Reminders

Isaiah 63-64, Titus 3

Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself.  Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself.  “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00.  Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning.  Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance.  I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting.  In 1 hour I have a meeting.  In 15 minutes I have a meeting.  The Meeting is now starting.  Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.

Do you ever need reminders?  Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework.  What do you need reminders for?

The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians.  I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing  what’s necessary or urgent.  Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live?  Yep, we sure do.

In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2

Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years.  We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we?  Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority?  Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good?  Don’t all Christians always do what is good?   Certainly we never  slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing.  I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).

To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things.  Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good.  I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you.  That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community.  We need each other.  There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading,  but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.  

Following Jesus is hard some times.  Being obedient to God is hard some times.  Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes.  I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right.  I need you, and you need me, we need each other.

I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember.  Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy.  God has both.  God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other.  He hates it when his children fight and argue.  He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us.  We hurt each other when we sin.  No parent likes to see their children hurt each other.  We learned that from our Father, God.

So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.

“Hey Siri  set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow:  be considerate and gentle to everyone.”

“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3

Don’t Give Up Now

Jeremiah 35-37

Jeremiah 36 28 NIV sgl

We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today!  He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular.  And, he didn’t quit!

At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers for over 20 years – warning them of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways.  Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God.  But as a nation, they don’t get it.  They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.

The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator.  Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then?  God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry.  God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV).  Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him.  And so a great project begins.  Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down.  Perhaps the people will listen.  They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot.  How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?

Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people.  One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials.  “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.

Here’s the king’s chance.  He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago.  But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better.  His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack.  Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.

Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words?  To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed.  And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive.  Totally lost.  Over a year’s work, gone.  But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first.

God’s Words are priceless.  Some will hear and respond and pass it on – to work to save themselves and their hearers  (1 Timothy 4:16).  Some will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it.  It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them.  Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word.  The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well.  Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up.  They kept at it – living, writing, sharing, reading, speaking God’s Word.  Striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath.  Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passage, Jeremiah 35-37, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 &79 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Stuck

Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 16

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Choice is Yours

Revelation 16

Revelation 16 7 NIV

Yesterday, angels were sent out with plagues and bowls were prepared for pouring. Today, we get to see the dramatic moments when the bowls are poured. Each plague is horrific, especially when we recognize the wholeworld is experiencing each plague. Everyone, from everywhere, will be affected by these plagues.
(As a quick aside, that means all people who have chosen to turn their backs on God. Remember these plagues and bowls are the wrath of God upon those who chose to reject Him [see Rev. 15]. God has promised that we will not taste his wrath but his salvation, as we chose to follow him. [1 Thess. 5:9])
First, Sores cover those who worship the beast. Then, the sea becomes blood and all life dies. Rivers and streams turn to blood, so blood is the water over the whole earth. Then the sun begins to burn people, followed by the Kingdom of the Beast being plunged into darkness. Penultimately, Euphrates is dried up.
The reason we will stop at six is because I think the important part for John, what SHOULD shock his readers then and now, are the parts where he talks about the reaction to the plagues, what the people chose to do because of the plagues.
In verse 9, we see the sad and shocking reaction of those who are being effected by the plagues. Even as they have experienced the plagues and they know the plagues are coming from God, they choose to blaspheme His name and do not repent or give Him glory. Those who suffer the plagues are continuously, with full knowledge, rejecting the God of heaven after the plagues and bowls. They are not accidentally rejecting Him, or acting in ignorance. They are choosing to reject the God they KNOW is sending these plagues. They reject Him after the fourth bowl (9), and the fifth bowl (11). After the sixth bowl, demons round up the people of the world in their final rejection of God. The seventh bowl, poured out at the Mountain of Megiddo (Har Megiddo or Armageddon), is upon all those who have blasphemed God and continued to blaspheme Him.
Earlier I said it is sad and shocking that this is the reaction of those who choose not to follow God. But the truth we must see is that God is giving everyone a choice. He shows us that even with clear evidence that YHWH is the God of heaven and Earth, some will still refuse to repent and follow Him. The question for the original recipients of Revelation, and for you and I, is this : are we among those who refuse to repent and acknowledge God, or do we give Him the glory he deserves, and choose to do his will?
The choice is yours.
Jake Ballard

Mercy & Grace – OR – a Cosmic Butt-Kicking

FREE THEME WEEK – Psalms!

Psalm 69 24

This week we are looking at seven different types of psalms.  So far we’ve seen wisdom, royal and lament.  Today we are looking at, perhaps, the most difficult of all, imprecatory.  Imprecatory means, quite simply, to call down a curse upon another.

Now, this is kind of tricky for Christians.  After all, Jesus taught us that we are supposed to forgive as we want to be forgiven.  We are supposed to love our enemies, right?  So how exactly can we justify praying imprecatory psalms as Christians?

Let’s look at an example of an imprecatory Psalm 69.

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

 

It starts out quite similar to a psalm of lament, as we discussed on Tuesday.  “Help God! Things are going badly.  I’m sinking.  Everyone is out to get me!  I’m all alone!”

He goes on to appeal to God for help.

19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

Again, this has a familiar ring to it.  The gospel writers used this scripture to point to Jesus on the cross- remember when he said he was thirsty and they gave him vinegar to drink?

So far, we are still lamenting.  It’s dark, but it’s about to turn darker:

22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.

 

Yikes! It just got real!  The person doesn’t just want God to save him, he wants God to crush his enemies.

“Pour out your wrath on them!”  “May they be blotted out of the book of life.”  Wow!  That’s pretty intense.

“May their place be deserted.”  Luke quoted that verse in the book of Acts when he talked about the need to replace Judas as one of the 12 Apostles.

How does this kind of call for God to damn your enemies fit within the overall message of the gospel of Jesus’ love and forgiveness?

Time and space doesn’t permit the kind of deep digging we might need to do to really get this, but I’ll take a stab at it.  When people hurt us, I mean really hurt us, our normal reaction is to want to hurt them back.  The desire to get revenge and retaliate when wronged is pretty normal, if we’re being honest.  So what do we do with that hurt, that anger, that pain?

Well, we know that some people take a gun and go shoot people at school or at work.  Some people take to social media and try to destroy another person’s life and reputation.  If you’re Carrie Underwood: “I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little low Mercedes Benz
Carved my name into his leather seat
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
Slashed a hole in all 4 tires
And maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.”

Sure, who among us hasn’t wanted to do that, and worse?

But as Christians we’re supposed to love our enemies.

Paul says in Romans 12

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Yes, there’s a lot in there about how we are supposed to not pay people back, we’re supposed to love.  Sandwiched in the middle of it all is “leave room for God’s wrath.”  Yes, God is a God of tremendous love, grace, mercy and forgiveness and he offers even the worst of sinners the chance for mercy and forgiveness- but he also knows how to do wrath.  He knows how to punish the unrepentant- and the Bible makes it clear that he will do so.

I don’t know who deserves mercy and grace and who deserves a cosmic butt-kicking, and neither did the Apostle Paul, and neither do you.  So we leave it to God.  Imprecatory prayers are simply ways that we say to God,  “I’m hurting and I want to hurt back, but I’m not going to.  I’m going to trust you to deal with this person the way you choose. (but here’s my pain and rage-fueled suggestion for how I’d like you to do it)”

-Jeff Fletcher