Our Hope in God’s Promises

Acts 26

May 14

Once again, Paul has a chance to give his testimony.  He is respectful.  He boldly states “it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.” v.6

God promised the Israelites blessings. 

Genesis 12:3 -I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you

God promised the Israelites redemption. – A savior messiah who would be the once and forever sacrifice for sin.    

Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.   

Romans 3:23-25 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”  

Psalm 16:10  – Because of this, all men have the hope of eternal life. 

Titus 2:14- who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Paul stayed focused.  And so must we.

God promised the Israelites land. 

Deuteronomy 34:4 – the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 

Blessings, redemption, eternal inheritance in the kingdom on earth.  These promises are ours as well.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, what are you most impressed by?
  2. What promises of God give you great hope?
  3. How can you share that hope with others?

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?

Promises & Blessings

Genesis 12

February 2

The first thing I think we should recognize when reading Genesis chapter 12 are the six things that God promised Abraham. He told him to go to a land that He would show him. Secondly he told him he would make him a great nation. 


I believe the next two promises go hand-in-hand. God said, “I will bless you” and “ I will bless those who bless you.” It was important for God to let Abram know that he was going to bless him. There would also be those that would be an encouragement to him. 


At the same time there would be negative people that came along that were a source of discouragement. God promised that he would take care of those people. 


And lastly God told Abraham that he would give him the land. He was going to give him the land as an everlasting possession. 


Ultimately what I believe this means for us in life is we need to have the same kind of faith Abram had. Our faith as a whole should be based upon that kind of belief in God. 


Where I look at this text in a different context is this. I think we can apply these promises to our personal ministries. When God instills something in your heart that we feel He is calling us to do, we need to believe like Abram did that God is showing us what He would have us do.  


 I believe that just like God made Abram a great nation, we too need to have the kind of faith that believes that God is going to work mightily in our ministry. I’m not saying that we will be great but that God will do great things through us.


I believe following our heart and believing those first two promises are so important, but don’t fool yourselves. There will be both positive and negative people that come along in your ministry. Keep yourself focused on the positive people in ministry and ignore the negative. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you into quitting what you wholeheartedly believe God has called you to do. 


In the end when we listen to God rather than men; we will find ourselves hearing the words that we all want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)


As a result of our faithfulness; Abraham and all of the faithful together will see the fulfillment of God’s last promise. We will be given the land as an everlasting possession. Thank you God for that promise and may God richly bless each and everyone in your ministries.

-Rick Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What directions did God give to Abram before the promises? Do you think the promises will only come to Abram if he follows the directions God gave?
  2. What have you already left behind to go where God leads? What were the results (or maybe they are still in progress and hard to see)? Where may God be asking you to go? What may He be asking you to leave? Pray for God’s direction and guidance, as well as your own obedience.
  3. “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” – God (Genesis 12:2). What blessings has God given to you? How have you used what God has blessed you with to be a blessing to others? What can you do to spread that blessing further this week?

Life and Death – and Life Again

Zephaniah 1 – 3 and Revelation 13

Today’s reading contains some disturbing imagery, so readers be warned.

In Revelation 13, we find details of the person we call the antichrist. In Revelation 13:7, we’re told “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…”  In Revelation 13:9-10 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In a nutshell, we know that at some point in the future (I believe in the relatively near future), a person we call the antichrist will arise.  He will deceive the nations and will control the economy such that only those who receive the “mark of the beast” will be able to buy or sell.  (We will find out in Revelation 14:10 that those who do receive the mark of the beast will be tormented in the lake of fire.) And he will successfully conquer Christians.

As a Christian, this doesn’t sound very appealing.  If all we’re focusing on is this life, it won’t seem worth maintaining our faithfulness to God.  When that time comes, we’ll need to remember what God has promised for the wicked, as recorded in Zephaniah – also part of today’s reading.

In Zephaniah 1:2-3, we read, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  The wicked will only have heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.”

In Zephaniah 1:18, we read, “…In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:8 tells us, “…I have decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

But then we find hope in Zephaniah 3:12-13, where we read, “But I will leave within you the meek and the humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

In short, terrible times are coming for Christians, when the antichrist will try to annihilate us from the earth.  It will be critical to remain faithful to God during those difficult times, even if we lose our lives.  Because ultimately, God will judge the world, and completely destroy the wicked.  Even if we die, we will be resurrected to live in peace forever.  While the wicked will be completely destroyed forever.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 30:19 where we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Choose to remain faithful to God.  Choose life.  Even if you have to succumb to death.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zephaniah 1-3 and Revelation 13

Know God’s Plan

Micah 3-4

Yesterday, we read about God’s words to a people who were on the breaking point. To be fair, Israel had seen a lot– civil disputes, mass religious wars, a kingdom divided. But here, Israel is facing its final days as an independent nation.

So we read Micah’s desperate attempts to warn his people– Israel and Judah both– that their only hope is to return to the LORD. Chapter 1 talked about the coming destruction. Chapter 2 talks about these “oppressors,” who are likely people of political or financial power that are abusing the people around them.

In chapter 3, Micah now addresses two groups of people: the political leaders and the prophethood. Micah tells the leaders that they “hate the good and love the evil,” (3:1). The prophets that Micah confronts were likely professional “prophets” that lived in the king’s court. They may or may not have been followers of the LORD and they were not like the prophets that God chose for Israel. Micah says they prophesy peace when it gets them something to eat (3:5) and teach the masses when it gets them paid (3:11). 

On and on, Micah confronts everyone in the nation who has shown corruption, greed, selfishness and evil. He closes chapter 3 by saying  these ways are going to leave Zion, God’s holy city– flattened to a plain. 

And then Micah’s message does a complete 180-degree turn. In chapter 4, he starts giving some really good news. He says that the house of the LORD will be a meeting place where everyone turns to know God (4:2). He says that God is going to bring the weak, lowly, hurt, sick, and anyone who’s been abused, and He is going to personally make them strong (4:6-7). 

And here we begin to see what we call “God’s redemptive-historical plan.” That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s plans span thousands of years. And although Israel rejected and resisted God, He would not give up so easily. God sent His Son Jesus into the world to be an atonement, a light, and a leader for all of humanity. And in this way, every good thing that God has promised to mankind will be made true in Jesus our King.

If this isn’t good news enough, wait until tomorrow, when Micah is going to have even better things to say! 

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Micah 3-4 and Revelation 9

1 Short Chapter – 49 Cross References

Revelation 5

Imagine, for a moment, your favorite movie or tv show. How much of it can you quote? How many references have you made to your friends who have seen it with you a thousand times? How many times have you watched, acted it out, or recited memorable lines?

Revelation 5 is one of the most theologically packed chapters of the Bible. Why is that? Because the Bible is a complete, unified story that spans thousands of years and dozens of authors, and they all point to a single narrative. The author of Revelation, John, knows his Bible like a movie that he’s watched hundreds of times. In Revelation 5, my Bible shows 49 cross references to other verses. John really knows his Bible!

What’s the purpose, then? When we read Revelation 5, we’re reading the fulfillment of lots of God’s promises. In just 5:1, for example, we’re reminded of the throne room of God in Ezekiel 1, and the sealed scrolls in Daniel 12:4 and Isaiah 29:11. (Tip: when a biblical author makes a clear reference to a different spot in the Bible, they usually want you to go back and read it to see what they mean!!)

What is this scroll, anyway? And why is it that no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open it? We have to keep reading to find out. And here lies the secret behind all of Revelation 5: God’s written plan, which he held in his own hand, could only be carried out by one very, very, very worthy individual. And his name is Jesus. 

The rest of Revelation 5 lists off the many qualifications that Jesus holds. He is the lion of Judah. (See Genesis 49:8-12, when God says that the ruler of Israel is like a lion, and he will be of the tribe of Judah). Jesus is the Root of David (see 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promises that one of David’s descendants would rule forever). Jesus is the lamb that was slain (read about the passover lamb in Exodus 12, and how Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7). We see how these immensely powerful creatures, who dwell constantly in the presence of God, sing about this important role of Jesus– that he can open the scrolls because he was slain, ransomed us for God, and made us a kingdom of priests to God, so we can reign on the earth. 

I hope you’re starting to see the story of redemption that God had been planning since Genesis. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads and thousands of thousands of angels of heaven, are all “in on” this great story and its many references and quotes from history. They know that Jesus is the climax of God’s great story. 

So when we read Revelation 5, let us sing along with all of God’s angelic host in proclaiming that to God and the Lamb “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Obadiah and Revelation 5

Coming with the Clouds of Heaven

Daniel 7

     Some words can get you in trouble.  Some words can get you beat up.  Others, in the right situation, can even get you killed!  You might be surprised to know that merely quoting some words from Daniel chapter 7 once got someone killed. How?  When?  It was only a few hours before Jesus’ death on the cross.  Jesus was being examined before the high priest.  They were attempting to find some guilt in Jesus.  They wanted a reason to condemn Him.  Finally, in Matthew 26:63, the high priest demanded of Jesus, “…tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God…”  Jesus answered, “…you have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven….”  Essentially, Jesus confirmed that He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of Man described in the book of Daniel chapter 7.  As a result of this confession, the high priest concluded in Matthew 26:66, “He deserves death!”  So, as I said, the words of Daniel 7 can get you in trouble.  For the words of Daniel 7 are still revolutionary and they still challenge the current world order.  They are dangerous and threatening words for those who would defy the will of God.

     Jesus, as He appeared before the high priest, quoted in part from Daniel 7:13: “….and behold with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming…..”  Daniel 7:14 continues to describe the Son of Man, “…and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”   The early Christians thought this was an important verse.  It was directly quoted or referenced several times in the New Testament (Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:30).  Even before the birth of Jesus, Daniel 7 was thought to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah.   Jesus even used the term “Son of Man” to speak about Himself throughout the Gospels.  Daniel chapter 7 describes a series of empires that will rise and fall.  Some of what Daniel described is now history for us.  However, there is yet to arise another terrifying empire in the time of the end.  This is the empire which the Son of Man will vanquish at His second coming in glory.  Even the mightiest of empires will fail, but the kingdom of God and of His Messiah will stand forever.  

As we enter this Advent season, we see Daniel 7 as evidence that God keeps His promises.  Jesus was born.  He lived.  He taught us the good word of God.  He died for our sins.  He was raised to immortality.  He sits at God’s right hand. He is coming again to reward those who believe in Him and to punish the wicked.

-Scott Deane

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 7 & 8 and Psalm 145-147

Seek and Find

Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

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

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

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

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

-Sherry Alcumbrack

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

Deception

Isaiah 35-36 and 2 Thessalonians 2

Hello again!  Thanks for joining me for another day!

Isaiah 35 depicts a joyful return of the redeemed of the LORD.  There is singing, gladness, no sorrow, and healing (v. 5-10).  What an incredible celebration to be part of!  I certainly am looking forward to our day of celebration with God.  Unlike this celebration, ours will be one that lasts forever and ever, and never has the possibility for someone else to come and bring us back to a broken place.  No one to come and scare the righteous and try to deceive them! 

In Isaiah 36 the king of Assyria tries to overtake Judah and Jerusalem.  Interestingly, the king here is not only using physical tactics to try and capture the cities, but he is also using some mind-game strategies to create doubt in the people and offer a false hope in his own strength.  The king tries to convince the people that by surrendering to him they will have security and a new, prosperous land (v. 16-17).  He uses the language the people are familiar with and attacks the character of their current leader who follows YHWH.  He creates doubt in God’s promises that are not immediately present and begins to offer the easy way out of the situation with empty promises of independent success, security, and familiarity.  We see these same types of empty promises coming from politicians, employers, and even our own friends or families at times today.  While they may not be empty in what is being offered, they will never satisfy whatever our wants or needs are as they are not promises from God.  I believe that Satan consistently tries to use different tactics to pull us away from God and His promises, and people surrounding us can be lead astray on empty promises of what will make them happy, secure, or comfortable. 

Throughout the Bible we see a common theme is a warning not to fall for the deception of the current age, to not fall for empty and unsatisfying promises offered by man.  This is because no matter what time period, the only promises that will ever fill someone up are those that come directly from God!

Our passage in 2 Thessalonians discusses deception from the ‘lawless one’ who is coming with false miracles, signs, and wonders set out to deceive all those who do not accept the truth (v. 9 – 10).  Paul is writing to a church that seems to already be doing a good job of continuing to follow God’s promises despite attempts at deception.  He is writing to encourage them to STAND FIRM in what they already know (v. 15).  We can know that the promise that Paul writes about (the coming of Jesus) is not one that is empty because he does not write it with the purpose of his own gain, or the purpose of leading us astray from what Jesus himself preached!  In general, this is a pretty good standard to judge promises made by others… does it match with what Jesus said?  When we use this standard to gauge the reliability of promises we are guaranteed to experience less disappointment and confusion! 

I pray over you today and this week that “Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourages your hearts and strengthens you in every good work and word” (v. 16 – 17).   Life is hard, full of empty promises, deception, and brokenness.  Praise God we have grace and an everlasting promise that is still coming!

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 35-36 and 2 Thessalonians 2

Brought Together by God

1 Kings 17-18

In 1 Kings 17, we are introduced to a widow that was struggling in the time of the drought. Now Elijah had been sent to stay with this widow by God. The brook he had been living at dried up. He needed somewhere to go, and this was where he was told to seek refuge. When he comes upon the widow, she is out gathering sticks to fuel the flames that would cook what she perceived to be her and her son’s last meal.

When Elijah asked her for a drink, she was more than happy to comply. However, when he asked her for some bread, she revealed her situation. She had no bread. All she had was a small bit of flour and oil. She said she was saving this for her and her son, for they were going to eat it and then die. She did not believe that they were going to make it through the drought. In her mind, this was the end of the road for both her and her child.

But then, as we read, Elijah tells her not to fear for the LORD would not allow her to run out of flour or oil until rain came again. He offers her hope. The widow showed great faith in what Elijah said. She did not question this or wonder how such a thing could be promised. She went in and did as Elijah had said. She had faith in God’s promise. And so, as Elijah had said, the flour nor the oil went empty. They had plenty to eat. God had provided for them and kept his promise.

Here was this widow and her son. She is on the brink of preparing their last meal, when Elijah shows up. God used the widow’s home as a place for Elijah to find refuge. And through Elijah staying there, God provided for the widow and her son who were on the brink of starvation. God orchestrates many stories and brings many people together so that they may help one another. God used the widow to help Elijah and Elijah he used to help the widow.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 17-18 and Proverbs 2

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