Hosea 1-7

For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

When we think about the faithfulness of God, we tend to speak in terms that I would call fluff in the papers I grade in my English classes. We always say that we have a faithful God, but what does that really mean? When we describe the faithfulness of God and his faithful love, we can easily let these tired terms cause the meaning to get lost. Today’s reading snaps the striking, relentless love of God into sharp focus. In the book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea is commanded to marry a prostitute, named Gomer. She continues to be unfaithful to him, but Hosea is told to return to her each time. The relationship that Hosea has with Gomer is one that mirrors the prodigal love that God shows to the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel pursues other gods and kingdoms, but despite this, God still calls them back to him. He still loves them. 

When I read these stories, I always question the characters’ motives. Couldn’t Gomer see how much Hosea loved her by the fact that he was always there for her? Why would she pursue other people? Hosea 2 gives insight to her reasoning. In Hosea 2:5, it says that Gomer would pursue other men because she thought they would give her “my food and water, my wool and flax, my oil and drink.” She pursued these men, because she thought they would give her what she needed to survive. Notably, these things are the basics of what she might need to live comfortably. Out of a lack of trust, she did not realize that she was actually missing out on the best things, because she was turning to these men to fulfill her desire for provision and possessions. In verse 8, it says, “She does not recognize that it is I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil. I lavished silver and gold on her, which they used for Baal.” Gomer never realized that the person who would take the best care of her and give her the best things was the person that she continued to leave for other men, Hosea. 

Too often, we follow in the footsteps of Gomer and Israel. We pursue other gods that seem like they could give us satisfaction and comfort, like our families, boy/girlfriends, work, money, education, or our beliefs and ideologies. We don’t recognize that the best things in our life actually come from the one who we continue to leave behind, God. James 1:17 says, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” God will continue to give us the best things in life, but we need to turn back to him. Don’t turn to other idols. God is infinitely better than anything the world could offer. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 1-7.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Hosea 8-14 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Hey everyone!

We are currently living in a very crazy time – am I right?! COVID-19 has taken over our daily lives, the political climate is VERY sticky and people are turning against one another (even within Godly communities) to prove their point and/or push their ideas of what they believe to be true. We are continually becoming more and more divided with each passing day. It is scary. Exhausting. Overwhelming. Frustrating. And those are only a few of the many adjectives I could throw out there right now to describe what is going on around us.

Let’s be honest here… all of this is A LOT to balance…. And I know, personally, as a flawed human being who continually makes mistakes and cannot seem to ever fully pull it all together, I constantly fall short when attempting to manage all of these changing circumstances and emotions. In times like this, I always find it helpful (and encouraging) to look back on examples set before me of Godly men and/or women who have managed to handle things a whole lot better than I am.

Our readings for today bring Hezekiah into focus. In 2 Kings 18:1-8 Hezekiah (son of Ahaz) comes to reign as the king of Judah. Hezekiah was a king who had a very close relationship with God and he is an example of how the faith of one man can change the course of an entire nation. During his reign Hezekiah pursued God with his whole heart. Hezekiah remained faithful and diligent throughout the highs and the lows of his time – he repaired the Jewish temple that had been previously impacted by wickedness, removed false Gods from the land, destroyed places where pagan worship was still in practice and restored the Passover as a national holiday.

Because King Hezekiah put God first in everything he did, God prospered him. Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses and therefore the Lord was with him and he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 King 18:6-7). In his time of need, Hezekiah came forth and prayed for relief, guidance and support from the Lord and the Lord was quick and gracious to give of these things and reward Hezekiah for his faithfulness.

The example that Hezekiah sets forth during his reign reminds us of the importance of remaining faithful and obedient to God and His word regardless of what is happening around us. I encourage all of us to follow the example of Hezekiah in the time we currently find ourselves in today. Pray. Remain faithful. Stay diligent. Honor God by doing the right thing…..

While things around us are ever changing and continually confusing, we can rest assured that God will remain faithful and reward our diligence just as He has promised.

Love and miss you all – stay safe and healthy. I absolutely cannot wait for the day where we are all reunited again and can honor God together.

~ Kass Sipka

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Hosea 1-7– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Too Distracted – Isaiah 18-22

Distractions

I have been known to burn a few things in the kitchen. Bread, green beans and carrots have all fallen victim to the heat of my stove.  In fact I made pancakes last week and one of the batch was charred. I wouldn’t recommend that cooking method, it wasn’t very tasty.  My husband rarely has this problem because he sets a timer for everything he cooks. I try to follow his example and it really has cut down on my incinerated dishes. You might wonder why I have this problem. I become distracted! The door bell rings, the phone rings, someone is looking for something,…I try to multi-task and get this last little thing finished…that’s when I smell smoke. Life is full of distractions. Do you know that sinking feeling you get when you are supposed to have that assignment in and you are running out of time? I do.

I think the people of Isaiah’s time were the same way. They had full lives with lots of things to distract them from the messages that God was sending through His prophets. God had Isaiah use some extreme actions in order to issue a warning. He had to go around barefoot and stripped down for 3 years. Even though Isaiah was probably wearing his undergarment as the law required him to practice modesty, you would still think that was embarrassing for him. Yet his warning was witnessed by the people and his prophecy did come true.  This proved that he was speaking for the LORD.

Even though we do not have the physical presence of Isaiah with us today, we do have his messages. His messages along with all the other writings composing the scriptures should get our attention.

I asked some of our youth workers what they consider distractions and as you can imagine, the answer was “anything can be a distraction”.

Our challenge today should be to remove some of those distractions. We should truly focus on God and spending time in the scriptures. We should look at the example of Christ and the early Christians, learning how to interact with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

~ The Guthrie Grove Youth Ministry Team

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway.

Tomorrow, we continue reading the history of Israel in Isaiah 23-27 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

2 Chronicles 28 & 2 Kings 16-17

Storing up treasures in heaven is greater than receiving momentary glory and recognition.

Wishing blessings to everyone this week and all the time. Watching quizzing at FUEL on Tuesday was always a joy, and I always would feel the adrenaline on the edge of my seat watching many friends compete for the championships. At the end of the night watching brothers and sisters in Christ hoist up their trophies and see their hard work come full circle inspired me to want to know the word better and to celebrate them in their accomplishments.  

 

Looking at 2 Chronicles and King Ahaz, we see a young man become king when he came into a place of power. He angered the Lord because his deeds were for his own self and never gave glory to God nor sought the Lord’s guidance in his actions. Ahaz wanted glory for himself and provoked the Lord. He built alters and offered sacrifices that disgraced the Lord.

As humans we want to be known and want some of our deeds to bring us our own glory and recognition. Ahaz came to power when he was only twenty. He did not follow in the steps of his father, David. Sometimes we want to do things that honor us and get us recognized in front of our friends and others. It feels good, makes us feel worthy. Even when Ahaz tried to make amends, the Lord gave Judah over to those lands surrounding it. It continued with Hoshea as his deeds were evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 17). God calls us to rely on him and give the glory to him for through him we accomplish all good deeds. God gives and he can also take away. God gave the Israelites what he promised them in the promised land. However, because of their disobedience and pride, God took it away.  2 Kings 17:12–13 explains why God let Israel fall as they turned from him. God wishes for us to seek and give glory to him and perform services in his honor. Doing such deeds brings more delight to him and feels you with spiritual delight than any earthly recognition. Storing up treasures in heaven is greater than receiving momentary glory and recognition. God has called you; do not forget these things as we read about others who forgot who their deliverer was. 

Right now, even though we aren’t close to one another, we can still celebrate the accomplishments and the deeds of our friends scattered around the US. This isn’t normal for us right now, but I want you to know I cannot wait for the time to celebrate, laugh, worship and hug everyone glorifying the Lord once again in the future and especially when the kingdom comes. 

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” ~ ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

~ Evan Grant

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – 2 Chronicles 28 & 2 Kings 16-17.

Tomorrow, we continue reading more about the history of Israel in Isaiah 13-17 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Micah 1-7

What does the Lord require of you_

Micah was a minor prophet who simply conveyed the truths of God to the people of Israel of his day and in just 7 chapters he spoke volumes! What I love most about his message was that he spoke of God’s judgement as well as God’s mercy.

His task at hand must have been very daunting to speak in a day of a divided nation (Israel and Judah) about their sins and the judgement of destruction it would bring on them. 

Chapter 1 speaks of their Idolatry and looting. (Vs. 6&7)  Chapter 2 refers to the schemes of the wicked oppressors and their evil plots and injustice to others. (1-3) Chapter 3 brings out that the leaders were corrupt and many were “paying off” false prophets to tell the people what they wanted them to hear. (Vs. 5)

Can we relate to a nation like this?

But in the midst of this we are told in chapters 4 and 5 of the Peaceful reign to come in “Latter Days”. Chapter 5:2-5 tells us of the baby to be born in Bethlehem and that this One (Jesus) will be our peace.   

How refreshing is that?

In Chapter 6 God speaks of all He has done for His people. His words apply to us today as well. He requires our faith and obedience to Him over our sacrifices. We are told that we cannot justify our own sins by living wicked and then offer burned sacrifices to obtain salvation. (Giving up your first born is mentioned.) Thank goodness Jesus is now our atonement and our way to salvation! (Vs. 6&7)

The answer to what God requires of us is found in the verse I would like to highlight today… act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Our God (Vs.6:8).  Do we show love, kindness and walk with Him?

The acknowledgement of the Prophet himself is what we find in chapter 7. He reflects on the mercies of God and how God is our Salvation and Light. He is quick to forgive, if we truly repent, and we are redeemed by His unfailing love and compassion. He will be faithful to His Remnant. 

Thank goodness Micah bravely spoke truth in such a difficult day and time. The beautiful words we have from his message, along with Isaiah, Hosea and Amos’ as well, as they stood up for the ways of God despite the downward spiral of their society still speaks to us today.

Micah leaves us with the reminder that there is a final day of judgement coming for all the earth so we must stay faithful no matter what we are facing even in our uncertain present day. That false prophecy is ringing in our ears every day and we must ingrain ourselves in the truths of God’s word and stand up to a society where many are turning away from God. Jesus is with us in the midst of this and we are to follow him and look expectantly for his return. Our God is faithful and will remember those who have remained true to Him just as He did all those before us and all to come. Most of all God expects us to ACT JUSTLY, LOVE MERCY AND WALK HUMBLY WITH HIM. May the peace of Christ be with you today.      

~ Donna L. Smith          

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway.

Tomorrow, we continue reading the history of Israel in 2 Chronicles 28 & 2 Kings 16-17 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

2 Chronicles 27 & Isaiah 9-12

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[j]; he has become my salvation.”

I am not where I planned to be today. You see for many years this weekend is when I have helped load vans, buses, SUVs and even a Volkswagen bug with a lively group of cheerful travelers as we start making our way to Northern Indiana. Our group is always made up of students and youth workers heading to a youth camp named FUEL. Weeks spent at camp are so incredible because we intentionally set aside time to focus on God. We worship, we learn, we laugh, we encourage, we grow, we pray, . . . This camp offers us the chance to spend some intentional focused time with God. We remember our ultimate life goals of loving God with all that we are and loving others as ourselves. We align our lives with these main goals. We determine our next steps and develop practical actions that show that we have a close, loving relationship with God through Christ and that we truly love others.

Unfortunately, we will not gather physically for FUEL this year, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking time to connect with God. Yes, He is in northern Indiana, but He is where you are right now (He is not far from any one of us Acts 17:27). God loves us so much that He wants to connect with us and He is always there to direct us as well. We just need to focus on Him.

Today we read about a King who did exactly that. He was Jotham. Jotham was the eleventh king of Judah. It was stated that he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.  What a great way to be remembered. We are also told that He grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God. Steadfastly-that could describe the way we order the habits of our lives! Walking resolutely, firm and unwavering because we are living our lives connected to God.

Jotham benefited from seeing what a king should and should not do from his father. He also benefited from being a contemporary with the prophets IsaiahHoseaAmos, and Micah. Praise God we have their writings available to us today! Just like the faithful kings we can read the message from God sent through these prophets. Isaiah (9-12) presents the coming of the Messiah, just judgment, the future rally of nations to Christ, the Lord’s glorious holy mountain, and the earth being filled with the knowledge of the LORD as waters cover the sea. What an amazing experience it will be to meet with those prophets and those kings that “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” in the Kingdom of God!

So even though we may have to be socially distant right now, we look forward to that perfect time. Isaiah (12) describes the people rejoicing on that day because the Holy One of Israel is among them. Today we can rejoice because the Holy One of Israel can also be with us!

~ Rebecca Dauksas

 

Read or listen to today’s bible passage on Bible Gateway: 2 Chronicles 27 & Isaiah 9-12.

Tomorrow, we read more of God’s prophecies to Israel and Judah in Micah 1-7 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Unexpected Callings – Amos 6-9

God Calls Us to the

Today’s reading contained similar prophecy to what we have seen over the last few days with a couple short narratives thrown in the mix. One was Amos 7:10-17, when Amos meets with Amaziah, the high priest at Bethel. In this story, we get a little bit of Amos’ background. Threatened by the prophecies of destruction, Amaziah demands Amos leave Israel. Amos responds, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophecy in Israel.’” (14-15 NLT) 

Sometimes, like Amos, God calls us to do the unexpected. He calls us to do tasks for which we were never trained or prepared. Time and time again, all throughout the Bible, there are stories like this. David was a shepherd but called to be King. Peter, James, and John were fishermen, but called to be disciples of Jesus and leaders of the early church. Esther was a mere girl but called to rescue the Jewish people. All these individuals relied on God to sustain and strengthen them. They were not expecting to become heroes and martyrs. It was not in their plans, but it was in Gods’. That is the key for today. Keep an open mind. 

What is God possibly calling you to do? The summer season is a season of transition. Even if you are no longer in school, much of our society is built around the school calendar. Summer is the space in between the last school year and the next. Let this be a time of reflection as you prepare for whatever is next. Ask God to guide you and be willing, like Amos, to do something different. Even the unexpected. 

~ Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway.

Tomorrow, we move on with the history of Israel, reading 2 Chron. 27 and Isaiah 9-12 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Counted Among the Wise

 

Proverbs 19

Proverbs 19 20

Much like a Chick-Fil-A employee, it has been my pleasure to write devotions to share with you this week! And much like a Chick-Fil-A customer, I’ve been enjoying feasting on these golden nuggets in the word of God! Sadly, like ordering every item on the menu (which now includes a Mac and Cheese that is crazy good!), there was no way to digest all the wise and invaluable verses found in Proverbs 13-19 in this format. While I have tried to find themes in the chapters and apply stories to illustrate them, I hope you have been looking at the verses I’ve skipped. There are what Sir Anthony Buzzard calls “Refrigerator Verses” like 16:3: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” Nice, sweet, and hopeful. And there are some that are not exactly what I’d hang on the fridge or embroider on a pillow, like Verse 17:12: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.”  Well, on second thought….
But all are valuable for developing wisdom, speaking words that breathe life into others, subduing anger, avoiding folly and foolishness, and learning to allow God to guide your steps and guard your heart.
One last theme I want to pull from the Proverbs, from chapter 19, is the importance of mentorship. The role of mentorship has many names: teacher, advisor, counselor, coach, preceptor, pastor, shepherd…. whatever the name, the job is the same.  The mentor pours her time and knowledge into the mentee (the student, learner, pupil, novice…). Verse 20 tells us to listen to wise advice and offers a promise if we do.  Verse 27 warns of what will happen if we don’t. Verse 16 states both.
Most of my preceptors in my nursing classes and as a new nurse were much younger than I was. I may have a little more “experience on the planet”, but I was very new to the world of nursing. Likewise, if you are a minor reading this, don’t think you are just the student. In looking at 1 Timothy 4:11-13 and Titus 2: 1-8, all believers are to serve as mentors to those who are newer to the faith, whether they are older or younger than you.
Awhile back, Josiah Cain wrote for the FUEL blog that one of the four benefits of being a Christian is being surrounded by like-minded people. Growing up in the Church of God and moving a lot in the military, I have been blessed with many amazing, loving, godly men and women who have served as my mentors. Now that I have children, I am blessed again in that my children have no shortage of people to whom they can turn for godly mentorship. I have explained to my children when looking to a mentor, they should look to people who clearly love God and Jesus, use scripture as their moral compass, and put wisdom over feelings in handling tough situations. I sincerely hope my children and others see that in me, especially since bowing out of mentorship is not optional.
God has blessed us with so much: each other, Chick-Fil-A, mentors, the coming Kingdom, His Word, and of course, His Son Jesus Christ! Let us spend our time on this earth studying the word, building wisdom, worshiping, praying, and encouraging one another. All this will certainly be our pleasure!
Maria Knowlton

2 Thessalonians 3

“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” ~ 2 Thess. 3:13

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging believers to hold fast to the traditions that was taught to them by his message or letters (2 Thess. 2:15). His final directions to the believers in Thessalonica was to watch how they were living. Paul had first touched on this in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 where he says, “We encourage you to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” In the months that spanned in between the letters, those who were living irresponsibly had not yet changed how they were living. He says in his second letter, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Though at first this can seem harsh, Paul is not talking about someone who is physically not able to work. In the Thessalonian church, some able-bodied believers were not working for their own food. Instead, they were relying on the church for their food, thus taking away from those who may have actually needed the food because they couldn’t work. They were also using their free time to interfere with the work of others. 

So how does this passage relate to us today? We all have a responsibility to contribute to our community of believers. If you are not regularly meeting with church or body of believers, the first step is to find a church and get involved! Then, we have to evaluate our attitude, actions, and speech about the church. Unlike the irresponsible believers in Thessalonica, we should adopt the attitude in our church of givers not takers. Do we view the church as a place that we go to for a service once or twice a week? Or do we view the church as a community that we are currently building up? If we believe the church is meant to serve us, our attitude will be that of a taker, a selfish attitude that focuses on ‘What does this place do for me?’ A giving attitude focuses on what we can do to help to strengthen the church. Our attitude is directly related to our actions. A taker attitude will be critical, hands-off, and selfish, whereas a giving attitude will be encouraging, supportive, and selfless. A giving attitude will try to build up members of the church through encouraging words, financial support, and tithes of time and resources. When we are focused on giving to the church, our speech will also be focused on building up rather than tearing down. A taker attitude will lead to speech that criticizes without ever contributing solutions. A giver attitude will use wise words so that their speech helps to glorify God. 

The way that we work and contribute to the community of believers is a testimony to the world of our faith. We have to focus on how we can give to glorify God. And when it seems too much, we can remember Paul’s words, “Brothers, don’t grow weary in doing good.” 

Sunday Devo

~ Cayce Fletcher 

Surrender

mackenzie day 2

Shouting “surrender!” into battle may seem counterintuitive, but I am not suggesting that you surrender to your enemy; instead, surrender to your God. To surrender means to choose a place of vulnerability, giving up control, to give authority to a different power.  In a country where you’re told to control your own destiny and to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, surrender does not come naturally. You must understand that letting go and letting God is not weakness; instead, it takes great strength.

If you want to see God work in your life, you first have to give him something to work with. Today, we are going to read about a man who chose a place of vulnerability so that God would be glorified. The whole story is found in 1 Kings chapter 18, so give it a read, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a quick summary.

Israel is in the midst of a three-year draught as a punishment for their idol-worshipping, until God tells Elijah that it’s finally time to confront Ahab. Elijah arranges for Ahab to gather 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He says to the people of Israel, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah, being the only prophet of the one true God left, challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a competition. The two teams set up altars and placed a bull on top. The god, Baal or Yahweh, to answer with fire will be declared the one true God.

As the 450 prophets call out to and dance for Baal, Elijah taunts them, saying maybe Baal is busy or maybe sleeping. The prophets of Baal grow more and more frustrated, so Elijah calls them all to his altar. Elijah, surrounded by all these people that oppose him, has surrendered all of his control to his God. He surrenders himself even further as he created a trench around the altar filled with water. Elijah has no intentions for personal gain, but has instead surrendered everything into God’s own hands, which he knows are much more powerful than his own. God, of course, delivers and sends fire to the altar. All the people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—He is God! The LORD—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Then comes the icing on top, God sends rain.

That same God who sent fire to an altar drenched in water and made it rain after years of drought is the same God who is fighting on your side. Surrendering isn’t so scary when you’re leaving it all in God’s hands, which are far more capable than your own. This year, let “Surrender!” be your battle cry.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hands will eventually see God’s hands in everything.”

~Mackenzie McClain