Big Bold Prayers

Isaiah 37-38 and 2 Thessalonians 3

Welcome back friends!

Today in Isaiah 37 we see a glimpse of Hezekiah’s prayer life and the boldness he has when asking God for deliverance.  This boldness is not in an outward appearance…when Hezekiah hears the King of Assyria’s threats he rips his clothes and wears sackcloth, both common practices for those who are mourning or in a vulnerable state.  While he seems unsure, Hezekiah is still willing to ask God for deliverance from this threat, even though we do not hear much regarding his faithfulness or attitude towards God until this time.  In my opinion, this makes his request even more bold because he seems to lack relationship with God!  And yet, we see a prayer for his city to be saved for the purpose that they know God is LORD (v.20), and God delivers!  God sends an angel to strike down the Assyrians and scares away the king (v. 36).  While the appearance of Hezekiah almost seems cowardly to human eyes, God saw Hezekiah’s humility and his acknowledgement of the one true God and rewards him for that!

In chapter 38 we see Hezekiah again boldly ask for healing from God.  This bold request for healing shows Hezekiah has confidence in God’s power and knows God can do amazing things.  It’s easy to think, “If I had experienced an answered prayer like Hezekiah I would always pray boldly!”, however, we experience answered prayers daily, but I know I am constantly reminding myself to pray boldly with the concerns I have!  Maybe it’s just me, but when I get caught up in the brokenness of the world it doesn’t always come as my first instinct to offer up a prayer.  Sometimes I may first try to find a solution on my own, other times I may just ignore the problem, or maybe I just sit in the problem!  Although it may seem unlikely, Hezekiah can be a great example of how to pray boldly and have complete trust in God’s power to answer those bold requests.

When we look at our passage in 2 Thessalonians, we see Paul’s encouragement to bold and consistent prayer.  In this chapter, Paul is specifically requesting prayer from the church to guard against the evil one and for the gospel to be spread and honored (v. 1 – 3).  Paul also asks and reminds the church to pray for them to have strength to carry on in good things such as spreading the gospel and working hard to provide for immediate needs.  These requests may not seem as bold as asking God to destroy an army, but I do find them much more relevant to our lives today, and still just as difficult to remember to pray for!  Spreading the gospel is an easy thing to say, but doing so truly does require great effort, dedication, and strength.  Asking for help in this is certainly a bold task, mainly because if you ask God to help you spread the gospel, He is going to put you in places to practice that!  Paul writes “Do not grow weary in doing good” (v. 13), which tells me to expect that doing good will be wearisome.  In this letter we can see the benefit in not only praying bold requests for ourselves, but also praying boldly to encourage our brothers and sisters. 

You may not know, but the Church of God has over 600 fellowships of believers outside of the United States.  We have a LOT of brothers and sisters in Christ that can constantly use our prayers for strength, encouragement, and deliverance.  If you are interested in knowing more about our fellow believers, I encourage you to go to https://lhicog.com/ to learn more about what bold prayers you can bring to God on their behalf!

One thought I had (and maybe you did too) during today’s reading was ‘What about when prayers aren’t answered?’  I prayed about this thought, and here is what I felt based on our reading for today:  We must faithfully know that God’s purpose is greater than our own.  I do not believe there are UNanswered prayers, but rather prayers that have an answer yet to come or an answer we do not want to hear.  There are other stories in the Bible where bold prayers are not answered the way that people want or when they want…  I think of David and Bathsheba’s son dying after David prayed and fasted, Hannah diligently praying for her future son to be born, or Jesus himself who prayed to not have to go through the horrible crucifixion process!  We may not be able to comprehend the purpose God has, but we are always invited to pray with boldness and faith.  We are also invited to pray for “peace in every way” (v. 16) for ourselves and our fellow believers when the prayers don’t result in what we want or when we want them.  I look forward to a day when we will never have to bring another bold request to God because we will be living in a perfect Kingdom where all believers can constantly rejoice in God’s holy presence and perfection!  Until that day, let’s continue to boldly pray and praise our amazing YHWH.

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 37-38 and 2 Thessalonians 3

Which Will You Be?

Isaiah 21-22 and Colossians 4

Today we are going to look at two different groups of God’s people: those in Jerusalem at the time of Isaiah’s writing and those in Colosse at the time of Paul’s writing. Which will you be?

In many of the previous chapters of the book of Isaiah we read about God’s coming judgments on Israel and Judah’s neighbors and sometimes her enemies. It’s not all bad reading what disasters are coming to your wicked neighbors. Yay, God! Go get em! Show em who’s boss! But, it gets downright personal in chapter 22 as the prophecies of judgment and doom now center on Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. What did they do to deserve this? Well, much. Other scriptures tell of Jerusalem’s idol worship and shedding of innocent blood and even sacrificing their own children. But specifically in Isaiah 22 we are told of their pride and arrogance, their celebrations and their disregard for God. When they saw danger on the horizon they did everything in their own power to protect themselves, including tearing down houses to strengthen the wall and building reservoirs. “But, you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11 NIV). What would have changed if they had only called out to God for help?

God was waiting for His people to seek Him, to turn to Him, to cry out to Him, to confess and mourn and repent. But, instead, they were too busy. Busy with their preparations to save themselves. Busy with their sins. Busy with their celebrations and feasting and misplaced joy. Busy in their “town full of commotion…city of tumult and revelry.” (Isaiah 22:2 NIV).

They had abandoned God first. He was still calling out to them on that day (Isaiah 22:12). But, they were busy. They drowned out the sound of God’s voice with their sinful busy-ness and celebrations. So, His holy and righteous judgement was coming.

Contrast this tragic picture with what we read in Colossians 4 as Paul is closing out his letter to the church in Colosse with his final instructions and greetings. He urges the church, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2 NIV). And, while he’s got the people praying – he says pray for me, too. Paul requests prayers for open doors (not to physically get out of house arrests, but open doors to reach more people), for opportunities to proclaim Christ and for clear communication in his ministry. And further on, I love his description of Epaphras, “a servant of Jesus Christ…He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12 NIV). These people are busy, too – in prayer – in seeking God and in ministry . They are praying for their spiritual leaders and churches and those who will hear God’s message, and asking for prayer. Rather than ignoring God and drowning out His voice, they are seeking God regularly and whole-heartedly, coming to Him in prayer, always desiring to do more for Him and His Son.

Which group are you more like today?

Do you have see any similarities between yourself and God’s people in Jerusalem? Are you surrounded with so much commotion that you miss God’s voice calling out to you? Is he asking you to mourn when you are busy celebrating and feasting? Are you so caught up in your self-preservation preparations that you have neglected to call out to God? Do you rely on yourself instead of on God? When you see trouble coming do you invest time in creating a longer to-do list, throw a party, or fall to your knees before God? What would be different in your life and in your community if you called on Him in prayer instead of trying to do it your own way?

Do you see any similarities between yourself and God’s people in Colosse? Are you devoted to prayer, being watchful and thankful? Are you praying for open doors – not to get ahead or out of a jam – but to advance God’s gospel message? Are you busy praying for your Christian brothers and sisters and leaders and missionaries? Are you asking others to pray for your ministry? What would it look like if you spent time today wrestling in prayer?

Praying for you today – to Stand Firm in God’s Will, mature and fully assured

-Marcia Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 21-22 and Colossians 4

Asaph’s Prayer List

Psalm 83

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

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

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

16 Fill their faces with dishonor,

That they may seek Your name, O Lord.

17 Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever,

And let them be humiliated and perish,

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

Are the Most High over all the earth.”

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

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

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

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

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

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

Little Magic Screens

If you had told me as a youth, when I was attending FUEL, that there would be these little boxes you held and talked to and they could tell you anything, connect you to anyone, and navigate/track you anywhere, I would have thought that sounded as futuristic as the Jetsons. Yeah, I remember the Jetsons. On our little black and white antenna TV that required you walking over to turn the knob to channels A, B, D, and some numbers too I think.

If there is one thing that has changed the world over its history, it has been technological developments! I remember my Great Grandma, who died at 103 in Oregon, Illinois,  telling us that when she was a child there were still wars going on with the American Indians over land and people rode horses to church…. and by the end of her life, people were flying across the world, driving cars with all sorts of gizmos and gadgets, and going into space.  My family was really impressed to hear what had changed in her century. But, change has always been a part of life and always will be- just like Ecclesiastes tells us. Despite the advancements she saw, she never knew what a cell phone or the internet was, but when we went to visit her we didn’t bring work, Zoom meetings, social media, texts or ask her to take a selfie with us. She would have undoubtedly been fascinated with our magic screens and boxes and always loved to hear about current events. But, I think there is a very good chance if she told me them today amidst the stream of visual/auditory distractions and demands that are in front of me, I wouldn’t have truly heard them enough to remember them 30 years later.

There are pros and cons to technology and our culture/work/schools are built on technology which I am sure will continue to increase between now and Jesus’s return.  Technology isn’t inherently bad and I am grateful for many aspects of it. You are obviously reading this on some sort of device yourself. But, until the kingdom, we know there will continue to be deceit and intentional battles to draw us away from God and to the world, and those wars seem to be running rampant in our little magic screens and virtual worlds. We live amidst crafty deceivers. Enticing distractions. Ones sometimes masquerading as “neutral” when they are anything but, and instead are very effective at destroying spiritual minds and health.

As an occupational therapist, part of my job is working with children with sensory processing challenges. They are absolutely exploding in frequency, and the screen addictions, visual problems, learning/attention problems, and social/mental health challenges associated with too much technology/screen time are very very real. I am reading the book “12 ways your phone is changing you” by Tony Reinke and learned that the average American checks his/her phone every 4 minutes.   How often does the average American pray? Does the “average American” even pray? How often does the average follower of Christ spend time with God? Even think of God at all? The list of convicting questions could go on and on. As technology and culture continue to change, we have one source of constancy we are asked to hold onto. That can be very hard.  I don’t have the solution, but God does.  And we can be thankful that He never changes and doesn’t require an IT department to access.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:16

-Jennifer Hall

If you’ve been working on the SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan this year – keep it up! You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 15-16 and 2 Corinthians 9

The Overwhelming Compassions of God

Nehemiah 9-10

Everyone needs compassion. Our gracious God, the ultimate source of love and mercy, readily extends compassion to us when we face the great challenges in our life.  But it doesn’t stop there.  God is not “deservingly” showing compassion to us because we have made sacrifices for his namesake.  He overwhelms us with compassion when we deserve it the least.  When our ears have been deaf to his calling, when our back has been turned, when our eyes are glistening with selfish pride, that is when he is most compassionate.  It is pretty simple:  life is best lived in and by the design of God.  Anything else is to be pitied.  But we do not serve a God of overwhelming pity.  He doesn’t stop at, “man, that stinks, wish you would have made some better choices there, bud.” He picks us up in our filth, gives us the full concentration of his blessings, and turns our feet back on the path that leads to him.  Over and over again. Undeservedly. In today’s reading, we get a quick lesson in the history of compassion of Israel from Abraham to Nehemiah.  Draw some (rather easy) parallels to your own life as your study this account of the rich mercies of God.

“But they, our ancestors, were arrogant;  bullheaded, they wouldn’t obey your commands. They turned a deaf ear, they refused to remember the miracles you had done for them;…And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, Incredibly patient, with tons of love – you didn’t dump them.” – Nehemiah 9:16 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you, even after you have been arrogant.  You can attempt to go it alone.  God doesn’t give up that easily.  When the miracles no longer come, when the blessing subside, and you decide to turn back, he doesn’t merely say, “told you so.” He says “turn around, I’m still here.”

“Yes, even when they cast a sculpted calf and said, “This is your god Who brought you out of Egypt,” and continued from bad to worse,  You in your amazing compassion didn’t walk off and leave them in the desert.”  – Nehemiah 9:18 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you, even when you don’t give him credit.  Oh, how we like to take credit. How scorned are we when we don’t get the little credit due to us?  And we haven’t really done anything.  It would be simple enough to say, “Good luck in the desert by yourself,” yet God hears the cries of his people and comes rushing in to, again, fight the battles.

But then they mutinied, rebelled against you, threw out your laws and killed your prophets, the very prophets who tried to get them back on your side— and then things went from bad to worse.  And in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors: saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse of their enemies.  – Nehemiah 9:27

  1. God still has compassion for you, even when you stab him in the back.  That’s right, literal stabbing of prophets delivering the word of God.  Maybe you are not guilty of such a crime, but openly denying the word of God delivered to you in your life is an equal abuse of the Word of God.  That’s pretty much what sin is.  But guess what?  Those who openly and defiantly deny the gospel, receive sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ if they make him the Lord and Savior of their life.  Your confession is never rejected, if done so from the heart.

But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it—more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate, to the enemies who came right back. They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again.

This went on over and over and over. They turned their backs on you and didn’t listen. – Nehemiah 9: 28, 29 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you when you return right back to your sin.  That’s right, we are almost cartoonish in our behavior sometimes.  Do the sin.  Ask for forgiveness. <5 min later> Do the sin.  Ask forgiveness.  Thankfully, we have a God of infinite mercies, BUT as Paul says our goal is not to exhaust the grace of God.  If you haven’t figured it out, somewhere in our sinful nature is the habit to turn back to sin, but we must try to actively stop or flee from it.  God is unfatigued with extending his compassions if we truly seek him through repentance.

You put up with them year after year and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; But when they refused to listen you abandoned them to foreigners. Still, because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them. You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion.  – Nehemiah 9:30,31 MSG

  1. If you’re reading this, God still has compassion for you.  You are not abandoned.  It may feel foreign because you have pitched a tent outside the wall, but there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Maybe you’re seemingly satisfied to be out there for now.  Man, that’s awful.  You will not receive even the pity of men if this is where you stand.  But God looks compassionately upon you, and leaves the gate open, giving every opportunity to be a part of his grace, love, forgiveness and hope.  There is a time limit though, an end game. Once you stop breathing, it’s over.  There are no guarantees when this will be.  An even more compelling argument than “no guarantees” is every moment you are not living in the presence of God, you walk around heavily burdened with sin, guilt, doubt, and shame because you don’t know His compassion.  He will take it all from you and cast it as far as the east is from the west.  Stop. Turn. Cry. Listen. Let go. It is time to let His compassion overwhelm you.

–Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway – Nehemiah 9-10 NIV or – from The Message Nehemiah 9-10 and 1 Corinthians 11

Overcoming Apathy

Reading for Today:

Nehemiah 1-2 … 1 Corinthians 7

The story of Nehemiah begins in about 445 B.C.  The same ruler of Persia, Artaxerxes I who had sent Ezra to Judah thirteen years prior, was still emperor of Persia. We don’t know a lot about Nehemiah, but we do know that he was a Jew who had risen to be the cupbearer to the king (1:11).

The cupbearer’s job was a position of considerable importance. That Nehemiah was in such a position shows that some of the Jews who had been exiled rose quite high in the ranks of the governments where they had been resettled.

Living in the lap of luxury, Nehemiah may never have even known of the plight of his fellow Jews. And once he found out, he could have easily ignored it. But we will see that he did hear of it and he did act on what he heard…even being willing to leave his high position in order to serve.

Some people prefer not to know what’s going on in the world because information might bring obligation. There’s an old adage that says, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but I think we all know that’s not true.

Nehemiah knew what was going on in Jerusalem because he asked.

“And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem…” (1:2)

When we truly care, we want to know the truth, no matter how difficult it may be. Aldous Huxley said, ‘Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.’  Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others.

Are we like Nehemiah, anxious to know the truth even about the worst situations? Are we the kind of people who care enough to ask?

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4)

Once Nehemiah heard of the plight of the Jews in Jerusalem, he was burdened.

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (1:4)

He heard of the condition of Jerusalem’s wall and knew the situation was desperate. Without a wall, people returning to Jerusalem after years in captivity would be unprotected and vulnerable to attack.

Nehemiah was brokenhearted, but he didn’t tackle that problem immediately. This is something I love about the book of Nehemiah. He prays. A lot.

The state of Jerusalem’s wall reflected the condition of the people’s relationship with God. Disobedience had left their city and their lives in disarray. So, before Nehemiah could fix the brokenness surrounding the city, he asked God to fix the brokenness inside the people of the city. This was the foundation everything else would be built on.

Then he took action on the wall.

This is a pattern that would be wise for all of us to copy, I think.

  • Actively seek out need.
  • Feel the burden.
  • Pray. A lot.
  • Take action.

We’ve had a couple of different people present at our church in the past year on the travesty of child sex trafficking. The latest statistics show that around 2 million children are currently being trafficked into sex slavery. Every 26 seconds a child is trafficked.

According to one perspective, child sex trafficking is the worst atrocity we’re facing today.

While looking simply at sheer numbers, abortion may affect more children, but as I heard it aptly stated, “There are worse things than death.” In fact, one of the draws of human trafficking is that people (unlike drugs) can be sold and resold–used and reused. Every 26 seconds.

You’ve heard.

Do you feel the burden?

If you would like some specific ways to pray and perhaps take action, here are a couple of resources you can check out:

Operation Underground Railroad
https://ourrescue.org/

Destiny Rescue

The Storyteller Café (this local project is in my community, just 5 minutes from our home!)

https://www.storytellercafemn.org/

You can also check out the online shop here:

https://www.storiesfoundation.org/store

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 7

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 evil with good

Reading for today:

Ezra 5-6 … 1 Corinthians 4

We’re going to hop away from Ezra and the daily readings for a minute here today and turn our focus to the theme passages that the FUEL youth campers will be examining.

I heard once that whenever we read the phrase ‘the flesh’ in Scripture we can plug in ‘what comes naturally’ in its place. So when we read in Galatians that, “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit” … that makes a lot of sense. What comes naturally to us often (usually, almost always) involves what is contrary to what God’s way is.

For example, Paul gives us this long list of things in Romans 12, that pretty much all fall into that category:

Love must be sincere. 
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
 
Be devoted to one another in love. 
Honor one another above yourselves. 
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. 
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
 
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

When you read that list, which ones jump out at you? Which ones most fit that description of not coming naturally to you?

Honor one another above yourself. All of us struggle with selfishness at times, but maybe you really have a difficult time setting your own needs aside. Maybe you would put others first, but you don’t notice their needs. 

Never be lacking in zeal—keep your spiritual fervor.  Is apathy your go to? Are you difficult to motivate? Maybe you just feel kind of … blah… about spiritual things.

Don’t be proud. Pride is a tricky one, and one that trips up a lot of people. Enough that Paul reiterates his instruction again with ‘Do not be conceited.’ Was he writing to you? Do you care more about what people think than what God thinks?

Maybe it’s as basic as hating what is evil. That sounds like it should be a simple one, but the fact is that evil is often attractive. Perhaps you know that you are drawn to things you know God would not want for you.

The answer to all of these is not to try harder, by the way. Christianity is not about behavior modification. That’s why Paul ends with this, “…overcome evil with good.”

Again—sounds simple, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Because it’s not.

Starting with a prayer asking God to change your heart toward those things that come naturally to you is a good place to start. I tend to believe these are prayers he loves to answer.

Our hearts and our minds are where everything begins. The way that we think will always affect the way we live our life. Always. And if our thoughts are rooted in a lie (even if we don’t know it) we’ll live like it is true.

Think about this. Imagine you are in a room and your friend, who is outside the room, tells you the door is locked. You try the handle and it is indeed locked. So, you go sit down and spend the day sitting in the room, assuming it’s locked all day, never trying the handle again. All the while, the door is actually unlocked because your friend unlocked it right after you tried the handle. You lived like the lie was true.

If you live like a lie is true, it is true for you. Unfortunately, much of the time we don’t even know we are believing a lie. What we do know is that we struggle with pride, or that we are drawn to things we know God says are evil, or that our life just feels like it’s falling apart.

Hidden lies are hard to identify. Problems are easy to identify. That’s why we start there. Start with the problem and backtrack to find the lie.

If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotion, go back and do that…it has some suggestions to help root out lies, and a book that has some great resources to help you with this as well.

I’m encouraged by the end of the Galatians verse, where Paul says, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  What he doesn’t say is that we should somehow expect to magically stop wanting what comes naturally to us (the flesh). What he does say is that we can learn to control our desires, we can overcome them.

I have heard recovering alcoholics say that “Sobriety is never owned, it’s rented. And rent is due every day.” Overcoming desires that come naturally to us is a battle that we must take up daily. The battle gets easier over time, and with help… but be clear: as long as we are walking in a body of flesh, the desires of our flesh will war against us.

And in case that makes you want to lay down and give up, remember that you’re not in this battle alone. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out about the kind of power you have on your side.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 5-6 and 1 Corinthians 4

A Captive in Sin

2 Chronicles 5-6

As much as I could go on and on repeating exactly what Paul says in Romans 2, I have much more to add and apply from the Chronicles passage, so focus your reading on those chapters. Mostly, I’ll be looking at chapter 6. Solomon has just built the amazing perfect temple that David definitely did not build (even if he prepared all the materials, drew the blueprints, and basically left only the annoying part of building a building to Solomon). And in chapter 6, Solomon is dedicating this temple to God. Take a look at verse 14, the opening of Solomon’s prayer where he addresses God. Notice, there’s almost a lesson in that God’s faithfulness is kept with those who “walk before [Him] with all their heart.” Of course, Deuteronomy 6:5 says more and Jesus even more of how much of you should be dedicated to God on a daily basis (hint: it’s literally all of who and what you are, Mark 12:28-31). But I mostly want to look at verses 36-39.

36 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; 37 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; 38 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; 39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.” – 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 – NIV

Reread those verses and think for a second… You may be saying “How does this apply? Isn’t this just an ironic prophecy about Israel’s inevitable collapse and occupation by Babylon?” And, yes, it probably is. But the beauty of the Bible is taking historical accounts and creating life lessons from them, so hear me out. When you’re buried in sin, and truly lost, it almost feels like you’re a captive in enemy land. And, in some spiritual sense, you are. Sin is the land of the world and of Satan, not of God. And you feel far and cut off from everyone, but look at 37. Then 38. Because if you pray to God, he will hear you, and if you truly wish to repent – to turn in your ways – and return to God in all of your heart (and soul, and mind, and strength) then God will forgive you.

“…Now, my God, please, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place…” – 2 Chronicles 6:40

-Liam Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 5-6 and Romans 2