Say No to Cheap Imitation

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1 Thess. 1-3
When I think of the word “imitation” my mind links the word to things that aren’t so great. Think “imitation cheese product” instead of cheese carved off the block or “pleather” compared to the feel and smell of real leather. We would do well to remember that imitation isn’t reserved only for things that aren’t so great but rather that imitation can be powerful and amazing. The imitation that is spoken of in this passage isn’t of the “imitation crab” variety but instead it paints a picture of faithful and unwavering believers spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God like wildfire.
In 1 Thessalonians 1-3 we are told of how the Thessalonians were being imitators of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy and yet ultimately imitators of God. 1 Thess 2:13 NASB says, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were not spreading their own words but God’s words. Had Paul decided to be a cheap imitation of God and not spread God’s truth the message would not have spread with such conviction yet because Paul poured his heart and life into being a true imitation of God the message did spread with that same conviction which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to hear the good news.
We live in a world where cheap imitations are the norm. If you can’t afford some designer luxury item a cheap imitation is usually available to replace it. It makes it appear like you have the real thing but you really don’t. Please understand I’m not saying go throw away your processed cheese and pleather shoes, those are just material things. What I’m asking you to do is to truly and passionately accept the love and grace given to you by your heavenly Father and to live in such a way that others can see His light in you. Don’t say you are a Christian yet live the same way everyone else does. Stand out! Be unique! Be that true imitation of God like Paul and the Thessalonians and let your light shine into the darkness all around you!

– Lacey Dunn

Greetings from Michigan! My name is Lacey Dunn and I am part of the Garden Park Church of God family in Grand Rapids, Michigan but I am originally from Missouri. I have an amazing husband, three adorable (most of the time) kiddos, an unofficially adopted 21 year old and a lazy dog. In my spare time I love to read, chill at the beach, and have dance parties with my kids.

In the Doghouse or in the Pasture?

Jeremiah 22-23

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Sunday, March 5

 

Wow.  There was some heavy material just in these two chapters.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that God is not messing around with this stuff… “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors.  I will bring on you everlasting disgrace- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”  (Jeremiah 23:39-40 NIV)  I mean, at one point He even came at your mother!  (Jeremiah 22:26 NIV)

Obviously these commands that He mentions in 22:4 are incredibly important.  This is that point where your brain should be flashing red lights to remind you to pay attention!

In chapter 23 there is a big emphasis on false prophets and the trouble they are getting themselves into.  The thing that struck me here is that the prophets getting lectured aren’t only the ones that prophesied Baal, but also the ones who simply didn’t tell someone that they were doing wrong.  It makes sense to me that someone who is worshiping idols would be in trouble, but someone who was saying “You will have peace.” was a little harder to swallow.  These prophets were in the doghouse because they were accepting and condoning sin… probably with the intention of not hurting anyone’s feelings!  How often do we let “little” things slide like following their own heart versus God’s plan without us saying anything because we don’t want to come across as rude? I know I’ve done it!  We try and twist God’s words like fire (vs. 29) into something that makes us and others feel good and comfortable… but one day that’s going to come back to bite us.

With all of these warnings and pretty intense messages it is easy to skip over one of my favorite parts of these passages, starting in 23:3 with “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.”  I love this because it shows that no matter who or what tries to get in the way, God has a plan and it’s going to happen my friends!  It doesn’t matter if we’ve been scattered across the world, the flock will eventually come home!  He has a part for everyone in His grand plan, but if you don’t step up He will get it done either way.  It’s up to you, but who wouldn’t want to take part in this?!?

-Sarah Blanchard

Sarah Blanchard is a senior in high school from Pine Grove Bible Church in Minnesota.  She recently got back from the Philippines with Moriah Railton where they were able to teach the book of Genesis to kids across the world!  FUEL is something Sarah looks forward to every year, and she is excited to come back again in 2017!

(Photo Credit: found at http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/07012015/)

Attacked

Jeremiah 12 – 14

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Thursday, March 2

Have you ever been attacked?  Jeremiah has been attacked by the enemy, his own people and his own family.  When that happens we often want to attack back or we want to change them, but God says only he can change someone (13:23).  But in chapter 14 God reminds us that we should recognize not only our own sin but the responsibility we have for it.  Too many times we try to change others but we don’t ask God to change us.
What responsibility do you take for the sin you have in your life?
Do you blame others? (14:13)
What do you think when God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the sparing of Judah? (14:10-12)
-Andy Cisneros
(Photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Jeremiah_14:20)

Keep Studying

Isaiah 29-31

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Monday, February 13

Isaiah prophesied about The Little Mermaid! Not really. I didn’t think Ariel’s voice was very ghostlike (29:4). Anyway…

We got a nice little reminder today of why it’s so important to do devotions like this and to study the meaning of the Bible rather than just read it. Isaiah 29:11 warns that “this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll.” Don’t let the Bible be just words sealed in a scroll. Dig deep into the word that God gave to us so that “the deaf will hear the words of the scroll (29:11).”

It can be easy to think that the passages we’ve been reading have been distinctly separated by chapter numbers and they don’t really connect, but yesterday we talked about the role that rules play in our lives. Again today, we see another warning of letting rules be our moving force (28:13). This verse is another that you would do well to keep close to your heart. Don’t let your worship be just the words you sing. Don’t let your worship just be the words you say. Have you ever been in church singing a song and thought to yourself, “Do I really mean this?” If you haven’t, you probably should. Just because it’s coming out of your mouth, doesn’t mean it’s coming out of your heart.

-Nathaniel Johnson

(photo credit by Bob Smerecki – https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapnpiks0304/9729996902)

Cease to do Evil – Learn to do Good

Isaiah 1-3

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Sunday, February 5

The Old Testament is split up into five major categories: (5) Law, (12) History, (5) Poetry, (5) Major Prophets, and (12) Minor Prophets. Isaiah is the first book of the Major Prophets.  The word “prophet” occurs 324 times in the Old Testament alone.  Therefore, it is no doubt that whatever a prophet is, it is important.  A prophet is simply someone who speaks on behalf of God.  Isaiah then is someone who spoke for God, so the word Isaiah spoke had authority.

Isaiah begins his writing by stating all the wickedness that is being done by the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  Verses 2-15 go into detail as to what they were doing.  However, I want to take note at verses 16 and 17 of the first chapter.  Verses 16 and 17 are Isaiah’s (really God’s) call to repentance.  There are two main steps to this call for repentance.  Step one found in verse 16: “cease to do evil.”  Step two found in verse 17: “learn to do good.”  These are the two fundamental steps to repentance that Isaiah pleads the Israelites pursue.  The Israelites need to rid themselves of all the wickedness they are doing as was stated in the first 15 verses.  However, this is just the first step to repentance.  After they rid themselves of evil, they must then learn to do good.  Once the evil is removed from one’s life, they must then fill it with something good.  If not, then they will fall into the same pattern of sin.  This is an oft neglected part of repentance.  This completely applies to us over 2,000 years later.  To repent, we must cease to do evil and learn to do good.  If we do this, then our sins, “shall be as white as snow,” (Isaiah 1:18).  What a beautiful reward.

Something that caught my eye in chapter two was the end of verse 9.  It clearly stated, “do not forgive them!”  What a bold statement that is from Isaiah (and again, really God), and a rather controversial one in modern Christianity.  Once again, Isaiah goes on about how the Israelites are sinning.  It appears as if they have not repented and continue in their wicked ways.  Isaiah then declares not to forgive them!  This is contrary to what many modern Christians think.  There is a nasty word floating around that is being connected to Christians nowadays with movements such as the LGBT.  That nasty word that people are throwing at Christians is “tolerate”.  Many believe that the duty of a Christian is to tolerate and “love”.  Nowhere in the Bible is this message of “toleration” found.  Rather, there are passages such as Isaiah 2:9 which state, “do not forgive them!”  These Israelites that Isaiah is describing are sinning without any signs of repentance.  Isaiah doesn’t go on to tell others to accept and tolerate them for who they are as idol worshippers.  Instead, he blatantly states to not forgive them.  It appears from this verse alone that we should not be tolerating other people who live a life of sin.  However, this is just one verse, and you should rely on the Bible as a whole to make decisions such as this.  Therefore, I encourage you to look more into this, and I just think you might be convinced that the message of “tolerate” is ridiculous.

I hope you all have a splendid week and I look forward to starting off the Major Prophets with you all!

-Kyle McClain

Victory Set in Motion

Psalm 120 – 131

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Tuesday, January 17

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author responsible for the conversion of C.S. Lewis, insisted that his series, The Lord of the Rings, was not a direct metaphor or allegory of the Christian message, yet this series is steeped in Tolkien’s faith. It reminds me of a popular phrase where I’m from, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”  When you are living for Christ, everything you touch becomes infused with your faith.

 

One such example that parallels Christian faith and hope, is from the second book in the trilogy, The Two Towers.  Go ahead and push up your glasses; indulge me. It’s about to get a little nerdy.

 

Near the climax of the story, the humans and elves are defending a last-resort fortress, Helm’s Deep.  The orcs, which greatly outnumber their foes, have come to take the fortress in the night.  They advance and breach the stronghold.  It is only a matter of time before all is lost. At the moment when defeat is certain for the human-elf alliance, those who remain are reminded of a promise made by a wizard friend, Gandalf, “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.”  As the sun rises over the mountain top, it reveals that Gandalf has literally “called in the cavalry,” assembling the Riders of Rohan.  Using the dawn’s blinding light to their advantage, they charge down from the mountain, break the enemy ranks, and leave the orcs to retreat.  Gandalf’s perfect planning was the difference in tragedy or triumph..

 

I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn. – Psalm 130:5-6

 

Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”, states that God answers prayers three ways: “yes, no, and wait a while”.  “Yes,” is obviously the easiest answer to hear.  We immediately receive the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4) and celebrate.  “No,” is difficult to hear, but it brings closure.  Knowing a door is closed, helps us move in a different direction (2 Samuel 12:13-22). However, “wait,” is the toughest of the three.  “Wait,” means you must stay in the heat of battle (Exodus 17:8-12). “Wait,” means you must hold the enemy at bay (1 Corinthians 10:13). “Wait” means you must maintain tremendous trust, complete courage, and unfaltering faith to set aside what you want NOW, because God has a perfect time, one MUCH better than NOW, to fulfill His promise to you.

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! – Psalm 121:1-2

Praise the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. -Psalm 124: 6-8

And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!  What joy! – Psalm 126:2-3

Whether it is college, career, children, or commitment that you are waiting upon, God is actively working on “amazing things,” preparing to fulfill and complete those who are willing to persevere (James 1:2-4). In the dead of night, when the odds are stacked against you, faithfully fight and look to the Lord and His promises for your help. He will soon overwhelm you with the victory that has long been set in motion.

-Aaron Winner

(Photo credit: http://markryman.com/BLOG/2013/11/03/a-fortune-of-joy/         Original photo by YousefTOmar)