Do Not Be Silent

Acts 18 

May 6

Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth at the start of Acts 18. Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila and works with them as tentmakers in Corinth. Paul visits the synagogue and tries to appeal to the Jews and Greeks. He was reviled in the synagogue and then shakes out his garments and declares that he will only speak to the Gentiles. Even with the ruler of the synagogue being converted he still faces danger in the city. 

Paul had been chased from the towns of Thessalonica, Derea, and Iconium. I am sure Paul must have been wondering if this was his time to get chased from this city as well. The anxiety of knowing that in every new city he came to there was a chance of being thrown out of it and physical harm coming to him would have been a lot to bear. 

God comes to Paul in a vision. God giving Paul this vision is an act of grace towards Paul. God is trying to comfort Paul and give him direction. God starts out with the simple statement of “Do not be afraid”. This feels a lot like Joshua 1.9. God gives Paul two more commands; Go on speaking and do not be silent. Paul has probably realized that most of his trouble befalls him when he speaks and he is not silent. The same thing is true of me except it normally isn’t because I’m preaching the gospel. God gives three commands and the unique thing about this vision is God also gives Paul three reasons why he should do those things. 

We have plenty of commands of God and God very often gives us the reasons why we should follow his command. Sometimes we aren’t willing to look hard enough for the reasons but there are almost always reasons. Sometimes we won’t find out the reasons until later or maybe we find out the reasons why in the kingdom. There is an element of faith in following Christ. 

God’s reasons for why Paul should obey his commands are that God is with him. God being with you may result in a kind of fearlessness. God’s next reason why is that no one will attack Paul to harm him. This statement must have relieved a lot of anxiety from Paul. God’s third reason why is that God has many in this city. 

God makes good on his promises to Paul. In verses 12-17 Paul is brought before the proconsul of Achaia, the ruler of that region, by the Jewish rulers and the new ruler of the synagogue. He is accused of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. Just as Paul was about to speak the proconsul says that because it is a quarrel about words and there is no wrongdoing that he refuses to rule on this. The proconsul drives all of Paul’s accusers away. The mob that had formed ends up beating the new ruler of the synagogue, one of Paul’s enemies, in front of the proconsul. 

When we follow God’s lead and direction it will put us into positions where we get to see God work in situations. This situation for Paul worked out well for him. He didn’t even need to do anything to get out of the situation. He relied on God and God worked it out. The proconsul responded in his favor before Paul spoke. God was clearly at work in this situation because after that his enemy, the ruler of the synagogue, ended up being killed by the mob. His enemy was killed by the people who had originally intended to kill him. 

When we join God in what He is doing we will see this provision for us as well. There will be suffering and some pain but there will also be moments where we get to see God do God things and experience Him through those events. That’s part of what makes Christianity so exciting, fulfilling and awesome. 

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a time you didn’t speak up for God, perhaps because of fear or discomfort? What promises of God might you have missed out on with that failed opportunity?
  2. When have you had the pleasure of “see(ing) God do God things and experience(ing) Him through those events”
  3. What can we learn from Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila later in this chapter?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Joshua 1

2-22-22

After the death of Moses, Joshua had some large shoes to fill. Not only did he have to follow after Moses, he had the responsibility to lead the people into their promised land. 

Joshua had to be terrified. Maybe I am reading into how I would have responded with such a hard task but look how many times God assured him as they are getting started. Verses 3 and 4 – I will give you the land. Verse 5 – no one will stand against you – I will be with you and will never leave you. Verse 6-9 – multiple times He tells him be strong and courageous. 

God knew Joshua had a daunting task in front of him. He did not want Joshua to be overcome with fear. So He gives Joshua the best support and encouragement possible – I will be with you!

Notice how he doesn’t say it will be easy. This is something I think we all need to hear. Some get the idea if we follow God, go to church, get baptized…etc. that it will be easy. But still we all face difficulties, hardships and battle fear. We can be immobilized by fear or move on in strength and courage. 

I believe the promise given to Joshua is for us as well. No matter what stands in front of 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.”

After embracing this promise we see Joshua step up and lead the people. He then had the opportunity to share that courage with the others who also saw the difficult task ahead. When they saw his strength and courage they vowed to follow him the same way they followed Moses. 

Others will see when you courageously face difficulties. It may give you an opportunity to share where your strength and courage comes from. Be ready to share that the presence of God can help us through anything. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In Joshua 1:6-9 we hear God tell Joshua three times, “Be strong and (very) courageous.” What else does God tell Joshua to do in these 4 verses? How is this related to building his strength and courage? Why is it still important today?
  2. Who do you admire for their Christian strength and courage? Ask them what their secret is.
  3. How has surviving through a past fearful situation helped to grow your strength and courage? What are you facing now or in the future that will be easier with an extra dose of strength and courage? How can you exercise those qualities today?

Whom Shall I Fear?

Leviticus 26

February 16

How many days of the week are you scared or afraid to do something or be someone? For me, that’s everyday. I’m afraid of so much.

Reading this passage, yes, I could have gone the route and talked about all the punishments God warned these people about. But a few verses stuck out plenty, and these were in the section on the reward for obedience. Leviticus 26:6-8 “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.’” This sticks out because it’s very comforting. You will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I’m constantly thinking about what others have to say about me. It’s my biggest fear. Probably not alone on that. Knowing when and who to be afraid of is what we should ponder.

There’s a song called “Whom Shall I Fear” with a verse that says, “And nothing formed against me shall stand. You hold the whole world in your hands. I’m holding on to your promises.” There is nothing formed against you to be afraid of, if you are following His decrees and being careful to obey His commands (26:3). The one true God holds the entire world in his hands. Our creator is watching over us. How comforting is that one sentence? We all are holding onto the promises that he gives us because that gives us a reason to not be afraid.

The other part I wanted to talk about was Leviticus 26:13, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” He has shown he’s powerful enough to free us. He has shown us His power and shown us why we have nothing to be afraid of because He is on our side, when we are on His.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. List the rewards God promises to those who follow His commands. How would you put them in your own words. Which are most appealing to you? Why?
  2. What sorts of punishments are promised for those who do not listen to God or follow God’s commands? Which are the scariest to you? Why? When is fear a good thing?
  3. Can you describe a time you have experienced God’s blessings for obedience? Can you describe a time you have experienced God’s punishment for disobedience? Which do you find more powerful for keeping you on the right track following after God and His commands – His rewards or punishments?
  4. How do you explain when something bad happens to somebody who appears to be following God’s commands or when something good happens to somebody who seems to be disregarding God and His commands?
  5. What is the importance of verses 40-45?

Overcoming the Opposition

Nehemiah 6-7

So much work had already been done – the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt – now they just needed to finish the gates. Surely this project was God-ordained and he picked the right leader for the job – Nehemiah. He was able to get everyone motivated and working together, and despite the opposition they were able to finish their job on the 25th of Elul (which appears to correspond to somewhere between Sept 15 and October 2). So, this week is a super time to celebrate the work that is accomplished when working for God.

So much good had been done already – but the work did not end and neither did the opposition!

Nehemiah was under attack. Satan (along with Tobia, Sanballat, Geshem and the rest of those fighting against God) were using every weapon at their disposal to bring this righteous leader down: lies, fear, wolves in sheep’s clothing, attempting to distract him from his work with other business, spreading gossip and accusations of sedition to either silence him or get him in serious trouble with the authorities, even hiring a false “prophet” to scare him into sinning.

But Nehemiah stood strong. We continue to see him turn to God in prayer. Asking for strong hands and asking for God to take care of those getting in the way of the Lord’s work. He obviously had a strong knowledge of God’s law to not be tricked into sinning. This gave him wise discernment in knowing who to listen to and what to do, and not do. And, he knew to fear God not men.

We can learn a lot from Nehemiah today because Satan keeps using the same ploys. Adolf Hitler wrote, “Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.” Evil men seeking to destroy God’s work have come and gone and yet remain today. It is indeed a vivid reminder that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). They love nothing more than trying to interrupt God’s work and if they can bring down a godly leader at the same time they probably get bonus points.

We see so much of this evil and oppression today. But like Nehemiah, we must not give up! We must turn to God again and again when faced with the lies and fears and Satan’s strong man tactics that would love to have us throw in the towel and take the easy way instead. Pray, fast, seek His word and His way, don’t fear man, resist sin, use discernment in knowing who to trust, what to say and do. Pray, too, for our leaders that they will have the wisdom and strong hands of Nehemiah

Satan has been running rampant and the result is a broken world. Keep at God’s rebuilding work – one brick at a time.

Marcia Railton

Speaking of our opposition, mental confusion, lies, panic, and pleasing man not God, reminds me of the life and death fight for the most innocent of God’s creations. Tonight would be a great time to watch See Life 2020 and #LoveEveryHeartbeat. And pray for strong hands – and hearts – to do the work God wants you to do.

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 6-7

Tomorrow we will read Nehemiah 8-10 as we continue seeking God on our

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

2 Chronicles 19-23

2 Chronicles 20 1 NIV sgl

If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.”  Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome.  In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is.  It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game.  Why?  We get scared.  We’re thinking about our next move.  We get caught up in the emotion.  Or it might simply get lost in the lights.

 

“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” –   1 Chronicles 20:9,11b

 

In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place.  Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God.  Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all.  You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life.  Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.  Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:

 

To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.

 

There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now.  Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss.  Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God.  In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).

 

To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.

 

One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it.  Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground.  Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances.  He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people.  He didn’t do any of this.  He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday).  Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road.  He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today.  Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.

 

To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.

 

One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment.  What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist.  Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle.  He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition.  When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others.  We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice.  Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.

 

To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.

 

The lights can be blinding.  The hecklers can be loud.  The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God.  When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord.  Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22).  It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out.  The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds.  Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.

 

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In the Healer’s Hands

Psalm 30 

Psalm 30 12 NIV sgl

Living in the time that the world is currently facing, I connected with Psalm 30 in a deeper way than I would have previously. With fear, chaos, and anger running rampant with the COVID-19 outbreak around the globe, an overwhelming hunger and desire for the intervention of God becomes more apparent. When we are captivated by this whirlwind of emotions, the future becomes clouded by a veil of uncertainty. It becomes almost impossible to visualize and focus on anything aside from the noise. Almost like the static that you hear on an old tv when a channel doesn’t work. It begins to consume us. It’s debilitating. 

 

When we allow all of the tragedy that has invaded our world to be at the forefront of our mind, we give up the opportunity to spread the Word of God. We can’t focus on reading our Bibles, praying, or even fellowshipping (via Zoom, of course). All we can focus on is what is right in front of our eyes. The “bigger” picture is completely eliminated from view. 

 

The problem with this is that we are focusing on something that, while horrific, is completely out of our control. And because we are so burdened by it all, we aren’t taking the time to come before the LORD and put all of this in his hands.

 

We are choosing to not depend on the ONLY being who can actually bring healing and peace upon the world. 

 

So, today, I urge you. Read Psalm 30. Make it your prayer. Pray it into existence. We serve a God of healing. We can rejoice and be glad in his goodness and mercy he pours upon us. He will restore the Earth. We can take confidence in that. 

 

Leslie Jones

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+30%2C+2+Samuel+24%2C+1+Chronicles+21-22&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 108-110 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

How to Banish Your Fear

Psalm 56

Psalm 56 3 NIV

Like Psalm 34, which we highlighted yesterday, Psalm 56 for today was also written when the Philistines had seized David in Gath.  And just like yesterday’s psalm, this one starts with David begging God for help.

Then, in verses 3 and 4, David says this, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

I see a pattern here that David liked to repeat:

  1. He acknowledged his fear, “When I am afraid.”  Fear is a natural reaction when in danger – either real or perceived.

  2. David then made a deliberate decision to trust God.  This is not a normal reaction, it is an intentional decision, flying in the face of the natural fear.

  3. David praised God for delivering him – before he had been delivered.  (In this case, David praised God’s word, but often, he just praised God.)  When David did this, he was stepping out on faith, believing God would answer his prayers.

  4. Finally, in the assurance God would help him, David banished his fear, “I will not be afraid.”.  Notice he chose to not fear what mortal man could do to him.

This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.  Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

This is a pattern I have also tried to follow in my own life.  Many times, I have cried out to God, confessing my fear. I have then made a deliberate decision to trust that whatever God has for me is best, whether I know it (or like it) or not.  Then praise God for his promise that all things work together for my good – because I love God. Finally, with God’s help, I let Him lift my burden off my shoulders, whether it is fear, or whatever else it is.

With the fears swirling around now, whether Covid-19, or unemployment, or difficulty finding what you want at the grocery store, or …  You have a choice. You can succumb to fear, or you can follow David’s example.

I challenge you to try this pattern with whatever makes you fearful today.  Then you can say, like David wrote in yesterday’s reading from Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” And from today’s reading in 56:11, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”


–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible reading, Psalm 56,120, and 140-142 can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+56%2C+120%2C+140-142&version=NIV
Tomorrow we return to 1st Samuel (chapters 25-27) to read of the next events in David’s life as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Remember

Joshua 1-4

 

The message I took out of the first four chapters of Joshua is especially timely.  We are living in unprecedented times.  Not unprecedented in history, but certainly within our own lifetimes.  Obviously, I am speaking of the coronavirus epidemic.  No one knows how long the effects of this will last, or when things will get back to “normal” But do not fear.  God is still on His throne.

 

After forty years of wandering in the desert, God finally allows His people to enter into the promised land behind the leadership of Joshua. The pivotal moment is when the Lord held back the flood-swollen waters of the Jordan river, allowing the tribes of Israel to cross over on dry land.  Of course, this bookends the forty years in the wilderness after escaping Egypt by similarly crossing the parted waters of the Red Sea on dry land.

 

But after this crossing, God instructs Joshua to have each tribe take a rock from the middle of the river, and stack them up on the side of the river they were crossing onto.

 

Joshua chapter 4, verses 20-24 say, “And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’ ”

 

Our Heavenly Father knows that we are a forgetful people.  I am an expert at it.  But certain things are worth remembering.  Like when God has rescued His people, fulfilled promises, or performed miracles.  God instructed people to remember certain events throughout history.  Thankfully, we have the history of such events at our fingertips in His word.  We know that He has fulfilled every promise that has come to pass, and so we should have confidence that the Godly promises that have not come to pass will also be fulfilled.

 

But what about events that are not written down in the Bible?  What about events in our own lives?  Has God ever demonstrated His power and love to you personally?  Think about such events, and how they can serve as our own monuments for us to hold onto and recount that God is there with us. If God has delivered you through difficult times before, have confidence that He will do so again.

 

Finally, remember that no matter what the future holds, no one can take away the promise of the future Kingdom that we will have a part in.  Nothing that ever happens on earth will take that promise away, and today, and every day going forward, God is in control.

 

For you parents, remember that this is a great time to model real faith to our children.  It is easiest to show faith in God when everything is going great.  But how will you model your faith and trust in God during these difficult times?  That is what matters most.

 

I have added some verses of encouragement below (starting with one from today’s reading), and then after that, a link to a youtube playlist I created that has songs of encouragement.

 

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

 

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

 

Isaiah 40:31

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

 

 

Greg Landry

 

Welcome to the Books of History in our

Today’s passage, Joshua 1-4 can be read or listened to at

 

 

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

No Longer a Slave to Fear

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 22a NIV

How often have you wanted to run away or turn away from God?  Perhaps it was shame, guilt, or maybe despair that was making you unable to even look at your own self in the mirror, let alone approach God.  Those feelings of regret, shame, fear, and a guilty conscience often make us want to crawl in a hole and hide. Fear is a powerful emotion and pushes us away from God.  But the words of Paul tell us that we no longer have to feel that way.  We no longer have any reason to run away or turn away from God.  We no longer have to hide in shame and disgust.  We no longer have to be fearful of who we are, or what we think we are.  Instead of running away from God, we can run to Him, and fall into His loving arms.  When we run to God into His loving arms we are entering the most holy place.  Paul calls it such in Hebrews 10:19.  That should take your breath away.  Just think about it.  No matter who you think you are, or what you are, you can enter the holy place, into the very presence of God Himself.  But Paul says one more thing that is almost too good to be true.  He does not say that we have to crawl into that holy place, hide behind someone else, or that we have to enter wearing sack cloth and ashes.  We don’t even have to sneak in the back door so no one sees us.  No, he says we can come into that holy place in God’s presence with CONFIDENCE.  Wow!  How often do we enter a classroom about to take a test, and go in feeling confident? But Paul says we can enter the presence of God feeling confident!

How is that possible?  Is this all just a dream or make believe?

No, it is real.  Very real.

Let Paul explain.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

We no longer have any excuse for running away from God, turning away from God, or hiding in shame or despair.  Instead we can approach God and enter His presence without fear but rather with confidence.   Paul even tells us to come up close, draw near, maybe so close that we feel as if we are sitting in His lap just as we would sit comfortably in our dad’s lap as a child. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”   We are no longer a slave to fear.  Instead, we have been adopted by God, and we are His children.  We call Him Father! We are surrounded by the arms of God our Father.    And all of this is possible because of the blood of Jesus.

Paul calls this a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). Instead of fear and guilt we’ve been liberated from our bondage and shown a new way of living.  Our sin is washed away with pure water, and our guilty conscience is wiped clean (Hebrews 10:22).  That guilty conscience, which we often lug around in our heart, has been wiped clean.    The chains are broken, we’ve been redeemed.  I know, it is almost too hard to imagine or fathom.  We can hardly understand something so great and wonderful.  But it is real.   Now, without fear or guilt, we can fall into His loving arms because Jesus has opened the door for us.  His blood became the pathway into God’s presence!  No more sin and guilt!  We have been set free!

Luke Elwell

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