Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Revelation 16

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Chapter 16 picks up with the angels and their bowls of plagues that describe some horrible and disastrous things that are happening to the earth.

In the middle of it all we get a message:

““Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.””

Revelation 16:15 NLT

Like Matthew 24 – the thief comes when those in the house will be least likely expecting it. 

As a kid, I remember playing hide and go seek with my dad. I figured out a way to actually not be found. I found a way to sneak in between the walls. No one could find me and it was great. Until it was not. After not being found for 10-15 minutes, I would get bored, get out of my hiding spot and make my way to do something else. And every time my dad would look at me and say, “Found ya. I win!”

I think that happens with us too. We get distracted or bored while waiting. That is when we move away from our calling.  We let our guard down and while we least expect it – ready or not, here he comes. 

Again we see another reminder to remain faithful and vigilant. We all will be found. Will you be found faithful and ready? Or ashamed and not? 

-John Wincapaw

Reflection Questions

  1. Say a prayer to God about how you want to be found.

God’s Answers and Timing

Job 38

Monday, July 4, 2022

It is no secret that we come to times in our lives where all we want are answers. All we want is for God to bring us some incredible miracle and clash of thunder and then, BOOM! Everything makes sense. God is full of miracles. They may not always be what we were expecting or at the time we expected them, but they are incredible just the same.

Job 38:1 says,

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said: Who is this that obscures my counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer me like a man; when I question you, you will inform me.

This is Job’s first-time hearing God speak to him. After all he has been through, and all the struggles, Gods first words are not what you would expect. God’s answers reflect the point he is making to Job, that we cannot demand answers from God, BUT he is also letting Job know that he is still there, and he is listening. The times when God is silent are the worst times to us. But something to remember is that, even though he is silent doesn’t mean he isn’t there. He is watching and waiting to show us his grand plan.

Sometimes all we need in life is to understand, that there are no great answers for our situations, but that God has a plan in every situation we face that is for our ultimate good. As God continues to speak in Job 38, we see God asking Job tons of questions that no one could possibly answer, and we aren’t meant to answer them. We are meant to simply sit back and trust that God knows the answers and he has our life in his hands.

            Job 38:12 goes on to say,

            “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or assigned the dawn its place so it may seize the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it?”

God is using the morning as an example to explain to Job and us, that we are not in control of the things that will happen. We are to trust him and his timing for the answers or outcomes we are seeking. Sometimes it is the waiting that grows our faith the most because we have a moment to sit and wait for the next door to open. We can sit peacefully with God.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. Is there a place in your life where you are begging God to speak? What is it, and how can you let go?
  2. What does God questioning Job mean to you? Could you imagine the Lord speaking to you that way?
  3. What does a time of waiting mean to you? What are you waiting for in your life? How can you grow closer to God in this time of waiting?

Our Bodies Belong to God

1 Corinthians 7

June 8

1st Corinthians chapter 7 presents us with Paul explaining to the church the importance of Christian liberty in marital relations. This chapter is all about the importance of the Christian concept of marriage and how it needed to be established in the early church.

            In Paul’s letter he writes about the principles of marriage, but he also writes about singleness, in 1st Corinthians 7:4 Paul says,

            “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.

In a marital relationship, the husband and wife belong to one another, just as we belong to God in our relationship with him. We can also see this in how Elihu speaks to Job in Job 33:6.

            “Look, you and I both belong to God. I, too, was formed from clay.

We all belong to God in everything we do. We are to trust God in his decisions for our lives and the places we are to go, just as our spouse is to rely on us in our relationships.

            Paul also speaks of singleness in chapter 7. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:8-9, and verses 32-35.

            “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

            “I want you to be without concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord. How he may please the Lord. But the married man is concerned with the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman is concerned with the things of the world, and how she may please her husband. I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.

Paul isn’t saying we shouldn’t be married or have relationships, but he is saying, that when we are in them it is important to not lose sight of your faith, and to devote yourself to God first. Sometimes our seasons of singleness are God’s way of pulling us closer to him, and that is one of the most important periods in our life. We have an opportunity to be devoted to only God and spend time learning who he wants us to be.

This is where I have been in my life lately. I’m realizing that my relationship with God must come first before I am able to have a relationship with someone else, so that we can strengthen each other through our faith in Christ. God wants a relationship with us, and for us to trust in him first and foremost.

-Hannah Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Whether you are single or married, how can you deepen your devotion to God?
  2. What is the person to do who is married to an unbeliever? Why?
  3. If you will be choosing a spouse, what does Paul say he/she has to be? Why?
  4. If you are married, how can you work (ideally, together, with your mate) at keeping God first?

Seek Help from the LORD

2 Chronicles 20

March 22

Well, if you were called on to read today’s chapter aloud (II Chronicles 20), it certainly starts with some fancy names to stumble over. So, before I even got to verse 2, I already had to do a little research to really understand things. To set the stage for us, let’s read verse 1 and get a bit of a picture of who our characters are:

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 20:1)

Both the Moabites and Ammonites were pagan idolatrous people, and both were started through the incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughter in Genesis 19. While somewhat “related” to Israel since Lot was Abraham’s nephew, unfortunately  they did not worship the same God, and in turn,  God had given Israel warnings not to marry from their nations and not to adopt their customs or their gods. Moabites worshipped Baal. The Ammonites worshipped Milcom and Molech and were known for cruelty and infant sacrifice to Molech. And the Meunites seem to be an Arab tribe that was another enemy to Israel/Judah.

So, pretty much in this chapter, there are a bunch of enemies waging war against Judah. Things don’t look good.  The men, women, and children of Judah have gathered together. Often when this happened it would have been for a feast or celebration. But, not this time. They were scared and according to verse 4,

The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him”

Verses 5-12 show us how they sought God with Jehosophat leading them in fervent prayer. And then God sends his spirit upon Jehaziel who says something in verse 15 to lift some spirits,

“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

As you read the rest, you’ll see that this story does have a happy ending and the people finally get their celebration and chance to whip out the harps and lyres! But, not because of them or for them. It was because of God and for God.

The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”

There are some big enemies of God’s people today and we are living in a land full of other gods. Some are overt like the growing voice of Satan worshippers, modern paganism, and certainly some sorrowful practices with the way we treat infant life. But, others are far more subtle and creep in through media, entertainment, politics, education, and a general trend away from scriptures and the words of a sovereign God to relying on our own feelings and self-reliance .  I doubt many would look at America or most Christian organizations and see a people set apart worshipping the one true God. The other gods are here. The adopted customs are here. The enemies are here.  And in order to be rescued, it doesn’t require us investing in stockpiles of food and weapons. Instead, it takes fervent prayer and intentional seeking of the God who fights our battles and the one who is worthy of the glory He deserves.

-Jennifer Hall

Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. What enemies of God and His ways do you see in our world today? What is the danger in not recognizing these as enemies?
  2. What do you do first when confronted by enemies or facing the unknown? What did Jehoshaphat do?
  3. Reread Jehoshaphat’s prayer. What does he include besides just asking for help? How does he ask for help? How can you incorporate these into your prayer life?
  4. What did Jehoshaphat send to the front of the army? Why? What was happening at the same time that God was setting up ambushes against the enemy (vs 22)? How can you employ this powerful tactic in your battle plans?

Come Alive

Ezekiel 37-38

As a child of God, it is your duty to understand how to bring praise and worship to the LORD as a sacrifice to him. Worshipping our God should not only give you joy but also bring joy to our incredible God and to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

The past two years have been a whirlwind for all of us. I don’t have to write it to remind you of the turmoil that our world has been in. In this historic time, its natural for us to become down–depressed even. It’s easy to think that hope is lost. 

This week, I encourage you to remember that we have a never failing — never ending — hope. In this series, I remind you of who you are– who God has made you to be — a worshipper for him. Our King has never lost a battle. He never will. I remind you that this world is going to fail you–it’s not the Kingdom of God. But, I urge you to remember that his kingdom is coming. Let’s worship while we wait for our coming King.

We call out to Dry Bones – Come Alive…

Each day, I am going to relate this devotion to a song in worship that connects to the scriptures we are focusing on. Today our song is, “Come Alive” by Lauren Daigle. I hope this song fills your heart as much as it does mine. 

“Come Alive”  is taken from Ezekiel 37.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:3-6

God always has a way of showing up doesn’t he? Our God is never late. And he proves that over and over again. In Ezekiel 37, we see a picture of hopelessness. I envision these bones to be turning to dust. If I saw this, I would be drawn toward the idea of death—nothingness—pure loss. But, somehow Ezekiel sees these bones as an opportunity for God. 

Ezekiel calls upon the LORD to make something out of what seems like nothing. The prophet believed so deeply in the giver of life that he had the courage to ask God to renew life in these bones! 

As a modern-day believer, I become convicted when I open my Bible and get a taste of the spiritual confidence that the men and women of the scriptures had. They didn’t just see and hear— they ran forward in action! 

After Ezekiel makes this act of faith, we see that these bones weren’t nothing! They belonged to the people of Israel. Before Ezekiel’s eyes, stood the men and women who sacrificed it all in order to achieve freedom. And, they did. 

Okay, I get where your head is likely going… “Les, what dry bones do I have that need to come alive?” 

For us, these scriptures are less about physical resurrection and more about being wholly rejuvenated in Spirit. How many people–this may include yourself–are giving the bare minimum for God? How many of you feel how hard it is to get up on Sunday morning? How many of you are simply…tired? 

This feeling is what leads us to having spiritually dry bones. 

We have to ask God to make us alive again in him. And we must pray for our spiritual brothers and sisters that they do the same.

“We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive.” 

My prayer for you this Sunday is that you become spiritually alive – totally revived. I pray for your churches this morning, and for your pastors. Let us ask God to fill us with the breath of life–in order to be renewed, and to be strong once again.

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at here – Ezekiel 37-38 and Psalm 123-125

Driving God Out

Ezekiel 7-8

Ezekiel 8:6 – And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing – the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.”

For better or worse, I tend to be a bit territorial. I get sort of grumpy when someone else parks in the spot that I like to park in at work. 

In high school my friends and I sat at the same spot in the cafeteria for practically four years. In my senior year, a group of underclassmen had the audacity to sit at our table. The gall! We made them get up and move. 

As a teacher, I had colleagues play a prank on me. They had the custodian let them into my room after I had left for the day so that they could completely rearrange my tables, desks, and chairs. The next day, I had an early morning meeting and wasn’t able to open up my room until just a few minutes before the bell was to ring. When I opened the door, I found all of the furniture stacked up in a corner of the room. I was almost in tears, the situation stressed me out so much! Thankfully, my first hour class understood and helped me get the room put back together. 

My experiences are the teeniest, tiniest speck of “problems” when compared to what is described in Ezekiel chapter eight. In verse six, God says that the action of the Israelites have driven Him far from His sanctuary. The glorious temple, the Holy of Holies, is where the Spirit of God resided. But because God cannot exist where evil exists, He was kicked out of His own house! Talk about audacious behavior! 

Jump forward to the New Testament with me. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.

My friends, are you living a righteous life? Are you choosing with your actions to be set aside for God’s purposes? Or are you living in rebellion? 

I’m certainly not speaking of living a perfect life, but a life that honors God with your thoughts, words, and actions? If so, then God’s Spirit is residing in you. If not, God Spirit is not residing in you. 

This is why Paul reminds us that we are not our own and we should behave accordingly, so that our bodies can remain the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

No one likes being kicked out of what they’ve claimed as their rightful space, even God, especially God. He is your Creator and has claimed your heart as His Home. Live today in such a way that invites Him to stay.  

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 7 & 8 and 1 Peter 5

Identity: Made in God’s Image

This week’s theme is all about our identity in Christ. In our modern society, we associate our identity with things like our name, age, what we look like and our personality. But in reality, our identity is not who WE say we are or even how the world perceives us. Rather, our identity is not WHO we are but WHOSE we are. Our identity is who God says we are. We’ll get into that in a little bit, but I first wanted to share a summary of why this topic resonates with me so much. So, let’s go on a little journey.

My biological parents got divorced when I was a toddler, so I was too young to remember any of that process. However, this granted my mom physical custody and my biological father weekend visitations. From my early childhood up until my pre-teen years, he was mostly in my life, but the consistency tapered off as I got older. When I did have visits with him, they were traumatic because of the choices he made. There were consistent patterns of irresponsible and violent behavior that resulted in me no longer having contact with him.

Through these experiences, I learned a lot about identity, even though I didn’t recognize that at the time. But in retrospect, I subconsciously sought out validation from other people and I placed my worth and my identity on the perceptions of others. I felt the need to prove something to this world and I got so exhausted trying to be liked and understood for who I thought I was. I didn’t understand until much later that my identity came from God, and that I could rest in Him knowing that I didn’t have to seek anything out from my peers or the World.

So, let’s go back to who God says we are. What is our true identity? Throughout the week, we will look at specific attributes of who God says we are, focusing on a unique one each day.

Today, we will concentrate on attribute number 1: We are made in God’s image. That means we reflect and display who He is. We’re not perfect like Him, of course, but we resemble and reflect Him because he made us with intention. But how do we go about bearing God’s image in our daily lives?

1) We are to reflect the fruits of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

2) We are to bring glory and honor to Him through our actions and genuine worship. (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31)

3) Jesus spoke and acted with the authority of his Father (Matthew 28:18) and therefore we are to reflect Jesus’ examples of love, ministry, compassion, obedience and sacrifice.

4) We should see people for how God sees them and love them as He does. Loving God and loving people is exactly how we achieve our Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) of making disciples of all nations.

5) Being in fellowship with other believers (Acts 2:42).

6) We rest in Him in order to lay our burdens at His feet and regain His strength so that we can fulfill our purpose (which will talk about tomorrow!).

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 9-10 and Galatians 5

Punishment and Unconditional Love: Are we taking God for granted?

Job 29-30 and Psalm 78

For today, we were supposed to read Job 29 and 30 along with Psalms 78. When I read this I had a few things pop into my head. What do I want from God? God’s unconditional love, punishment from God, and am I taking God for granted? The last three were my biggest ones. These two books show a lot of God’s unconditional love. With every punishment God has given these people, he also shows them his unconditional love. (Psalm 78:17-18) No matter what happens God will always show you his unconditional love, whether you feel you deserve it or not. In everyday life you will always see his unconditional love. Going along with this theme, we can ask ourselves, are we taking him for granted? Psalms 78:11 says “ They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them” How often do we come to God to thank him and remember what he’s done for us, rather than asking him for something we need? When I pray I always ask him for something, rarely do I remember to give thanks to him for his mercy is greater than anything I could imagine. Psalm 78:22 “ for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.” Have you ever had your back turned on him, because something didn’t seem fair to you? I feel we often doubt him because something wrong happened and you can feel betrayed or feel like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. We must trust in him that he has a plan bigger than what we can see. My last thought is, have you ever thought about how much he has done for us? His unconditional love is so great that he would do anything for us.

-Genesis Dylewski – a teen who is working hard at creating Atomic Habits and sharing God’s goodness with others. Thank you, Genesis!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Job 29-30 and Psalm 78

Growing Out of the World

Yesterday we talked a little bit about the idea of remaining in Jesus/the vine from John 15. Continuing on in that chapter today, we see that we are called to be set apart from the world’s “garden” of goods. We are to belong to Jesus and be called out from the world. And it sounds like we shouldn’t anticipate popularity for this.

John 15: 16-19:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Verse 19 tells us that that world will love us when we belong to it.  It seems like many days it is easier to be loved by the world than it is to be set apart. If we watch what the world watches, busy ourselves with its entertainment, immerse ourselves in its news and social media, agree with its “wisdom” and ambitions, share its worries, and dedicate our time and energy to pursuits of this world, we can easily find ourselves part of it. With some pretty deep roots. We will be accepted and liked. We won’t offend anyone. We will fit in. Or at least we won’t stand out? We might have some temporary fun. People will smile at us, agree with us, boost our ego, and…..we will belong.  But, we will belong to the world, and there are consequences.

Scripture speaks heavily to the idea of being “called out” or “set apart” from the world. This passage is one of those. We are currently living in a world abounding in evil and deceit. Deceit that runs so deep in so many places that anyone who follows Jesus likely will be hated at times. Looking at Jesus’s example, being watchful for times the world’s ideas contradict that example and his words, and seeking to love and obey are crucial to ensure that we are growing “out” of the world and not “in” it.  I look forward to a day when Jesus reigns and is no longer hated ,when we are in God’s perfect kingdom without sin, and when this world and its problems have passed away!

–Jennifer Hall

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 11-12 and 2 Corinthians 7

Overcoming your Thoughts

Reading for today:

Ezra 3-4 … 1 Corinthians 3

If you were to get the Bjorksnas dresser from Ikea with all of its 678 (just a guess) pieces, are you the kind of person who would meticulously follow the instructions or are you more of a ‘this looks about right’ kind of person?

Twice in today’s passage, Ezra records that the people returning from exile did things “in accordance with what is written”

“Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests along with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his brothers began to build the altar of Israel’s God in order to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2)

“They celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed, and offered burnt offerings each day, based on the number specified by ordinance for each festival day.” (Ezra 3:4)

What makes this even more impressive is what we find out in between these two verses:

“They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.” (Ezra 3:3)

Even though they feared…

They did all these things, so careful to faithfully follow the specific instructions of their God, despite their fear. Impressive.

We’re doing a study in our Wednesday night class right now on a book about changing your thoughts, which leads to a changed life.

The place we’re at in our study currently is teaching us that at the root of any behavior that we might wish to change is a lie that we have (probably unknowingly) believed. We are learning how to identify those lies and create new neural pathways in our brains to (hopefully) eventually develop new behaviors. (If you’re interested, btw, the book is Winning the War in Your Mind, by Craig Groeschel .)

Typically, when we start to practice taking that new pathway, it can feel weird…it can feel uncomfortable…it can even feel scary. But it’s only in acting when we feel scared or uncomfortable that we are able to overcome the existing pathway and create a new one.

This scientific knowledge confirms what the Bible has told us for generations, which is that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

The only way to overcome a falsehood is with the truth. And in order for truth to really permeate our mind it has to become personal to us.

Simply printing out a Bible verse and sticking it to your mirror isn’t going to cut it. Take that verse, pull out the truth as it applies to the lie you are believing and write a declaration.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You struggle with trusting God, so you decide to hang up the verse that says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” to remind yourself of the truth that you can trust God to take care of you.
  • Instead, consider taking that same verse and personalizing it by writing out a statement like this, “God loves me more than I love myself. He knows me more than I know myself. He has my best interests at heart and He can be trusted. If He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, I can trust that he will graciously give me all things as well.”
  • And then even shorten it further, perhaps, to put to memory, “I can trust that God will graciously give me all things.”

Write it. Speak it. Think it. And as you begin to practice a new behavior, rooted in truth, it may feel scary. But press through and keep at it!

Renew your mind and overcome the lies that hold you back from living the life that God intends for you to live.

-Susan Landry

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

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