Stuck

Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 16

Have you ever gotten your car stuck before? Growing up, my brothers and I often went over to our grandparents’ farm. In high school, I started helping out with keeping up around the place. I would load up in the old beat up farm truck and head to the places that need to be looked after, which sometimes took me down into the swampy parts of the property. Some days, I could maneuver just fine through the trees and brush, but on others, I would begin to sink. If the truck got into a place where the tires couldn’t get traction, then they would start to spin, sinking the truck even deeper into the muck.

 

Lot has got himself stuck in a similar situation. In Genesis 13, Lot chose the edenic land close to the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abram moved further away from him. Abraham, through his prayers and his concern for his nephew Lot, convinced God to relent in destroying the city in chapter 18. But, even so, we see the depth of the evil of the city in chapter 19, where the angels could not even find 10 righteous people. Because of this, the destruction God had planned was set to occur. God was going to destroy the city with burning sulfur (Gen. 19:23-26), an epic and troubling display of God’s wrath.

 

In the midst of these verses, filled with despicable actions and God’s judgment of them, we also see the tender portrayal of God’s forgiveness and compassion. While getting ready to destroy the city, the angels, who God had sent, grabbed Lot’s hand and pulled him out of the city. This was done “because of the Lord’s compassion for him” (Gen. 19:16). Lot was stuck in his ways, stuck in the lifestyle of sin created by the place he was living in. He was stuck in the filth and mud. God however loved Lot too much to leave him in this place. He grabbed Lot and brought him out of his former life.

 

So often, we are like Lot. We thought we chose the best path for ourselves when we survey the options in front of us. Sometimes though, what looks best to us may lead us too close to the lifestyle of sin. We get into that swampy place and spin our tires – stuck even if we wanted to get out. It’s in these moments that God reaches in and pulls us out. It may be painful, but it is so so worth it to leave behind those sinful places and follow God out of what is destined to be destroyed.

 

Do you feel like you are stuck in sin? Pray for God’s salvation today.

 

-Cayce Fletcher
Read or listen to today’s Bible reading here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 22-24 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Trouble with Evil

Job 14-16

Job 16 11 12a

I am (generally) a rule follower.  I love a good list of rules so I know exactly what I can and cannot do – and exactly what YOU can and cannot do.  I vividly remember having a long fuzzy imitation lion tail pinned to my rear end as punishment from my 2nd grade teacher for being a classic “Tattle Tail”.  For some reason she didn’t think she needed my help in sorting out who broke what rule when.  For some reason she thought the whole class would function smoother if everyone focused on their own behavior and sins – rather than rushing to point out and wait for punishment on everyone else’s sins.  For some reason I was the person suffering when my classmate got away with murder  – well, I don’t even remember what he or she got away with, but I know it didn’t include the loss of life.  I would have made a pretty good police officer, but I am not that brave, so I run a home daycare instead.  Even better – I make the rules AND I police them.

 

While Job is suffering from his huge losses he is also tormented by his questions for God regarding why am I the one suffering when I have worked hard to be righteous and follow your rules?  Why do the wicked get away with anything and everything – sometimes even murder.  Does God need me to point out to Him who broke what rule when?  Job and I echo the psalmist who wrote one of my favorites – Psalm 119 – “It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken” (vs 126) & “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (vs. 136).  Get THEM God!  Not me.

 

In today’s reading we begin a second round of “counsel” from Job’s friends.  In the first round Eliphaz was a bit sympathetic with Job, but he has become edgier and less patient with Job and his questions.  However, rather than answer why the righteous suffer while the wicked get away with evil, Eliphaz spends his whole chapter arguing (quite incorrectly) that indeed, “All his days the wicked man suffers torment” (Job 15:20).  He would like to believe that the wicked never prosper – when in fact, we all know better. Eliphaz began with some truth: “Let him (the wicked) not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return.” (Job 15:31).  There will indeed be judgment and payback for those who do evil, but not on our time schedule – on God’s.  He is insinuating that since God pays back the wicked (now), and Job is suffering, Job must have been wicked and deserving of the trials.

 

Job’s rebuttal begins in painful chapter 16.  He starts by saying “Miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:1).  And then he shares several nightmare images of how he feels God has attacked him: “God tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me” (Job 16:9), “He has made me his target; his archers surround me” (Job 16:12,13), “Again and again he bursts upon me, he rushes at me like a warrior.” (Job 16:14).  And, Job goes on.  The only encouraging tidbit is at the end of the chapter when he alludes again to an intercessor who could plead with God on behalf of man and he also realizes that at least at death his suffering will end.  Not too cheery.

 

It’s really a depressing few chapters as we fail to see the big picture, but just get a snippet of the erroneous arguments, poor examples of comforters and a picture of a man deeply struggling with loss, grief, evil and his vision of God.  If only Psalm 73 had already been written – it would have been a perfect interlude for Job that offers real truth and hope.  It’s like a mini book of Job, all in one Psalm.  I encourage you, even though it is not part of today’s reading – turn there and read the Psalm.  The writer, Asaph, begins with similar questions as Job – after all, who hasn’t asked them?  Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer (sometimes with a tattle tail pinned to their behind, pointing finger still in the air)?  Take special note of verse 16 & 17.  What made the difference in Asaph’s understanding?  How, where, when can we do what Asaph did?  Does verse 21 & 22 remind you of Job, or maybe even yourself at some point? What did Asaph gain from his new perspective and understanding?  How can we put ourselves in a position that is near God? (verse 28).

 

Today I will leave you with just one more final question.  This one comes from the NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups which is chock full of great discussion questions.  In a reflection section relating to Psalm 73 they ask, “How would you explain to a child why God does not knock down bullies and troublemakers at school?”

 

God Bless Your Seeking with Growth & Love,

Marcia Railton

Recovering Tattle Tail Seeking God’s Sanctuary

 

 

Here’s today’s passage to read or listen to – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+14-16&version=NIV

And – here’s Psalm 73, your bonus chapter for the day https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 17-20 as we follow the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Delight in the Lord

Psalm 37 4a

For this week’s devotions I’m going to focus, again on the Psalms.  Earlier this year we looked at 7 different types of Psalms and had an example of each.
This week I want to look at only one Psalm.  Each day we will consider a section of the Psalm and I’m going to invite you to use it in your devotional time.  Some of you may be familiar with the way I’m going to ask you to read this Psalm, it’s called Lectio Divina.  If you’re familiar, great!  If not, I’ll give you a brief introduction.

Lectio Divina is a Latin term which simply means “sacred reading” .  It’s been around for a long time.  It’s simply a way of meditatively and prayerfully reading a short passage of scripture in a way that leads into prayer and time in God’s presence.  There are 4 stages to Lectio Divina: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.
1.        Read.    Take a short passage of scripture and read through it several times.  Read it in a personal way.  You’re not reading it to prepare a lesson or a sermon or to share it with someone else.  You are reading it to allow God to speak to you through His word.
2.       Meditate.   As you read, choose a single word or short phrase that really speaks to you and think about it (To meditate is to chew on it with your mind, internalize it, and chew on it some more engaging your whole person, thoughts, feelings etc… think about how a cow ruminates on grass or hay).
3.        Pray.   After spending time meditating on that word or phrase and really personalizing it, then bring it to God in prayer.  Does it lead you to praise God?  Does it lead you to thank God?  Does it raise questions that you need to bring to God?  Does it call forth a sense of guilt for a sin that you need to confess to God?  Whatever it brings forth in you, bring that to God in prayer and spend some time talking to God about whatever it is that your reading and meditation has brought to mind.
4.       Rest in God.  The final stage of lectio divina is to simply bring you into God’s presence.  You know how great it is when you are with someone you love and you can just enjoy being present with them…  no one’s looking at their phone, no one’s talking or really doing anything other than simply enjoying being in the other’s presence?  Do that with God.  Just spend some time enjoying God’s presence.

That’s really all there is to it.  If you Google Lectio Divina or look it up in books on Christian spirituality you may find other fancy words like: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratorio, Contemplacio etc… They are all just Latin words that mean the same thing: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.
I hope you’ll try it this week.

I’ve chosen Psalm 37 to look at every day this week.  I’ve chosen this Psalm because I’ve been spending a lot of time this year meditating on this one Psalm, especially verse 4.

Today, I want to look at the first 4 verses:
“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Read:
As I read through this there are several things that immediately catch my attention.  How often do I fret because of those who are evil?  Do I see the junk that people do and find myself stewing over it?  How can they do that stuff?  What is WRONG with them?
As I dig a little deeper –  Am I ever envious of those who do wrong?  Do I ever look at the rich, the good looking, the famous, the powerful and see the terrible lifestyle choices they always seem to make, and then get ticked off because they have all the goodies?  Do I envy their money or the stuff their money can buy?
How often am I guilty of looking at what other people are doing instead of looking at God and making sure that I’m doing what God has called me to do?  I see an invitation to Trust God and do what I know is right and let God worry about the results.
But it’s the last verse that really captures my heart: “Take delight in the Lord.”
What does it mean to delight in something?  Three of my grandchildren all turned one this summer.  I got to be present at one of their birthday parties, and I saw videos of the other two who live in Minnesota.  In each case it was amazing to see them “take delight” in their birthday “smash cakes”.  They would dig in, squeeze it, taste it and get really excited.  I still remember the looks of delight on their faces.
You might take delight in tasting delicious food, seeing an old friend or family member, your favorite sports team winning the championship, seeing an “A” on your paper, trying on your wedding dress (or seeing your bride walk down the aisle toward you in that dress).
God wants us to delight in Him more than anything else.

 Mediate:

Spend some time thinking about what it means to delight in God.  When have you delighted in God?  What was it like?
Pray:

Spend some time talking with God about what you’ve been thinking about delighting in Him.

 

Rest:

Now, delight in God.  Spend some time just enjoying God’s presence.

 

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

The Wisdom of Solomon?

wisdom

When you read about the Kings of Israel or Judah, their life is always summed up in one sentence, as a kind of Eulogy: King ­___ did right/evil in the sight of the Lord. That’s really all it boils down to, if we do right or we do evil in the sight of the Lord. None of the other things that they did matter. Take King Solomon for example. The wisest man who ever lived, the Lord appeared to him twice. Once he told him, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” He asked for wisdom to be able to lead the Israelites. God was so pleased with his answer that he said he would give him wisdom, riches, and honor, and if he followed his commandments that he would prolong his days. Solomon went on to build the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.

It sounds like he lived his life to bring God glory, but Solomon had one small problem.  Chapter 3:3 “Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” And in chapter 11 vs.1-6 it says (paraphrase), “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.  They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord….”  Contrast this to Ch.15:11&14 “And Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” “The high places were not taken away, nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.” You do not want your epithet to read:  He loved the Lord, EXCEPT….. We need to make sure that we keep our hearts wholly devoted to God. Solomon started out loving God, but then he put other people before him and his heart was pulled away.

Sherry Alcumbrack

Imitate What is Good

3 John

3 John 11a

Some people have virtually the same accent their entire lives, simply based on where they grew up. Others, like me, pick up accents faster than they can say the word “time.”

Right now, I am living in the South with people from Georgia, Indiana, Canada, Michigan, New York, and Ohio – to name a few. Needless to say, my accent gets confused a lot. The moment when I say time, house, and you guys in one sentence and it comes out in a Southern, Canadian, Michigander accent you know that it can be a little much sometimes.

The same goes for us as individuals. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Like my crazy conglomerate of accents, we all are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.

Have you ever noticed how you start talking like the people around you? How you pick up their behaviors? How you start saying those little phrases? You are imitating the people you spend time with – without even noticing you are doing so! This can be a great thing or a terrible thing.

If you hang out with people who always are making poor decisions, chances are you’ll eventually join in. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are following God to the best of their abilities, chances are you will start changing as well.

Be purposeful in imitating what is good and in avoiding evil things.

Spend the most time with the people you want to be like, and imitate what is good.

– Madison Cisler

Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer

A New Week – A New Chance to be Courageous

Sunday, October 8

 

Joshua 1-9

Numbers 13-14

Greetings!  This week we are going to be looking at the life of Joshua and the often-repeated refrain in his life – BE STRONG & COURAGEOUS!  Just as strength and courage was needed in the days of Joshua as he led the Israelites into the Promised (but Occupied) Land; so too,  Christians today are living in a land occupied by evil and Godlessness and a large dose of strength and courage is needed to effectively stand against Satan’s schemes.

Our memory verse this week comes from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  It is easy to become terrified or discouraged when we see evil and lawlessness alive and well.  But the world doesn’t need any more terrified or discouraged Christians whose God is too small.  It is our opportunity – just as it was Joshua’s – to step out in courage to show our world a great big God who can do more than we could ever hope or imagine.

Before jumping into the book that bears Joshua’s name – we need to begin this week in Numbers 13 & 14.  Here we find the Israelites who had recently been miraculously delivered from Egypt on the front steps of the Promised Land.  Go ahead and read these quick chapters.  They provide such a great parallel of terrified and discouraged versus strong and courageous.

In Numbers 13 (as in life today, perhaps), the large majority is definitely panicked and defeated.  They have seen a scary reality and they quickly forget what God has already done for them.  Rather than concentrating on their great big God and the blessings he has in store for them just over the next hill; they crumble.  They “spread … a bad report about the land” (Numbers 13:32), they weep and grumble (Numbers 14:1&2), they blame others and they blame God (14:2-4) and they are even on the verge of great violence towards God’s faithful people (14:10).  They allow fear, discouragement, self-pity and negativity to overflow and it quickly becomes evident that their view of God was much too small.

Meanwhile, the faithful two – Joshua and Caleb – who had seen the same scary looking giants and large fortified cities – ALSO saw the land flowing with milk and honey and a great big God who could deliver His people.  They plead with their terrified and discouraged countrymen: “If the Lord is PLEASED with us, he WILL lead us into that land …Only do NOT rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land.” (Numbers 14:8,9).  If only the people would have listened.  They could have saved themselves from 40 years of wandering and early death.  They could have reaped the blessing instead of the punishment but they allowed their fears to reign.

Where are you right now?  What is your view of God?  Are you remembering all the good things He has already done for you or are you actively blaming Him instead?  Are you too busy spreading a bad report and grumbling to pursue a courageous act of following God?  Are you allowing a scary reality to shrink your view of God?  How can you spend time today magnifying your view of God to remember His greatness and the power He makes available to those courageous enough to put their full trust in Him.  Pray for eyes and a heart like Joshua and Caleb’s that will see not only the giants and fortified cities ahead, but also the exciting direction that God would have us go – the plan that requires that we be Strong and Courageous with a great big view of God.

-Marcia Railton