Isaiah 40-43

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” ~ Is. 40:1-2 

While the first 39 chapters of Isaiah consist of the judgment pronounced on Israel & Judah, the book of consolation begins in chapter 40 and continues for the last 27 chapters of the book (mirroring the set-up of the Bible itself). Isaiah 40-43 contains beautiful pictures of who God is and breath-taking prophecies of the future messiah. When we look at the story of the Israelites a central theme that we see is the forsaking of the true God for idols. Because they could see the idols and because other nations worshipped in the same way, they felt like it was more profitable to worship them. However, these idols always proved to be worthless and caused pain and destruction. If we see that we are worshipping idols, what should we do? How can we turn away from the worthlessness of these idols to the infinite value found in God through Christ. 

Isaiah 40-43 gives us an answer to that as well. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah reminds us who God is. He asks the question in v. 18-19, “Who will compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to? To an idol? Something that a smelter casts, and a metalworker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it?” Instead of worshipping a created thing, God points us to what he has created to show his power and to show us that he is the only one worth worshipping. In v. 26, he says, “Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.” When we find ourselves looking towards idols for our value and worth – and in turn worshipping them, we need to remind ourselves of where our true value comes from. To do that, we have to turn our eyes away from ourselves and the things we think define us – whether that’s our relationships, money, career, or anything else – and turn them towards the only thing that really gives us worth. By focusing on God and basing our lives on his unchanging character, we can rest in God through the storms and trials of life. He is our firm foundation. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 40-43.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 44-48 – 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

Amos 1-5 – A Just God

7_10 Blog

Justice is a solid theme throughout the book of Amos, especially in today’s reading. Through the prophet Amos, God is pronouncing judgement upon Israel and neighboring nations. He first announces why said nation is being punished, and then warns of the coming consequences. It stood out to me how God cast judgment upon the same nations he would also be defending. For example, in Amos 1:12, the people of Edom are to be punished for crimes committed against Israelites. In 2:1, Moabites are punished for having desecrated the bones of Edom’s King. In later chapters, Israel is being punished for idolatry. God’s justice reigns. 

Whether a group was victimized or guilty, God did not let wrongs go unnoticed. 

God is a God of compassion and mercy, but he is also just. It can be difficult for us to fully comprehend how these attributes coexist, but that is because we are understanding these concepts in mere human terms. To simply put, God has a God brain, and we, with our human brain, will never be able to fully understand how God works through both grace and justice. Fortunately, we don’t need to know the how in order to believe He does. 

Everyone experiences injustice in their lives. Whether large scale injustice like racism or sexism, to smaller personal injustices within relationships and friend groups. No matter the severity, God is aware of them all. It is the smaller injustices I want to address, today. 

When our feelings are hurt, when lies or gossip as been spread about us, when we are betrayed by people we trust, we feel robbed and empty. We want someone to hear our side of the story. If we’re honest with ourselves, we really aren’t looking for God to rain down fire upon the guilty individual(s). Usually, all we really want is an apology. But there are some situations in which we will never get this. This can hurt, so deeply. I know. I’m in a situation like that now. 

If you’re like me, dealing with a relational injustice, you probably aren’t wishing terrible horrible judgment upon said person. You are probably just wanting closure or a chance to be heard. Take comfort in today’s reading. God is a God of justice, one who rights wrongs. While I may never get the respect I deserve, or the chance to rewrite the narrative believed about me, God knows, and God sees. In these cases, punishment need not necessarily occur in order for us to feel justified. The fact the LORD knows and sees can be justice enough.

~ Emilee Ross

 

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

Tomorrow, we continue reading the writings of Amos – Amos, chapters 6-9 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Twisting Truth

Job 6-9

Job 9 19 NIV

This week we will be reading through the bulk of the book of Job, from chapter 6 to 31.  Job has already been struck with monstrous trials: the loss of his material goods and livelihood, the loss of all 10 children at once, a painful disease that affects his entire body from his head to his toes, and a wife who tells him to curse God and die.  We know that these ordeals were not a result of God’s judgement on Job for some large, grievous, hidden sin because in Job 1:8 we heard God’s description of Job – “he Is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” However, in this week’s reading we will hear many conversations between Job and his friends who came to console him, but then turned to some questionable counsel instead.

 

I admire his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, for coming alongside their suffering friend.  Job 2:11-13 says when they heard of Job’s distress they made a plan to meet together to visit Job to sympathize and comfort.  When they saw him they wept – and then they sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights.  To think, how often do I have trouble finding the time to send a card to a hurting friend?  These friends had the best intentions and were giving of themselves in a time of crisis.  But, good intentions are not always enough.

 

Along with their good intentions, they also were armed with some very true and accurate knowledge of God.  Throughout the passages this week there will be many times where Job’s friends – and Job himself – will share solid truths about God, His majesty, sovereignty, love, justice and faithfulness.  My favorite passage in today’s chapters of the truth of God’s majesty is from chapter 9, verses 4-12.  I didn’t know that the constellations (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades) were named so long ago.

 

But sometimes, even starting with good intentions and a knowledge of the truth (or some truth), is not enough.  This week I want us to look for instances where his friends (and sometimes Job) begin with their good intentions and a truth about God and mankind – but come up with false conclusions – such as – God is just and loving – so if you are suffering you must have done a terrible sin God is paying you back for.  And, while we search for those truths that were then twisted in the ancient book of Job, let us also search our society, our community, our church, ourselves.

 

And – two verses that are a beautiful nugget too good to not repeat:

“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together”

Job 9:32 & 33

The older NIV version in place of “someone to bring us together” says “to lay his hand upon us both”.  I love the imagery.  Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son Jesus who has a hand on us and a hand on you, that he sees us in our suffering and speaks to you on our behalf.

 

Stay in His Word as you Seek Grow & Love in 2020!

Marcia Railton

 

You can read or listen to Job 6-9 here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+6-9&version=NIV

And you can print our Bible reading plan here – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Seeing Beyond the Tears

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5 4 NIV.png

Today’s beatitude is like a living enigma in my mind and without a living God makes absolutely no sense. Matthew 5.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The word mourn can also mean sadness.  Let’s attempt to read in our definition of blessed from yesterday. Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. The idea that I am happy when I am mourning is a real problem in my head. I don’t know about yours.

Have you ever had a friend who was out to accomplish something great and they finally accomplish it? Through this whole process you are proud of them for suffering and enduring and getting to the other side. It is awesome to see your friends succeed. It’s great when you get to celebrate those events and successes with them.

Now when they are hurting and in the middle of this great struggle it is really hard. Sometimes in the middle of life you don’t see how it is going to work out well for you and all you know is that your soul hurts and you don’t see any reprieve. Yet when someone else is going through one of those times it is so easy to see the end for them. When someone else is trying to go through a hard time or is pushing through a hard time it is simple for us to say, “It will all be worth it” or, “You will get through this.”

The reason why it can be easy for us to say those things is we are seeing the end for our friends. Outside of that pain, suffering and sadness we are able to see clearly that it will all be alright or what they are going through will at least be worth it. Sadness, pain and suffering can distort our view and cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture and our hope.

To be completely honest… you will suffer in this life. If you live as a Christian you will probably suffer more. There will be plenty of mourning and sadness.  Sorry guys.

The thing I cling to and the thing that allows people to get through extraordinarily challenging things and accomplish great things is they cling to hope and draw near to God. I will say it again. They cling to HOPE and draw near to GOD.

I believe that God will comfort us in the here and now when we pray for it. Sometimes, however, I can pray and still feel empty and sad. So, what do we do then? How do you continue on?

2 Corinthians 4.17-18 says “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

We aren’t living for this world. We are living for a world that we cannot see yet. We suffer through things that we don’t fully understand. The implication of what we are living for is a kingdom that hasn’t yet come. There is no suffering in vain as long as you are walking with God through it. The reason our mourning and sadness makes us blessed is because it isn’t for nothing.  I know one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no mourning and sadness and we will get to see God in all his glory face to face (Rev. 21.4).

I find my comfort in those things when this world has left me mourning. Don’t let the pain and suffering you are going through distract you from the great comfort you have hope in.

It will all be worth it.

Dan Wall

Living Water

Revelation 7

Revelation 7 17

When I am sad it is hard for me to function properly. I usually get anxious and worried and often I am emotionally compromised. It usually takes someone else to put me back on the right train of thought and to change my attitude.

Revelation 7:17 says this, “For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Often times when we are sad or upset, anxious, mad, or disgusted, Jesus has to Shepard us into a new train of thought. One with a better perspective and one that is better for our well-being. He gives us a new feeling, that which feels like a fresh drink of water and refreshes us. He allows our hearts to be calmed and gives us hope for the future.

This is my prayer this morning, that Jesus would give you hope and that you would find peace in him and his ways. Because he is the Shepherd who leads and guides us through the hills of life.

Jesse Allen

In Need of Comfort?

2 Corinthians 1

2 Corinthians 1 3 4

A teddy bear, a hug from a friend, macaroni and cheese, a cup of tea – where do you turn to find comfort?  Any of these might work after a tough day when you are looking for a bit of comfort.  But what about if you have had a tough month, or maybe even a difficult season or a year of trials?

Paul is a man who chose to live all out for God, His Son Jesus, the Church, and the Coming Kingdom – and that meant some very difficult seasons and years of trials.  Persecution, being stoned and left for dead, a continuing health problem, jailed multiple times, and much more.  In the opening chapter of his 2nd (preserved) letter to the church in Corinth Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But, this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (vs. 8-9).  Remember that 58 verse Resurrection Chapter in his previous letter to the same church – this is why it is so important to Paul – it is his hope – his comfort – what keeps him going even through a long difficult season – the God who raises the dead.  He is worthy of being relied upon.

I love the list of descriptions Paul gives of God in 2 Corinthians 1:3. God is worthy of our praise.  God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is the Father of compassion.  He is the God of all comfort.

He IS the God of ALL comfort.

If you find yourself in need of some comfort – turn to God.  He is the God of all comfort.

Too many times, instead, God is blamed for tough times and people turn away from Him.  He didn’t heal our loved one.  He didn’t help me get that dream job.  I flunked my math test.  My marriage (or my parents’ marriage) ended in divorce.  He could have stopped it.  He could have fixed it.  But He didn’t and it hurts.  So, I will turn from Him.  And the hurt festers and grows.

How much more comfort is there in turning TO God, even in the hurt.  The Creator God who made us. The God of compassion.  NOT the God of a perfect life filled with sunshine and lollipops.  But the God who is always present, always listening, always strong enough to comfort us in our tears or distress.  The God who loved us enough to let His Son die for our sins so we could draw near to Him.  The God who raises the dead.  The God who will send His Son to Earth again.  The God who is creating a coming kingdom greater than anything we can imagine.  This wise, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God who reveals Himself in His Word.

If you are in need of comfort – look in His Word to find the God of all comfort.  Not sure where to start – how about with a collection of Bible verses called Father’s Love Letter.  There are video, audio, and printable copies at https://www.fathersloveletter.com/.  But, that’s just a start.  Grab your teddy bear and bowl of mac and cheese or cup of tea and open up His Word and find Him there.

And, not just for your own comfort – so that you then can be a comfort to others by sharing the God of comfort with others in distress.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

 

May You Be Comforted,

Marcia Railton

 

A Most Encouraging, Comforting and Exciting Passage

Rev 21 4

We are excited about beginning our New Testament Bible Reading plan this coming Sunday.  The rest of this week we will be hearing from various writers on what God’s Word means to them.  Today, we are pleased to hear from Seth Ross, the Executive Director of the Church of God General Conference and Atlanta Bible College President.

 

Over the years, I have found certain portions of Scripture have come back to encourage me over and over. Revelation 21 is one of those chapters that encourages me when I’m down, it comforts me when I’m in pain, and it excites me when… well, all the time. When I’ve lost people close to me (grandparent, parent, etc) the particular verses below have given me comfort in what God has in store for us. On days when I’m not sad, this same passage excites me about what is coming and it gives me strength to make spiritual decisions that might not make sense to most people. In this special chapter, in this special section, there’s one special verse that gives me a sense of how much God loves for each of us individually and how much he really cares. This is what can encourage you to read the rest of the Bible through the year to see what else God has in store for you.

REVELATION 21:1-4
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

TO MEMORIZE
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4

 

-Seth Ross

 

 

To Encourage One Another

1 thess 4 16

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The first Christians lived in anticipation of the near return of Jesus from heaven. He left by rising up into the clouds…. He said he would come back in the same way to bring their reward, the fullness of the Kingdom of God. They hoped that he would come in their lifetime. As his coming, or parousia, took longer than they anticipated, some of the believers began to die. This left those still living concerned. What’s going to happen to those who died before Jesus returned, would they miss out on his Kingdom when he returns?

Paul writes this letter out of a pastoral concern to give encouragement to these grieving (and scared) believers. He clearly tells them what will happen. Those who are still alive when Jesus comes will not have any advantage over those who died. In fact, when Jesus returns the trumpet will sound and those who have died will actually be the first to rise-they will come up from out of their graves to meet Jesus in the air. After they have risen, the living believers will rise up to join them and meet Jesus in the air together with those who died.

He then gives the assurance that we will be with the Lord forever. This is the fulfillment of our hope… life in the coming Age. The present, evil age will come to an end, and the kingdom of God, beginning with Jesus’ reign over all the earth will begin.

Paul concludes his letter by encouraging the church to comfort each other with these words. It was intended to offer comfort and hope to grieving believers whose loved ones had died before the coming of Jesus.

Today, as we wait for the return of Jesus, just as in the first century, believers die while waiting for Jesus. While nothing can take away the grief of losing someone we love, we can still receive, and give comfort to one another with the knowledge that when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise first, we will rise up to meet them with Jesus, and then, we will be with them and with the lord forever.

Personally, I’ve got several people that I can’t wait to see again. I’m sure you do too.

-Jeff Fletcher

Read More of the Good Book

2Tim3 1617 (1)

Today’s common New Year’s resolution is to read more of the Bible. One reason people quit this resolution is that they get lost quickly, or they do not have a plan on how much they are going to read, or they are inconsistent or they do not have accountability to keep them on track. Whatever the reason people tend to start off with good intentions, but they often fall short of their goal.

The verses today are 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalms 19:9-11, and Luke 12:27-28

So why do people want to read more of their Bible? Why is it important to read the Bible? How do we stay true to our goal of reading more? How do we get started? These are all questions you may have, and they are questions that I myself have had in my life.

There are so many reasons to add “read the Bible more” to your New Year’s resolutions. Check out 2 Timothy 3:14-17. These verses tell us that we need to know the teachings and laws of God from a young age and that every word in our Bible, every scripture is inspired by God and can be used in numerous different ways. They are good for teaching and correction, seeking righteousness. Through reading the Bible we strengthen our knowledge of God which can help us strengthen our relationship with him. When our relationship with God is strengthened we are complete, and we can be empowered to do good works in his name and for his will. Another great reason to read the Bible is because knowing more about the history of our faith, the history of God, and his son and the people of God, can give us a deeper understanding of how truly amazing our God is. He is the creator of the heavens and earth, he hand-crafted every thing of this earth, and yet he chose to create you too. He took the time to create you and build his own plan for your life, and all of this is found in scripture. Jeremiah 29:11 says,” For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.” The Bible is full of stories and histories that are good for us to know, and they are good for us to draw parallels in our own lives.

Psalms 19:9-11 “The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever, Yahweh’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the extract of honey-comb. Moreover by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” These verses tell us that God’s word is more precious than gold, and it is sweeter than honey-comb. God’s word feeds our spirits, and having this fulfillment does not happen if we do not know the ordinances and the word of God. This is such an awesome gift that God has created for us. We can see his love and his caring for all of his creation through his word, and we can see his true value of us through the Bible as well.

Luke 12:27-28 “Consider the lilies, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin. Yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God does so clothe the grass in the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you, O you of little faith?” These verses tell us how much God cares for us, and will take care of our every need. We live and breathe, we take care of other people, we help our neighbors, we take care of our families and friends, we worship God and in all these things we sometimes worry if our every need will be taken care of. In these verses we find assurance that even flowers and fields which serve very minor purposes are clothed in beauty, and we are so much more and God will take care of us. This is another reason to read our Bibles. When we are worried, sad or confused we can find solace and strength in the words the Bible has for us.

Today I want you to take this with you. The Bible is a great book that is useful in many contexts. It us useful for teaching others and yourself more about your faith. It is important for learning more about God and building a stronger relationship with him. It is a great comfort when we are in need or we are stuck in worry. The Bible was given as a gift to us, and we should treat it as this precious gift. We need to spend time in our Bibles. Going forward from reading this today, I hope that you can find a way to read more. Start by reading this blog, continue by using an app that sends you a verse of the day. You may even want to find an accountability partner to read along with you, or remind you to read. Being a Christian should not be a lonely venture. There are people out there who will support in your journey to God. I hope you’ve enjoyed today.

-Jana Swanson