Sharing the Victory

1 John 5

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

One more song this week – 1 John 5:4-5 “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Those two verses are the song, but verse 4 picks up in the middle of a sentence & thought, so backing up a couple verses:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we have faith, we can overcome this world.  Our faith that Jesus is the son of God gives us victory and makes God’s commands not burdensome thereby helping us to keep His commands.  And by keeping His commands, we can love one another – the children of God.

Verse five is also a reminder that the victory is exclusionary.  Who overcomes the world?  Only those that believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  We have to strike a balance in our love for others.  Because if we love based on the world’s terms, we accept anything.  But to do that would not be love.  Because only those who believe that Jesus is God’s son overcome this world.  So if we in our “love” just leave our friends alone because we don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, or we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, we put them in a position of not having that victory.  That isn’t real love.

We give a lot of reasons not to share the love of God with other people and I think fear forms the basis of a lot of it – fear of rejection, fear of being ostracized, fear of losing money/power, etc…

But when we read verses like this, we should be reminded that we have to push through that fear.  To show our love in actions (chapter 3), we need to share with others that while we have been separated from God, God provided an atoning sacrifice for our sins (chapter 4), and with this sacrifice, if we believe, we can overcome and have the victory (chapter 5).

And what is that victory?  As he wraps up his letter, John tells his audience – 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 

We need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God to be a part of that eternal life, and if we are loving others, we should be telling them so they can have that victory too.

~Stephanie Fletcher

Reflection Questions

1.”Who is it that overcomes the world?” (1 John 5:5a – see 5b for the correct answer). Who thinks they are overcoming the world? What are they missing? Do you fall into the overcoming category?

2. Who do you know who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God? How can you truly love them?

3. What is the victory that you have to share? How would you explain it? How will you share it?

Surrender, Sacrifice and Serve

Mark 10

Monday, August 1, 2022

Yesterday, we discussed how we are called to recognize that what we want may not be what God has in store for us. It is up to us to give up our false understanding and lean on the trust we have in God. Today’s passage drums a similar beat. It contains examples of Jesus fulfilling the old law, God’s desires for us, those who will receive this message, and what can happen if we but give ourselves over to Him.

Chapter 10 begins with some Pharisees approaching Jesus on the law concerning Moses. I believe this was yet another one of their attempts to trick Jesus into going against the law of Moses, and thus giving them a reason to condemn Him. He responds by telling them that “it was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law” – Mark 10:5 (the law that a man is permitted to write a certificate of divorce if he so wishes.) He then continues with, “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So, they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” – Mark 10:6-9. I especially love the verbiage of not letting man separate what God has joined, because God’s way is ultimately the only way that matters, and his say is the final word.

Adding to what God has set forth, Jesus rebukes the disciples for hindering children from hearing what Jesus had to say and His blessing. (Side note: this chapter is full of teachings concerning children, which is quite important.) In Mark 10:14-15 Jesus says “… Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Not only has God set forth that the kingdom of God belongs to the little children, but also that it is the ultimate end-goal for every person to reach. It is not, of course, only for the children, but it is a metaphor for the childlike innocence and earnestness of the heart that we should have in our attempt to reach salvation. Not out of spite or a fake face that we put on to appear like we love God.

The second part of this passage ties in well with yesterday’s takeaway; our call to give up from ourselves so that we may gain so much more in return. A beautiful verse expressing this idea is Mark 10:29-31 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” That, my brothers and sisters, is a very difficult task to complete. Would you be able to give up everything in your life for your faith?

Fortunately, it is not without reward, for as much as we give, we will be rewarded 10 times 10 fold over! Perhaps the best way to think of it is that no riches we gain on earth matter in the end, because an eternal life with God is unfathomably more valuable than anything in this life. We must, however, do these things with an earnest heart and not from a realm of bitterness. What’s more is that this principle is not given without an example – Jesus’s sacrifice.

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Even Christ, the most holy of any human to walk this earth, gave of Himself for the sanctity and salvation of others.

The first step towards an eternal life is to trust that God is in control even in the most unsettling or confusing of times. The next step is to then give everything you have to Him, and to be prepared to do so for His glory every day.

-Mason Kiel

Application Questions

  1. Jesus gave many lessons in Mark 10. Looking through the chapter, which one is the biggest challenge for you right now? Why is it difficult? What do you think Jesus would say to you regarding this challenge? What steps would Jesus have you work on to grow closer to what God wants you to be/do.
  2. How does remembering the reward help when it is hard to surrender, sacrifice and serve?
  3. Who and how will you serve today?

Chasing after the Wind

Ecclesiastes 1

Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived (see 1 Kings 3:10-12). He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to probe the meaning of life.  It’s widely believed that he wrote this toward the end of his life, after he had experienced much of what life had to offer.

Let’s look at some of the treasures of wisdom Solomon wrote down:

  • Ecc 1:2, “Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher.  Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”
  • Ecc 1:11, “There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”
  • Ecc 1:14, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
  • Ecc 1:17, “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this too is a chasing after the wind.”
  • Ecc 1:18, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”

We’re only covering chapter 1 here, but chapter 2 goes on to point out the uselessness of pursuing wealth or pleasure or accomplishing great things.

What’s going on here?  Does life just stink?  

Solomon is pointing out the futility of living this mortal life to the fullest – apart from God.  If all we have to look forward to is death, life is indeed meaningless.  It doesn’t matter how much we pursue pleasure, wealth, or anything else that our hearts desire – our life will be unfulfilled, without satisfaction, without joy, without purpose, and without hope.

When my wife was dying after a four-year battle with cancer, we could both take comfort in the fact that we have the hope of the resurrection, and eternal life to look forward to.  Even in death, we have hope of future joy.  Living a life for God gives us hope.  Our life can be fulfilling, with satisfaction, purpose, and joy.

It takes a lot of people a very long time to figure this out.  My challenge to you is to carefully consider the meaning of your life today.  Choose a life of submission and service to God, and your life won’t be meaningless.  Or go your own way, and identify with Solomon’s Ecclesiastes.

–Steve Mattison

Question Application

  1. What do you spend a lot of time (effort, or money) on that Solomon, or God, might consider “Meaningless”?
  2. Have you found anything that gives life satisfaction, purpose and joy? Where would you look?
  3. What will last?

Yellow Skittles and Suffering

Job 2

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Do you like skittles? It seems like everyone has a favorite color and a color they dislike. For me, I dislike the yellow ones. If someone were to give me a pack of skittles, I would simply pick out the yellow ones and eat the colors that I do like. Life, however, is not like this. We cannot pick and choose what we like and don’t like. Our lives are not as simple as pulling weeds out of a garden.

In this chapter of the book of Job we find him in the aftermath of losing everything. To make matters worse, Job is now being afflicted with painful boils. Destroying everything in Job’s possession did not persuade him to curse the name of God, so Satan has now turned to physical attacks.

            Even Job’s wife believes that Job should give up. His wife has also lost everything. The children whom she carried in her womb are dead. The life she knew- gone. She was in great turmoil as well. Her grief causes her to go out to her husband, who is sitting among the ashes, and plainly tell him to curse God for the calamity that has befallen them. And then she says that Job should die. For all that Job has endured certainly there is no reason to continue. No reason to attempt treating himself for boils, which is what he is attempting during this conversation.

            Job’s response is a great reminder. He says in verse 10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

            Such an attitude can be extremely difficult to cultivate in times of such pain. Even Job’s friends, when they first see him in this chapter, weep at the sight of him. Even amongst his pain Job refuses to curse God. Job was unable to cherry pick what was happening in his life. It was out of his power to dispose of his yellow skittles in life.

            It is impossible for us too. We are not promised a perfect life in this fallen world. As a result of the fall of man and sin entering the world, we live in a corrupt world where bad things happen. We are given many good skittles, but that does not mean we will never have taste of a yellow one. But we have hope that one day if we put our trust in God that we will taste eternal life. Every tear and pain from this fallen world will be wiped away and what was imperfect will be made perfect.

            So, until that day comes, let us trust God and know that the taste in our mouth that the yellow skittle leaves is not forever. Remember Job’s words, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

-Hannah Deane

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What have been the yellow Skittles in your life? How did you respond to them? More like Job did? Or his wife? The next time you encounter a great trial or suffering how would you like to envision you will respond? What could you do now to prepare for this response?
  2. What good have you accepted from God? Thank Him for them!
  3. How does keeping an eternal perspective give you strength and hope through the difficulties?

The Final Enemy

1 Corinthians 15

June 16

When I was a kid, I amassed a pretty good collection of action figures.  I had a lot of He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys.  I even had a few from the lesser known franchise Silverhawks.  Transformer toys (the cars and trucks that convert to robots and visa versa) were popular then, too.  I didn’t have many officially licensed Transformers, but several of the toys I did have, could be rapidly changed from one configuration to another in some way.   With just a squeeze of the figures legs, a flip of a switch or a dip in hot or icy cold water and the figure’s costume or facial expression might change.

It seemed easier to tell the difference between heros and villains in the 80’s than it is now.  For example, The evil Skeletor was He-Man’s  enemy.  You could tell just by looking at Skeletor, “he was a bad dude”.  He had a face like a skeleton and always dressed in all dark clothing.   In the cartoons on Saturday mornings, he would cackle with delight at the misfortune of others while I ate Cap’n Crunch.

I still have most of my toys from when I was a kid, but especially those action figures.  I didn’t destroy stuff like some kids do; like MY KIDS do.  (Remember a few days ago, “puddles” and “Whacko”.) At this point I figure I’d better save those old toys  just in case I don’t ever find that savings bond, or my pension fails to keep up with inflation.  Sometimes old toys have a lot of value.  Sometimes the value isn’t monetary.

My toys helped me explore the differences between good and evil and imagine epic battles.  They helped me envision how just when the world seems to be at its darkest possible moment and we feel powerless to the evil closing in around us, our Messiah will return and save the day.

1 Corinthians 15 is one of my three favorite Chapters of the whole Bible.  It paints a vivid picture of a war story more intense and dramatic than any Hollywood blockbuster.  The chapter is chocked full of memorable quotes such as:

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””

1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV

So often, people seem to forget that the Bible calls death the enemy, not the reward.  It is in fact the LAST ENEMY to be destroyed.  It is like the “boss” at the end of a video game.

My favorite restaurant in my hometown, DeKalb, Illinois is Pizza Villa. 

In the basement of Pizza Villa there is a small arcade.  Some of their video games have changed over the years but for as long as I can remember two have been the same. 

They have always had a plastic egg dispenser that has a Fred Flinstone inside that spins around slowly when you put a quarter in it.  Fred says “Yab ah Dab Ah doo. Yab ah Dab Ah doo” twice and a little plastic “Dino egg” falls out with some cheap prize inside.  Maybe it’s a plastic spider ring or an old tootsie roll.  The prizes aren’t worth a quarter but the nostalgia of the experience is priceless.  Then there is  a four player Teenage Mutant Ninja “Turtles in Time”  game.  It’s pretty much a “must play” every time I’m there.  As you may already know, the Ninja Turtle’s final enemy is “Shredder”.  Before you get to face Shredder in the video game though, you have to beat several other opponents that gradually increase in formidability.  Among them, is a huge fly character that I’ve never known the name of, a giant humanoid hippo named Bebop and a rhinoceros named Rocksteady.

I can’t tell you how many quarters my Dad, my buddies and I have plunked into that machine over the years trying to beat Rocksteady.  We could definitely get that horn nosed beast blinking and jumping around faster (a sign that he was taking on damage).  We feverishly thrashed the joy stick and hit “A B B A A B” over and over, desperately trying to deliver just the right combination of bow staff blows and ninja kicks.  I would bargain for more quarters as a kid.  Now,  when my kids get to that spot in the game, they will beg me for “just one more quarter?!” as they watch the final seconds tick away.       There never seems to be enough “pizza power” or pocket change to finish him off.  I’ve never seen anyone beat the game.

Some people seem to think that Satan is God’s final enemy and death is just one of his attack moves. They act like we can put on some kind of invincibility shield by saying the promise of eternal life means we don’t really even die, that we just go somewhere else, maybe even “a better place” immediately.   (Remember the Bingo card I wish I had?).

Satan’s first lie was that Adam and Eve would not really die.  He tried to put a positive spin on sin.  He made it appear as though sin was a pathway to a higher consciousness of some kind; an avenue to special powers or secret knowledge; a way to become almost an equal with God. 

What Satan was actually doing was setting up an ambush by the enemy of death.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life.  As long as they ate from it, they would continue to live.  They were protected from death.  Satan knew he needed to get them out on their own and away from the tree of life for them to be vulnerable to death.  The plan worked. 

Separation from God and the life sustaining properties of the tree of life was the wage of their disobedience (sin).  That separation resulted in death.  Their flesh decayed and they returned to the dust from which they were made.  Absolutely predictable, scientifically repeatable decay takes place when a human body dies.  The changes a dead body goes through are EXACTLY what God said they would be.  Every time.

Without obedience to God we cannot be in his presence.  Without being in his presence we do not have access to the tree of life.  Without access to the tree of life our bodies will grow tired and weak and we are vulnerable to be overcome by the enemy of death.  We spend our lives fighting off gradually more formidable foot soldiers of death that attack when we are isolated by our disobedience.  You know the ones: loneliness, poverty, obesity…when we get to the end we have no energy left to fight off the final enemy- death.   I can’t tell you how much money people have spent trying to keep fighting off death.  Sometimes we make bargains with our father at the last minute for just a little longer. Nobody beats the game. Death wins every time.

It stings to realize that. 

I vividly remember my first bee sting.  I was about 6 years old.  I was helping my dad clean out a little ski boat we had on a trailer in our driveway. I moved a pile of life jackets and disturbed a bee.  It was like life switched to slow motion for a minute.  I saw the little thing wiggle it’s bottom against my arm as it deposited its dagger.  I felt the pain pulsing up my arm.  I cried and gnashed my teeth.  I flailed my arm, but the damage was already done.  It stung me.  My dad removed the stinger and I held an ice cube against the spot to numb it.  Eventually the sting was gone, but the memory wasn’t.  Every time I hear the word “sting” I think of that incident.  As a Funeral Director and a Deputy Coroner,  when I meet with a grieving family, I often see the sting of death in their eyes.  I can almost feel it.  Death stings.  The enemy of death has not been destroyed. 

1 Corinthians 15 tells us there is a day coming when things will be changed faster than a transforming action figure.  We will be made imperishable and the sting from the enemy of death will be no more.  Death itself, the final enemy, will be defeated.

Let us cherish these truths more than our most beloved childhood toys.  Like a box of favorite action figures, let us pass these promises on to our children and their children.  When their savings bonds and pension plans fall short may their hope in Christ sustain them.

-Brian Froehlich

Application questions:

  1. What was your favorite Saturday morning Cartoon? Did you ever have any of the corresponding toys? Do you still have them?
  2. Besides a bee sting, or the sting of death what are some other things that “sting”?
  3. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “enemy”?
  4. How do you define the word “destroy”?
  5. What will it mean for the enemy of death to be destroyed?

So Much to Share

Acts 20

May 8

Paul has so much to share and so little time to share it.  His ministry has taken him from Ephesus to Macedonia, to Greece, to Troas.  It’s a farewell tour.  He preaches all night, knowing it’s his last chance to convey the essentials of salvation.

I’m struck by the caring urgency that Paul has.  He’s spent weeks (even years) with these people and developed relationships.  Shared joys and sorrows.  He wants to be sure they “get it”; the truth of the kingdom of God.   The shared hope of eternal life binds us together over time and distance.

Blessings abound when God’s people gather.  Whether for a long weekend at a retreat, a few days at a camp or a conference, we build friendships that last. “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.”  We’ve all experienced that pang of parting.    But oh the joy of knowing we WILL see each other again as we reign with Christ in his glorious kingdom.

Feel the urgency!

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What do you most admire about Paul?
  2. What attachments have you made to Christian brothers and sisters that have bound you together through time and distance?
  3. How would you rate your “Caring Urgency”? If it’s a little low, what can motivate you to bump it up?

How the Story Ends

Matthew 28

January 28

This week has been rough. My daughter was sick; it’s been snowy and cold; my younger kids are in a “destroy-the-house-and-dad’s-sanity” kind of mood. To top it all off, these have not been easy devotions to write, and probably not easy to read. Judgements and woes, apocalypses and parables, betrayals, regrets and death. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Jesus Christ Superstar, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, and if you’ve seen the original version, something is striking about the end. It ends with them burying Jesus after the crucifixion. The name of the final song is “John Nineteen:Forty One”, a sweeping and somber orchestral piece. That verse reads : “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” It’s poetic and tragic and sad and moving and compelling. 

But that’s not how the story ends.

Life can be hard. Sometimes it’s our kids or friends having a cold, which today means a “COVID scare”; but sometimes it’s our mom or dad diagnosed with something terminal. Some days are snowy and cold; sometimes a coldness creeps into our souls that shuts out the world around us. Sometimes our physical house is a disaster; sometimes our emotional home, the relationship within the walls, seem broken beyond repair. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

On the first day of the week, two women who loved and cared for Jesus go to where his body was laid. They know the location, they were there when the door was sealed just days ago. But the body isn’t there. An angel, in the form of a man, says to them “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” And they are told to go to Galilee, for that’s where they and all the disciples will see him. But before that, he greets them on the road. And he says “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

But that’s not how the story ends. 

See, Jesus meets them in Galilee. And he gives them a command. In the Greek, the only command is “make disciples.” That is the commission we are given, given to every Christian since the resurrection until the last moment. Is what you are doing in life making disciples? Jesus says that they should make disciples by going, by baptizing, by teaching them. Those are indispensable parts of the commission. But it doesn’t mean “go on a mission trip and baptize and teach someone over there.” It means “whoever isn’t a disciple, go to them, love them, pray for them, if they accept the message baptize them, and then as they walk beside you in life teach them.” That’s the great commission. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

Jesus tells them that he will be with you, WITH US, ALWAYS. He says he will not forsake us, even until the end of the age. That means that as long as this world endures, Christ is with us. There will be a day where we may not be alive, and we will sleep, awaiting resurrection. But Christ will bring a new age in. 

But that’s not how the story ends.  

Because the story doesn’t end

Instead, because of the resurrection of Jesus to life, because God has shown with power that Jesus was the genuine article, the real deal, the true Messiah, then when he said that we who believe in him will have eternal life in his name, that is a guarantee we can trust. Those who follow Jesus begin their story now, will begin a new stage in the resurrection, but their story will continue on forever. We will truly be able to write our last chapter as “They lived happily, eternally, ever after.”

And that’s how our stories will start

-Jake Ballard

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Take a moment to think about, journal about, and pray about where you are in your story. Are things really good, and you are connected to your loved ones and God, thriving and growing closer together? Or is your story really difficult to read right now, much less live through? Are you asking the author of our stories to show you how HE reads your story? Would our life look different if we examined it from God’s eye? What would change because of the perspective? What would stay the same? How might this view alleviate your anxiety and worries?
  2. The great commission should fill us with hope and purpose, not shame and guilt. Jesus has died so our sin, guilt, and shame might be nailed to the cross. Jesus is raised to empower his followers to make disciples for the good of the world. How can you start to fulfill the great commission today? Are you ready to change the world through the power of God? Do you believe that God wants and expects you to be radically fulfilling the calling to make disciples, no matter your age, your schooling, your gender, your race, or any other factors?
  3. If you want the true beginning of your story to read “They lived happily, eternally, ever after…”, then will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today? Will you repent of sin and trust that he has forgiven them? Will you trust that he will never leave you nor forsake you but will be with you “until the end of the age” and into the age after that?

Grace and Discipline

Psalm 117 & 118 and Ezekiel 23 & 24

Read Psalm 118, or read it again. What is this Psalm all about? What is the refrain? “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” God’s people look back on what has happened in their past and speak of God’s grace goodness and love. The Psalmist says that “he” (we don’t know the psalmist, but we will use he as the pronoun) speaks from his own perspective. The people from all nations were against him, but GOD is for him. In verse 6 he asks the great question, “What can humans do to me?” If God is for us, then who or what could ever stop us? God will save and send protection and salvation. The author says that this does not only hold true for him but it’s true for ALL of God’s people. The community asks God to save. “O LORD, do save, we ask you!” And when God answers, salvation, grace, and protection are for both the individual and the community. Upon his people he gives light (v.27) and to the individual he has become his strength, his song, and his salvation. (V. 14)

Now, compare that with Ezekiel 24:15-27 (go read it). All the words God has said in Psalm 118 don’t seem to make sense in light of Ezekiel 24. Ezekiel is God’s servant. He is a “good man” speaking to the “bad people” of Jerusalem. So what does God do? 

God kills Ezekiel’s wife. 

You may say “Jake, that’s extreme. God doesn’t kill people. He just allows her to die.” I could agree with you, maybe, if all we had was Ezekiel 24:18. Ezekiel reports the fact that his wife dies and he wasn’t allowed to mourn. But just two verses earlier, God explains that HE is taking  Ezekiel’s desire with a blow. God killed her. An innocent wife of a good man, to teach bad and rebellious men. 

Does Ezekiel say, “His love endures forever?”

Do we expect him to?

How do we reconcile this?

First, let me start with the fact that Ezekiel, his wife, and all the prophets recognized that their life was totally forfeit to the God who had power over life and death. I don’t think we should think of Ezekiel’s wife as an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, no matter how much her story may suggest it. Ezekiel knew that everything he owned and everyone he loved was ultimately owned by God and loved by him more. 

Second, YES love. The love of God is the most fundamental element of his being. “God is love.” “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son.” “What great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God!”

“His love endures forever!” 

So, the primary text is not Ezekiel but the Psalm. The Psalm prescribes who God is in love. And even there, we get our answer for Ezekiel. 

“The Lord has disciplined me severely.” 

Words alone weren’t cutting it with the people. They had heard the voice of the prophets again and again to return to the Lord. In Ezekiel 24, God is done telling them what they will experience, but will show them WHAT he will do. He was going to take his own sanctuary away from the sinning, unfaithful Israelites. He was going to discipline them. But they were not going to mourn even the presence of God being taken from them. Ezekiel showed them that they were going to lose the presence and be totally OK with it. They needed to see it, because it proved that God is the one in control. 

Finally, we need to recognize that too often we are worried too much about this life. Ezekiel’s wife may not have wanted to die, but she trusted in the Lord, as did her husband. Psalm 118 itself reminds those of us who are faithful followers of Christ that this is not the end. The stone that the builders rejected that has become the chief cornerstone. That one is Jesus of Nazareth. This work of God is marvelous in our eyes. God has made our days, our night, our beginning, and our ending. But for the faithful, this life is NOT the end. God has promised that the one who came in the name of the Lord to the shouts of “Hosanna”, or “Save us”, that same Jesus will be the one who comes in power to raise the living and the dead and give the reward to those who love him. 

Life eternal.

Goodness for forever.

Since God’s love endures forever, he promises those he loves will endure forever. 

So, give thanks to the Lord for he is good. 

His love endures forever. 

-Jake Ballard

(P.S. Not part of the main devotional text, but for those who are going through or know someone going through pain, read on. 

This post may have made you uncomfortable. Let me add the following thoughts. 

Quick summary of my points:

  1. Ezekiel’s wife had given God her life
  2. God’s love, not his judgement or anger, defines his divine actions
  3. We limited humans are too worried about the short time here when we have eternity of joy through faith

However, let me be clear :  these are not the words you share with the hurting, nor will these be your first thoughts in pain. Death is an enemy that God will destroy. We are to weep with those who weep. Understanding Ezekiel in light of the Psalm 118 is our ideal, but it may take time. If you are not in a place of pain, do NOT tell the suffering to “just get over it”. Do NOT say that God took someone’s loved one away. If you are in pain, I am not saying God took your loved one or that their life did not matter.

Ezekiel’s wife’s situation is not the way scripture speaks about every death. 

But God loves everyone, and God wishes that none perish; God is a God of life, wholeness, and health. One day, creation will again reflect the life, wholeness and health of it’s Creator, but it’s not there yet. But God may use even his enemies, death, brokenness, sickness, and pain, to bring about a greater goodness in spite of their wickedness. If you are suffering, in need of someone to hear your story, just be with you in your pain, I would encourage you to reach out to a pastor or trusted friend and ask them to listen. If you need someone to listen who doesn’t know you from Adam, but is willing to walk through your pain, please reach out to the author (Jake Ballard) via https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336. You can also find his contact information at TimberlandBibleChurch.org

May God bless show his love to you in the midst of whatever pain you experience.)

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 23& 24 and Psalm 117 & 118

Remember

2 Peter 3

Have you ever played any memory or matching games? Our family likes to watch Braingames, where they discuss different scenarios that “trick the mind.” Some will use colors that play tricks on the brain, others will use shapes to make you think a longer line is actually shorter, still others will show you tricks to better remember something. 

We tend to forget things easily, as a result we have found that it is easier to remember if we recap our tasks at the end of a conversation or email. Our family emails will usually end with a bullet point list of the main points of the email. We have even begun doing this with some of the emails we send to those outside of our family as well. 

The third chapter of 2 Peter is kind of a bulleted list reminding his readers of the main points he has brought to their attention. He reminds his readers of the the importance of the words spoken by the prophets and the commandments of the Lord. This is the foremost reminder that he gives seeking for his readers to focus their lives on these. He says mockers will come and they will ask, “Is your Lord ever actually going to return?” If you have been a Christian for very long you have probably been asked a similar question, or even thought about similar questions yourself. Peter reminds us that God operates outside of our understanding of time. What seems like a long time to us is like a day to Him. He also reminds us that the apparent delay is not so much slowness as it is patiently waiting for as many as will to come to repentance and form a relationship of hope and love with our Lord. 

Remembering these things should cause us to think of the kind of person we should be. We should be people that are consistently looking for opportunities to further His Kingdom work and bring others to Christ. We should be living holy and godly lives while keeping our eyes on the things of God rather than the things of this world. I will never forget the many times I have heard Dr. Joe Martin proclaiming, “ITS ALL GONNA BURN” as he talks about the earthly things he dreams of (his Toyota Tundra). We all have material possessions that we hold dear and that we dream of one day having, the fact of the matter is that ITS ALL GONNA BURN and that’s okay! When it burns at the coming day of the Lord we will receive eternal life. We will be in the presence of our LORD and His Son! We will be seeing the new heaven and new earth! There is NOTHING in this creation that can compare with how amazing that will be!

REMEMBER:

  • The words spoken by the prophets. (Verse 2)
  • The commandment of the Lord and Savior. (Verse 2)
  • Mockers will come with their mocking. (Verse 3)
  • God is patient, NOT slow. (Verses 8 & 9)
  • Its all gonna burn! (Verse 12 & Dr. Joe)
  • We are awaiting something FAR BETTER!!! (Verse 13)
  • Be diligent in your faith and actions. (Verse 14)
  • Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. (Verse 18)

-Bill Dunn

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 13-14 and 2 Peter 3

Seek and Find

Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

Have your parents ever planned a big surprise for the family. Maybe a big trip that everyone is excited about and looking forward to. They will do whatever is possible to make it happen. My mother would always say “Lord’s willing” on the off chance that something unforeseen would happen. With God, we don’t have to worry because if he says something will happen, it WILL happen. The Israelites should know this by now, but just like us, sometimes it’s hard to get things through to them.

Jeremiah 29 is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. We all know Jeremiah 29:11, it’s on lots of items from shirts to artwork, because it has a great message, but continue to read on, the whole passage is just as meaningful. It’s like a love poem written to His children. It starts in verse 10 when He tell them he will bring them back after 70 years, just like He promised. Jeremiah 29: 11-14 says “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”

Even after all that happened and the fact that they had followed after other gods, the one true God had not given up on His people and He had good plans ahead for them. They just needed to trust Him. We need to all learn to lean on and trust God during the times when we may feel like we are exiled and in captivity. God has good plans for His children. But we have to do our part, it says that we need to call on Him, seek Him, and search for Him with all of our heart. If we do that, He says “I will let Myself be found by you.” He is going to restore them and bring them back to their promised land. These chapters deal with the future prosperity of Israel that God has promised them. In Jeremiah 30:24b it says “Until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this.”

We can rest assured that God’s promises will happen, just as He has said, and one of His promises is that He will give us a hope and a future. In Hebrews 6, we learn of better things that are ahead for all believers, we have assurance of our hope of salvation.  It tells us that Abraham waited for the promise of God to be fulfilled just like we must and it tells us to be imitators of those who persevered through faith and patience who will inherit the promises.  Jesus has gone before us as the first fruits of those resurrected to eternal life and is in heaven acting as our high priest. A better day is coming for all of us when Jesus returns to this earth to set up his Father’s kingdom.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

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