The Battles Fought and Still Fight

June 26     1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26

David is still fighting battles and confronting the enemies around him.  When things still flare up in Israel today, I often think how LONG it has been happening for about 2,700 years! Battles and hatred from their surrounding enemies has actually been going on for a long time in Israel. It is actually “old news” to hear the continual fighting. In this battle, Joab led David’s army. He could see that the battle was against them this time. He encouraged his best men, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” (19:13) What encouraging words from the army captain. He did not encourage them to find strength in themselves or by their own might and power they could win, but to be STRONG for their people and the cities of God, and that God would do what was good in HIS SIGHT. When young Israeli men (like our 2 sons) and women are sworn into the Israeli army today, Joshua chapter 1 is read to them in Hebrew. I found these words to be very touching and encouraging to a young soldier. (By the way, ALL boys are required to serve 3 years after high school in the Israeli military and girls 2 years. So, they are not thinking about what college they are going to attend, but what division of the army they would like to go into. Girls are not required to do combat. Lots of a variety of tests are given to match them up to fitting tasks for them.) “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9   What hope and encouraging words for the army of Israel, back then and today.  Like the schools, also their military is not anti-God or Bible.  How awesome that a whole chapter of the Bible is read at every soldier’s swearing into the Israeli army.  May they and we truly find our strength and courage in the God of Israel. 

Another battle was against the Philistines at Gath. Goliath was also from Gath. It is an ancient ruin still visible today as you can see in the drone picture that our son took. David’s brother, Jonathan killed a 24 finger and toed giant from Gath! We do not see any giants there today!

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It is interesting to note the allusion to David, one of many sling throwers, in Proverbs 26:8. “Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool.”  I understand this to mean that it is not fitting to praise a fool, like putting ammo in a gun except in this case it is a stone in a sling.  In conclusion, of todays and this week’s devotionals I hope you have a greater LOVE for the God of Israel, His Messiah Jesus, and beautiful Land of the Bible. 😊

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Haman’s Pride and Prejudice

Esther 1-5

When we read a good book, there are several things that we look for. A hero, a villain, a little romance, and some intrigue. We always enjoy a book with some plot twists to keep us guessing. The book of Esther has all that and more. Many scholars have mentioned that God is not mentioned in Esther, but the story is all about His faithfulness to His children.

Once upon a time in a land far away, King Ahasuerus, King of the Medes and Persians was throwing a banquet to show off his wealth and power. He wanted to show off his beautiful Queen Vashti, but she refused his summons. His advisors demanded he divorce her because the other wives in the kingdom would not honor their husbands. They decided to host a beauty pageant of all the young ladies in the land to choose the next Queen.

In the city of Sushan, lived a Jew named Mordecai, his father was one of the captives under Nebuchadnezzar. Mordecai was raising his first cousin, Esther, because she was orphaned. Esther was picked to be one of the candidates for Queen. Esther had not told anyone she was a Jew due to Mordecai’s advice. Some of the people looked down upon the Jews. Esther went before the King and found favor in the sight of all. 2:17a “The King loved Esther more than all the other women.” He made her his Queen.

Mordecai sat at the gate and heard Bigham and Teresh, the doorkeepers, plotting to kill King Ahasuerus.  Mordecai told Queen Esther, and she told King Ahasuerus in Mordecai’s name. It was checked out, found to be true, and both were hung on gallows and it was written down in the book of the chronicles, in the presence of the King. 

There was an evil prince named Haman whom King Ahasuerus promoted over the other princes. Everyone had to bow and pay homage to Haman. Mordecai would not bow to him, and it filled Haman with rage. He convinced the King that all the Jews were opposed to the King and that they should be destroyed. The King told him in 3:11 “to do with them as seems good to you.” Haman sent out a decree to kill, destroy, and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old on one day.  When the Jews heard of this, there was great mourning, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many wore sack cloth and ashes. Mordecai sent Esther a message and showed her the decree, and he suggested that she go to the King and plead before him for her people. She said she had not been called to visit the King in 30 days, and she would be killed if she went before him and he did not extend his gold scepter to her.” Esther promises to approach the King and asks all the Jewish people to fast and pray for the three days prior to the meeting. So, Mordecai did all that was asked of him.

On the 3rd day she went before the King in her royal robes and found favor. He held out his golden scepter. The King asked her request and in 5:3b “It shall be given to you, up to half of the kingdom.” She asked the King and Haman to come to a banquet that she would prepare. They went to the banquet, the King once again asked for her petition and said that it would be granted her. She asked for him to come back the next night along with Haman to another banquet. Haman went out joyful but when he saw Mordecai in the Kings gate, he was filled with hate in his heart. He told his wife that Queen Esther had invited him to a banquet with the King, and he was invited back for the next day. But he couldn’t enjoy it as long as Mordecai the Jew sat in the Kings gate. His wife suggested he build huge gallows and then suggest that Mordecai be hanged from it in the morning. This pleased him and gallows was built. You will need to come back tomorrow for the…. rest of the story.

When we read this story it’s easy for us to think we would do the same thing that Esther did because we know how it will end, but it took a lot of courage for her to even go before the King with her request because she knew that he could command to have her killed if he so chose. These are a couple of my favorite verses in this passage 4:13-14 “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther; ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.’” And Esther sends this reply to Mordecai 4:16b “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Mordecai totally trusted God to save the Jewish people, somehow, someway. He reminds Esther that maybe God put her in the position she is in for just this reason.

We need to trust in God to know that if we can do the right thing and glorify God in the process that God has us right where He wants us, and He will use us if we allow Him to. Esther didn’t go into this blindly, and she did things in the correct order. She asks everyone to fast and pray to God for her to find favor with the King, after they did that, she courageously put her life on the line, she was willing to lay down her life for a just cause. We need to be looking for our “such a time as this”, when we allow God to use us to fulfill His purpose.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Esther 1-5

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Esther’s story as we continue on our

Not Enough

Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 & 79

Jeremiah 38 18 NIV sgl

I believe today’s Bible reading ranks high among the most depressing passages of Scripture.   From the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll by King Jehoiakim which we read about yesterday to the major blows against Judah we read about today another 17 years has passed.  Jeremiah is still preaching, warning, and speaking truth for God, but very few seem to be interested.  In all, Jeremiah will have preached 39 years, his ministry reaching across the reigns of 5 kings of Judah, only one of whom truly listened to Jeremiah and had a heart for God.  If more had responded the way Josiah had, the disastrous events of today’s reading would have been avoided.  But instead, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (chosen by Nebuchadnezzar), is a weak king who lacks the courage to do things God’s way.

Unlike Jehoiakim who scorned God’s word and His prophet, Zedekiah seems to know about God and His power.  He asks Jeremiah to pray for them and he secretly asks Jeremiah what he should do.  BUT – he doesn’t do it.  And, when feeling pressure from Jeremiah’s enemies, he even gives his permission for them to mistreat him and abandon him to die in a deep, muddy pit.  Thankfully, Ebed-Melek was there to petition the king to allow them to rescue Jeremiah.  Even at Judah’s final hour, with Babylon at the city walls, God, through Jeremiah, gave Zedekiah an opportunity to save his life and his city.  He could surrender to Babylon and peacefully accept the “time-out” Judah deserved for her waywardness.  But, instead he runs from God’s plan into a tragic, tragic end for himself, his family, his advisors, his city and his country.  Do you think he regretted his decision as he was watching his sons be put to death, or as his eyes were gouged out?

Suddenly, surrendering to God’s plan doesn’t seem so hard, difficult or painful after all -considering the consequences of the alternatives.  Is there an area where you are feeling too weak, too prideful, too insignificant, too scared to follow God’s plan?  Remember, there are often painful consequences of running from God’s plan.  It’s not enough to know of God and his power and truth.  It’s not enough to ask for prayer and guidance.  You must step up and do what God wants you to do.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 38-40 and 

Psalm 74 & 79

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 24 & 25 and 2 Chronicles 36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

5 Point Checklist

1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16 13 14

 

At first this chapter seems to be a hodge-podge mixture of final instructions and greetings regarding several people we don’t know in a church we’ve never been to.  And yet, could Paul really just as well have been writing to us regarding our church?  Where would he insert your name today?  Let’s see what we find…

 

Paul begins by instructing the Corinthians to each be setting aside a weekly gift offering (in accordance with their income) on the first day of the week (not just giving some left-overs at the end of the week – if there was anything left).  This money would then be collected when Paul arrived and sent with responsible men to the church in Jerusalem which was experiencing great poverty and famine as well as persecution.  Generous, scheduled/weekly, repeated giving to help the Christian brothers and sisters in need.  Are we called to do any less?   How are you and your Christian community giving to support a church in need?  I think immediately of the needs in Malawi and Mozambique which have been hit so hard with recent cyclones and flooding resulting in the loss of crops, homes, churches and lives.  http://www.lhicog.com/images/Africa_Disaster_Relief.pdf.

 

I was struck with the reason Paul said he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost: “For a wide door for effective service has opened for me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9).  How exciting to have a WIDE door for EFFECTIVE service OPENED for ME!  Have you been testing doors to see which ones will open – even a crack?  I am quite sure Paul hadn’t been sitting on his couch watching Netflix when suddenly a door opened wide for him.  It often takes time, sacrifice, trials, perseverance, and ordering priorities to seek and find the open doors.  And when that door did open wide – it was still far from easy – in fact he found he had many adversaries!  But, rather than high-tailing it out of there and looking for an easier way – he was scheduling his priorities to stay where he was for that time because he saw how he could be used by God for effective service.  Would I recognize the open door?  Am I testing doors?  Am I not scared away at the possibility of gaining a few adversaries?  Let’s pray today (and daily) for “wide doors for effective service” to be opened for each of us – even if it comes with some adversaries.  And then – for the courage and wisdom to advance through the door.

 

Paul leaves a concise 5 point checklist for the church – of any century (vs. 13 & 14).

  1. Be on your guard

Watch for spiritual dangers – they are sneaky, real, powerful and deadly.  Apathy, busy-ness, worldliness, sin, a different gospel, and pride (to name just a few) can easily creep in when you aren’t standing guard against them.

  1. Stand firm in the faith

Remain steadfast in what matters most – your faith will be attacked (by others, by the enemy, by trials).  Keep it the priority.  Don’t be swayed.  Believe in God and the truth He gives.

  1. Be courageous

Troubles will come – be courageous – keep following God into the battle.  Gain courage knowing you are dressed for success with the Armor of God.

  1. Be strong

It will be hard– be disciplined in your spiritual training which will grow your spiritual muscle power.  Rely on His strength knowing you can’t do it alone. Stay connected to your church – there is strength in numbers.

  1. Do everything in love

In the midst of the spiritual battle, don’t grow cold-hearted – love, every time.  What does real love look like?  Self-sacrifice, giving, do onto others, sharing truth and the saving message of salvation, and love even when they haven’t earned it. (Refresh your love checklist with 1 Corinthians 13 again.)

 

These two short verses (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love – 1 Corinthians 16:13,14) would be great to post on your bathroom mirror to see every morning as you prepare for the day.  Examine yourself daily – not just your hair, teeth and physical appearance.  How are you looking spiritually?  What do others see when they look at you?  What grades would you earn for your watchfulness, steadfastness, courage, strength and love of the day before?    What will courage look like today?  What spiritual dangers are lurking around the corner?   Who is God putting in your life to love in a special way?  Pray for these qualities in yourself and others, surround yourself with those developing and demonstrating these attributes so you can mutually encourage (and sometimes even admonish) one another.

 

Be the church Paul longed to see.

 

It’s not easy – but it’s always worth it.  (Refresh your resurrection recall with 1 Corinthians 15).

 

There are so many other great nuggets in this chapter.  Take the time to read it today and see where Paul would have put your name.

 

Praying for God’s Church,

Marcia Railton

 

Teddy Bears and Corn Snakes

Joshua 1_9

Do you consider yourself to be courageous?

Do you see courage as being something only heros have? Do you have to be like David taking down Goliath or Daniel surviving a lions den or the Avengers fighting against Thanos? Or can you be courageous in your everyday life?

According to Dr. Yadin Dubai, from the Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel courage is something that can be practiced. He came to this finding by splitting a group of volunteers into those that were afraid of snakes and those that weren’t. The volunteers were instructed to choose whether to move a teddy bear or corn snake closer or further away. While the participants were making their choice there was a functional magnetic imaging scan done of there head. This scan picked up on activity in the part of the brain called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). When the participants who feared snakes chose to overcome fear and move the snake closer the sgACC increased, versus those that gave into fear and moved the snake further.

This research found that our brain can learn courage. We can activate and increase the sgACC or part of brain that houses courage by taking conscious, deliberate steps to overcome fear.

Many of us won’t find ourselves facing a literal giant, surviving a lions den or even battling an intergalactic space villain (although that would be sick!). We do however find ourselves facing fears each day. Sometimes those fears are simply getting up out of bed and starting a new day, maybe it’s forgiving someone that you thought you never could, or maybe it’s flying across the county to do mission work or start a new ministry. Whatever your fear in life may be, know that you can overcome it with a little practice and a little patience.

Joshua 1: 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

-Elleigh Dylewski

The Big Sea Adventure

Acts 27

acts 27 20

I love this chapter! It reads like an exciting adventure novel full of rising suspense, anxious expectation, unfortunate loss, and desperate hope. Now I don’t know a lot about sailing, but it sounds like as soon as they board the Alexandrian ship things don’t go so well. In verse seven we see that they had to sail slowly for a “good many days and with difficulty.”  They arrive at Cnidus with difficulty and then they arrive at Fair Havens with difficulty. This voyage is a lot harder than it should have been and they have lost a lot of time. Verse nine clues us in on the time of year it is by saying “the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over.” Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it was now late September. They knew they would need to stop soon for the winter because it wasn’t a good time to sail anymore. And Paul warned them to stop, but they weren’t listening to a prisoner’s advice at this time. The captain wanted to get around to a better location for spending the winter.

Isn’t this nice plot development? There is some nice character development, too. Let’s consider the nameless centurion for just a minute. He was in charge of the prisoners and he had already previously “treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.” Sure, he didn’t listen to Paul’s warning that they should stop travelling, but it seems reasonable to think that the centurion knows a fair amount about Paul. He probably went to the hearing Paul had with Agrippa. He saw the faith, love, and determination of a prisoner unlike any other prisoner he had ever been in charge of I would wager.

The storms get worse. The despair rises and Paul speaks up to assure everyone that God will save them, but not the ship. He tells them to be courageous. Soon, it looks like land is approaching and, while this is good news, a new threat is upon them. Can they safely make it to land? Some try to jump ship and this time it seems like the centurion listens to Paul when he says the men must remain in the ship in order for everyone to be saved.

We are approaching the climax of the story and Paul tells the men to eat and strengthen themselves. He encourages them and thanks God in front of all of them during a time of intense uncertainty. When day breaks will they see land? Will they be able to get to it? The next day finds the ship stuck and being torn apart by forceful waves. The soldiers think they need to kill the prisoners so they don’t go free. This seems like a reasonable plan, but the centurion steps up to protect Paul. What a climax! The ship is tearing to pieces, death is perilously near, and everyone must jump overboard. And the story ends just the way I love for a good story to end; with a happy ending! All 276 on the ship “were brought safely to land.” Was it all just physical salvation? Is there a future salvation for some who witnessed firsthand the power of God? Here is where the reader must speculate and come up with his/her own assumptions.

-Melissa New

God’s Presence Even in “Failures”

acts 23 11

Acts 23

Paul knew what it was to be a Jew, but he also knew the benefits of being a Roman.  At the end of Chapter 22 we saw two ways you could become a Roman though you were a Jew. You could purchase the privilege at a great cost or you could be lucky enough to have been born a Roman as Paul was. Tarsus was designated a “free city” by Rome. Anyone born there was automatically Roman. We know it wasn’t luck, though. The commander (or chief captain depending on the version you read) must have thought Paul was a lucky dog! We know better. God was working in Paul’s life before he was even born!

Since Paul was a Roman, he was to have a fair trial. A nice little perk for being a Roman, you can see. Paul can sense right away at the start of Chapter 23, though, that he won’t get a fair trial among the Jews. They will surely find him guilty. Paul seems to be doomed. Fortunately, there was that commander that seemed interested in Paul. What a lucky dog! How very fortunate for him that God put that commander there! And this commander feels a powerful urge to protect Paul as a precious Roman.

What a terrible failure his time in Jerusalem seems to have been! No one would listen to him and people want him dead. But God’s active presence in his life is undeniable during this seemingly unsuccessful adventure into Jerusalem.

-Melissa New

 

My name is Melissa New. I am a Sunday School Teacher/Youth Leader at McGintytown Church of God of Abrahamic Faith in Arkansas. I homeschool the kids God has blessed us with and particularly love English and History. I’m pretty passionate about church camps too! 🙂 My favorite verse of the Bible is Jeremiah 29:13 and my favorite Psalm is Psalm 37. 

Boldly Be His

Saturday –

Boldly Be His & Who He Made YOU to Be!

Let’s recap who you are.

You are a new creation in Christ, created with a purpose.

You are God’s masterpiece, His poem.

You are an overcomer!

Once we begin to see who God had in mind when He created us, and we agree with Him to lean in to that (as opposed to running from it), we are then able to start living boldly for Him.

One of the dominant themes of the book of Acts is the boldness of the believers.

A short aside here:  Boldness does not mean crazy, irrational, illogical, or rude behavior.

Boldness is when we truly know something and our actions are determined by that belief.  The Greek word translated as ‘boldness’ in Acts is “parrhesia” and it conveys the idea of confidence, assurance, courage and acting without fear.

Remember Peter, who we talked about the other day.  The early Peter was characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions.  (Example, “Hey Jesus, everyone else may abandon you but not this guy, not me.”…..Proceeds to deny knowing Jesus repeatedly).  Yeah, that guy.

BUT, not long after that, Peter preached one of the boldest messages in history and said things like, “You are a corrupt generation.  Turn from your sin, repent and get baptized!”  (Acts 3-4)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The word that’s translated ‘ordinary’ is the Greek word “idiotas.”

Any guesses what that means?

Yup, Peter and John were idiots.  Idiots for Christ.  So we could give the book of Acts the subtitle, “The Idiots Guide to Boldness.”

When’s the last time someone was amazed at your boldness?

I think we often put the cart before the horse when it comes to boldness.  We want so badly to be used by God, to serve, to be bold…that we run ahead.  The key is that boldness that accomplishes something, boldness that matters, comes from knowing who we were created to be.  It comes from everything we’ve been talking about this week.

Your boldness won’t mean anything if you don’t know who you are…or should I say, whose you are.

And if I can offer one bit of advice from someone a bit further down the road…this process is not quick.  As we seek Him, God reveals bits to us.  It’s a lifelong pursuit, not an assignment to check off of our to-do list.

But that’s also kind of cool.  That there’s always more to know, more ways to grow.

Praying for you to see yourself through His eyes.

-Susan Landry

 

Note:  These lessons this week were drawn from Craig Groeschel’s book, “Altar Ego”.  If you’re looking to read more on the subject, I highly recommend it.

 

When I Don’t Feel Courageous

Joshua 6 – Courage Recap

Be Strong & Courageous

Saturday, October 14

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

It is interesting that no “strong and courageous” pep talk is included in Joshua 6 as the Israelites were receiving and acting upon instructions for overtaking the walled fortress of Jericho.  Rather, the Lord said, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands…March!” (Joshua 6:2).  And the people did it – God’s way – and the walls came a tumbling down.

Were the people scared as day after day they approached the city to march around it’s walls?   Perhaps some were.  Perhaps some were remembering their fathers who had crumbled in fear and discouragement when faced with the prospect of fighting against the fortified cities of Canaan.  Yet, they had determined that something else was more important than fear – and they were following God.  Likewise, you have the opportunity to be a new generation.  You don’t have to follow a history of fear, failure, or inaction.

Perhaps they were making a conscience effort to instead focus on how they saw God and his faithfulness at work as well as how they had personally been prepared for this moment.  Remembering the crossing of the Jordan River.  Remembering Joshua’s meeting with the commander of the army of the Lord.  Remembering how they consecrated themselves in preparation to see amazing things the Lord would do.  Remembering the importance of relying on God’s Word rather than your feelings of fear (Joshua 1:6-9).  Remembering the Lord’s words that Joshua had passed on to them:  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

My daughter and I just read The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom.   We both highly recommend it!  In German occupied Holland Corrie and her family hide and care for many Jews during World War II – a job that certainly required a great deal of strength and courage.  Corrie’s life is a beautiful example of God providing for and preparing those who are seeking to follow God and His Word, regardless of the fears or consequences.  No doubt our memory verse this week was a great comfort as well as battle cry for Corrie: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

What courageous works is God preparing you to do?  You may have no idea today.  But use the day to follow Him, remembering His faithfulness.  Actively seek and pray for direction on what courageous act God would have you do for Him today, next month and 5 years from now.   And then – DO it!

Be Strong and Courageous!

Marcia Railton

Courageously, Humbly Compliant

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 14 (1)

Friday, October 13

There are a lot of great tidbits in today’s reading of Joshua 5.  Go ahead and read it and see what you find.

I love the part about the foreign kings’ hearts melting as they lost courage to fight against the Israelites and their powerful God.   (vs 1).

I love the part about the men following through to show they were committed to a new start in following God with their whole mind, body and strength – being set apart as God’s unique and chosen people (vs 2-9).

I love the part about the Israelites eating food grown in Canaan for the first time – and the manna from the sky – which God had provided for 40 years – stopping on the very next day  (vs 10-12).

But my favorite part is when Joshua is approaching Jericho and meets an armed man – but he can’t tell if he is friend or foe.  So he courageously approaches him and asks.  The man, with drawn sword replies, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (vs 14).   I am impressed with Joshua – not only brave and courageous, but humble as well.  Joshua, and all of the Israelites likely, considered Joshua to be the commander of the army of the Lord – until meeting this man/being with drawn sword.  But rather than arrogantly questioning this – he falls at his feet and instead asks what message the Lord has for Joshua.  I pray that I would be as courageous as Joshua – along with as humbly compliant.  Not standing up to God, or his commander, not proudly speaking of my battle plan or claiming titles – but at his feet – asking for directions – and then courageously stepping out to do them.

-Marcia Railton