Dem Bones…Can They Live?

Ezekiel 35-37


It would probably be blasphemous to suggest God asks silly questions, so I won’t. But I would imply that the creator of the universe makes inquiries which His creatures wouldn’t. I don’t think most of us, upon seeing a valley full of human bones, dried out by years of the sun beating down on them, would think to ask: Can these bones live? No, I think the first question would be: “What on earth happened here?” Followed by: “What’s the quickest way out of this place?” But that is not what happens in chapter 37 of Ezekiel. No, Ezekiel doesn’t get to ask a question, instead, one is posed to him by God, “Can these bones live?” And he responds with either the biggest cop-out of an answer there is or the wisest: “Only God knows.” I would lean towards wisest. God’s not trying to learn something from Ezekiel; He is trying to reveal something to the prophet so Ezekiel can relay it to the people of Israel, which is why he doesn’t try to guess at an answer. Ezekiel doesn’t care to have his opinions heard by God; he wants to know what God has to say. We would do well to learn this trait from the prophet–you could say it would be quite profitable (sorry!).

While Ezekiel doesn’t provide a yes or no answer to the question, God does: yes, these bones will live again. These bones, representing the house of Israel, who have been cut off from their land, and whose hope is gone, will live again. God’s people who, time after time, have rebelled against Yahweh and received mercy only to rebel further, will once again experience the grace of God and return to the Promised Land. This vision, like all those received by the prophets, is first for the Jews. It concerns God’s People and it is for God’s People, but there is much for us, as Christians, to learn from the words of the prophets today.

A few things we should recognize from this particular revelation and meditate on are (1) God’s relentless love for His people, despite their blunders, foolishness, and obstinate ways (to put it mildly). (2) That God can (and does) redeem those who have been abused, discarded, and forgotten. (3) We can (and should) have hope and trust in Yahweh, despite any and every problematic, perilous, or pernicious situation we may be in. The God we serve does not cower at death, does not withhold second chances, and does not fail to love the unlovable. Neither should we. 

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – ht

tps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 38-39 as we continue on our

Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22-23

Ezekiel 22 30 NIV sgl

 

Within chapter 22 of Ezekiel we see different messages that God is trying to send to us through His prophet that are about Judah and Jerusalem.  We see all the ways that they sinned and that God is going to punish them because of their sins.

 

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols,  you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made.” (Ezekiel 22:3,4)

 

In many ways our society does these same things.  The violence against minorities and the bloodshed in our streets in recent times has gotten to the point where many cannot take it any longer, and it is starting to rip our society apart.  The continued war against the unborn has cooled down compared to decades past, but continues to claim hundreds of thousands of innocent lives per year.

 

Our society also excels at creating new idols and finding things to worship besides God.  We have gotten so good at it that we dedicate whole tv shows to it.  Covid has helped to highlight some of the idols in our lives.  If the loss of a season of football or the delay of a tv show has you devastated, then that might be an idol for you.

 

In the day of Ezekiel God looked through the land for a person who could intercede for Israel before him, like Moses did when God saw the Israelites making the calf to worship and wanted to wipe them out.  Sadly this time God did not find such a person, Ezekiel was only there to record God’s word and pass it on to the people, so God’s judgement was poured out on the people when the Babylonians invaded.

 

 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31)

 

All of the Israelites welcomed sin into their lives and did not try to fight it, and in many ways our society today welcomes sin and chases after it.  If we follow their example and do not fight against sin then we will end up on the wrong side of things when God again pours out his wrath on the earth because of the overwhelming sin and corruption on earth. This is a call to action for us to stand firm on the battlements, even if we are alone, and fight against idolatry and evil, so that when Jesus returns he will find some righteous people left.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at the Biblegateway site by clicking here – Ezekiel 22-23

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 24-27 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Throne and the Temple

1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8

1 Kings 9 3 NIV sgl

In today’s passage, the temple in Jerusalem has been built along with the palace and throne of Solomon. David wanted to build the temple for God, but he was a man of war and bloodshed. Therefore God used David’s son, Solomon. In the passage from 1 Kings 9, we read God making a covenant with Solomon. We know about the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, but here we have the Solomonic covenant. There are lots of warnings in it, but there are two main verses I want to focus on. Each hold promises that I want to focus on today; two things that should interest us in this Older Testament text after the revelation of Jesus Christ.
First, in 1 Kings 9:5, God promises that, according to verse 4, if Solomon is righteous, then “you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” Though the children of Solomon did turn away and not follow God with their hearts, we can see that God stays true to the promise he made to David and Solomon. Christ, the son of Solomon (Matthew 1:6-7), will rule on the throne of David and Solomon. He will sit on the throne of the New Jerusalem over the Kingdom of God on the earth. What a glorious day that will be. We can trust and hope that during these uncertain times, we have the certainty of Christ reigning among his people in the future. God has declared it, he has promised. If He speaks it, He will fulfill it. (Numbers 23:19)
Secondly, a metaphor for Christ is the “chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:4-8). It’s a building term; it was the most important stone in the entire project. The whole building was measured off the cornerstone. If the cornerstone was strong and level, the whole house would stand. If it was crooked or wrong, it would fall. Christ is the cornerstone, and we are stones in this holy building that God is building. And this building is not just any building! In both 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:21, it is clear that the people of God collectively are the NEW TEMPLE OF GOD. God promises in 1 Kings 9:3 that he consecrated a house where he will dwell, that he put his name there forever, and His eyes and His heart will be there perpetually. But the house where God dwells now is not a building in Jerusalem, but in the community of the redeemed. When the people who have been saved gather together, God’s eyes are there, God’s heart is there, and His name is put into us forever.
Praise be to God that through Christ our Lord we have been given a savior who will rule on the throne of David and Solomon, a savior who builds his people into the temple where God dwells.
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow’s passage will be Proverbs 25 & 26 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Time-Out

Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85 & 87

Psalm 85 8c NIV

Sometimes when I am reading through the Psalms I just get this weird feeling that someone must have copy and pasted a new verse into my Bible while I was sleeping – and there it is for me in the morning.  It is so relevant and timely and hits me where my heart is.  Surely this wasn’t written 3,000 years ago, was it?  Just think of all the differences from their society to ours: architecture, technology, transportation, languages, clothing, careers, and entertainment, just to name a few.  How could that ancient book speak to me today in 2020?  And yet, the most important things have not changed at all.  God – and human nature.  He is still the Almighty.  And we are not.  But as His created beings, even thousands of years later, we still have all the same emotions, fears, desires, weaknesses, hopes, pride, and insecurities.  So thus, these ancient words, were written for me, today.

One such verse that stuck out to me in today’s reading is Psalm 85:8.  Read it a few times.

“I will listen to what God the Lord will say;

he promises peace to his people, his saints —

but let them not return to folly”

So much in this verse:  The importance of listening to God – He is talking but am I listening?

God promises peace.  We know trouble comes, expect it, deal with it, knowing that God gives His Son – and peace – to his people.  (John 16:33)

Be His people – His saints.  Strive for righteousness – it’s what His kids do.  Be His people – His saints – to get the peace (see above).

And – today’s kicker – “But let them not return to folly.

As we sit today in Covid-19 isolation and everyone is chomping at the bit to return to “normal”,  I wonder, how much of “normal” would God call folly?

I checked the dictionary to see what exactly is the definition of folly.  Lexico.com defines folly as “lack of good sense; foolishness; a foolish act, idea, or practice.”  Sounds like a good thing to avoid.  There was another definition for folly that I found interesting and perhaps strangely fitting: “A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.”  What type of structure was our previous  “normal” building?  What are the dangers of spending our time and finances and priorities on a life/building that looks really good on the outside, but lacks any “practical purpose”? That would be folly, indeed.  What practical purposes would God want us to pursue?  Where did our priorities lie?  What did we always want to do – but never had time for?  What did we do with the majority of our time?  What about our finances?  What role did the pursuit of wealth play in our old normal?  A lot is said about that in another one of today’s passages, Psalm 49.  Make sure you give it a read and see what it says about “riches without understanding”.  How much of our life was a beautiful outside,  but lacking a purpose – folly – foolishness.  

I pray we don’t go back to “normal”.  I pray I don’t return to folly.  I pray through this time we evaluate our purpose, even better yet, God’s purpose.

As a parent and day-care provider for over 20 years I have sat many a cute little behind in the all-powerful time-out chair.  And it is always with the hope that when the time of isolation and consideration is past the offender will walk free – but not to return to their former folly.  The purpose of the time-out chair is to ponder – what is my real purpose?  Do I want to get that prized toy, regardless of how it might hurt my friend?  Will anger, sulking and a bad attitude make my day better?  Are my wants and wishes the only ones I should consider?  And, so often, the preschool time-out chair shows its worth in returning a child, not to normal or to folly, but to a fresh purpose – be the best I can be.

We have been given a little time-out.  Let us use our time-out wisely.  Consider our past folly.  In what ways are we beautiful outsides – with no practical purpose?  What part of “normal” will you work to avoid?  What can we do today, and how can we plan for tomorrow, to concentrate on seeking God, His purposes and His peace.

With Much Love and Prayers,

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+43-45%2C49%2C+84-85%2C87&version=NIV

Tomorrow we read some more of the family reunion genealogies from 1 Chronicles 3-5 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Seek.   Grow.   Love.   

Over and over and over

Monday – Judges 3-5

Judges Devotions (1)

Judges reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”—the one where Bill Murray, the local weatherman, relives the same day over and over and over. While not a single groundhog makes an appearance in Judges, the book does repeat itself over and over and over. You see, the Israelites are in a downward spiral, stuck in a vicious cycle of sin. In the reading for today, Judges 3-5, we see this cycle play out three times, once under Othniel, again under Ehud, and finally under Deborah. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this cycle using the example of Othniel:

1. SIN – “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). The Israelites neglected to kick out all the bad people from the Promised Land, and they often find themselves tempted by the Canaanite’s sinful ways. Their temptation leads to habitual sin, tearing themselves further from God.

2. OPPRESSION – “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathain king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years” (Judges 3:8). I think, perhaps, God uses oppression as a tool to bring His people to their knees. His people become so desperate with no other choice but to turn to Him.

3. REPENTANCE – “But when they cried out to the LORD…” (Judges 3:9a) In their newly humbled position, the Israelites cry out to God. They recognize their sin and run from it, towards a God whose arms are always open.

4. DELIVERANCE – “He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war” (Judges 3:9b & 10a). God works for His people through His people. He fills people with His Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.

5. PEACE – “So the land had peace for forty years” (Judges 3:11a). With a newfound trust in God and a godly leader to follow, the Israelites find peace. Unfortunately, after Othniel passes, this peace leads to complacency which leads right back to sin.

As a soon-to-be English teacher, this literary structure of the book of Judges is impressive. As a follower of God, this repetition is alarming. Why do the Israelites keep finding themselves back in a stage of sin? Why am I a repeat offender of the same sins?

Temptation and habit.

First, just like the Israelites were tempted by the corrupt and wicked ways of the Canaanites dwelling in the Promised Land, we, too, are surrounded by temptation. Set healthy boundaries from whatever may be luring you towards sin because the more distance we give between ourselves and temptation, the less likely we are to fall into sin.

Second, the Israelites were caught sinning over and over and over—their sin became their habit. Recognize the power of your habits and work diligently to set healthy rhythms that honor God. Ever since I read this quote, I’ve been convicted of the power of my own habits: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” -F.M. Alexander

Let the boundaries and habits you set lead you away from sin and towards God.

 

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Judges 6-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.  Reading God’s Word daily is one healthy habit to pursue.  Keep at it!  It has the power to determine your future.

Counting in the Wilderness

 

Numbers 1 & 2 Cain

Do you ever feel like you’re in your high school math class reading through the book of Numbers like a timeworn Algebra 2 book? Rest assured there’s no Pythagorean theorem in this book of Numbers! The name ‘Numbers’ actually comes from an old Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The Septuagint translators gave the book that title because of the listing of the numbers of the tribes of Israel in the first four chapters. It is a shame that the title of this great book is defined by only a small portion of its contents. The Hebrew name given to the book is much more accurate to its true contents, בְּמִדְבַּר (bemindbar). The Hebrew word bemindbar actually means “in the wilderness” which is exactly what the book of Numbers covers. After a long-awaited return to the land, which was promised to their fathers, the Israelites can finally take the journey through the desert back to Israel. The trip from Egypt to Israel shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of weeks on foot, but somehow the Israelites found a way to make the journey last 40 years. There is a lot that happens in these 40 years.  This book is filled with rich history that is very dear to the Israelite people and events that would shape their faith and ours forever. If anyone has ever told you that Numbers is a boring book, I stand opposed. As we spend some time traveling though the beginning of this book I hope you see the importance that God has placed in its words.

The first words of the book are its name sake. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting.”  There you have it, these words literally are the title of the book. I want to point out something that can easily be over looked by long-time Christians, and that is the phrase “the LORD spoke to Moses”. When was the last time that God chatted you up to give you direct commands? It’s not every day that the Creator of the universe talks directly to people. Only a few times in the Bible do we see God in direct communication with people in this way. I think as Christians we become numb to the stories we read as if everything is a normal day occurrence when it isn’t. For the first time in history there is a place that God has designated to dwell among His people. For the first time in history God is setting up a nation to call His own. God literally creates the nation of Israel before our eyes in the book of Numbers. When you stop to think about it, what is happening here is a monumental shift in history, setting the world on a course for God’s redemption plan to take place.

We find the book of Numbers picking up the story of God’s people two years into their time in the wilderness. During this time God has made a covenant with His people and they have built the tabernacle. Then we find that God wants Moses to count the number of able bodied men that could fight. These are the numbers that we find in the first chapter. Remember these are just the men 20 years of age and up who can fight; this doesn’t include all the men unable to fight, women, and younger people. Just the fighting men numbered 603,550! No one knows the exact number of the Israelites, but many estimates put the total number of people at around 2-4 million. As we read all the numbers of the first chapter we might be tempted to drift off to sleep, but an interesting point to realize is just how accurate the numbers are. The accuracy and attention to detail, to me at least, is evidence towards the validity of the scriptures. These aren’t details that someone would make up. If you look at any mythology or creation story, you don’t frequently see detailed accounts with genealogies such as we do here in Numbers. The detailed records of the Old Testament are proof to God’s care and intent for truth. Even with counting, our God is faithful and true.

As we move into the second chapter we see a rehashing of the numbers of the tribes and explicit directions from God as to how the Israelites are to set up camp. Imagine a square with the tabernacle at the center.  Directly around the tabernacle are the Levites. On each side of the square we find three tribes. I think there are two things we can glean from Chapter 2 about how God chose to design the camp. First, I think we can see how orderly and intentional God is with His people. I think no small part of having the Levites around the center was to help maintain a health boundary around the tabernacle to keep it holy. Holiness is one of the most important things to God. We can see how seriously God treats His holiness when He strikes now Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, in Leviticus 10. I think another reason God laid out the camp like He did was so that not one tribe was favored by being closer to the Tabernacle than another tribe. Imagine the fights that could have started if the tribes were allowed to camp wherever they wanted. If Dan claimed a spot right next to the Tabernacle, Judah might have started a fight because they were closer to God that day. Although these might not be the most glamorous chapters of the Bible, they do show us that God set up a very good system for His people. The first two chapters of Numbers show us a glimpse into God’s intentionality and love for His people.

I’ll admit, the first few chapters of this book aren’t the most exciting.  However, the book of Numbers holds many interesting stories and important lessons for us to learn as followers of God.  Many of the greatest teaching points for the prophets and apostles come from the stories in this book.  It is through the miracle of the exodus and the hardships of the wilderness that the nation of Israel is birthed.  I can’t wait to explore more of this book with you in the coming days!

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+1-2&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 3&4 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Making a Different People : Blessings and Curses

Leviticus 26-27

Leviticus 26 12 NIV
Chapters 26 and 27 of Leviticus makes it seem like the book ends twice. While the valuations of 27 help us understand tithes and how giving to the Lord means more than money, indeed EVERYTHING we have, it seems like 26 was the “original” ending. The author, editors, and priests who God inspired to write and work in this text ended, first, with a powerful section on blessing and curses.(See note below)
The narrative of the Exodus, that is, God crushing the Egyptians and their gods, leading his people out to worship him, and then bringing them into the promised land, is the climax of the Torah, and arguably the CENTRAL NARRATIVE of the Old Testament. That is why God has repeated something over and over and over again. I hope you caught it, as I noted that when something is repeated, God wants you to pay attention. Here it is in 26:13 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Think about how many times you have heard something like this in the commands of Leviticus. God keeps grounding his commands in the beautiful reality that he has brought this people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of the land of Egypt. He has redeemed them from slavery. Because he has done that, he wants them to walk in a way that is different and better than the nations around them. If they don’t walk that way but turn away, then he will allow the trouble of this world to overtake them, in order that they might cry out to him. However, if they do obey, then he will give them unending blessings and he promises, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (26:12)
I hope you see the parallel to our lives as we follow Christ. The CENTRAL NARRATIVE of creation is the Exodus led by Jesus, who broke us all out of the bondage and slavery to sin and has set us free. As Jesus brings us into the Canaan of the Kingdom of God, not just the future Kingdom on the Earth, but the present rule and reign of God, he looks to us and says, “there is a better way to live.” He gives us a holy way of life, grounded in his love and his sacrifice. But, better than before, we are able to become changed from the inside out because of the power of God flowing through us. No longer must we simply keep outward laws and regulations, but our hearts can become pure. God can change our desires and our destiny.  We are able to become children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and heirs according to the promise of God. If we follow the way of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, all the while redeemed through the Son of God, then one day we will see God. The metaphor of Leviticus, God saying “I will also walk among you” will become reality. We will be in the full, unmitigated glorious presence of God, in the Land of Promise, His Kingdom.
May you, my brothers and sisters, become a different people.
May the principles and practices of Leviticus shape you into a holy people.
May the mercy and justice of God be made evident to you in all of scripture, and especially in Leviticus.
May the blood of Jesus, a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish, cover you, redeem you, cleanse you of all sins.
May God, my brothers and sisters, bless you!
Jake Ballard
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Note : To be fair, this is a hunch, not a statement of fact or even a solid belief. If you disagree and believe that Moses, or whoever authored this book, wrote it this way on purpose as directed by God, then that is certainly an acceptable view. I just want to point out the fun, interesting quirks of books. This is similar to how John 20:30-31 is a good ending to the book, as well as John 21:24-25. Just some fun food for thought, but not the focus of the devotion. Keep reading above.
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(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife, daughter, and in the summer, two more little ones. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ  If you want to have an interesting conversation with him, just say “I don’t like the ninth guy in a blue police box.” God bless!)
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+26-27&version=NIV
We made it through the book of Leviticus and learned about God on the way.
Keep reading!  Tomorrow we begin the book of Numbers (chapters 1 & 2) as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Transformation

Exodus 22-24

Exodus 22 31 a NIV

                Social transformation is often a long and painful process.  Think about efforts at equality within the United States.  The founders’ vision was for a society where everyone had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The Declaration of Independence expressed this in 1776.  Yet it took nearly a century and a Civil War to bring an end to slavery.  It took nearly 150 years for women to be able to vote and it nearly 200 years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make significant strides toward racial equality.

                How does one take a community that has been enslaved for over 400 years and transform them into a nation that shines a beacon of light to all other nations in the world pointing them to the true God.  How does an entire nation become holy, set apart for God’s service and God’s glory?

                This is the challenge that was before God, Moses and the nation of Israel.  They were leaving behind one type of structure, slavery, to enter into a new way of living.  They needed a new structure to help them know how to live.  They had to be taught how to live in community.  They had to be taught how to work, and how to rest, how to care for their neighbors, and how to punish wrongdoing that threatened to destroy their community.

                In today’s reading we see how God begins to organize and structure the transforming community of Israel.  He teaches them how they are to live and become a holy nation and a royal priesthood.  This transformation would not come quickly or easily.

                They had to be taught how to show respect for personal property: “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.” (22:1)  Those who steal must give restitution.

                They had to be taught to respect the family structure and to place their sexuality within proper boundaries: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.” (22:16-17)

                They had to be taught that there were severe consequences for failing to follow appropriate sexual boundaries: “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.” (22:19).

                They had to be taught to have empathy and to show kindness to strangers and people who were different: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (22:21).

                They had to be taught to have compassion for people in the community who had suffered major losses: “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. (22:22).

                They had to be taught to show respect both to God and to their earthly leaders: “ Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” (22:28)

                They had to be taught how to live as a just community by not giving false testimony, and by neither showing favoritism toward the poor nor withholding justice from the poor (23:1-6).

                They had to be taught to care for their bodies and minds by getting appropriate rest. (23:12).

                It was also important that everyone be taught these and other guidelines for how to live in community as God’s people and that they verbally acknowledge that they understand and intend to follow “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (24:3)

                Israel’s transformation from slavery to covenant people of God living a set apart life as the community of God’s people was a slow and challenging process.  It was painfully difficult, but necessary.  In the end, people failed more often than they succeeded to carrying out their assignments.  And yet, somehow, despite tremendous opposition from aggressive and hate filled neighbors, the Nation of Israel survived.

                As Christians, we can learn much from studying how God worked with His people Israel to bring about their transformation.  It is important to note that they were God’s people first, and then they were given this particular set of laws.  In the same way, as Christians, we become God’s people first, through faith in Jesus Christ, and then we commit to following Jesus and obeying Jesus’ commands.  We do not become God’s people by following laws, but by following Jesus Christ.  However, when we follow Jesus Christ, we do not descend into lawlessness.  Structure is still required.  So Jesus spends three years teaching his disciples how to live as the people of God who are called to be holy, set apart to be a light to all nations.  We complete the mission that the nation of Israel began, and we do so following the yoke or community guidelines as laid down by Jesus Christ.  The foundational teaching of Jesus is to Love God and Love our Neighbors.  That is a good place for each of us to start each day.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+22-24&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 25-27 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Living Water

Revelation 22

Revelation 22 1 NIV

First off … Revelation 22 is so deep and glorious that I feel inadequate to even write a devotion about it.

The scene portrayed here as Pastor Jake talked about is the main point. This is what the  whole book of Revelation is pointing us to and even the entire  Bible.

The vision described  is magnificent and has a great implication on our lives in the here and now. Verses 1-2 point us to this river of life that is going through the middle of the thrones of God and Christ. Just imagine the throne of God on earth with his son seated next to him. Through the middle of these glorious, holy and spectacular thrones is a river flowing from it. The scripture says this river is bright like a crystal. Have you ever held a crystal in your hand? It’s a beautiful stone that has a certain awe-inspiring quality to it. Now, imagine a river with the same breath-taking quality flowing from the throne of God and Christ! When I imagine this scene, I see everything I hope for wrapped up before me. Imagining being in the presence of a holy God where I in my sinful flesh have no business being near and seeing this stream descending from them overwhelms my heart with gratefulness for the grace of God.

The river in this vision is feeding the Tree of Life. The same Tree of Life that we see in the beginning with Adam and Eve. The tree needs to be connected to this river simply to be alive. This tree is pretty crazy though because I don’t know about you but I have never seen a tree produce 12 different kinds of fruit. I have never even seen a tree produce two different kinds of fruit. There must be something special about this river that it has the capacity to produce twelve different kinds of fruit on one tree.

When we look at the tree and its fruit, we must conclude that without this river, this tree and its fruit would not exist.

When we examine our world today if a tree or plant doesn’t receive the water it needs it will die. There is even a great example of a plant dying from lack of water in my living room right now. It is a proven fact that trees need water.

In the same way so does the human soul. But not physical water, living water. The greatest mistake we can ever make in our lives is when we disconnect from this river that is flowing from God and Jesus. Sometimes we think that the busyness of our lives doesn’t allow us to spend time with God on a daily basis. We think that today I don’t have time to spend with or connect to the river or well that never runs dry. The tendency is to think that I can skip a day or a week and still be fine. We think “After all I’m still doing fine” and its only when we are hurting that we run to God.

We were made for so much more than just existing, though. We, like this tree, were made magnificently to produce multiple different kinds of fruit. I feel like personally I short change myself and my whole existence when I don’t go to the river and well to fill my soul. When we go to God or the river we can allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out by God. Then we start to produce in hearts and in souls this natural fruit  that can come from nowhere else but God. This fruit externally manifests itself in the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5.22-24).

In verses 3-5 it talks about how God will be the light of the world and there will no longer be need of lamps or a sun. God isn’t dwelling on the earth yet; instead, he is allowing us to be the lights in this world. The only way this happens in our lives is through this connection to living water. We simply cannot be the lights in this world without the connection to these waters of life.

So, I encourage you and I frankly am encouraging myself to stay connected to these waters and don’t let the days go by without connecting to God. When we do, we will become the people God created us to be with lives that shine lights reflecting the God we serve.

Daniel Wall

What are You Producing?

Matthew 21

matthew 21 19

After Jesus had cleared the Temple of the merchants who were selling things in his Father’s house, Jesus approached a fig tree because he was hungry. Unfortunately for Jesus, the fig tree didn’t have any figs on it. At that moment, Jesus spoke to the tree and it completely withered up. His disciples were amazed by this, and were confused why this had happened. I understand the disciples’ confusion because it took me a long time to figure out why this story was in the Bible. What in the world is this talking about? Why would Jesus choose to wither a tree?

 

After much study, I found that this was a parable of Jesus, although one that was lived out. God’s people that were doing terrible things in God’s Temple were the same as this fig tree; they were not producing any fruit. Because the tree didn’t produce any fruit, Jesus rejected it and allowed it to crumble. The message could not be more clear: if God’s people aren’t producing good fruit, they will crumble and wither.

 

Jesus talked about “bearing good fruit” many different times, but I want to discuss just two. In John 15, Jesus said that we cannot bear fruit without living in communion with him. You cannot produce anything of substance if Jesus isn’t part of your daily life. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit without being attached to the trunk, we cannot produce anything if we are not constantly attached to Jesus.

 

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus says that we will know people by the fruit that they produce, whether good or bad. If we see an apple on a tree, we know that it is an apple tree; if we see a pear, we know that it is a pear tree. In the same way, if we see good fruit being produced, we know that person comes from Jesus. On the other hand, if bad fruit is being produced, we know that that person is from somewhere else.

 

So the question for you today is this: “What are you producing?”

Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), or are you producing the same thing as all the sinners in this world? If you aren’t producing good fruit, it is time to reconnect with the Lord of your life, Jesus Christ. We cannot do it without him.

 

-Talon Paul