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

The Early Church : The Message

John 20


I love the book of John, and I am so glad I get to lead us in this week, because John 20 is one of my favorite chapters. 


This week we are discussing the early church. We will be ending John and moving into Acts. While Luke shows us the crucifixion, resurrection, and later the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost as the beginning of the church, John shows us the beginning of the church here in chapter 20. 


In the opening verses, Jesus is RISEN! Jesus, in John, clearly laid down his life of his own accord, and clearly takes it up again. There is no doubt in the mind of Jesus or the author about what he was doing. Jesus was saving humanity! Jesus was giving the final sign that he is the Messiah, and 8th sign, signifying that he is creating something new. The disciples sprint to see the empty tomb but go away. Mary stays. Jesus sends her to let them know that his words were true, he had been raised, just as he said. He sends her out.


This sending of Mary is mirrored in what Jesus does to the apostles is verse 19. They are sitting in fear, but Jesus shows up and gives them his peace. Then in verse 22-23 we get a weird picture. Jesus breathes on his disciples, post-CoViD, masks, and social distancing, we may feel like Jesus was in their personal space. But he says, “Receive the spirit”. The Holy Spirit, the power, presence, and promise of God to those who would believe in the Messiah, is the very breath of Jesus. What John is showing is that this powerful spirit that shows up in Acts and shakes the city and changes the world, is the breath of Christ. He gives his disciples spirit for power, for forgiveness, for judgement. This is John showing us the birth of the church. 


However, the verses I want us to really see are the last three of the chapter. “Doubting” Thomas gets an unfair, if earned, nickname. Yes he doubted. But no one has ever brushed off a crucifixion before. No one gets executed and wakes up a couple days later. Jesus is the exception to the rule. But when Jesus shows up, Thomas believes, declaring “My Lord and My God.” Jesus recognizes the belief of Thomas and says “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who did not see, and yet believed.”


My brothers and sisters, that is you. Jesus spoke of how YOU are blessed for having faith without sight. Jesus knows that it is a difficult thing to believe, to be the church. But, like Mary, like Peter, like Thomas, like John, we are called, in faith, to tell others the message of the early church, the message that is still true today. “These things (the book of John) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) If you believe, have faith without sight, that Jesus is the Christ, as John has been showing, as Peter and Paul declared, as Jesus himself testified to for 40 days on earth, then YOU have life in his name. That is the message of the early church, it is the message of the medieval church, it is the message of the contemporary church, and it will be the message of the church until the end of the age. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we have life in his name. 


Let us, his breath-filled, Spirit-empowered followers, be his witnesses to the world. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here 1 Samuel 9-10 and John 20

John 1

How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?

What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?

John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.

John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.

John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.

It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.

John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.

So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.

So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).

Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.

Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.

In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.

Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.

We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.

I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 19-20 and John 1

Wait for it…Wait for it…

God’s Will and Way and Day

Joshua 5-6

Today’s reading includes one of the top 10 stories of the Old Testament – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. And the walls came a-tumbling down!

I love reading the Biblical account of this event. Imagine the army and priests given their marching orders – to March! That’s all, just march around the city once. There will be priests carrying the ark of the covenant and 7 priests blowing trumpets and armed men ahead and behind. And all you have to do is march around the city once and return to camp.

And day 2 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 3 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 4 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 5 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 6 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. This is not how battles are typically won. Are the people of Jericho laughing yet? They had been scared of the stories they had heard of a powerful God who saved His people from Egypt. But, this doesn’t look too threatening on day 6.

Wait for It…Wait for It…

And just keep up with your marching orders. God’s Will. His Way. And in His timing. Salvation could be right around the corner. Any day now. Don’t give up following God’s way when it seems you aren’t seeing results – yet. Day 7 is coming! Marching, Marching, Marching. His Will. His Way. His Day.

It is also exciting reading of the archeological evidence discovered at the site of old Jericho. The only place where archeologists have found all the walls fell down – outward. Also found were storage jars full of grain that had been burned along with the rest of the city – showing that the city was destroyed during harvest season (as recorded in the Bible) and not following a long siege. Just as the Bible records, the walls of Jericho fell, the city was thoroughly burned and then abandoned for a long time.

The God of Joshua and the God of the Battle of Jericho is still the God of today. His army tactics can be surprising. We have never seen a war won this way before. But because we know the final outcome, we know who reigns victoriously in the end, we will keep following His marching orders. His Will. His Way. His Day.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway hereJoshua 5-6 and Psalm 56-58

How do you fit into His story?

Luke 24

The Easter Story is one of the most beautiful stories ever written, and the best part is, it’s even true! It is a part of a plan written by God and fulfilled through Jesus by his obedience to death on the cross all those years ago. There was purpose in this suffering: so that the sins of the world could be forgiven. There is purpose in every season. Likewise there was purpose in his life of ministry and ultimately purpose in his resurrection. All the seasons of his life brought about God´s perfect and pleasing will. God can use anything and everything for His good. Even pain and suffering. Even a blood-stained cross. Even the death of His precious son.

Jesus knew what he was called to do and he followed through, he died on the cross for our sins. For three days the world was without hope. At the time they all believed that a Savior would come with sword and shield to bring victory over the Romans. It would then make sense that they would reject Jesus as their Messiah because his entire life and tragic death was the exact opposite as how they expected their Savior to come. Thankfully though, God gives us what we need not what we think we want. 

Although Jesus´ disciples were plainly told all the things that were to take place including the hope of Jesus´ resurrection, there was no anticipation of his return because they had forgotten that God´s plans are larger than life- even larger than death, Jesus´ death. They hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. Not only did he redeem Israel, but the world, just not in the way they believed it would happen. 

Someone asked me recently what my passions were. But it got me thinking, how do my passions and talents fit together into God´s grand plan? How do I fit into His story? The women who first found the tomb empty were staying focused on doing their ministry. Likewise the disciples all took part in the Great Commission, being witnesses of all that had happened. After Jesus´ ascension they set out to spread the gospel even to the point of becoming martyrs. How can I use where I am in life and who I am in Christ to further God’s plan?

Jesus entrusted his entire life- even life itself- into God´s hands. And it wasn´t without God´s response to Jesus´ obedience. The process is like the call and response section in the back of the hymn books. Back and forth between God and His people. It started in the beginning with God when he created the world and everything in it and brought forth the plan of salvation. Jesus already did his part by dying on the cross, and is now continually interceding for us to God. It’s our turn to call on God and turn our life into a living sacrifice in order for Him to respond in immeasurable ways. Jesus submitted to God´s will and God answered by raising him from the grave. In the same way I believe we as Christians are expected to follow the example Jesus set before us of obeying God´s calling for our life. Use the God-given talents and the passions he has placed on your heart to live for Him, serving Him wholeheartedly. And in God´s timing, His will and His ways will prevail.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGatewayJoshua 1-2 and Luke 24

The Scriptures Are for All Generations

Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

One huge benefit of living in our day and time is having an extensive body of God’s scriptures available to us. We can see scriptures that clearly confirm God’s plan has been actively unfolding throughout all ages and to each generation. Leviticus 16 explains the event that we refer to as the Day of Atonement.

The High Priest would follow the ordinances on one special day once a year to cleanse all the members of the community from their sins. The people would observe a Sabbath rest because on that day atonement would be made for them, to cleanse them. “Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Lev. 16:30)

Of course, as Christians we can see that these offerings were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We know that he is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14) who offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of sin.  He sacrificed his own blood for our forgiveness. He wanted us to be cleansed from all of our sins and to be reconciled to God.

That was carried out through his sacrificial death on the cross and amazingly Psalm 22 reveals what this experience was like for Jesus Christ.  David may be writing about personal experiences and yet he miraculously described the crucifixion. He wrote this event about 1,000 years before it occurred. This Psalm begins with the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet the Psalm ends in praise to God. It states that all future generations will serve Him and be told about the Lord. “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22:31)

We have the benefit of seeing the results and rewards that Christ accomplished for himself and for all his followers. Praise God that we have the scriptures that explain this to us. Scriptures that were written through many centuries and passed on to the next generations. We have a bird’s eye view of how beautifully God works through His faithful followers. Be faithful to share the scriptures with others because all that God has spoken through them will be accomplished.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 15-16 and Psalm 21-22

Rich and Poor

Leviticus 5-6

One thing that absolutely amazes me about God is that He desires that everyone would turn to Him and be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4-5). Although we know that not everyone will make this decision, this is a description of God’s heart; He earnestly wants all of us to join Him in the Kingdom of God! Since we know this to be true, it makes sense that God would provide a way for anyone to come and have their sins wiped clean, regardless of their circumstances. Within the descriptions of the sacrifices in Leviticus 5-6, we find that God does not only look out for the rich, but also for those who are poor and are struggling. God does not favor those who make more money, but provides for everybody, regardless of their wealth.

In describing the guilt offering in Leviticus 5, God commands that a lamb or goat be offered to Him to cover whatever sin that the person is guilty of (Leviticus 5:6). However, the next few verses are revealing of God’s nature and heart; if they cannot afford a lamb or goat (which were expensive in their time), there are other ways of offering the sacrifice to be forgiven. Even the poorest individual, who can only afford a small amount of flour (Leviticus 5:11) has the opportunity to be forgiven and come into God’s presence to be cleansed.

There are two revealing truths within these chapters of Leviticus. The first is that God does not favor the rich, but looks out for the poor as well. This truth is continued in the New Testament, even declaring that it is the poor who will inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3; James 2:5). Those who do not have much to offer are still able to come before the throne of God, through the sacrifices back then and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ now. In fact, Jesus teaches that those who sacrifice when they have little are giving more than those who have much, but choose to give little (Luke 21:1-4).

The second lesson is for those who are rich; you are expected to sacrifice more. Jesus stated that “everyone who has been given much, much will be required…” (Luke 12:48) God has entrusted you with more resources, but not just for your own benefit. You are expected to sacrifice more for God, which means giving more to those who are in need today (Matthew 25:31-40; Ephesians 4:28). You must also not think more highly of yourself, simply because you have more money than others. God does not look at financial well-being as a sign of blessing, since the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (James 2:5), but is simply a means for you to test your faith. What are you doing with your vast resources?

Every believer is expected to sacrifice something, whether great or small. What are you willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ fully, and what is holding you back?

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 5-6 and Psalm 10-11

Missing Jesus by an Acre

            In the book of Mark, chapter 10, we read this story about a devoted Jew, who understands that Jesus is someone special. He comes to Jesus and asks a really good question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). We know, having the luxury of being able to look back on all of Jesus’ teachings, that following Jesus and devoting our lives to him is what gives us the right to become children of God and heirs to eternal life. This is exactly what Jesus wants this unnamed man to do.

            Jesus asks this man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow him. Imagine being this man. Imagine owning 1,000 acres of land, filled with livestock, fields, barns and equipment. All of which would be worth millions of dollars. I mean, this is everything you have, maybe you inherited it from your father and plan on passing it to your children. This could have been in the family for generations, and with what we know of inheritance of Jewish property in the time of Jesus, it most likely was. Then Jesus asks you to sell all of it and give the money to the poor! Imagine what you would have done in his situation? Better yet, imagine what you have to lose?

            I don’t want you to miss Jesus by an acre. By that I mean, I don’t want you to miss following Jesus because of something that you’re holding onto in your life. The sad and ironic things is, later in the chapter Jesus says these words, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). There is nothing this unnamed man could have given up that he wouldn’t have received multiplied back to him in kingdom. The same goes for us, anything this world can offer, anything we have, is not even worth being compared to the riches of the kingdom.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 25-26 and Mark 10

You are Invited!

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 22 and Genesis 43 & 44

What was the best party you have ever been to? How did you get invited? What was your relationship with the host? With the guest of honor? Who else was there? What did you wear?

Or, maybe there was a party you were invited to that you didn’t make time for? Perhaps you didn’t really know the guest of honor that well so you weren’t too interested. Or maybe you were mad at the host so you stayed away? Or you figured it would be boring since they didn’t have (insert hobby/entertainment of choice). But then, come to find out – you missed out on the party of the century.

Jesus knew we like to talk about parties. Wedding receptions are particularly exciting – and royal wedding parties top the charts. So what a perfect parable and analogy for the Kingdom God is preparing. God is the King – and as host of the party he decides who to invite to this event of all events which will honor His Son – Jesus.

The guest list starts out somewhat small and elite which is very fitting for a royal party. The Jews were the first to be invited to the party. They could trace their heritage back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the fathers of the faith. But, they ignore their invite and the God who sent it. They don’t even RSVP. God sends his servants out as messengers (the prophets and those who speak for God) to remind God’s people of the graciousness of their host and the splendor of the party. But, the potential guests of the party are too deep into other things – their fields, their businesses, their homes, their selfish pursuits, their false gods. Most just ignore God’s messengers – but some decide the best way to decline the invite is through violence. In rage they attack God’s messengers, even killing some. For a time they may have thought they got away with it. But, God knows and delivers judgment.

The guests didn’t show but the party isn’t cancelled. God sends his messengers again. They hit the streets with new invitations. “Invite them all,” says the host. It no longer matters who your great great great grandfather was. It doesn’t matter who you were or what you did. Old, young, rich, poor, men, women, children, black, white, and every color in between. You are invited! And all your neighbors in the world are invited! Let the party begin.

But, wait – that’s not yet the end of the parable or God’s expectations. The host has indeed invited all and is ready to receive all into His Kingdom Party. But, you must come dressed appropriately for the party so you aren’t tossed out. No, God won’t check to see if you have a designer label – but He will check to make sure you have clothed yourself with salvation. To accept your invitation accept God’s Son as the only way to salvation. And then put on the robes of righteousness – seek to live the life that will bring glory to the Father and the Son. There are many passages that continue the analogy of being properly clothed with righteousness, not stained with sin – some are Job 29:14, Isaiah 61:10, Jude 23, Revelation 3:4 and 19:8).

The greatest party ever to come is about to begin and you and all your neighbors are invited. Don’t turn down the invite because you are mad at God or don’t know Jesus well or are busy at home and work. Accept His invitation. Come to the party. But don’t make the fatal error of trying to sneak in unprepared. Accept His Son and clothe yourself with righteousness. Make sure your neighbors know they are invited and help them select their proper attire.

And then – let the party begin!

-Marcia Railton

Back to the Beginning

Genesis 1 & 2 and Matthew 1

Shortly after awakening this morning, your body started releasing cortisol, your fight-or-flight hormone, into your body to prepare for today’s stress.  The concentration of these levels in our body might be higher today than most, as you feel the mounting pressure of the New Year.  You are trying to recover from staying up too late, or trying to implement a new routine, or trying to rid yourself of some addictive behavior.  Unfortunately, what you do today, and any stress that comes about, isn’t an isolated event.  It is the culmination of a lifetime of rehearsed behaviors.  If you are trying to shed a few pounds, you might be looking back to Thanksgiving or further as the culprit.  If you are trying to read your Bible more, which is why you may have very well ended up here today, you may look back to some chaos that was introduced into your life shortly after the beginning of 2020.  If you are trying to quit smoking/drinking, you may be looking back to college or high school years as its introduction.  If you are trying to reduce your screen time, you may look all the way back to your childhood when your parents let you watch TV without any limitations.  No matter the case, lasting change is hard to acquire.  Over time we have fashioned (or maybe more like, warped) our true nature, mold, or patterns, making it so hard to change.  Wow. Deflation complete.  And another round of cortisol is released.  Hang on – Don’t fly!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

Today, we revisit the beginning in a couple different fashions.  Not the start of a behavior, but the origin of the heavens, earth,and man.  Everything that has happened up to this point in the universe has its lasting signature of this single event.  The complex ecosystems of the earth, sea, and sky, the hanging of stars, planets, and galaxies in the heavens, and the most beautiful and the reason that all these things exist, our salvation plan that comes through Jesus Christ, come from a single origin: God.  All of them have their catalyst in the events that unfold in Genesis 1 and 2. Generation after generation, Matthew 1 tells of God’s alignment to move us from sin’s patient zero, Adam, in the Garden of Eden, in-and-out of lives of some very messed-up, still-sinning, trying to make their resolutions work people, to the Culminating Curer, Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:17,18

There is more. The plan doesn’t stop there – You and I are part of it. Since Jesus Christ offered propitiation for our sins, we can enter into the nature, the mold, the pattern for which we are created, not that one that has been fashioned by all the paper mache forms we have haphazardly placed in our life.  When we do this, we will find ourselves quite a bit more malleable than before because this is the form for which we’re truly made.  We get into shape by the Great Shaper. When we renew our thinking in this way, maybe the pounds are not the priority, but our prayer life (but it’s okay to lose the pounds, too).  Maybe we point our addictive behaviors in the direction of God to His worship and study.  Maybe we linger at church and fellowship or pile in the car after school to serve somewhere, instead of coming home to a favorite show.  And when you do not do these things, thank God, you can always go back to the beginning: salvation.  We do not have to wait on a sacrifice, we no longer are slaves to these things awaiting a Redeemer, when we seek out God, we are offered an instant renewal through repentance and grace.  Every day we have on Earth is the beginning, a New Year or season, and an opportunity to fight for a closer relationship with God than the day before.

-Aaron Winner

Welcome to the FIRST day of our 2021 Bible reading plan! Print your copy below so you can mark and keep track of your progress. Most days we will read 2 Old Testament chapters and 1 chapter from the New Testament or Proverbs or a few Psalms. Some people like to do one reading in the morning and one later in the day, others like to do both at the same time. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or more – but hop back in so you don’t miss His words to you.