People Won’t Like You

Old Testament: 1 & 2 Kings Intro below

Poetry: Proverbs 29

*New Testament: Acts 23

“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.”
-Michael Scott

This quote is not the usual wisdom you’re accustomed to reading on this blog, but it does highlight something about our human condition: we like to be liked.

In Acts 23, we see Paul being—well, to put it understatedly—not liked. He’s been arrested for his teachings about the resurrection and his open arms toward the Gentiles. Because of his Roman citizenship, he is granted the right to a trial. Some Jews are unhappy that Paul is given a fair shake for his supposed crimes, and they take matters into their own hands (and bellies).

“When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” (Acts 23:12-15, ESV)

When I put myself in Paul’s shoes, I quake. I can’t imagine a mob of forty people who hate me so much that they make a vow to not even eat until I’m dead. I’ve never experienced anything close to this magnitude of persecution. While the occasional hostility we receive as Christians does not compare to the threats made on Paul’s life, we can still emulate Paul’s response.

He wasn’t paralyzed by people’s perceptions. He was captivated by God’s purpose for his life. He continued in boldness and went on to testify in Rome, just as God said he would (Acts 23:11). Paul writes more about this in Galatians:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV).

Speaking vulnerably, this verse is difficult to move past my head and into my heart. In my head I know that my identity, value, and purpose are found in God. But in my heart it is HARD to give up validation from my peers. It feels so good to be in their good graces, and it hurts so badly to be left out, lied about, and laughed at.

It’s hard to tune out other’s voices when it’s quiet. Imagine a humming noise. In a quiet room it would dominate your thoughts, but standing at the foot of a roaring waterfall you wouldn’t even notice it. So here’s the first step for me—and for you too, if you struggle letting go what other people think. Like Paul, be so captivated by God’s purpose for your life, that the rest of the noises just fade into the background.

Live unabashedly how God has called you to live. No apologies. No compromises. No holding back.

-Mackenzie McClain

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you been left out, lied about, or laughed at because of your faith? How did it make you feel? What does God say about facing persecution for your faith?
  2. God used Paul’s persecution to give him an opportunity to share his testimony to a larger audience. How has God used the bad in your life for good?
  3. How does knowing scripture help you counteract what others say about you?

1 & 2 Kings Introduction

The books of First and Second Kings describe the period of time between the death of King David and the exile to Babylon.  They record Israel’s decline over time as a nation – as they sink deeper and deeper into idol worship.

Solomon, David’s son, started out following God and was initially blessed by God; but he eventually turned away from God.  As a result of this, the kingdom was divided, with 10 tribes rebelling and choosing a new king (Israel in the North).  God allowed David’s descendants to continue to rule over the Southern two tribes, collectively called Judah – because of God’s love for David (which was a direct result of David’s love for God).

One godless king after another ruled the Northern kingdom of Israel until it was destroyed by Assyria in 721 BC.  While Judah declined more slowly, God finally allowed Babylon to destroy Judah in 586 BC.

2 Kings 24:3-4 records this sobering message, “Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”

Even though the overall trajectory of these books is depressing, there are some exciting and uplifting stories, including:

  • Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, and God’s appearance to Solomon
  • Elijah and his miracles
  • Elisha and his miracles
  • Jehoshaphat’s and Hezekiah’s faith
  • The destruction of Assyria’s army by the angel of the Lord
  • Josiah’s revival

As you read through 1 and 2 Kings, please notice the strong correlation between obedience to God and blessings from God.  Also, notice the relationship between rebellion against God and punishment.

I’ll close with some of the last words of David, as recorded in 1 Kings 2: 2-3, “…So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires:  Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commandments, his laws and requirements, … so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”

-Steve Mattison

Preparing with Your Actions

* Theme Week – Jesus: Mark 14

Old Testament: Joshua Intro below

Psalms Reading: Psalm 94

This entire chapter is full of various preparations for the crucifixion of our Savior. 

It starts with a simple act of pure love and devotion. Jesus was in Bethany, eating with Lazarus and his sisters. And after this meal, a woman (John’s account tells us that it was Lazarus’ sister Mary) comes in with an expensive alabaster jar of fragrant oil and anoints Jesus. She has brought Jesus only the best and has complete disregard for its monetary value. Jesus tells us that what she is actually doing is anointing him for his burial. She isn’t giving to Christ for her sake, or out of guilt or in a rush of emotion. She prepared an offering of the best of what she had and gave. Jesus says that “She did what she could,” and she did it without direction or suggestion. She thought and found a way to serve her Lord and Savior whom she loved. 

In a different act of preparation we see the disciples taking direction from Jesus to go and prepare the passover meal. Jesus gives them all the direction they need, and when they follow those directions all is provided for them. They were given a mission, and all they had to do was follow – the means to complete it was supplied. 

And yet after the supper, when Christ asked a few of them to go with him and help him prepare for his coming death through prayer and fellowship, they couldn’t follow through. They fell asleep time and again. They fell short three times. Three times he checked on them, and reminded Peter to pray because the flesh is weak. Three times he came back and woke them and asked them to stay watchful and pray. Three times they proved themselves weak. Just as Peter would deny him three times. 

Take some time to prepare yourself with me by examining your actions and intentions today. Ask yourself: 

What can I do to show my love and appreciation for my savior? Am I too concerned with how others see my devotion to Jesus? How can I show my devotion as purely as Mary did?

When I’m given a task by God, do I follow through? Do I have faith that he will provide for my needs and give me a way to complete any task he gives me? 

My spirit is willing and like Peter I refuse to believe that I could ever deny or disobey my savior. But is my flesh weak? In what areas of my life am I sleeping rather than remaining watchful?

My prayer for you today is that you are able to look over your life and the decisions you’re making and analyze your motives and intentions. Take stock of how you are serving. Are you able to serve in faith and without worrying about whether or not you’ll be given what you need? Are you able to serve with the purest of intentions? I pray that you find a way to serve and follow and do it in a way that is pure and devoted. 

Jenn Haynes

Having finished Deuteronomy yesterday in our Old Testament reading, here is our introduction to the book of Joshua which we will begin reading tomorrow.

Joshua Introduction

The book of Joshua details the time from immediately following Moses’ death through the conquest of the land of Canaan.  We’re not told, but it is likely that Joshua himself wrote most of the book, since it sounds like a first-hand account of the events that happened and were recorded at the time.  At least the end of the book that records Joshua’s death had to have been written by someone else.

This book details the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt, but afterward would return to the promised land – the land of Canaan.  A promise God repeated to Moses.  We see this from the very beginning of the book, where in Joshua 1:2-3, God told Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead.  Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them – to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.”

The first 12 chapters detail the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River, the battle of Jericho, the sun standing still over Gibeon for about a whole day during the battle with the Amorites, and the conquest of all of the land of Canaan.  Chapters 13-22 discuss the division of the land among the tribes of Israel.  Chapters 23-24 close with a challenge to worship God alone.

Some well-known verses in Joshua include:

Joshua 1:7-8, “Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Joshua 23:14, “…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”

Joshua 24:14, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

This is an exciting book.  As you read it, consider the blessing and successes of Joshua, who faithfully followed God, contrasted with the punishment of people like Achan for disobedience.

Interestingly, the Hebrew name Joshua is the same as the new testament name Jesus.

-Steve Mattison

What Will You Carry?

Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 27 & 28

Psalms Reading: Psalm 90

*New Testament Reading: Galatians 6

In the beginning of this chapter, it seems Paul is almost contradicting himself, telling believers to carry one another’s burdens (v.2) but also to carry their own load (v.5 -HCSB).  When comparing translations, the NLT changes verse 5 to each being ‘responsible for their own conduct’, which really removes the discrepancy, especially when in context with the previous verse about focusing on oneself and not comparing.  Essentially Paul is writing: support other believers while doing your best and be responsible for your own behaviors. 

Paul is also sure to caution and encourage these believers; he reminds them that satisfying their sinful nature now will ultimately lead to death, but that living to please God will result in everlasting life (v.8).   In verse 1 he describes humbly and gently bringing believers from that sinful life back on the right path – and this of course makes sense when you know that the wrong path leads to death!  And Paul must know that living in this way will be challenging at times, as he immediately follows it with words of encouragement to not get tired of doing good, and a reminder of the blessing to be reaped to those who don’t give up (v.9).  But my favorite part is verse 10, where Paul says THEREFORE, do good to everyone, especially those in the family of faith!  Because living the life of a Christian is tiring at times, because it is challenging, and because there are temptations to give up, BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER.  

As fellow believers we know how hard it is to be a Christian, so it is up to us to share one another’s burdens, not create more obstacles and hardships through shallow competition of who “looks better” in the law.  Paul is telling the Galatians that their responsibility in the church is to support and build one another up, not comparing themselves, but working together to live a life that is called to be more than just following a law. 

You are part of a church, and, if you have made the commitment to be baptized and follow Christ, you are part of the Church!  You have a responsibility to fellowship, to support, to love and to live alongside your body of believers.  In today’s day of technology, you can meet this responsibility through online connections or in person.  There are church services you can stream, summer camps you can attend, online devotionals you can participate in… If you have not yet taken up that responsibility, this is your sign… get connected, because life is hard to do on your own! 


Where do you feel connected in the church?  Are you satisfied with this level of connection?

Who in your church can you think of that may need their burdens shared?  Reach out to them!

Based on Paul’s writing today, what does his message tell you about who God is and what His expectations are for believers?


God, thank you for giving us a Church to be part of.  Today we pray that we find strength and support within our local body of believers, and we ask that you show us which believers are in need of a lighter load to bear on their own.  Thank you for making us new through your son, and allowing us the opportunity to reap a harvest of blessings.  In your son’s name, Amen.

Sarah Johnson

Do You Get It?

Old Testament: Deuteronomy 21 & 22

Psalms Reading: Psalm 87

New Testament Reading: Galatians 3

Despite much of the media’s focus, there are many good people in the world.  Our current culture has a strong humanistic viewpoint, with many people claiming to be “spiritual”, but not Christian.  Many spiritual people have strong moral values often aligning with Christian perspectives; they are kindhearted and they do good works.  These people (typically) believe in a “higher power” but not necessarily God, and they may feel like Jesus was a good man but don’t acknowledge the power he held or the magnitude of his sacrifice for everyone.  People with this perspective live what I would call a good life, and yet they are missing something so critical.

Paul writes in Galatians 3:5, “…Does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law?  Of course not!  It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.” (NLT).  The Message translation writes that God lavishly provides his Holy Spirit to his people, not because of their “strenuous moral striving”, but because of their trust in Him.  We, as Christians baptized in the faith, have access to the power of God, His Holy Spirit.  THAT IS A BIG DEAL.  That is something that no other religion or humanistic worldview has.  Christians are unique in this way, and yet just like the Galatians, we all too often get caught up in following the law, or looking good to others, to remember we have access to this incredible power simply by believing in the message of Christ.  Just by recognizing that the man Christ Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised again for our salvation is enough for us to invite the Holy Spirit into our daily lives. 

There are good people in this world, but Christians should be standing out against the crowd of “good” by being AMAZING because of what we have access to!  This makes it all the more important for Christians to maintain their moral good; while we know keeping the law does not make us right with God (v. 11), breaking the law is not a reflection of receiving the Holy Spirit and does not show the world why they should believe the message of Christ.  If a “spiritual” person treats the widows and orphans with more kindness and love than someone who has the Holy Spirit, we have failed.  In the same way, if we think our kindness and love will sustain and save, we are just as foolish as the Galatians were! 

We are no longer confined or imprisoned under the law, but we are justified through our faith in Christ (v.23-24 HCSB).   In our justification, we have been given the Holy Spirit… does your life reflect that amazing power?

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson


There are some great verses in Galatians 3 that dig even deeper into the law, who we are in Christ, and overall Abrahamic faith.  What stood out to me may be different than what stood out to you!  What did God put on your heart while reading this Scripture?

What characteristics of God did you find from our passage today? And what can you discover about His son Jesus from your reading?


God, thank you for sharing your son with us so that we may have access to your Holy Spirit, and ultimately, eternal life.  Lord I pray that our works bring you honor and glory, that we boldly call on your Spirit each day as a way to show the people in our life just how amazing you are.  God, you are a good God; gracious, loving, powerful, and kind.  We praise you and thank you.  In your son’s name, Amen.

Is God Faithful, or Not?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 21 & 22
Psalms Reading: Psalm 39
* New Testament Reading: Romans 9

Romans 8 ended with the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  But then in the next chapter, we find Paul saying, in Romans 9:2-4, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers… the people of Israel.”

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, is God faithful, or not?  Didn’t he choose the Israelites as His chosen people originally?  Apparently, that didn’t work out so well, so then God threw them away, and now Christians are His chosen people.  Will God get tired of us too, and throw us away too?”

I’m glad you asked.  Let’s look at that.

God chose the Israelites.  They were His people. God gave the Israelites the law, the temple worship, and the promises, the patriarchs, and the human ancestry of Jesus.   God extended tremendous grace to them.   God was (and is) faithful.  But despite that, many turned their back on God.  Romans 9:6 says, “It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”  The problem was with the Israelites.  They weren’t faithful to God.  Even though they had the right ancestor (Abraham), they didn’t have the right heart.

Romans 9:27-28 later says, “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.  For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

This should be a warning to us.  God told us in Romans 8 that nothing external can separate us from the love of God.  But we are free to walk away from Him if we choose.  Even though God extended tremendous grace to Israel, many rejected God, and only a remnant will be saved.  God has now extended tremendous grace to us Gentiles through Christ.  Unfortunately, I fear the same will be true of those of us who call ourselves Christians.

Romans 9:30-32 then stresses again the importance of righteousness by faith, “What shall we say then?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works…”

To recap, God is merciful, gracious, and faithful.  He showered His love on the Israelites, but many rejected him.  And many who didn’t reject Him tried to please God by just following a bunch of rules.  I picture their attitude as something like this:  “I’m going to do what God demands, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”  God then rejected those who rejected Him and those who tried to earn their way into his favor.

God has showered his love on us through Jesus, and has invited us to be adopted as His children.  How will you respond?  Will you reject Him?  Will you try to earn His favor by following a bunch of rules?  Or will you develop a loving relationship with Him and live by faith?  Only one of these choices will result in eternal life.  Which will you choose?

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. In this chapter on God’s Sovereign Choice how many times does Paul quote the Old Testament? Why do you think Paul does so?
  2. Are there times you have questioned if God is faithful? Do you find anything in Romans 9 that would have helped you (or did help you) through these times? How can you help someone else who is questioning?
  3. What do we learn about God and His character and roles and desires in our reading of His words today?

Do It!

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 39 & 40

Psalms Reading: Psalm 22

New Testament Reading: Matthew 21

None of us really enjoy chores. There were many that I didn’t enjoy growing up that were very specific to me; one of those was mowing the yard. Since my grandfather had shown me how to take care of the grass at the age of eight, I was the one in charge of making sure it was cut every week. Now to be fair, I did prefer this chore over folding laundry or vacuuming (and I still do), but on our four-acre property growing up, it was a whole-day ordeal to finish. However, although I didn’t necessarily like it, and some days I protested (like all kids do), I made sure the yard was cut so that bugs and rodents were kept away from the house.

In Matthew 21, we find two sons who were supposed to go out and take care of their family vineyard. The first protested, but later regretted it and did as his father said. The second son initially said that he would go out, but wound up avoiding his chores. Jesus tells us in this story that the one who, at first, grumbled and complained about it, but still followed through, was the one who “did the father’s will”. This may seem obvious to us, but that’s the point Jesus is making; talk is cheap. Very few things are as disappointing as when someone doesn’t follow through on what they say.

This is true of our lives as Christians; we need to “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. The book of James tells us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). If we are not willing to do something with what we believe, it is useless. We can say that we “believe in God”, or even that we are a “Christian”, but unless that translates into action, we are only fooling ourselves. Jesus says that those who will inherit God’s Kingdom are those who “produce the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). Does your faith stir you and make you move? Or are you just all talk?

The Christian life isn’t always exciting and can seem boring at times; there are weeks where we don’t want to go to church or read our Bibles yet again. But just like cutting the grass, unless we are willing to go out and put the work in, even if we don’t “want to”, it will get out of control. Our lives need constant, consistent maintenance, just like a garden or a lawn. Every week is not going to be exciting, but it’s still necessary; fight past your initial protest and do what you’re supposed to do anyway. It will be better for you in the long run.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. Which of the two sons are you more often like? In what area(s), do you need more “walk the walk” (perhaps even without protesting first) in order to do the will of the Father?
  2. What is the danger in not producing fruit? What fruit does God want to see you producing now?
  3. What do we learn about God from the teachings of His Son? What does God want us to learn about His Son?

Good Question

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 19 & 20

Psalm Reading: Psalm 12

New Testament Reading: Matthew 11

Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?

You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod and his wife didn’t appreciate John speaking out against their unlawful marriage.

With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).

In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.

In the rest of this chapter (as well as the previous one) Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. Who is Jesus? Do you know that he is the one who was to come? How do you know this? What is the value in reading the Old Testament? What is the value in reading the New Testament?
  2. What is repentance? Why is it important? Without it, what will happen? (Matthew 11:20-24)
  3. What do you learn about God in today’s reading? What do you learn of His Son?

When a Father Believes

Tuesday, January 3, 2022

Psalm/Proverb Reading: Psalm 2

New Testament Reading: Matthew 1

While it might seem that Christmas is far behind us in the rear view mirror, technically we are on the tenth day of Christmas, when the lords are leaping. Today’s reading crosses paths with the humble, yet noble beginning of our Savior that we have been well-seasoned in.  The genealogy presents Jesus as the rightful heir to the kingship of Israel.  What is peculiar about Matthew’s opening, our first reading of the gospels, is the line which he chooses.  Jesus is presented as heir to the throne through his adopted earthly father, Joseph. Unfortunately, during our advent season, the role of the Son of Man’s early father is often downplayed, as the screen time is often given to Mary, the shepherds, the wise man, John the Baptist, even Simeon, yet the story of Joseph is often skipped or scrapped as much as the the genealogies.  I think there is much we can learn from his story.

The first lesson we can learn from the narrative of Joseph is God wanted Jesus to have an earthly Father. It is sad to see and say, but that the role of the father in our present day and age has been reduced to the punchline of a sitcom.  Dads are important. The statistics show that when a mother alone attends church with her children, the chances that her children will grow to be a regular attender is a one in fifty chance.  However, when the father attends, the effect is fiftyfold. The statistics are baffling but speak to the point of the subtle, yet intentional role of the father’s influence on the family. From the scriptures we can see that Joseph took his family to synagogue. From the intentionality in God’s plan, I don’t think it would be farfetched to say that Joseph did even more for the spiritual upbringing of Jesus, going beyond giving him a ride to church and providing a model and example of a life dedicated to God.

Next, in the face of disgrace, Joseph showed compassion. Joseph didn’t need to take a paternity test to know he wasn’t the father. By His measure, he had not done anything dishonorable. It was well within his right to expose Mary, and not only break their engagement, but to have her stoned to death.  While there isn’t much to this part of the narrative, so we don’t know all the nitty-gritty details, we can see that Joseph made it a point not to disgrace Mary. We can empathize with Joseph because he didn’t have all the facts or at least was confronted with a moment which required great faith.  It is likely that he doubted and refused to believe, but he didn’t give into his anger, instead choosing a merciful course of action to deal with what he thought was sin.  As people who experience mistakes, either done to us or by us, let us show grace.

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” – Matthew 1:24

Finally, God spoke directly to Joseph, and he immediately took action. When an angel of the Lord delivers the life-changing message to Joseph, he changes his course to follow the Lord’s direction.  He takes Mary as his wife.  He waits to consummate the marriage. He names his son, Jesus.  In tomorrow’s reading we’ll see he moves on direct instructions in the middle of the night in order to protect his wife and newborn child. He then again waits and listens for the voice of God before he returns home. I am positive that Joseph continued to listen for the voice of God long after the toddler stage of Jesus. Joseph became closely aligned to his Heavenly Father by listening for His voice. We too, have the same opportunity.  The Word of God has been delivered to us.  We simply need to open our Bible, click on a link, and the words are as clear as an angel’s voice in the midst of our dreams. If we are seeking God, we must allow ourselves to be convicted: to change course and take action.  While we may not be rearing the adopted Son of God, we all have an opportunity to speak with our lives to those adopted through Jesus Christ, as mothers and fathers of faith.

-Aaron Winner

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you think Jesus may have learned from Joseph, his earthly father?
  2. To whom, and how, can you be a mother or father of faith?
  3. In my Bible reading today, I found God to be________________.

And, as an extra little bonus, in preparation for adding in our Old Testament Bible Reading tomorrow, beginning with Genesis 1&2 – here is the…

Introduction to the Book of Genesis

The book of Genesis is probably the most important book ever written.  The word Genesis means “origin.”  The book of Genesis contains the history of the origin of:

  • the universe
  • the solar system
  • the atmosphere
  • life
  • man
  • marriage
  • evil and death
  • languages
  • government
  • culture
  • nations
  • religion
  • God’s chosen people

No other book of the Bible is quoted or referred to as often as Genesis – in other books of the Bible.  I have read that there are at least 200 quotations or allusions to Genesis in the New Testament.

If Genesis were eliminated from the Bible, the rest of the Bible would be impossible to understand.  For example, look at these comparisons between the first few chapters of Genesis and the last few chapters of Revelation:

Genesis Revelation

Division of light and darkness (1:4) — No night there (21:25)

Division of land and sea (1:10) — No more sea (21:1)

Rule of sun and moon (1:16) — No need of sun or moon (21:23)

Man in a prepared garden (2:8, 9) — Man in prepared city (21:2)

River flowing out of Eden (2:10) — River flowing from God’s throne (22:1)

Gold in the land (2:12) — Gold in the city (21:21)

Tree of life in the midst of garden (2:9) — Tree of life throughout city (22:2)

Precious stones (2:12) — All manner of precious stones (21:19)

God walking in garden (3:8) — God dwelling with HIS people (21:3)

Cursed World (Genesis) Eternal World (Revelation)

Cursed ground (3:17) — No more curse (22:3)

Daily sorrow (3:17) — No more sorrow (21:4)

Thorns and thistles (3:18) — No more pain (21:4)

Sweat on face (3:19) — Tears wiped away (21:4)

Returning to dust (3:19) — No more death (21:4)

Evil continually (6:5) — Nothing that defiles (21:27)

Coats of skins (3:21) — Fine linen, white and clean (19:14)

Satan opposing (3:15) — Satan banished (20:10)

Kept from tree of life (3:24) — Access to tree of life (22:14)

Banished from garden (3:23) — Free to enter city (22:14)

Some suggest that Genesis (at least the first 11 chapters) are an allegory, and not historically accurate.

If Genesis were not historically trustworthy, then neither is the rest of the Bible, including what it says about Jesus.  If Adam is only an allegory, then by all logic, so is Christ.  Genesis is not a collection of myths and legends, but a factual record of real events and real people, possibly even diaries of those people at the beginning of history.

The book of Genesis is written in the form of narrative records of historical events.  Biblical parallels to Genesis are found in such books as Kings, Chronicles, Luke, and Acts.  In all of these, the writer either collected previous documents and edited them (e.g. I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles), or else recorded the events which he had either seen himself or had collected from others who were witnesses (e.g.  Luke, Acts).

Moses actually wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Moses likely compiled and possibly edited the material in the book of Genesis, with the Holy Spirit guiding him in this process.  The original material may have been passed down, from father to son, via the line of the patriarchs listed in Genesis.  It may be that Adam, Noah, Shem, Terah, and others each wrote down an individual account of the events which had occurred during his own lifetime.  These records presumably were kept in such a way that they would be preserved until they finally came into Moses’ possession.

It is probable that these original documents can still be recognized by the key phrase:  “These are the generations of…”  The word “generations” is a translation of the Hebrew word “toledoth,” and means “origins” or “records of the origins.”

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth” Gen 2:4

“This is the written account of the generations of Adam” Gen 5:1 (This suggests these were written)

“These are the generations of Noah” Gen 6:9

“Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah” Gen 10:1

“These are the generations of Shem” Gen 11:10

“Now these are the generations of Terah” Gen 11:27

“Now these are the generations of Ishmael” Gen 25:12

“And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son” Gen 25:19

“Now these are the generations of Esau” Gen 36:1

“And these are the generations of Esau” Gen 36:9

“These are the generations of Jacob” Gen 37:2

An understanding of Genesis is vital to an understanding of the eternal plan of GOD.  Strap yourselves in as we prepare to read through God’s word again this year.

-Steve Mattison

The End

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Psalm 119

Welcome to the first post of our 2023 SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan! We are beginning the year with a little time in Psalm 119, and in the next couple days will add in the other Old Testament and New Testament readings. You can download and print the whole plan found at the end of today’s post. Every time we begin a new book of the Bible, we will include a little introduction written by Steve Mattison.

Introducing the Book – Psalm

The book of Psalms was Israel’s songbook.  It contains a collection of psalms (or songs) that primarily focus on praising God for who he is and for what he has done.  The Hebrew title is, “the book of praises.”  Most of these psalms are prayers to God written by King David, although other authors, ranging from Moses, to Solomon, to the sons of Korah also contributed.

The book of Psalms teaches us to seek God with our whole heart, to tell Him the truth and to tell Him everything, and to worship Him because of who He is, not just because of what He has done.  It contains a range of topics, from people crying out to God from the depths of their despair, to those praising God with jubilation from the depths of their hearts.  

The book of Psalms has spoken to me in my lowest lows as well as in my highest highs.  May the inspired words in this book resonate well with you as you read these psalms this year.

Psalm 119 Devotion

Who in their right mind is thinking about the end right now? Really? Terrible title. TERRIBLE. This is the time of fresh starts! New beginnings! Redos! Our mind focused on the brief novelty of this moment’s pants kicking; the annual motivation for improvements we have put off for weeks, months, or even years. While we might commit to a dream today, I would say there is little thought given to the realities of December 31st, 2023: 365 calendar days away. Whether it’s gym memberships, nicotine patches, cauliflower pizzas, saving accounts, or even bible reading plans, have we bought into the idea that we are preparing ourselves for a full year of commitment in our resolutions? Look at your Google Calendar or your bank statement: what have you planned and paid for in a full-year upfront knowing that it will change your life by the end? Or is your resolve more like the free 7-day trial, leaving one foot in 2022 in case you want to make a getaway?

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11

I will go ahead and say, it is not fiscally responsible, or even logically feasible, to pile up a year’s worth of cauliflower pizza into a deep freeze, but our commitment level to any life-changing resolution, should count the cost of sacrifice with the end in mind.  This is an echo of what our Heavenly Father has done through Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to this in Colossians 1:16 when he states “For through [Jesus] were all things created, things that are in heaven, and things that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” Our eternal God has dictated to us the rules, plans, and ordinations of his personal and universal will that will lead us to a relationship with Him, which has ended the penalty of sin with the blood of Jesus Christ and leads to the big finale, the Kingdom of God. Knowing the end, it is much easier to keep to and dictate the decrees of each day.  Without the end in mind, we are just tragic creatures of toil, mindlessly moving from one task to the next.

“Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.” – Psalm 119:33

Our God is not a God of chaos (1 Cor 14:33). He works in logic and rules that are shared with us because WE as heirs according to the promise are included in the end. We don’t have to feel out the way, make up the path, or bump down the lane.  God has made his moral law clear. It is not just a list of “thou shalt nots” but enhancements and boundaries provided for our own physical safety, societal responsibility, psychological well-being, and the eternal enhancement of the connection and relationship between the Heavenly Father and his children. He is not a part-time parent, nor can we be part-time children. You can’t periodically pause your subscription or ghost your way out of the membership. Our life is better lived, today and eternally, when we are resolute to learning and practicing His ways that are forged in the ultimate love and truths. We become devoted.

That devotion begins with finding a way to be connected to the Word of God every single day.  It could be found in this blog. It could be found in personal study, podcast, prayer time, or all the above. What I propose, if we truly are wanting to grow in the word of God this year, to engage and act upon His message that is delivered through His word, you and I must set alarms, write in on our mirrors, put it in our checklist and calendars, and make it priority.  Being here to read every day provides an opportunity to do that alongside others who are also seeking out a devoted life to Christ. If our end of life is found in 2023, if Jesus returns, or the Lord tarries for another year and He still gives us life, how much more abundant will December 31st, 2023 be if we have committed ourselves fully to understanding the precepts, the statutes, the laws, the understanding, and the wisdom of your heavenly Father? Let’s be committed to the end, even if we are at a loss of where to begin our year.

“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.  May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.  May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight.  Let me live so that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” -Psalm 119:171-175

-Aaron Winner

Reflection Questions

  1. In reading through Psalm 119 what do you see of God’s character – how does He show who He is through His inspired word? This is a question we will be asking regularly this year (sometimes phrased differently). We think you will find great benefit in journaling, or making notes in your Bible margin, on how you see and what you learn of God and His character from His written word every day this year.
  2. What are your favorite verses of Psalm 119? What words are used in Psalm 119 to name God’s law or directions for life? What are the benefits given for knowing, following, loving these words of God? What do you find about the results of neglecting these words of God? How would you rate your knowledge of and then, love for, the words of God?
  3. Where do you want to be at the end of 2023? What steps will help you get there? Spend some time in prayer to the God of Psalm 119.

A NEW Bible Reading Plan for 2023

What will God reveal about Himself today?

What an exciting time of year!  Who is ready for 2023 and a NEW SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan?  

At the bottom of this post you will find the new schedule!  Wouldn’t it be great if 2023 was the year you daily read the Bible more than ever before?  

What does God want to reveal about himself to you – every day of 2023?  Come along on the journey with Seek Grow Love to find out!  

This year the Seek Grow Love reading plan includes 3 daily readings.  Choose 1, 2 or 3 of the readings to complete each day – if you do all three everyday (or get caught up if needed) you will read through the whole Bible in 2023. 

  – The Old Testament reading is 2-3 chapters a day and takes you through the entire Old Testament, with the exception of Psalms and Proverbs.  

  – In the second column, one Psalm or Proverb is assigned to each day and through the year each will be repeated.  

  – The New Testament column is typically one chapter of the New Testament each day.  The gospels are spread out throughout the year, Matthew is at the start and end of the year, and Acts will be read after Luke in the spring, the rest of the New Testament is mostly in order.  A few weeks will be devoted to a theme related to a holiday season, FUEL theme, or a doctrinal topic.

You may find benefit in spreading out the readings through your day and praying through the Psalm. Perhaps one or more of the readings will work well to do together with your family.  You may also find it helpful having an accountability partner, or even creating a small group to share what you have been reading and learning.

Visit to read daily devotions based on this reading plan, and on the website you can sign up to have the devotions emailed to you every morning.  Each devotion will include reflection questions.  This year, we specifically challenge you to search everyday for what God is revealing about himself throughout His Scriptures.  It would be a great year to start a little journal (or note in your Bible margins or online Bible notes) and record daily what you have read and what you learn about God, His character, His power, His love, His Son, etc… in that passage. 

You can also follow on our Facebook page (Seek Grow Love) and Instagram (seekgrowlove).   

God bless you as you seek the LORD and read His words this year!

%d bloggers like this: