His Story

1 Kings 15:1-24 & 2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles 15 15b NIV sgl

History is a curious thing.  Today’s reading covers two different kings of Judah, Abijah and Asa, from the perspective of two different writers.  It is quite interesting to see what is remembered and omitted and concluded from the lives of these two kings from the two different authors writing at different time periods for different purposes.

Let’s look at Abijah, King David’s great grandson.  It is easy to love the Abijah recorded in 2 Chronicles 13.  King Jeroboam of Israel is closing in with an army twice the size of King Abijah’s of Judah.  But Abijah responds with courage, faith in God and a rousing speech.  He speaks of Israel’s united history under David and God and then records the sins of Jeroboam (& Israel) in breaking with God, the God-ordained priests, and the house of David.  He concludes that, “As for us (Judah), the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him….God is with us, he is our leader.” (2 Chronicles 13:10,12). And then, even though an army twice their size is before and behind them, God gives the victory and Abijah’s army wipes out over half of Jeroboam’s fleeing and destroyed army.  It’s exciting to see how God shows His strength through Abijah.

And then we read the account of King Abijah as recorded in 1 Kings 15.  The details of his life agree completely with what is recorded in 2 Chronicles: reigned 3 years, son of Rehoboam and Maacah, there was war between him and Jeroboam, and his son Asa would rule after his death.  But, absolutely nothing is said of the moving speech or victorious battle or God as his leader.  Instead, the writer of Kings sums up Abijah’s life by saying, “He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3).

Oh, Abijah, we had such hope for you from that one outstanding snapshot of your life.  Your sermon that day was so full of convicting truth – that you forgot?  What went wrong?  How was your heart divided that sin won out?  Didn’t you daily recall how God fought for you?  Did you think you did that on your own?  It is discouraging to see what could have been, or once was, a strong testimony for God crumble and cave to sin and a divided heart.

But, it is also encouraging to see what God can do for His purposes – even when He’s working with and through sinful, broken people.  He can use the Joshua’s, the David’s and the Abijah’s and you and me.  He has and can and will have the victory any time He wants – and He can do it using any one He wants.

It is also interesting to see what one chooses to remember when looking back on history.  How do we portray and ultimately judge the heroes and the villains?  Which statues do we decide to pull down, if any, or why not all?  Everyone is certainly a mix of wise and foolish choices.  Some of our forefathers had some really good, faithful days (like Abijah’s) and these can still be celebrated today.  Remember the Chronicles were written long after these events took place and were written to encourage the returning exiles.  They needed to remember the faithful God who worked through the house of David and the priestly line.  They were being prepared for the coming arrival of a Messiah from the house of David who would be a priest like none before.  It would be helpful for them to remember their history as they prepared for their future.  It was time to bolster their courage and faith and remind them that God is their leader.  They needed the story of Abijah’s Really Good Day and the God who supplied it.

And, it is also valuable to consider the bigger picture of someone’s life to see what to avoid in order to get us where we want to go.  Rather than using our own flawed measuring stick to judge (popularity, wealth, good speaker, etc…), whenever possible it is helpful to know what God thought of the man.  That is going to be what really counts, so that is what I want to pay attention to so I am not setting up heroes for my life that God would disapprove of.

All that and we finally get to Asa – one of the few kings recorded as, “good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2).  And the writer of Kings agrees completely.  There are some beautiful passages you won’t want to miss about God’s provision and Asa’s seeking and working for God wholeheartedly, even when it meant going against some of his family.  Although, for all his wise and courageous decisions, he still had a rough spot towards the end of his reign when he chose to rely on man instead of God – and there was a price to pay for that error.  But it would be a mistake for us to judge and remember Asa only for that sin that sadly would affect him and many others for years to come.

History is interesting, as is our record of it, and our judgement of those who have come before.  But first and foremost lets learn to us it to grow closer and closer to living a life seeking and serving with an undivided heart the God who created all history and present and future.  What would He have you learn from His Story today in order to live better today and prepare yourself for His Future?

Keep Reading His Word and Seeking Him

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A1-24%2C+2+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 15:26-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Formula

Numbers 21-22

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In today’s reading, the Israelites needed a spiritual “blood transfusion.” Their sinful and rebellious attitude had shown itself in impatience, complaints about hardships, ingratitude for manna, and a lack of faith in God’s leader, Moses. This faithlessness resulted in a deadly plague of snakes that were killing the people.
The Israelites repented and asked Moses to intercede for them. God’s response required them to show their repentance by a simple act of faith. Moses made a bronze serpent and lifted it up on a pole. To be healed, people had to look at the serpent. If they didn’t believe God’s words, they wouldn’t look up and would therefore die. Only through faith could they be saved.
Homeopathic medicine is the practice of curing likes with likes. The patient receives diluted doses of substances that, at full strength, cause the same symptoms the patient already has.
This type of medicine is used in many parts of the world, though it remains controversial among medical experts. In this instance, God prescribed a similar remedy for Israel, treating snake bites with a replica of a snake. Going a step further, God undid the effects of the plague through an image of the curse itself.
Today’s story begins with the people grumbling … again. It was the same old story: we’re dying, we’re starving, we don’t like the miraculous food, and we’re sorry we ever left Egypt. But this incident is unique; this time, the people repented.
In past events, Moses had asked God for mercy on behalf of the Israelites, but on this occasion, his prayers were prompted by a recognition of their sin that Israel hadn’t shown before. They realized on their own why the snakes were sent, and they confessed their sin. In that way, this was a spiritual breakthrough for Israel!
If God had followed the formula we’ve seen so far, we might expect Him to demand a sacrifice of some kind, like a lamb without defect. But the Lord told Moses to put a bronze snake, a picture of judgment, on a pole for all to see. He directed the people’s eyes, not to an image of purity, but to a symbol of wrath.
For healing to take place, the people had to close the loop of repentance. They sinned, confessed, and asked for mercy. The last step was to accept God’s remedy by faith and follow His instructions.
We often picture Christ as the perfect sacrifice, and that he is. But He also took upon Himself the shame of sin and the full penalty of wrath. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus compared His upcoming crucifixion to the lifting up of the serpent in the desert. Let’s confess our sins, seek His mercy and turn our eyes to him, who not only gave his life but also received our punishment. Thank Him in word and in deed today.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+21-22&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 23-25 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Dark Side

Proverbs 17

Proverbs 17 4a

Everyone is handsomely dressed and well coiffed. They laugh in each other’s company as they head down the long corridor to the banquet hall where they’ve been invited to a grand dinner. The door slides open and Darth Vader greets his “guests.” Suddenly, Han, Leia, Chewy, and C-3PO realize this was a trap, and they were caught.
For anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6 (about 216 times), Darth Vader is the villainous overlord of an oppressive and evil empire. Han, Leia, Chewy, and C-3PO, along with Luke and R2-D2, are the good guys trying to do what’s right and rebel against the regime.
When I read Proverbs 17: 1 (Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife), this scene from Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back immediately comes to my mind (Quite a few other verses bring this scene to mind too… Psalms 23:5 for example). I am certain the Rebel crew would have much preferred some blue milk and tauntaun jerky than a feast with their mortal enemy!
Star Wars is a science fiction epic that has endured for over 40 years in part because, even though it took place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” it is the classic story of good versus evil.   In Episodes 4, 5, and most of 6, Darth is the personification of evil. Proverbs 17: 5, 13, 15, 19, and 20 describe his actions well. He is angry, murderous, destructive…. like blowing up entire planets destructive!
But he didn’t start out that way. He started as a boy named Anakin. (As a nearly life long Star Wars fan, I know Episodes 1, 2, and 3 are almost worthless for so many reasons, but for the sake of argument, please just go with it.) We learn that he was whiny, self absorbed, impulsive, rebellious, but most importantly, fearful. Theses attributes made him ripe for Palipatine, an evil leader with nefarious intentions, to convince Anakin to listen to evil lips (verse 4) and exchange a promise of power for evil deeds (verse 23).
Even though this is just a movie series, it truly speaks to the fact that evil starts somewhere and it’s usually rooted in selfishness and fear. And in the real world, those emotions are rooted in the absence of faith in God through Christ.
Spoiler Alert: Fortunately for Darth, he does see the light side of the force and repents for all he’s done shortly before his death. Great deathbed conversion scene! But we don’t have to have our world, or Death Star, crumble around us before seeing the error of our ways. Seek knowledge now, practice wisdom now, love now (verse 17).
May the word of God be with you.
Maria Knowlton

We Have a Purpose

Rom 8 28

Life can become difficult. It may seem that you are facing battles everyday that you think you cannot overcome. You may be experiencing pain, loss, or suffering. Each day seems like nothing is getting better. We all have been in a situation similar and thoughts run through our minds making us question our life’s purpose.

I have proof that we all have a purpose!

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” -1 Peter 2:9

“For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” -Colossians 1:16

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Throughout the Bible, God’s Holy Word, we can see and understand that we have a purpose. Time and time again it is shared that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. We were created through God and for Him. We are a chosen people. He has called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light. God wants good for all who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

When life becomes difficult, pray and God will help you through the tough times. God never says that our lives will be perfect or that we will be happy all of the time. He does say that He will always be there for us. Keep strong faith in God and He will do wonders in your life.

“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.” -Joshua 1:9

If you’re going through a rough time, remember that you have a purpose and God will always be with you.

Today I encourage you to embrace your purpose or if you are unsure, seek and pray and God will deliver.

-Brenan Dominguez

When Sickness is an Opportunity

john 9 3

John 9

There is so much information in this chapter that could make good devotions that it’s almost hard to focus just on the healing! In this chapter, we get to follow the story of a man born without sight. It goes like this: the man is blind, Jesus restores his sight, the man testifies about the healing he received, the man is cast out by the Pharisees and the man is accepted by Jesus.

First, the man is blind. It might be easier to focus on the spiritual blindness that Jesus talks about in verse 41, but I really want to focus on the physical blindness of this man. The most important thing to note in this passage is that Jesus says “neither this man nor his parents sinned” (9:3). Jesus doesn’t mean that the man has never sinned, but he does mean that the man did nothing to deserve his blindness. I firmly believe that this applies to us as well. Whenever we get sick, whenever we know someone who gets cancer or becomes paralyzed, this is not a punishment from God. We didn’t do anything to earn our ailments. That is just the world that we live in; people get sick. But in the same way that sin exists so that God can show us grace (Romans 5:21), sickness is an opportunity for God to show his power. Yet that still doesn’t make sickness a good thing (Romans 6). In fact, sickness is terrible.

Once we have accepted that sickness is not our fault, we need to seek healing. This can mean many things, but I want to start by telling a story. A pastor that I know has been visiting hospitals and praying for the sick for many years. On one visit, he was with a woman who had lost her sight as a side effect of another sickness. He prayed with her and asked that God restore her sight. She remained blind. He prayed for her again yet she remained blind. The woman asked him to pray one more time. He did. She still couldn’t see. As he left, and he didn’t learn this until a time later, the woman saw his back as he walked out of the doorway. God had restored her eyesight.

I tell you this because I see a command in John 6. After the man is healed, he tells everyone that he knows how he was healed by Jesus. In the same way, I think we have a responsibility to share about the healing that God brings about in our own lives. How can God’s works be displayed (6:3) if we don’t talk about them with everyone we meet?

Don’t forget that after the man testifies, he is rejected by some of the religious community. It can be hard to believe someone when they claim a miracle has happened, especially when we don’t experience it ourselves. I think we could all use a little more faith in our lives sometimes. Don’t let blindness come in between you and the great works of God.

The fact that the man is accepted by Jesus afterwards just points a good ending to the story. The man had already received the sight that he had been missing his whole life; it would be such a shame if he lost his faith immediately afterward because of the disbelief of the religious community.

 

Here are your main takeaways:

Sickness isn’t earned.

Prayer is powerful even today.

Tell everyone of the healing that you experience.

Have faith in your God’s works.

Know that Jesus is there to accept you when you are turned away because of your faith.

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Listening Like a (Faithful) Child

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This week I am going to talk about what it means to have faith like a child. I am currently an assistant teacher in a YMCA child development center, for a toddler classroom. The children that I work with the most are around the ages of 2 and 3. Throughout my day as an assistant teacher, there are many different elements that go into the teaching and caring for my 2 and 3 year olds. They have to listen, share, trust, sometimes they need comfort and sometimes they cry just because they do not yet have the vocabulary to fully tell me what it is that they need.


Today’s topic is listening like a child, especially when we are listening for God. Some verses about listening are here:

Luke 11:28 “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Proverbs 16:20 “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”

Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me -put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you.”


All of these verses are about listening, but many of these verses include the two parts that listening is made up of: hearing and doing. When I am speaking with my toddlers there are some things they need to do; hear what I am saying and do what I ask, even if they do not see or understand the reason. For example, when we walk the hallways in our center, on the way to different activities we ask our toddlers to hold onto the railing. This is an extra measure that keeps them safe, however some of them do not understand how or why it could be dangerous to them if they let go of the railing. God is the same way- there are things he teaches us through his word that will be harmful to us; we may not understand but we should listen to him anyway. There will be times in our own lives when God is going to be telling us something, asking us to hear and do, and we may not always understand the reason behind it.


Daily I am amazed by my toddlers, because most of the time when I ask them to hold their railing, or move their milk cup closer to the center of the table, or to walk in the classroom, they hear me and do what I see, even if I do not give them a reason. This is because I have a relationship with them, and they trust that I am doing what I can to protect them, care for them, teach them, and make sure they are safe. This is one way that faith like a child is important for us to recognize and practice in our own lives. Do you hear what God says to you, and do it without question? If not, maybe we should consider that call to listen, that call to have child-like faith. Today, I challenge you to try to listen for God and do what he asks you, without question and see what happens in your life.


Tomorrow I am going to talk more in-depth about the trust of a child, since that will follow today’s topic nicely. I also saw that Andrew Cheatwood, who wrote for last week included a song that he was impacted by each day, and this is something I have done in the past and have enjoyed, so I would like to continue the trend this week. The song that I have chosen for today is “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs


~Jana Swanson

Perseverance through Tribulation

 

    Today, we return to the book of Job to further talk about depression. Job is being directly attacked by his own friends during a time frame when he is losing his health, his wife told him to curse God and die, his children have all died, and he has lost all his possessions he had. These are all things on their own that could cause depression within someone. Normally, these situations would cause problems internally, and someone who is depressed would tend to keep them to themselves. Job is blessed with wisdom though, and talks to his friends about his troubles. Instead of his friends trying to help him through it, they attack him on the grounds that they believe he clearly is wicked. The perseverance Job shows throughout the whole book is a testament of his faith in God.

That perseverance is one we should strive for on a day to day basis, whether going through trials and tribulation, or through times of blessing. There are times when he speaks of how he has been struck down from his status of respect in the community to one where people cannot bear to even look at him. In those moment, he is crying out to God, asking why it had happened. The moments that catch my eye though are when he is done mourning the trial, he returns to the debate with his friends on justice. In his responses to them, we see just how strong his faith is in YHWH, and the hope Job has stored in Him.   

Job 19: 25-27 NASB: “And as for me, my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I shall behold myself and not another. My heart faints within me.” The phrase ‘I know my Redeemer lives’ is one many Christians know because of the song Nicole C Mullins released in 2000. It is easy to read the English in this verse, and come to the conclusion that Job is saying Jesus lives, but contextually that doesn’t quite work. This is partly because Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I noticed no mention of a coming Messiah in the book of Job. That is another reason I found this verse to be confusing for a time because we tend to use Redeemer as a title for Jesus. We use the term redeemer as one who is a deliverer from sin. A more appropriate translation for the Hebrew word “go’el” in this context is vindicator. Vindicator means one who delivers from affliction and wrong which is not due to sin. (I have Spiros Zodhiates to thank for this insight because of a note in my study bible.)

    Job 23: 17 NASB: “But I am not silenced by the darkness, Nor deep gloom which covers me.” This verse comes in the middle of his second to last rebuttal of his friend’s arguments. Before this verse Job speaks of how He longs to see God and beg his case for being upright and faithful. Once he says this, Job says that no one can change God, and that this trial must be part of God’s plan for him. He starts to show his awe, fear, and reverence of God just before this verse. I want to emphasize this verse because Job is stating that though he is confused, he will not be quiet. He will stay faithful, though he has been brought low. This verse shows Job’s character, and how through his faith he perseveres through the troubles in his life.   

    Clinging to our faith in YHWH is essential to pushing through the difficult times this life brings forth to us. God is our Vindicator, and He gave us our redeemer, Jesus, that we may have the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins. May we continue to push forward in this life with these ideas in mind, that we may not falter. Let us retain this knowledge in our hearts, and share it with those around us, that we may be faithful bondservants of YHWH.

 

((I apologize for the late send, and with no photo, our family is camping for the next several days and very limited wifi could cause delays this week.  -Marcia

Thank you for writing, Andrew!   Here’s a little about Andrew….

I’ve been a part of the Hedrick of God since about age 5. I thirsted for the Word, and the depths of knowledge held within it from a young age. Along the way, I was baptized with my dear brother, Zach. One of my first solid memories after baptism is from a year later, my grandpa passed away. I became depressed because I didn’t cry out to God, and God used my depression to help mold me. Through a decade of turmoil, the love of God, and a supportive church family, I’m now ready to put proper effort into the goals I believe I’ve been given.  My intentions are to use my story and the knowledge I obtain from God along the way as a teacher.

 

 

 

Depression: Strictly Chemical, or can there be Spiritual Causes?

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Depression and mental illness have become hot topics in the public eye in the past decade, and for good reason. Chaos and heartless acts are being televised everywhere, traumatic and high stress events occur in peoples’ lives, and it becomes so easy to stay stuck in an abysmal state of mind. For some people, depression is a chemical imbalance that can be treated with prescription drugs. I believe it goes deeper than that for many people nowadays though. Depression for some people comes from a place of spiritual turmoil. It is something I know from personal experience because I’ve been fighting with depression on and off for over a decade. It starts to eat away at you, pessimism is the easiest form of logic to use, hopelessness starts to flood into you, and just a general lack of self worth creates a house for itself in your heart and mind. These were constants in my life since my 8th grade year when one of my biggest life influences, my grandpa, passed away. When that happened, my fight or flight instincts kicked into gear about how do I react to this situation. The choices my heart and mind gave me were: cry out to God for comfort and just to understand why this happened, or run away in the anger that had welled up within the confusion and pain because of unresolved time with my grandfather.

 

I ran away from God that day because I was hurt, I didn’t know how to talk about what had happened, and I was scared to show a hole in my armor at school because it felt like the people at school fed on my failure and pain. I now know looking at the past that probably wasn’t true, but I lost that passion to learn for a bit because I didn’t want to be attacked from the inside and out. The experiences I’ve had may not have been pleasant, but we’ve got an example of someone in Scripture who has gone through much worse, and came out on top because of his faith in God. That man’s name is Job. I believe that if we take the time to understand him we can learn to sympathize or empathize with people who have gone through, or are going through spiritual depression.

 

Job 2:9 (NASB). “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Personally, this verse is the best example of a variant of the fight or flight question that ran through my mind. Job was given the option to hold fast to his integrity, which stems from his relationship with the Heavenly Father. He was also given the option to curse God and die. Given everything that had happened to him by this point, it would be extremely easy for anyone to cry out in anger against God. Job by this point had lost all his monetary wealth, his cattle were all decimated, his children all recently died, and he had just begun to lose his health. Even through all of that, he stayed faithful to YHWH. Job 2:10 (NASB): “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

The response he gives has been stuck inside my head ever since I have read these verses. “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity…” That is such a healthy perspective on life, and one we must learn for ourselves. These words are ones I believe we must learn to use with one another in love and gentleness because it is easier to become angry with God, instead of realize we can use the rough patches of our lives as catalysts for something better. Whether that is to draw closer to God, be empathetic with another’s life stories, or to share our stories letting others know they aren’t the only ones struggling in this life.

-Andrew Cheatwood

 

Change of Plans

Acts 16 7

ACTS 16

I love the book of Acts as we get a glimpse into Paul’s missionary journeys!  In this exciting chapter (go ahead and read it all) Paul begins his second missionary journey with Silas.

 

Right off the bat we get to meet Timothy and Lydia – two faithful believers at their start.  One thing I love about FUEL is looking out over the crowd and seeing the youthful energy and passion – and knowing that they won’t stay youth too long.  It is fun to wonder who might one day be my pastor, or my pastor’s wife?  Who might go on a missions trip with one of my children?  Who might teach a class at FUEL to my grandkids (years and years from now)?  The Christian life is a process of growth and ups and downs and new experiences and deeper maturity.  It’s fun to see the first steps of this developing growth in our church youth – and in those touched by Paul’s ministry.

 

One of the signs of growing in your faith – which can even be difficult for those who have been Christians a long time – involves putting your own plans aside when God would have you go in a different direction.  Here, Paul and companions (which now includes young Timothy) “were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (vs. 7).  I wonder how the Spirit of Jesus worked this time: torrential rain flooded out the road, lost passport, contagious disease in town… Can you think of a time when you were upset by something that suddenly changed your plans?  Looking back now, is there a chance that instead of circumstance or bad luck it was actually God leading you where He had a job for you to do?

 

Even when it looked like “bad luck” landed Paul and Silas into jail….God was at work.  And, with continued faith in God and His plans, Paul and Silas were singing and praising God in their chains.  At the time, they didn’t know that later that night an earthquake would open the jail doors and unfasten their chains.  But they sang praises to God.  They didn’t know that the jailer and his family would be baptized that very night, because of the life examples and testimonies of the faithful witnesses.  But they were praying to God – and the rest of the prisoners were listening.

 

Beware of crumbling under your “bad luck”.  Instead, keep growing your faith in God.  Continue praying and singing praises to God.  You never know who is listening and how it might also change their life and the lives of their family.

 

-Marcia Railton