the Old Testament, I try to keep in mind what God says about Himself as being “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV). I love this verse in Isaiah, because right in the midst of confusing prophecy, he gives us an answer, encouraging us to seek “God’s instructions” known to us through scripture.

This advice from Isaiah can also be applied to other aspects of our lives when searching for answers. I would say all aspects, except I’ve not yet found the part in scripture that explains calculus. Math aside, when we face difficult or confusing challenges, wandering in unknown darkness, we as believers are encouraged to seek God for the answers. We can approach God through our wonderful redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whether these answers are revealed to us by understanding scripture, receiving peace, or prayer, answers exist. I am experiencing some personal challenges in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends sent me a text reminding me to seek answers from God during this trial. Her encouragement applies also to you, and whatever your current struggles may be. The last part of Isaiah 8 reminded me of her words. I want to share some of them with you as a closing thought.

“It may seem like the pain, loss, confusion, and hole in your heart, are the only things you will ever know, but please remember, the Lord has a plan for you and He is there to listen to you, He is there to listen to your cries of anguish and despair. And He will console you, but you have to ask Him for His help. Please don’t shut yourself out of His sweet  and divine presence, my dear friend. Ask Him to give you guidance for what you should do next. How you should proceed with your life. Ask Him for His wisdom so that you can understand what lesson He wants to teach you, how He is trying to mold your character. And also maybe think of what He wants you to ask Him. What is HIS will?”

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin another prophet writing at a similar time – Amos, chapters 1-5 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

What Never Changes

Psalm 111-118

psalm 118 1 NIV sgl

In our Bible reading there were too many great psalms to choose what to write about today.  I decided to narrow it down to Psalm 118.  But even within Psalm 118 there are too many great verses to choose what to write about today. I will share a few thoughts…but spend some time in the psalm and see what strikes you most.

We do not know who wrote Psalm 118, nor for what occasion.  Perhaps part of the power of this psalm (and many others)  is that it feels like it could be written for each one of us in any number of situations we find ourselves.  It makes sense.  The psalms are a picture of God and His relationship with man.  God is God – from before history began to an eternal future.  And mankind hasn’t changed that much over time either.  He is still good.  And His love still endures forever.  And, it is still our duty and joy to give thanks to Him.  Some things never change even in a world where everything else is changing faster than we can keep track.

Psalm 118 both begins and ends with this lasting declaration:  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1 & 29).  If it sounds familiar, it may be because that verse is also repeated in 4 other psalms.  Sounds like God thinks it would be a good thing to remember!

It can be easier to give thanks for God’s goodness when we are in a happy, contented, easy place.  But the psalmist writes of many struggles, anguish, trials, battles and oppression that have surrounded him.  Verse 6 says, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Verse 13 says, “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.”  If you are ever feeling stuck, it is a great time to pray to see more clearly God’s goodness and love.  Then, give thanks.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+111-118&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 1-2 and Psalm 37, 71 & 94 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Feeling Weak

Psalm 102-104

Psalm 102 1 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Marcia Railton

 

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

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

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