The Enemy desires everything we have

2 Kings 19-20; Proverbs 14

In our previous readings, there were examples of two choices that could be made when faced with trouble. One could follow the one true God or follow their own god. Hezekiah was the king of Judah who chose to follow God, and we should too. However, Hezekiah was not exempt from later circumstances with choices to be made. The choice to follow God or not was – and is – ongoing.

At the end of Chapter 18, we see that Hezekiah stumbled. He accepted defeat from the Assyrian army after years of conquering and standing strong with his God. He gave the king of Assyria what belonged to his God (gold from the temple of Yahweh). Even after meeting their demands, it was not enough. The enemy desired everything of Hezekiah and his people. He desired their worship.

The king of Assyria sent armies to Jerusalem and surrounded it. The leader of the army told the people to accept defeat because their God would not deliver them from the king of Assyria. He went on to offer the people great things such as a land full of plentiful good food and drink. It could be theirs if only they would forsake their God.

This time (it was over the course of a few repeated circumstances with the same choice – following God), Hezekiah made the right choice. He prayed. He proclaimed the majesty of his God and asked that all would know that Yahweh alone was God. What a prayer. And then what a response from God! What an outcome! Yahweh heard and delivered.

Yet again, God prospered Hezekiah. While all the cities around him, even the northern kingdom of Israel, had been desolated and the people carried away into exile, God did great things in Jerusalem under King Hezekiah. The great things (good food and drink) that were offered to the people of Judah if they would just forsake their God and follow the king of Assyria became abundant in Jerusalem and a remnant was spared for years when they chose to follow God. Remarkable!

It is clear to me that Yahweh God alone wants our worship. He wants our hearts. When we are faced with a choice to follow him or not, he rewards those who choose him.

The people in Hezekiah’s kingdom were seeing defeat all around them. They knew what taking a stand against the king of Assyria might mean for them. The northern kingdom had starved to the point of eating their own dead children before they accepted defeat (as we read in other places, the king of Israel was told by God to surrender. Instead, he allowed his people to die). For Hezekiah’s people, having the temptation of a land full of food and drink dangling above them would have been hard to resist. Yet they did resist. In the face of temptation, they listened to their king and remained silent.   

I thought about Jesus when I read this passage and how he was led by the spirit to be tempted when he was hungry. The very last thing he was tempted with was being placed on a high mountain (maybe like the Asherah?) and given a choice to have all that he saw from that high place if he only worshipped the devil. Jesus said “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Yahweh your God, and serve him only.’”

If our Lord Jesus was not exempt from temptation in his time of need, neither should we expect to be. We all have a choice to make. Will we serve God in our times of trouble? Will we serve God when tempted with pleasure or even with our basic needs? Know what Yahweh has done for his people when they choose him. “Have you not heard?” (2 Kings 19:25). In our time, he has supplied every need through our Lord Jesus Christ. Choose him! He has already won. If we follow him, we’ve won too. Pray like Hezekiah. Command the enemy to flee like Jesus. When difficult circumstances arise again, keep choosing God. Tell Satan to Go!

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 19-20 and Proverbs 14

God Gives Victory

2 Kings 3-4


You know the feeling you get when you meet up with a couple of fellow kings, who aren’t really your fellows, but you have a common enemy, so you march on together in friendship and harmony, despite the odds that are against you, when you come to the devastating realization that your combined armies and cattle are on the road to dehydration, so you suggest finding that one
prophet dude who can maybe help out in this situation, and the other kings agree, so you find the prophet dude and it miraculously turns out, yes! He, or more accurately God through him, helps you out with your water dilemma, (it’s “but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD) and not only that, but he also says that he’ll assist in the defeat your enemy!! Eeeeek, I’m practically bursting
just thinking of it. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve actually experienced the aforementioned occurrence, but I have felt the amazing emotion that fills your heart with complete, unmatchable joy when you are assured that the most powerful, capable, fierce, wisest Being in the universe, loves you and has your back.


In 2 Kings 3, this is exactly what we see happening. Jehoram, the king of Israel, comes together with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, along with the king of Edom, and together they avoid dying of thirst, and totally crush the Moabites. Their epic victory wasn’t of their own works, though. It was God who provided water, and delivered Moab into the hands of the three kings. More often than we ever realize, God works in our lives too. Every single undeserved blessing, every single little victory we celebrate, is our Father’s loving presence. He is continually showing us how much He cares for us, and how deeply He loves us. He demonstrates this love not only in our lives now, but in the amazing promises He’s made to us. Promises of a perfect Kingdom in a beautiful land, where we will live eternally in absolute contentment and happiness
with our wholly perfect and wholly good Father.

Notice, however, that Elisha clarified in verse 14 of chapter 3 that he would not even be seeing them if it wasn’t for the presence of the godly and faithful king Jehoshaphat. This king trusted his God, and knew to go to Him in his time of need. Back then, they had to go to God through a prophet, like Elisha, or Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, but Jesus has since then connected us to our
God, bridging the gap as a mediator between God and man. We have the ability to speak directly with God and form the relationship He so desperately wants with us, despite our utter imperfection and His divine perfection. Hold on tight to that gift, never forgetting how awesome it is that we can be so massively loved by such a great God; that He would care for us at all, even in our sin and weakness. Hold on tight to the unimaginable promises He’s made to us, and live
everyday aware and thankful for the countless blessings He provides for us.


What a feeling, to know that you have such an awesome God on your side.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Kings 3-4 and Proverbs 6

God Focused Response

Acts 16

There are so many things that I find interesting in Acts 16. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for him to come share the gospel with him. When they get to Macedonia to the region of Philippi they meet a woman who comes to belief along with her whole household. But what unfolds next is really fascinating. Paul and Silas get into a situation and end up being severely beaten and thrown into the inner holding rooms of the prison. But what I want us to notice is their reaction – they aren’t crying, they aren’t in there feeling sorry for themselves or busy being angry or muttering threats – they are Praying and Singing Hymns to God! What a contrary reaction to what everyone would expect!

If we were in that situation, sore, and bleeding, in a dark, inner, dingy room with criminals around us would we be that confident and flat out bold? We would more likely be in there feeling sorry for ourselves, scared out of our wits, and wanting desperately to call our lawyer or mom or anybody that could help us get out of there! But Paul & Silas’ response was God focused. By praying and singing hymns to God they were communicating with the one who has all power and authority to change and alter any and every situation. Who needs a lawyer when you have God on your side? God used the situation to open the hearts of the Philippian jailer and his household to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul and Silas were also released to go free from the prison where they were being held. When Paul and Silas exhibited the right response to their unfair situation God turned their situation around for His glory.

If we were to be bold and confident in the Lord and say within ourselves as the Psalmist did in Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” And keep an attitude of worship, praise, and open communication with God in our trials; maybe we would stand in the same place of victory as Paul and Silas did. One of the biggest challenges that we face in our Christian walk is keeping the right attitudes when things don’t go our way or get difficult for us. I hope we are inspired by the actions of Paul and Silas and remember to communicate with the author of life and outcomes when we face our next difficult situation.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 13-14 and Acts 16

Gaining God’s Guidance

Acts 13

I am continually amazed at the way God directed the steps of the apostles through the direction of His Holy Spirit in the days of the formation of the early church. The apostles had the message to share that through Jesus there was forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to the Father. They were given the opportunity to share this message in very public places and many came to believe in Jesus. Can you imagine speaking in one place and then being asked to speak again the following week and almost the whole town shows up?

We as Christians have been given the same message to share – that there is forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ resulting in reconciliation with our heavenly Father God. This is the greatest message of hope there is. Do we share it as often as we can? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were asked to share and a whole town full of people showed up and came to believe! We realize that the apostles were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things, and make amazing inroads in the gentile world for the gospel of Christ to be shared and accepted. If we want to be successful like they were notice what they did at the very beginning of Acts chapter 13 – the men fasted and prayed for direction and it was given to them.

As we attempt to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world do we go about it in our own way or in God’s way. Do we remember to pray for God to lead us by His Holy Spirit to know where and when we are to share the message? Do we ask for the opportunity to share and do we ask for the correct words to say as the opportunity presents itself. The apostles were successful in their mission to share the gospel in Antioch because they had prepared the way ahead with prayer, and diligence to listen to where, and when God was directing them to speak. All of this leaves me wondering – would we be much more successful in our sharing of the Gospel if we spent more time in preparation with prayer and listening for God’s directives? Give it a try and see what happens!

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Pastor Merry Peterson lives in Ontario, Canada and pastors at Freedom In Christ Church.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 7-8 and Acts 13

Prayer for Peace – and More

2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

“The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.” (2 Samuel 3:1). So begins today’s Old Testament reading. The “young” country of Israel was experiencing great turmoil as some remained loyal to Saul’s remaining relatives, and a growing number were excitedly backing the champion David. The commander of Saul’s army, Abner, becomes angered by an accusation made by Saul’s son and heir, Ish-Bosheth. Abner vows to help bring all Israel under David’s kingship. But the army commander under David, Joab, has a lasting feud with Abner, still distrusts him and kills him for revenge. David mourns and instructs Israel to do the same. When 2 thugs kill Ish-Bosheth they expect to be warmly received by David as they have helped clear the way to David’s legitimate rule. Instead, similar to his reaction to the Amelekite who announced the death of Saul, David orders the death of the two murderers. David sought for peace within the young nation and an end to the hostility, bloodshed, revenge, and distrust. He tried to show a better way.

Today there remains great tension and hostility in the land of Israel, and this week it has bubbled again to the surface with the worst outbreak since 2014. Last night after reading the Bible passages for today I read one more email before bed – it happened to be a request for prayer from an organization called Jewish Voice whose goal is to bring salvation to the Jews, that they may believe in Jesus as God’s Promised Messiah. I will include a few quotes from their email…

“Terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 1,700 rockets and mortars at major Israeli cities and Israel has responded with more than 700 airstrikes on terrorist targets…

To make matters worse, unexpected riots and clashes between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have broken out in multiple cities across Israel…

Please join me in fervent prayer for Israel and the Jewish people. Pray supernatural peace for Israelis who have been under continual fire for four days and may have to endure more. Pray safety for the IDF personnel as they battle terrorist forces and wisdom of Israel’s military leaders to know the right course of action. Pray for an end to the violence both between Israel and Gaza, and reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Israelis. Finally, let’s pray that these times of trouble would lead the Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah.”

As David wrote more than 3,000 years ago – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…Pray for the sake of the house of the Lord our God.” Psalm 122:6,9 NIV

In Acts 10 we saw God remove the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Now both could believe in Jesus and be saved. Jews and Gentiles could now remove the hostility between themselves and become brothers and sisters in the family of God! It was unheard of! And it was such an amazing event that Peter explains it all again in Acts 11. The Christians needed to know – the world needed to know. Jews and Gentiles don’t need to live in hatred to one another. Together, they can both be saved. But without the Jesus glue…it falls apart.

Paul would expand upon the prayer of David. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1 NIV). Just peace is not enough. But with Jesus comes salvation which brings brotherly peace even amongst Jews and Gentiles.

And, here we are today – needing the prayers of David and Paul just as much. For the nation of Israel, and for our neighbor across the street. We pray for brotherhood created by the blood of Jesus. We pray for peace. We pray for salvation for us, our families and churches and also salvation for those different from us. We pray for an end to hostility and take steps to love others. We also know that as followers of Jesus we will face many enemies and we pray for wisdom and strength in confronting them. We pray and long for the day when Jesus returns and a lasting peace will reign in New Jerusalem as God’s Kingdom is set up on earth.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

Your Servant is Listening

1 Samuel 3-4 and John 17

When was the last time you were purposefully silent?  No headphones on with iTunes or Netflix playing in your ears?  No talking with someone else, just you in silence?

One respected Christian writer says: “Silence is a kind of substance in which we are able to experience eternity. It is a substance that enters into our souls and if we don’t have it, our souls become impoverished.”- Dallas Willard, Dmin. Lecture, Fuller Seminary 2012

We are constantly surrounded by noise, aren’t we?  In actual fact, I think most of us like it that way.  Having noise going on makes us feel less… alone.  Of course, we don’t like too much noise all the time.  We can also relate to The Grinch:

“For tomorrow, I know, all those Who girls and boys, will wake bright and early, they’ll rush for their toys, and then… Oh the noise! Oh the noisenoisenoisenoise! There’s one thing I hate: oh the noisenoisenoisenoise!”- The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss.  

            We want enough noise to distract us but not so much noise as to irritate us.

My iPhone 12 now tells me when I’m being exposed to too much noise.  Yesterday, I was mowing my grass and decided that I would listen to a book on my iPhone’s  Audible program ( ironically the book I was listening to was about the spiritual disciplines including… silence) while I mowed with my headphones on.  In order to hear it over the loud noise of my lawnmower I had to have the volume turned up to full.  My iPhone didn’t like that and told me I needed to turn it down. (iPhones tell us when and how to do almost everything- when to wake up, how to get where we want to go, when it’s time get up and move around, and turn down that music- iPhones are now our nagging parent I guess).

I have eleven children, most are now adults, but when they were all small, noise was simply a fact in our house.  If I wanted quiet I had to go someplace else.  During that time I went to a monastery and spent several days in a silent retreat.  There was no noise. None.  We were not to speak to other people, not even a hello when you passed them in the hall, no chit chat at the dinner table.  Just 5 days of silence.  A strange thing happened to me during that time of silence.  For the first time in my life I really heard God speak to me.  Why did I hear God speak to me that week?  Because I had turned off all of the other noise, and I was really listening for God’s voice.

Can you really hear God’s voice?  A lot of people doubt that this is even possible because they’ve never experienced it.

            “The fact that we do not hear does not mean that God is not speaking to us… We know that messages from radio and television programs are passing through our bodies and brains at all hours of the day: messages that an appropriately tuned receiver could pluck from the very air we breathe… We are not attuned to God’s voice. We have not been taught how to hear it sounding out in nature — for as we read in Psalm 19, ‘The heavens announce the glory of God” — or in special communication directed by God to the individual.” (Dallas Willard- Hearing God p. 68-69)

            In today’s reading, young Samuel had to be taught how to listen for God’s voice.  As we saw yesterday Samuel’s mother, Hannah, gave him to God in gratitude for God giving him to her.  Samuel was brought to the House of God where he was being trained by Eli, the priest, to be a servant of God.   It’s interesting to notice that it says that at that time the word of the Lord was rare (3:1).  Apparently God wasn’t doing much talking, or, maybe the people weren’t doing much listening, you decide.

The priests at that time not only served in the temple they also slept in the temple. Picture the scene:  Samuel is in bed, it’s quiet, and everyone is trying to go to sleep.  Samuel hears a voice speaking in the silence.  Samuel assumes it’s Eli calling for him so he comes to Eli’s bed.  Eli says “It wasn’t me, go back to bed”.  It happens a second time, Samuel gets up and goes to Eli who again says “It’s not me, go back to bed.”  It happens a third time and Samuel again runs to Eli, who by now realizes that the boy isn’t trying to stall going to bed but someone really is calling him, and it must be the LORD.  So Eli trains Samuel in how to listen for God’s word.  Say, “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening.”  Samuel does as he is told, and God speaks and Samuel responds, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening”, and then God tells Samuel what is about to happen.  God is about to punish Eli and his family for their sin.

At breakfast the next morning Eli asks Samuel what God said and warns him to tell the truth.  Samuel delivers the bad news to Eli and the priest accepts this as being a true word from the LORD.  As the story unfolds, God backs up His word.  The Philistines defeat Israel in battle, they take possession of the Ark of the Covenant, where’s God’s glory resides, and Eli’s two wicked sons are killed.  When the report is given to Eli he falls out of his chair and breaks his neck and dies.  From then on God keeps speaking to Samuel.  Why?  Because his servant was listening. 

Samuel was faithful and took the words God gave them and shared them with the people.  Jesus did the same thing.  He listened for the voice of his father and he faithfully shared them with his people.  In John 17 Jesus says: “I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.” (John 17:8)  The words that Jesus spoke were the words that came from his Father.  Jesus spent much of the first 30 years of his life studying the scriptures and committing them to memory.  He began his ministry by spending 40 days in the wilderness in solitude and silence.  His daily habit was to rise up early while it was still dark and pray- you can be sure that his prayers weren’t simply him telling God what he wanted, but included much careful listening.

The word of God was rare in the days of Samuel, was it because God wasn’t speaking, or was it because no one was listening for God’s voice until Samuel?

If it feels to you like the word of God is rare today ask yourself, is it because God isn’t speaking, or is it because we aren’t listening?  Try this… turn off the noise, find a place to be silent and place yourself before God and say, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening”.  God may speak to you through His written word, the Bible, or through His creation, or through a dream, or maybe even a still, small voice.  But you won’t hear God if you don’t shut off the noise and listen for Him.

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 3-4 and John 17

Swim Against the Current

Don’t Go with the Flow

1 Samuel 1-2 and John 16

            To be a follower of Jesus means a life of swimming against the current.  What does it mean to swim against the current?  Think of a salmon.  It is born in a river, follows the current out to the ocean when it is young and grows stronger and then with valiant effort it swims against the current up the river back to the spawning ground where it multiplies by laying or fertilizing eggs.

            Followers of Jesus spend their lives swimming against the current in order to be fruitful and multiply by sharing the gospel and making more disciples.  Disciples have to resist the forces of nature that want to carry us the opposite direction (along with the rest of the world) and resist the predators (for salmon it’s bears and fishermen- for Christians it’s the evil one and sinful temptations of the world.)

            Because we are swimming against the current of society we often find ourselves doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.  Today’s story of Hannah gives a good illustration of one who was swimming against the current of her day.  As you read the story it’s important to remember that parts of the Bible are descriptive and parts of the Bible are prescriptive.  It’s like when you go to the doctor with a health issue.  The descriptive part comes when you tell the doctor what’s going on…. where does it hurt, and when the doctor runs test to evaluate what is causing  your symptoms.  The prescriptive part is when the doctor tells you his recommendation of the best way to treat the problem.  Take a pill, do an exercise, cut something out etc…  In the story of Hannah one of the descriptive parts is that the man Elkanah has 2 wives- Hannah and Peninnah.  The Bible is describing what was commonly practiced at that time- multiple wives.  It is not prescribing polygamy, having many wives, as a good or right practice.  It would be a mistake to read this story as giving sanction for the practice of polygamy today.  Note that there are prescriptive passages in the Bible that clearly state that marriage should be between 1 man and 1 woman.  It’s important to clear this up because many errors come when we confuse a descriptive passage in the Bible for a prescriptive one.

            One can also note here why polygamy is not a good idea from a relational standpoint.  One wife was fertile and able to have children and one was not.  The fertile wife Peninnah bullied Hannah because of her infertility and this caused poor Hannah a lot of emotional pain. (Note in other descriptive passages in the Bible where polygamy is practiced it always includes jealousy and strife so we should learn the importance of monogamy by observing all the bad that comes when it is not rightly practiced).

            Israel was a pretty immoral place at this time.  This comes at the end of the period of Judges, if you recall Sunday’s devotion it was a time of lawlessness when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  They carried over even in the realm of the sacred.  The high priest, who at this time in Israel’s history lived in the town of Shiloh, had 2 sons who were thugs.  They bullied people into giving them the best parts of the sacrifices, the parts that were supposed to go to God.  They were also sexually deviant and used their power as priests in Israel to force young women to have sex with them.  Meanwhile, their Father, Eli the high priest allowed his sons to carry on their immoral thuggery with no correction or consequences.  They were pretty much all going with the flow, following the stream of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes like the rest of society.

            Elkanah was going with the flow with his multiple wives, Peninnah was going with the flow by using her blessing and fertility as a weapon against her rival wife, Hannah.  They were pretty much all flowing strongly away from God’s will and ways.

            By contrast to all those going with the flow, swimming against the stream’s current like a good salmon, was Hannah.  She came to Shiloh, she fervently prayed to God for help.  She promised God that if He gave her a son she would give him back in service to God.  She prayed with such emotion that Eli the priest thought she was drunk (she wasn’t, she was just passionately mourning her infertility and the abuse she was receiving while seeking God’s grace and mercy- people who are swimming against the stream are often mistaken for being drunk or crazy, think about the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, or Jesus, whose own family thought that he had lost his mind).

            The high priest, Eli, came to Hannah and asked God to grant her the request.  God was listening and “He remembered her.”  Hannah gave birth to a little boy, she named Samuel, and as she promised, when he was old enough she gave him back to God.  Samuel would grow up to be a priest and serve God in worship.

            Hannah’s prayer in chapter two is a beautiful song of thanksgiving to God.  From one who was swimming against the currents of her time, when everyone else was laughing, she was weeping.  But now, God has heard her cries and pleading and God has visited her with blessing and turned her tears into songs of praise.

            Jesus takes this same theme in some of his final words found in John 16.  For three years Jesus has been teaching his disciples how to follow him.  They are to take up their crosses daily.  Jesus teaches them to take the narrow path that leads to life instead of the wide path that ends in destruction.  Jesus teaches them how to be good salmon, swimming against the current of society on the way to judgment.  Jesus warns them that they will be going through some painful times in the days ahead.  While everyone else is celebrating his rejection, condemnation and crucifixion, they will be mourning.  But Jesus also promises that afterwards, their sadness will be turned to joy:

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” – John 16:20-22

                Friend, being a salmon can be tough.  It requires a lot of effort.  As Dallas Willard once correctly pointed out,   salvation is free and cannot be earned, the gospel is opposed to earning, but it is NOT opposed to effort.  It takes a lot of hard work to be a salmon and a disciple. Swimming against the current, when everything is working together to try to pull you in one direction can be painful and exhausting.  Like Hannah and like the disciples of Jesus, when everyone else is celebrating, you could find yourself crying.  But take heart and keep swimming against the stream, because one day your sadness will turn to joy, and no one can take that away from you.  Following Jesus is the way that leads to life, true life, everlasting life and joy.    

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 1-2 and John 16

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

Friend or Foe?

Don’t be Deceived!

Joshua 9-10

The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.

Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.

The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.

What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).

I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.

Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?

God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.

Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8

Don’t be deceived. Trust God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 9-10 and Psalm 62-64

Giving and Serving

Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39

The Tabernacle played a very important role for the Jews before the Temple era.  The Tabernacle served as the central area where the Jews worshiped God.  Therefore, it was important that the Tabernacle was well taken care of.  We discussed two days ago that the Levites were responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle.  Although not all the tribes participated in the actual work of the upkeep of the Tabernacle, the tribes did provide gifts for the Tabernacle.  When we think about the church today, we may not all partake in the physical upkeep of the church building.  However, we should follow the example set in Numbers 7, and everyone should provide for the needs of the church.

After 88 verses describing the different gifts that the tribes presented to the Tabernacle, Moses communicates with God.  Moses went into the tent of meeting (the Tabernacle), and God spoke to Moses from above the mercy seat that was on the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God to the Israelites, and it was an extremely important artifact for the Israelites.  I, along with Indiana Jones, have often wondered where in the world the Ark of the Covenant is located today. 

Chapter eight talks more about the responsibilities of the Levites.  Not only were the Levites responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, but they were responsible for serving the people of Israel at the Tabernacle.  The upkeep of the Tabernacle and the upkeep of our church buildings are important, but it is all for naught if we neglect the people of God.  Therefore, let these two chapters serve as a reminder to provide for our church buildings, but also more importantly to care for the people of God.

A note from Psalms:

“But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

Praise God that we serve a good God who hears and answers our prayers.  God may not always answer our prayers the way we want or expect to, but he will provide an answer.  Sometimes, we need to remember to wait on the LORD.

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39