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

Creating a Nation

Psalm 65-66 and Joshua 11-12

Joshua and the Israelites are getting things done and cleaning up Canaan land. Piece by piece, city by city, town by town, they are accepting their inheritance – the Promised Land that God has been preparing for them the past 430 years.

Beginning with the promise made to Abraham, the old man with no offspring, that if he followed God he would be made into the father of a great nation that would occupy the land. The promise was passed down to Isaac his miracle child, and given again to Isaac’s son Jacob, the father of 12 sons/tribes. It was these brothers that were saved by Joseph when he brought his family to Egypt to survive the famine in their land. A new pharaoh brought the Israelites into slavery and for the next few generations their numbers continued to grow in Egypt. Then Moses entered the scene with the 10 Plagues and “Let My People Go”.

This hasn’t been the easy way to grow a nation. But, God doesn’t have to go the easy route. He was not just creating any nation, but creating a holy nation that called on Him and relied on Him and followed Him.

In Joshua 11:15-16a it is recorded, “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took this entire land…”

The work passed on to the next generation and the promise passed on to the next generation. And here they were, back in the land where Abraham had pitched his tent. They were seeing the fulfillment of so many years of waiting and watching to see how God would make His promises come true. They had seen the waters of the Jordan stop flowing at flood stage so they could cross into this land. They had felt the ground shake when the walls of Jericho came down. They had witnessed the sun standing still! This was not a usual way to create a nation, because they did not have a usual God!

I love that this same awe of God is found about 200 years later in the writings of David. David is still writing about when God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6), as well as His majestic creation, His forgiveness, His care through rain and crops, and His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).

I especially love a passage from yesterday’s Psalm reading – Psalm 62:11-12

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard;

that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

We serve a strong and loving God who rewards his faithful children. It is not enough for God to just be powerful (that could be scary). It is not enough for God to just be loving (that is also scary if you consider a loving but powerless God). But a loving and powerful God is the one I want to follow. He will have good things for His children and the strength to deliver them. Just as He delivered in mighty ways for the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land under the outstretched arm of Joshua, God is now preparing the fulfillment of all His promises in the Coming Kingdom of God which will be ushered in at the return of His Son Jesus. And that is an event you don’t want to miss.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 11-12 and Psalm 65-66

Just So You Know

Joshua 3-4 & Psalm 53-55

Yesterday, Makayla wrote about God’s plan and how perfectly Jesus accepted and fulfilled his part in allowing his body to be sacrificed and overcome by death – for 3 days. And she challenged us to consider how we will each respond, how will we play our part in the unfolding of God’s plan and His will. For each generation, and indeed each individual throughout history has the opportunity to choose how they will respond. Some have chosen very wisely.

Since January first our Old Testament reading has been in one of the first 5 books of the Bible – the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses. We have seen God’s plan unfold from His spectacular creation, the beginnings of life, to the the flood, the rainbow, and the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We saw how God provided for every generation including food during famine and a miraculous family reunion for Jacob and Joseph. And that was all just in the book of Genesis. Next came 4 books and 120 years of God leading and protecting His people through His man Moses – from the basket in the river to the Pharaoh’s palace, from Moses’ stumbling speech at the burning bush to the far side (the safe side) of the Red Sea, from the gift of the Ten Commandments to that wretched Golden Calf, from the mountaintop to the tabernacle God has shown His faithfulness and how He deserves to be followed. He led the Israelites right to the door of the Promised Land, but then ten of the twelve spies chickened out and the people forfeited their chance to be led by God into the land flowing with milk and honey. Instead, that generation would die in the next 40 years as they were wandering in the desert wilderness. Meanwhile, their children were growing up, preparing to wear their dead parents’ sandals (the same ones God made sure didn’t wear out) into the good land promised to the grandchildren of Abraham. Every generation, every individual gets to choose their response to God and His faithfulness.

So, here we are reading the first book of the Old Testament books of History – the book of Joshua. Moses has just died and the reigns of leadership have been passed on to the man who has been Moses’ sidekick for years. Before Moses’ death he had written out the early history of God’s people and God’s laws so that Joshua and those who would follow would know and remember. Moses and God had instilled into Joshua the need to return daily (day and night) to God’s Word as recorded by Moses: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9 NIV)

This, too, is the key to our response. Stay daily in God’s Word (all 66 books now – what a treasure trove). The world is still a scary place, just as the 12 spies discovered. And, without a daily dose of God’s Word it is easy to lose sight of God’s provision and lose the strength and courage that comes only from a solid foundation in God’s power and promise.

As Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land it is still the land of giants and fortified cities that had scared away the generation that came before him. But, armed with God’s Word he has the courage to go with God. And God does not disappoint. The first obstacle is the Jordan River at flood stage. Not a problem. Once the feet of the priests touch the water’s edge the waters stop flowing and the people walk across on dry ground. God has Joshua select one man from each tribe to carry out a rock from the middle of the Jordan and these 12 stones are erected to form a monument to God’s miraculous provision, so they can remember and tell the next generation.

It is part of our response to His goodness. Remember. And tell the next generation. I have never seen that pile of rock. But I have seen God at work in my life and at work in the generations before me. And, I have a great gift that lasts longer than the greatest pile of rock – God’s Word. It has been given that I might know the Almighty Father and what He has done. Without it, my memory fails me, and I am fearful. Without it, I lose my courage in a scary world of giants. But, with it, I am armed with strength and courage that only God can – and has – provided. In a scary world – turn to His Word daily.

In our Bible reading today we also have a portion of the Psalms written by David. It reminds us everyone won’t have a wise response to courageously step out and follow God’s plan in a scary world. Every generation also has the fools who say in their hearts that there is no God. (Psalm 53:1) The noise of evil can be loud and distracting and scary, but like David and Joshua and Jesus and every generation and individual we have a choice who we listen to and how we respond. Be in His Word and follow His Way. He knows the way into the Promised Land and He knows how to do the impossible. There is no obstacle too great for our God. Arm yourself with His Word daily. Remember. And tell the next generation.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Joshua 3-4 and Psalm 53-55

Best Parade Ever

Luke 19

I love to plan parties! I’m usually up late the night before a big party getting all the details just right—making signs, assembling favors, and arranging decorations. Meanwhile, my God plans parades centuries in advance! He planned the famous parade we commemorate each year on Palm Sunday: Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. 

Daniel received a vision about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, about 600 years before it was to happen: 

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” (Daniel 9:25) 

It’s important to note that the ‘sevens’ described by Daniel are each periods of seven years. The math makes my head spin (not everybody used the same calendar back then… talk about confusing!), but historians have found Daniel’s vision astonishingly accurate. The time between the issue to rebuild Jerusalem went out (Nehemiah 2) and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is just as God said it would be, to the very year. God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail. 

In the book of Zechariah, the world’s best party planner gives even more insight into how this day would unfold:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

And so it came to be—Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The gospels contain several descriptions of that bitter-sweet day—Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12. Up until this point, Jesus kept his status as the begotten Son of God a secret, urging his disciples not to reveal his identity to anyone (Matthew 16:20). On that day, however, his disciples shouted among the masses, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)In that same city, in that same week, the cries of “Hosanna!” would turn into shouts of “Crucify!”

As we wave our palm leaves at church this morning, remembering Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem years ago, let us also remember the parade still to come. Close your eyes and imagine the grandeur of Jesus’ second coming—the roar of the trumpets, the raising of the dead, and the overwhelming noise of centuries worth of believers worshipping at the feet of Jesus. No more death, no more crying, no more pain:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:2-4)

God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail. 2,000 years ago Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem to die. Soon he will return to Jerusalem again to bring life everlasting.

Hosanna in the highest!

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible readings can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 21-22 and Luke 19

Clean and Restored

Leviticus 13-14 and Psalm 19-20

I am amazed by the similarities between our pandemic world and the requirements Israelites were told to follow in Leviticus. Quarantining, social distancing, infected people covering the lower part of their faces, … Unfortunately, sickness is a part of our fallen world. It is a reminder that we are not in that perfect, future Kingdom of God, and it also makes us long for the Kingdom.

We have to live in a world that sometimes hits us with pestilence. God prepared the Israelites for this.  The Priests of Israel were given specific criteria to examine and quarantine those that were affected by defiling skin diseases. The priests also had to examine areas and items that might harbor defiling molds. I know, I know, some of you might think “EWW, gross” while reading chapter 13 of Leviticus. But having so much information given to the priests shows a great deal of mercy. First, mercy is shown to those that were dealing with the diseases. The priests were to examine and diagnose the diseases from defined criteria, not guesswork or intuition. Mercy was shown to the person possibly infected by quarantining and reexamining after multiple 7 day periods. Time was allowed for healing or for the disease to develop. Those affected by molds had to have their buildings or their articles inspected. It insured that the owners were protected from these dangerous molds. Secondly, the whole Israelite community was being protected from health threats.

Chapter 14 shows us restoration and cleansing. I think the ceremonies enabled the Israelites to physically experience this occasion of being pronounced clean.  When Christ Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, he gave us a glimpse of what is in store. A time of restoration. There will be a time of complete restoration for our world. We can rejoice because we know that the time will come for “God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21).

I hope that your reading of Psalm 19 & 20 encourages you to lean into the LORD, our strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. Let Him clean and restore you.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 13-14 and Psalm 19-20

The First People to See Jesus

Mark 16

            There is a scene in Mark 16 where three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome are all going to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, after he had died. There is a similar account in each of the other gospels, the books of Matthew, Luke and John. In the accounts from the other gospels, there are many different details mentioned, but one detail that remains the same through all of the accounts: women were the first to know Jesus was alive! The fact that women were the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection brings validity to scripture. Let me explain how.

            First, we need to understand the culture in which Jesus lived. During his time, women’s testimonies were not taken seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I think women and men are equally trustworthy and both should be taken seriously, but that wasn’t the view during the time of Jesus. There is a book called the Talmud which is an extra-biblical book that contains Jewish teaching and theology. Here is a quote from the Talmud which pointedly explains this view, “but let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their gender…since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” Once again, these are not my thoughts and I’m not agreeing with them, but this was a common belief during the time period. Understanding how women’s testimonies were viewed is important because it probably means this account wasn’t fabricated.

            You see, if someone wanted to make up a fake story about Jesus coming back to life during the first century, they probably would not have used women as the first on the scene and the first to report the news about Jesus’ resurrection. A made up story probably would have used the more trustworthy and reliable testimony of men to tell this story. Remember, this is how they thought back then. As a side note, Jesus didn’t think this way. He on multiple occasions showed favor to women. Taking into consideration the mainstream view in the first century, some historians, like Bart Ehrman, think that because women were recorded as the first people to learn of Jesus’ resurrection this is not a made up account. This means that there is more evidence pointing to the gospels being a true historical account instead of a made up story.

            To me, it is nice to hear little bits of information like this to boost my confidence in scripture. Not that I would disbelieve without this evidence, but it is reassuring to hear educated people talking about the Bible as if it is an accurate historical document, and not a made up story. These types of arguments are most common in apologetic circles. Apologetics simple means defending. People who spend their time defending the faith and the Bible are called apologists. So now, you are one nugget of information closer to becoming a great apologists for the Bible. And maybe your faith in the Bible has grown as well.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 37-38 and Mark 16

Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton

How to Get a Spouse

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 23 & 24 and Matthew 12

In Genesis 24, we find the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his beloved son Isaac.  It’s interesting that the story of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 required only 31 verses, but that this chapter about a wife for Isaac, with its 67 verses is the longest chapter in Genesis.  In addition to the obvious story we read in this chapter,  I think there are additional things we can learn from this chapter.  As I read about the story of finding a wife for Isaac, I see a parallel with GOD (Abraham in this story) finding a bride (the church for Christ, Rebekah for Isaac) for His beloved son, Jesus (Isaac in this story).  I also see lessons for us to consider when seeking a spouse.  This will get long, but I’ll try to touch briefly on the story, the comparison with God, and application for marriage.

Abraham had been following the Lord for 65 years by this point in our story.  Abraham wanted to arrange the marriage for Isaac to the right wife, before he died.  The story starts with Abraham giving instructions to his servant.  Genesis 24: 3-4 says, “I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I’m living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant travelled hundreds of miles (possibly nearly 500 miles) with servants and 10 camels loaded with gifts to get to where Abraham’s relatives lived.  Once he got there, before doing anything else, he prayed, as recorded in Genesis 24: 12-14, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink. And she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”  He not only prayed, he also asked for a sign to know who was the right one.

While he was still praying, Rebekah came out to draw water.  He asked her to give him some water – which she did, and then went ahead and watered his camels too, without being asked.  (Note:  a single thirsty camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water – she was obviously a hard worker.)  During all this, the servant just watched quietly and waited.  

He then asked, “whose daughter are you.”  Once he found out she was related to Abraham, he immediately bowed down and worshiped God.  When he did this, Rebekah ran back home to tell her mom what happened – leaving the servant at the well.

Rebekah’s brother, Laban, came out to invite the servant to come home with him.  Before the servant would even eat, he wanted to tell the reason for his visit.  Once he told them about Abraham, and Isaac, he asked the family if Rebekah could marry Isaac.  They decided to leave that up to Rebekah, who said, “Yes.”

The servant gave both Rebekah and her family many gifts.  The servant also told how rich Abraham was, and that he had given everything to his son Isaac – indicating how rich Rebekah would be once she married Isaac.

The next day, the servant wanted to take Rebekah and go back home.  Her family wanted to wait a while.  They asked Rebekah, and since she was eager to go too, they left right away.

As soon as they got back to Isaac, the servant gave an account to Isaac of all he had done.  Then Rebekah married Isaac, and they lived happily ever after – or at least, “So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Parallel:  I see similarities between Abraham as a loving father, and God.  And between Isaac, who had a miraculous birth, and was obedient to the point of being sacrificed, and Jesus.  Rebekah, the bride for Isaac, reminds me of the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Neither Abraham nor Isaac went to find a bride, instead, Abraham sent a faithful servant, who swore to be obedient to Abraham’s wishes.  The unnamed servant referred to Abraham as “my master” 19 times in this chapter.  Everything he did was to obey and serve his master.  (We would do well to take this to heart ourselves, as servants of God.)  Neither God nor Jesus are physically present today to build the church.  God sends faithful servants to invite “sinners” to become “the bride of Christ”.

The servant was eager to complete his master’s mission.  Once the bride accepted the invitation, she too was eager to complete the task.  I think it’s imperative that we faithfully serve God eagerly.  Also, once a person decides to accept the invitation to join God’s family, I think it is imperative they respond quickly, otherwise, they may slip away.

The servant gave gifts that were sort of a down payment of immeasurable wealth Rebekah would receive once she joined the family, which is reminiscent of 2 Cor 1:22 which says God’s Holy Spirit in believers is a deposit, guaranteeing the promise that is to come.

Finally, when the servant got back, he had to give an account to Isaac, which reminds us that one day, each of us will have to give an account of our lives (Romans 14:12) and even for every idle word we say (Matthew 12:36).  Will we be a “good and faithful servant?”

Application for marriage:  Christians should not marry non-Christians.  2 Corinthians 6:14 says that believers should not be unequally yoked to unbelievers.  1 Corinthians 7:39 says that if a woman’s husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wants, but only a believer.

Christian’s should pray for God’s direction, ask God for confirmation, watch the person’s character to see if this may be the right one, verify they are a hard worker and they are in the right family (the family of God) – all before ever considering asking (or accepting) “will you marry me”.

–Steve Mattison

Times will be Tough; Keep the Faith!

2 Timothy 1-4

I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?


Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message. 


Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.

So what does he say?


Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL. 


This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)


Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. 
A Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever. 

Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ. 


May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times. 

May you proclaim the faith boldly.

May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.

Tomorrow we will read 2 Peter and Jude.

How Far Will You Go?

Acts 20:4-23:35

Acts 20:22-24  And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

That is the Apostle Paul laying it out pretty clearly.  He was willing to go to prison and give up his own life in order to fulfill the job that Jesus had given him.  And of course he did go to prison, and he did lose his life.  But what an impact he had, and even more so because of his willingness to put the gospel above his own safety.  That is one of the reasons his message stood out.

How far are you willing to go to stand for Christ?  Christians have not suffered very dire persecution in this country yet.  Some slight persecution, yes, but nothing like what Paul had to endure.  And nothing like what many Christians in Africa, China and other areas of the world have to endure today.  There is a book called Jesus Freaks that details the stories of many modern martyrs for Christ.  It’s a tough read.  As I read it, I wondered if I would have the strength and courage to continue to stand for Christ in the face of the consequences they faced.  I kind of doubted it because I am not a big fan of being tortured.  I don’t even like feeling hunger pains from missing a meal.  I’m pretty spoiled. 

But focusing on the momentary pain is holding the wrong point of view.  What is a moment compared to eternity?  Paul was focused on his goal to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him.  The greeting that Jesus is likely to give Paul upon the Apostle’s resurrection is “Well done good and faithful servant.”  Sometimes I wonder if my greeting will be “I hardly knew you,” due to some of the choices I make in my life.

It is far too easy to deny Christ in little ways here and there.  Such as not telling a coworker you are praying for them for fear of offending them.  Not telling someone something like “May God Bless You” so that you don’t look too “Christiany.”  (If that’s even a word – spell check doesn’t think so.)  Or maybe if you are not willing to stand up and call a behavior wrong within a group of people that is calling that behavior right.

We as Christians are going to have a LOT of opportunities for that last one in particular in the days to come.  For example, I can envision attempts to begin to categorize sections of scripture as hate speech under our country’s current direction.  What do we do then? 

So how far will you go in those types of situations?  Will you stand up for the truth of God’s word, even if it perhaps meant going to jail?  What are the lines you are going to draw in the proverbial sand?  I encourage you to draw the lines now and stick to them.  God’s word does not change.  What you know to be true, or right or good now, is also going to be true or right or good in five years, and then again in ten years.  But society will likely say it isn’t true or right or good any more over that time span.  When that happens, we are more likely to change our own stance.  I and you have already seen this in action in the church at large in the last two to three decades at least.  That is why it is important to think upon these things now and and decide to make a stand in our minds.

Acts 21:12-14  When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

May we all have the courage and fortitude of Paul, because the temporary pleasures of this life and this time are not worthy to be compared to the eternal gift of kingdom living.  Times are only going to get tougher for Christians in this world and in this country.  Don’t deny Christ in order to experience the current age longer at the risk of losing entry into the next age later.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:4-23:35.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 24-26.