Say Yes

Revelation 20-22Revelation_22-12

Saturday, July 22

The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face.  The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God.  They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame.  The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.

Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15.  One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil.  In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).

The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore  and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God.  In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.

Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized.  The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end.   Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ.  Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done.  Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem.  Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death.  (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation).  Death has to be destroyed.  Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon.  God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it.  Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.

For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction.  Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life.  The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3.  God will again make his presence here upon the earth.  The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth.  This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger.  The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.

For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope.  Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity.  Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life.  The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition.  Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed.  But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth.  We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed.  Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.

If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings.  Say yes to God, you can do it right now.  And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism.  And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.

-Jeff Fletcher

(https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-22-12_Inspirational_Image/)

 

Love, Obedience, Truth

Sunday, July 16

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2 and 3 John, Jude

Congratulations, you were born at a time when society rejects the notion of absolute truth!  The world of the late 20th and early 21st century is characterized by a movement known as Post-modernism.  It’s the age of skepticism, of subjectivity.  It’s the age when society has been systematically doing away with notions of absolute, objective truth.  The Post-modern notion is that reality is socially constructed.  A good example of this is the idea of gender.  Back in the olden days, before Post-modernism, you were either a male or a female.  The way that you knew this was fairly simple and it was based on your physical anatomy.  You were objectively a male or a female depending on how your body was equipped.  But we were so unenlightened back in those days.  Now we know that gender has nothing to do with the objective reality of your biological make up or even your  D.N.A.  It is determined by how you feel… it’s subjective and it’s fluid.

Along with the death of absolute truth in favor of subjectivity has come a change in notions of what is right and wrong.  It used to be that right and wrong were measured against a set of standards given by authority.  That authority was either God, or the laws of society.  So things like murder or stealing, or adultery were wrong.  Now, it seems,  the far greater wrong is to tell people that they are not free to do as they please.  It’s wrong to tell a man that he’s not free to marry another man or to tell a woman that she is not free to marry another woman.  It’s wrong to use the masculine pronoun “He” to refer to God… or to even say that there is a God who makes rules about what is right and what is wrong.

These changes in our worldview are troubling to older people like me, and they should be troubling to younger people, too.  However, this should not come as a surprise to any of us.  For the Bible predicted, nearly 2000 years ago, that such things would happen.  In fact, it was beginning to happen in some places even then.

In the back of your Bible are some letters that are so small they are almost invisible.  The letters of 2 and 3 John and Jude are extremely brief.  Sandwiched between the longer letter of I John and the book of Revelation, 2 and 3 John and Jude are short, but don’t dismiss them as being unimportant.  Each of them has some important things to say about the need for objective truth and the need for Christians to stay faithful to the truth and to fight for the truth.

“I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” II Jn 5-6.

Love is a great thing and it is at the heart of Christianity.  Jesus said that the most important command is to love God and to love others.  It’s important to understand that love is a term that is often subject to people’s arbitrary definitions.  Love has become highly subjectivized.  Love is whatever I say it is.  John here offers a corrective to this subjective, Post-modern view of love.  Love, as John defines it, is to “walk in obedience to his commands.”  Love is more than just feeling good inside about God or your neighbor.  There is objective content to love.  It’s in a different part of the Bible, but go back sometime and check out I Corinthians 13 vs. 4-7.  It gives a good, practical description of what love is… and it has very little to do with your feelings and everything to do with right actions.  Love of God and neighbor is all about doing the things that God has commanded us to do.

3” It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – III John 3-4.  Here, John holds up the standard of truth for Christians to follow and live by.  We are to “walk in the truth.”  This has to do with obedience to an objective standard or truth.  God has things that he expects us to obey.  There is a way that God expects us to live.  Truth has objective content that we need to understand and obey.  Post-modernism has tried to jettison this idea of objective truth and replace it with our own definition.  Again, this is nothing new.  In the Old Testament book of Judges it describes a time in Israel before there were kings that’s described as follows: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25.  Just as Judges points to a time in our past history when people followed their own subjective desires rather than submitting to the objective truth of God as revealed by His word and by Jesus Christ, Jude warns of a time that was still to come when this would again be the case:  18…“In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” Jude 18-19

As followers of Jesus, who is our true and ultimate king, we must reject this.  We must follow the teaching of our king, we must receive his instructions to us as absolute truth and we must follow him by walking in that truth.  It is sad when the people of the world abandon truth and follow their own desires.  It is absolutely  tragic when Christians abandon the absolute truth of God and fall for the subjective lies of this broken world.  And yet, many Christians have done exactly this.  Jude gives a strong admonition to all believers:3 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”  Jude3-4

Jude wants desperately for us to not allow ourselves to be lied to by any who would distort and twist the clear objective truth of God’s word and the absolute teachings of Jesus, in order to justify their own perversions.  Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that there’s no absolute truth, no black and white or right and wrong.  There is and always will be truth, and that truth, as Jude contends, is worth fighting for.  As you go to school or university or talk at work or with your friends, or even at Church, wherever you go where some would seek to undermine the objective truth of God’s word and substitute the subjectivity of this world with its anything goes faulty belief system, stand firm, don’t give up!!

-Jeff Fletcher

(Photo Credit: https://dailybiblememe.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/2-john-16/)

 

While We Wait

2 Peter

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Friday, July 14

During high school, I would bring my Bible to study during lunch and free time. Numerous people would ask me why I would put my faith in a book that was written by various authors and not “actually written by God.” I always tried to defend why I believed what the Bible told me but felt like I wasn’t explaining it correctly. 2 Peter 1:20-21 states that we “must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Had I come along this passage while defending the Bible, it would have been a lot simpler to explain my reasoning.

Being mature in our faith and living Godly lives is imperative these days due to the fact that God and Jesus will soon return. We are to “make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if we possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV). The reason we should ensure that we are living to the standards set for us by God is because there are false teachers in the world who will try and lead us astray. These teachers will tell lies that seem to be true, but will also deny the Lord and live sinful lifestyles. The people that are most vulnerable to this destruction are those who don’t have solid foundation in Biblical teaching.
While we wait for the day of the Lord to arrive, we need to “be on our guard so that we may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from our secure position. But we should grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18 NIV). Today, I want you to take the time and ask God to show you how to live a life pleasing to Him and ask Him for forgiveness of your sins. He doesn’t want any of us to perish and wants everyone to repent. I look forward to when God and Jesus come back to make the Kingdom here on earth and pray that we all have salvation! May God bless you today and always. Amen.
-Cynthia Fyfe
(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/2-peter/3/9)

Just What I Needed

Hebrews 5-7

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Sunday, July 9

Every so often, I open my Bible and turn to a random book and start reading. I know that whatever page that I turn to that there is a lesson that I specifically need to learn. Interestingly enough, I found that the devotionals that I chose to write on about a year ago were the books of the Bible I needed to read now.

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I wish I could say that I grew up in the Church of God- Abrahamic Faith, attended Sunday School, and went to church every single Sunday. A lot of my friends have grown up in the church, gone to state camp, Family Camp, Southeast Camp, and on retreats throughout their entire life. Growing up, I felt like I wasn’t spiritually fed and was still like an infant in my faith. Hebrews 5 explains that many people should be teachers of scripture yet they are still learning the basics rather than expanding their knowledge of what God wants to teach them.
I decided to attend FUEL for the first time about ten years ago to learn more about the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith and just what it meant to be a Christian. I wasn’t disappointed. Hebrews 6:13-15 states: “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” I love our church because I know that we are a part of this promise.
Hebrews 7 talked about how Melchizedek (who is known as a priest forever) and Abraham (the father of the chosen people) were two men who were faithful to God and followed Him because they had confidence that God would fulfill His promises. None of this would have happened without an oath. “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Jesus is known as the high priest who is able to mediate between us and God since he sacrificed himself giving the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the people. Hebrews 7:28 states: “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” I don’t know about you, but I am extremely thankful that Jesus saved us from our sins.
It is important to understand that God wants us to obediently devote time in our every day lives to offer up prayers, work hard for His glory, and wait patiently for His promises. So take some time today and pray that God will provide confidence in you and that He will teach you something new.
-Cynthia Fyfe
 
(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/hebrews-7-our-better-hope/)

Rest

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Hebrews 1-4

One of my favorite things to do on a dark stormy day is to curl up with a good book, relax, and ultimately take a nap.  It’s one of the best times for me to forget all the things to do that swirl around my mind and just rest. After that period of rest, I feel refreshed, renewed, and better able to work through what needs to be done.  Rest is not just something we enjoy but we are actually commanded to rest in both the Old and New Testament but since today’s reading is Hebrews 1-4 that is what we will stick with.

Hebrews 4:11 says, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” We NEED to rest.  It doesn’t say rest if you have the time or only rest when you are tired but instead it says to be “diligent.”  I am diligent to eat dinner every night and I am diligent to read my Bible each day but am I diligent to rest every day?

We are reminded in 4:13 that nothing that we do is hidden from our creator.  We might be able to hide our lack of rest from our friends and family but we cannot hide the truth from God. One day we will enter God’s rest in God’s Kingdom but until then let us rest from the turmoil of each day and focus on the one who promises us peace.

If you haven’t tried it already for the remainder of the time that you are reading through the Bible, before you jump into reading take a few minutes to rest.  Turn off your phone, go to a quiet place, breathe deep, and be still.  When you feel as though your mind is no longer racing then spend time in prayer and begin your study.

-Lacey Dunn

Perseverance in Suffering

2 Thessalonians 1-3

What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.”  In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering.  They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.

Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution.  Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other.  If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.

Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe.  It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day.  The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.

-Lacey Dunn

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)

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