When You are in Distress

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 35 & 36

Psalms Reading: Psalm 20

New Testament Reading: Matthew 19

In life we come to places where we are in distress, we feel hopeless, and we feel like our circumstances couldn’t be darker. But God is full of hope and knows his plans for us if we trust him.

We begin in Genesis, Jacob has fled from his home from his brother Esau, and after he left Laban now Jacob is being told by God to return to Bethel, the place where he had stopped after running from his brother and having a dream.

Before they get there Jacob tells his family in Genesis 35:2

“So, Jacob said to his household and all who were with him, get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. We must get up and go to Bethel. I will build an alter there to the God who has answered me in my day of distress. He has been there with me everywhere I have gone.”

Jacob is telling his family how God has blessed him and that they are not going back to that place of foreign gods. Just as we are not going back to our places of distress and false gods.

Psalm 20:1

“May the Lord answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.”

God provides answers in all our times of distress. In our times of trouble, when we don’t understand why things are happening, he knows why things are happening. He provides us comfort in our struggles; we need to lean on him. God will provide.

It is after this that God tells Jacob to be fruitful and multiply, and he reminds Jacob of the promise he had made to Abraham and Isaac concerning the land.

This means something to us too when times get difficult. We will experience the blessings of God at times, but when questionable circumstances come our way, we need to remember how we obtained those blessings. Forgetting about God in times of need would be a sure sign that we are getting on the wrong path.

Matthew 19 also contains a lot of information. Jesus had to deal with the pharisees trying to trip him up constantly, but what stands out to me is Matthew 19:21-22.

“If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”

This man was faithful to God and had a lot of possessions, but he did not connect his possessions with God’s blessings.  The same goes with us, too often we forget that when times are good and we are feeling high in life, that our blessings come from God!

We can’t forget that in our good and bad times that no matter what, we are to devote ourselves to God. Trust in him and he will bring you through everything that you experience.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your usual responses when you feel you are in a time of distress? Are they helpful responses?
  2. What can we learn from our Bible passages today regarding how to turn to God?
  3. What can we learn from our Bible passages today regarding who God is and what He does?

Accountability

Ezekiel 33

Saturday, October 29, 2022

This week we have covered pain and sorrow in our trials, our hope in Jesus, newness in the clay, God’s comfort for us in our battles, and our freewill to live for Christ.

Though these topics are all different, they all connect in how we reach others. Our job as Christians is to share the good news of God and his Son.  Our prayer everyday should be to touch the life of someone in a positive way; and hopefully to bring people with us along the journey. But our job is also to be accountable for one another in our journey of faith. This doesn’t mean to be judgmental but understanding.

As we have gone through this week, we have seen how God comforts, but he also tests by letting us face sorrow, and we have seen how our faith is based on our freewill to follow Him. The same goes with accountability. We are to walk alongside each other in trials and in comfort and help each other walk closer in our faith in God and the hope we have in Jesus.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 says,

As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.  When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, ‘wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood.  But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself.”

This scripture really hits home how important remaining faithful every day is. It is not enough to just go to church and give our offering. While those are important things, what really matters is bringing Jesus outside of church. Jesus continually went to people who were broken and lost, just as we are supposed to.

We are supposed to be the light for people who have no light.  We are supposed to be there for the person at school who is always alone, talk to the coworker, who you know is going through a hard time, and spread the joy and hope that Jesus would spread.

 A song written this year by Cain, called The Commission words it perfectly. “Go tell the world about me, I was dead but now I live. I’ve got to go now for a little while, but goodbye is not the end.” He will be back someday, and he wants to see everyone there. If we don’t spread his word who will? 

I want to know that I did everything I could in my life to share Jesus with as many people as God gives me the opportunity.

My Grandpa used to say this quote by Stephen Covey, but it goes like this. “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. How do you feel about the job of watchman?
  2. Has anyone been a faithful watchman for you – warning you of the danger of continuing down a path away from God and his commands? What did they do well?
  3. How can a watchman deliver God’s warning in a way that might be best heard and heeded?

Lamentations of Hope

Lamentations 3

Lamentation is defined as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. In this time Israel has been through pain and destruction.  Lament is a human response to suffering before God who can stop the suffering. Lamenting pushes us to be helpless before God who can rescue us and bring us out of our situation.

            Have you ever been in deep sorrow? The kind where all you want to do is disappear or break into a thousand pieces. Those times are hard to say the least. I know the same feeling more than I would like to admit.

            But I have realized that in those moments, the best thing we can do is go to God. Bring him our lamentations, our sorrows.

            This is what Lamentations is. In this book Israel is bringing their sorrows to God and finding peace in him. They have nothing left after the destruction and pain brought by the Babylonians, yet in Lamentations 3 it says this.

Lamentations 3:19-24

Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood, and the poison. I continually remember them and have become depressed. Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say the Lord is my portion therefore I will put my trust in him.

            There is joy in the mourning! These people had nothing, had suffered, and yet they have all this love and trust in God and his faithfulness. Because God is good, and he knows our sorrows. He wants us to go to him with every little heartache just as the Israelites did!

There is hope in our lamentations and love for our suffering because God will use it for good.

            It is encouraging to know the good God we serve, who brings joy in the mourning. Who leads us through battle and into victory.

This is the best part.

Lamentations 3:31-33

For the Lord will not reject us forever. Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.”

I love this part, but it is a little bit of a tough pill to swallow. God is compassion, love, and peace, but he also brings along testing and affliction when he knows we need it. Those are the hard times. But we are strong through those hard times, knowing that God is there to guide.

We won’t know how long pain may last. But what is important is not letting our grief stop us from serving God. Our pain is what we can use to reach others with God’s love.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. Where do you turn in your sorrow?
  2. What gives you hope in the midst of grieving?

Newness in the Clay

Jeremiah 18

In Isaiah 40 we talked about how God provides comfort in our seasons of trouble, but we can also see God’s comfort here in Jeremiah 18. Here in this chapter, God tells Jeremiah to go and watch a potter in his house, and what he sees is this.

Jeremiah 18:1-4

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal my words to you.” So, I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do.

God then says to Israel, “Can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay?… Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in my hand.

            The comfort comes from the hope that God is our potter. He can make something new out of any situation we may be in.  

In some seasons of life, we may feel like we are broken and there is no coming back from that brokenness. But there is newness in the clay. That brokenness we feel is fixable, and God will make something new out of that brokenness.

            Now when God is telling Israel this in Jeremiah 18, he means it in a different way. In this time Israel was disobedient of God.

 God says in Jeremiah 18:7-8

At one moment I might announce concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will uproot, tear down, and destroy it.  However, if that nation about which I have made the announcement turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it.

This passage was as much a lesson for individuals as it was to Israel. Listen to God but know that he will make new beautiful things out of broken things.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. What does it mean to you that you are the clay and the Lord God is the potter?
  2. Have you seen a time in your life (or the life of someone else) when God turned a marred pot into a work of art and function? What was the best part of this transformation? Was it easy or still a bit difficult to be the molded clay?
  3. What can be learned at the potter’s house about God’s discipline?

God’s Comfort for Us

Isaiah 40

Wednesday, October 25, 2022

There are many times in life when we feel alone, and without comfort. Times like grieving over death, or a spot in life that just isn’t going our way. In this chapter however, God’s comfort and hope are clear towards God’s people, just as it is today.

Throughout all of Isaiah, there were themes. Isaiah 1-35 deal with condemnation, Isaiah 36-39 are the historic chapters, the chapters with confiscation, and Isaiah 40-66 consolation. Consolation is the comfort people feel after a loss or disappointment.

Every story in the Bible has its sad parts, its broken pieces, but in the end, God provides comfort and peace.

            Isaiah 40:1-2

Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The Lord is saying to Isaiah. Tell my people the battle is over; they don’t need to worry. Isaiah knew all about warning and instructing God’s people, but God also wanted His people to receive His comfort.

In any group of people waiting to hear from God, there are always a number of hurting hearts. It is important for us to hear words of comfort for God is comfort. Our purpose is to bring God’s comfort to other’s pain, just as others bring us the same comfort. God’s purpose for us is to love him and love others in our pain.

Our battle may not always be over, it was the same way for God’s people. The battle wasn’t over for Jerusalem when this was written, but God told them it would be over. That is where the comfort comes from.  Knowing the battle may not be over yet, but also knowing we have a mighty God who will bring us through it.

Our purpose is bringing others the Lord’s comfort in their battles too. Share in God’s hope and love.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. What characteristics of God do you find in Isaiah 40? Which one do you sometimes forget about? Which one means the most to you today?
  2. Who do you know who you can bring God’s comfort to this week? How will you do so?

Life and Love for All

Isaiah 11

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Have you ever been on a walk outside and been stung by a bee. I have, and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience ever. Animals such as bees use mechanisms like their stinger or teeth to protect themselves from threats, but what if they didn’t have to?

            In Isaiah 11, it alludes to the humble coming of Christ. Jesus comes to us from nothing. He comes from the dead stump of Jesse, and springs forth full of life and hope, bearing fruit. Jesus is full of wisdom and understanding for us, counsel and strength, and a spirit of knowledge and of fear.

            When Jesus commands all the animals will dwell together as it says in Isaiah 11:6-9.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle. An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. They will not destroy each other on my entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water.”

            There will be no fighting among animals anymore. No more disagreements among us people either. Wouldn’t it be incredible for it to be like that today?

What if we all put our different opinions aside and loved each other with no questioning. The world would be an entirely different place.

That is the challenge for today. Think of a person who you may have had a disagreement with, and just reach out to that person. Let them know you care. Let go of the disagreements. Show each other compassion.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. What will the earth look like when it is “filled with the knowledge of the Lord”? How is it different from today?
  2. Reading through Isaiah 11, describe the reign of Jesus the Messiah. What are you most looking forward to and why?
  3. How can we live today to prepare ourselves – and others (even the ones we have disagreements with) for the reign of Jesus?

Our Hope in Christ

Isaiah 9

Monday, October 24, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, we talked about our vineyard, and how God provides us with freewill to produce the good fruit for our relationship with him and spreading his word.

            Today we will talk about the Hope Jesus was to bring to Israel and Still brings to us today when we work hard with him as a team.

            Isaiah 9: 3-4

You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. For you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian.

            This passage reminds us of the Hope and glory that come to us from Christ in his coming. It reminds us of the hard work, and hard times we will endure before he finally returns.

            The passage Isaiah 9:3 speaks of the people rejoicing as they did at Harvest time, or while dividing spoils. This is alluding to how the people planted in that time, but it also speaks to the work we do now. We should rejoice in our daily jobs and be joyful while we work.

            A man will reap what he sows, when we sow love for others and trust in following the Lord and his plan, we will celebrate in the harvest of bringing others to Christ. Sowing good works today could look like, volunteering your time for a charity, or participating in service at church by doing slides. The small things matter, just like paying for the person behind you in the drive through window, which just might start a chain reaction as others do it, too. The point is, we will see the incredible rejoicing at what is sown through Christ if we love others and serve him.

            This passage also alludes to how God shatters the enemy as he did in Midian. The battle of Midian is found in the book of Numbers 31, The Lord commanded Moses to recruit a thousand Israelites from every tribe, to go and wage war against Midian. Trusting God to bring them through, they won the battle. Just as one day we will win the battle and rejoice.

It won’t be easy, but there will be hope through till the end.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. Consider Jesus’ first coming – what does it mean to you? What hope does it give? What rejoicing does it bring?
  2. Consider Jesus’ second coming – what does it mean to you? What hope does it give? What rejoicing does it bring?
  3. What are you sowing now? What do you expect at harvest time? Is there anything else you want to/should be sowing?

Freewill in the Vineyard

Isaiah 5

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Editor: For the next three weeks we will be spending some time looking at the books of prophecy from the Old Testament – with at least one devotion for every book. Then, mid-November we will be ready to start Revelation, one chapter a day. And we will finish off the year with the last gospel we have not yet read this year: Luke. Keep Seeking God in His Word! SeekGrow(good fruit)Love!

We have all desired to be the plant lady/man at some point in our lives. We go to the store and get a cute little house plant, and then we put it on our windowsill and water it once or twice a week, depending on the type of plant.

            But, if you are anything like me, you do not have the greenest thumb, and most of the time your plant ends up looking… well, dead.

            My point is, that even though we may water that plant, and provide it with the best soil. If the plant were to cover itself up under a blanket and hide, it will never grow, and will eventually die.

            That is what Isaiah 5 talks about in the song of the vineyard.

            Isaiah 5:1-2

I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: the one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest of vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes.”

            In this passage we are depicted as the vineyard, and God is the tender of us. He provides us with everything we need, and pursues a relationship with us, for us to live for him, and spread his word.

            It is because he gives us freewill that we can choose him and grow healthy fruit that can be shared. It is we who decide what kind of fruit we are going to grow in the vineyard with our actions, and what we focus on.

Jerusalem at this time was not following God’s commands. They were pursuing drunkenness, compound sinfulness (denying your sin), and amalgamation of land (combining of land together with small properties). Today we aren’t necessarily combining land, but we may be pursuing other things that are not what God wants us to pursue.

God wants us to consider this, just as he wanted Jerusalem to consider it.  Who was to blame for the worthless grapes? What caused the worthless grapes? And how can we produce healthy grapes?  We have the free will to choose what we want to produce.  Be the change.

-Hannah Eldred

Reflection Questions

  1. In what way/ways have you noticed your garden producing worthless fruit?
  2. How can you trust and grow closer to God, while letting him work your vineyard?
  3. How can you produce positive fruit and influence change?

How can we feed 5 thousand with so little?

Mark 6

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Everyone knows the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. It is one of the classic stories that we first learn in bible school! While it is a very simple story, there is hidden meaning in the words. Yes, it is a story of how incredible Jesus was, and it showed how faithful people were to him, but what else does it mean?

Mark 6:34, is where Jesus first notices the people gathered on the shore. He says they were like, “Sheep without a shepherd”, and he has compassion for them. He sees people who are lost and makes sure to go and guide them towards life and hope.

But the thing I want to focus on is when he talks with the disciples and feeds the people.

Mark 6:35-44.

Once it was late, the disciples went to Jesus and told him that he should send the people away so they could eat. Jesus responded and told the disciples to feed the crowd of people. I can only imagine the looks on their faces! They responded, asking Jesus if they should go buy 200 denarii worth of bread. Finally, Jesus tells them to go and see how many loaves of bread are in the crowd – five loaves and two fish.

            Now imagine being a disciple at this point. They have seen Jesus do miracles, but this must seem nuts! They have nothing close to being enough to feed these people, but they knew he would somehow do it. This is what God wants us to be like with our faith. We may feel like we are standing in front of a mountain, but God wants us to trust him and know that with his strength, we can do anything. Whether that’s feeding five thousand or climbing a mountain.

Jesus then looks to the heavens while breaking the loaves and dividing the fish, and there was enough to feed and satisfy everyone, and there was extra.

This story touches my heart because it describes how we can do so much with only a little. We do not start with everything we think we need, but God provides abundantly more than we could ever imagine as we work to reach his people. No matter what our purpose is, God provides everything we need, we just must have faith and be patient, knowing that whatever we are called to, God will provide.

-Hannah Eldred

Application Questions

  1. When have you felt there was no way you would have enough (resources, finances, companionship, wisdom, or faith)? How did it work out for you? In what ways do lean times help grow your faith?
  2. In what ways has God shown Himself to be faithful in your own life, in His word, and in the lives of others?

Our Bodies Belong to God

1 Corinthians 7

June 8

1st Corinthians chapter 7 presents us with Paul explaining to the church the importance of Christian liberty in marital relations. This chapter is all about the importance of the Christian concept of marriage and how it needed to be established in the early church.

            In Paul’s letter he writes about the principles of marriage, but he also writes about singleness, in 1st Corinthians 7:4 Paul says,

            “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.

In a marital relationship, the husband and wife belong to one another, just as we belong to God in our relationship with him. We can also see this in how Elihu speaks to Job in Job 33:6.

            “Look, you and I both belong to God. I, too, was formed from clay.

We all belong to God in everything we do. We are to trust God in his decisions for our lives and the places we are to go, just as our spouse is to rely on us in our relationships.

            Paul also speaks of singleness in chapter 7. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:8-9, and verses 32-35.

            “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

            “I want you to be without concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord. How he may please the Lord. But the married man is concerned with the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman is concerned with the things of the world, and how she may please her husband. I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.

Paul isn’t saying we shouldn’t be married or have relationships, but he is saying, that when we are in them it is important to not lose sight of your faith, and to devote yourself to God first. Sometimes our seasons of singleness are God’s way of pulling us closer to him, and that is one of the most important periods in our life. We have an opportunity to be devoted to only God and spend time learning who he wants us to be.

This is where I have been in my life lately. I’m realizing that my relationship with God must come first before I am able to have a relationship with someone else, so that we can strengthen each other through our faith in Christ. God wants a relationship with us, and for us to trust in him first and foremost.

-Hannah Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Whether you are single or married, how can you deepen your devotion to God?
  2. What is the person to do who is married to an unbeliever? Why?
  3. If you will be choosing a spouse, what does Paul say he/she has to be? Why?
  4. If you are married, how can you work (ideally, together, with your mate) at keeping God first?

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