Isaiah 35-36

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

The book of Isaiah holds many judgments against Israel, Judah, and all the nations surrounding them. Page after page contains descriptions of how God will deal with these people, because of the sin that they commit. In the midst of this, there are glimpses of a wondrous hope to come and worship God in his future kingdom. We see the beautiful future that God has prepared for all those who love him despite the brokenness of our current realities. 

Isaiah 35 describes this future in a continuation of the prophecy beginning in Isaiah 34. In Isaiah 34, Edom’s eventual punishment and destruction is described: “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her soil into sulfur” (v. 9). In this place, jackals, hyenas, goats, birds of prey, and snakes will gather – all symbols of destruction and brokenness (v. 14-15). The very land has turned bitter and worthless under the consequence of sin. In contrast to this, Isaiah 35 describes the land of the Israelites as a desert that blossoms like a rose (v. 1). In this place, “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool of water and the thirsty land springs of water” (v. 5-7). Unlike the land of Edom, in the redeemed land, “There will be no vicious beast, but the redeemed will walk on it” (v. 9). In fact, the places where the vicious beasts resided, like the lairs of jackals, will be turned into a meadow of grass, reeds, and papyrus (v. 7). A road will go through this land called the Holy Way; “the unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray” (v. 8). This path will lead up to the mountain of God where the people will come to worship God. 

We live in an incredibly broken world that seems like it is full of vicious beasts and people bent on destroying themselves and others. We can see the consequences of sin in the hurt that is being done so carelessly to everyone, including our most vulnerable. We can rest in the hope that this will not always be the way the world will be. Those that would be overlooked by society and viewed as less than are the very people that God includes in the description of his future kingdom: the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. These are the people who lead the way for praising God’s redemption of the land. We will not always live in these broken times. We can trust that one day streams of water will flow through the desert and the whole world will blossom like a rose. In fact, through the Holy Spirit, we can begin to redeem our time here for God and be his hands and feet in this broken world. How can you bring the living water to those around you? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 35-36.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 28-30

Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote

As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place. 

When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given. 

We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled. 

When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 31-34– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 23-27

God makes a way in spite of our brokenness.

Isaiah was a prophet in Israel during some very difficult times due to the fact that Israel had to a great extent departed from the true worship of God and were not keeping the commandments as God instructed.  Due to rebellion Israel was divided into two kingdoms.  The Northern Kingdom was known as the Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom was referred to as Judah in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  These two divisions were adversarial toward each other.  Isaiah was a prophet in Judah over 700 years before the birth of Jesus.  It might be mentioned that Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah later over 600 years before Jesus.  The sinful departure from serving God continued during the times of both prophets.  Perhaps the sinful conditions then were much like and to the degree of the sinfulness that is prevalent in today’s world.  God through these prophets warned Israel that there would be serious consequences of their sin, but they would be greatly blessed if they returned to faithful service to God.  Unfortunately, Israel did not heed the words of the prophets and made bad choices by continuing in their sinful ways.  Indeed, there were serious consequences resulting from their sinful behaviors.  We also have to make similar choices almost daily.  There are blessings when we make choices pleasing to God.  As previously stated, the sinfulness of Judah continued until about 600 years before Jesus.  God withdrew his protection and they were attacked by the Babylonians.  About 606 BC the Babylonians conquered and took the entire population of Judah from their homeland to the land of the Babylonians where they were to be servants of the Babylonians for 70 years.  After the fall of the Babylonian Empire they were permitted to return to their original homeland and to restore their worship of God.

In spite of all the sins of Judah, God never ceased to love them.  In Isaiah 27 God promises a brighter day for Israel when they will no longer be divided and when they are turned from their sinful ways to serve and obey God.  These blessings will happen after Jesus returns and establishes the Kingdom of God.

We can learn much from the experiences of Israel.  We all have sinned and that includes everyone.  Yet, God loves mankind so much that He gave his only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins, John 3:16.  Today we live in a world with many problems and challenges.  This week we are not at FUEL because of a very serious and deadly virus.  There is strife and unrest in our nation often leading to violence. There are a number of wars in the world.  Although we live in difficult times, we like Israel are confronted with choices.  God has something better ahead for us if we choose to serve him today and accept his son Jesus – The Wonderful Kingdom of God is promised for us!

~ Joe James

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in 2 Kings 18:1-8 & 2 Chronicles 29-31 & Psalm 48 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Restoration is Possible

Deuteronomy 30-31

Deut 30 4 NIV

Yesterday we looked at God’s promises of blessings and curses, rewards and consequences, for the choices that the Israelites made.  We also saw that God enacted those consequences exactly as described hundreds of years later with the Babylonian captivity.

Today’s passage in Deuteronomy provides some hope that even after God punishes, he restores.

In historical context, we once again see God doing just what he promised. (See books like Ezra and Nehemiah).

God’s response to us is really no different. His word is clear on what he expects of us, and the consequences we reap can be crushing.  But if we return to him, he will always restore us.  Always.

Make good choices

From the middle of chapter 30 on, we see God literally pleading with his people to choose his ways.  He lays it all out, and reminds them that he’s not asking them for anything too hard, saying,

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”

Then he reminds them of the promised rewards or consequences they will face and gives them a bit of an ultimatum and a plea,

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life”

Our sin hurts us.  But it doesn’t just hurt us, it grieves God.  His pleading with us to choose his path is not only because he knows that it’s ultimately the best for us.  He’s also pleading with us to choose him.  He loves us that much.

If you’ve found yourself suffering the consequences of bad choices, restoration is possible.  It is usually a long path, but worth every step.  Here’s a resource that you might find helpful  https://thesparrowshome.com/caught-in-sin-restoration-possible/

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+30-31&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the final chapters of the first 5 Books of Law – Deuteronomy 32-34 and then also Psalm 91 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

I believe, I believe

strengthened in his faith.png

Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

–Romans 4:20-21

There is a line in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” that I find myself playing repeatedly in my thoughts whenever I become discouraged or tempted to completely forsake any number of particular dreams I have. Little Suzy had finally come to believe that Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus and she dared to ask him for the biggest thing she could imagine, a house for her and her mother to live in; complete with a big tree in the backyard from which a swing hung. Christmas day had come and was just about over, when she finds herself sitting in the back seat of the car with her mother and Mr. Gailey, Santa’s lawyer. As they drive through a quaint subdivision, little Suzy says over and over, “I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe”, with so little enthusiasm that the movie-goer can practically feel the hope drain out of her heart. With one last gigantic sigh, Suzy looks up and out the window to see the exact house that she had asked Santa for. All of a sudden her downtrodden countenance becomes full of life!

Now please don’t mistake my comparison of Santa Claus to the Almighty, but I do think that God instills in each one of us really big hopes and dreams that He alone can execute. In today’s scripture, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Roman believers by reminding them of how big God is and how there is nothing that will prevent God from fulfilling a promise that He makes to those who call Him Father. Abraham and Sarah’s situation was laughable when put next to the promise that God had made them – but the soon to be father of many nations “strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God”.

How about you? Is there a call, purpose, dream, vision that you completely believe came from God and you have no idea how he’s going to get it done considering your present circumstances? I have several and I have my days when I look up to the sky and ask God, “Were you really serious about this because I don’t see it happening.”  The reasons for any delay are as varied as the number of hairs on your head, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten. He’s waiting for the perfect time to bring your dream into fruition.

In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your hope alive and it starts with diving into His Word daily. The more you immerse yourself into what God has already done, the easier it will be for you to state, “I believe, I believe, God loves me, and I believe.”

Dear Friend, God sees you, He hears you, and He’s making something beautiful of your life! So be encouraged and remember to give Him Glory.

Bethany Ligon

 

Daily Diving Into His Word!  Indeed, a great way to keep your hope alive in 2020.  A great way to help you SEEK God and His kingdom First (not with your left-overs).   A great way to strengthen and GROW your faith.   A great way to motivate you to LOVE God and others.  SeekGrowLove – it’s our new blog name and we are gearing up to jump into 2020 with daily devotions based on a chronological reading of the Bible in a year.  Later today the reading plan will be available to print from the SeekGrowLove.com site.  Print it and share it with your friends, family, and church group.  Help them SeekGrowLove, too!  Follow the site to receive daily devotion emails based on your reading for the day.  The plan starts January 1 with Genesis 1-3.  I can’t wait to see how God is going to reveal Himself and work with His children as we read through His Word in 2020 and sharpen our SeekGrowLove skills. 

Praying for your journey, 

Marcia Railton, editor

Seeing Beyond the Tears

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:4

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Today’s beatitude is like a living enigma in my mind and without a living God makes absolutely no sense. Matthew 5.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The word mourn can also mean sadness.  Let’s attempt to read in our definition of blessed from yesterday. Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. The idea that I am happy when I am mourning is a real problem in my head. I don’t know about yours.

Have you ever had a friend who was out to accomplish something great and they finally accomplish it? Through this whole process you are proud of them for suffering and enduring and getting to the other side. It is awesome to see your friends succeed. It’s great when you get to celebrate those events and successes with them.

Now when they are hurting and in the middle of this great struggle it is really hard. Sometimes in the middle of life you don’t see how it is going to work out well for you and all you know is that your soul hurts and you don’t see any reprieve. Yet when someone else is going through one of those times it is so easy to see the end for them. When someone else is trying to go through a hard time or is pushing through a hard time it is simple for us to say, “It will all be worth it” or, “You will get through this.”

The reason why it can be easy for us to say those things is we are seeing the end for our friends. Outside of that pain, suffering and sadness we are able to see clearly that it will all be alright or what they are going through will at least be worth it. Sadness, pain and suffering can distort our view and cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture and our hope.

To be completely honest… you will suffer in this life. If you live as a Christian you will probably suffer more. There will be plenty of mourning and sadness.  Sorry guys.

The thing I cling to and the thing that allows people to get through extraordinarily challenging things and accomplish great things is they cling to hope and draw near to God. I will say it again. They cling to HOPE and draw near to GOD.

I believe that God will comfort us in the here and now when we pray for it. Sometimes, however, I can pray and still feel empty and sad. So, what do we do then? How do you continue on?

2 Corinthians 4.17-18 says “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

We aren’t living for this world. We are living for a world that we cannot see yet. We suffer through things that we don’t fully understand. The implication of what we are living for is a kingdom that hasn’t yet come. There is no suffering in vain as long as you are walking with God through it. The reason our mourning and sadness makes us blessed is because it isn’t for nothing.  I know one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no mourning and sadness and we will get to see God in all his glory face to face (Rev. 21.4).

I find my comfort in those things when this world has left me mourning. Don’t let the pain and suffering you are going through distract you from the great comfort you have hope in.

It will all be worth it.

Dan Wall

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

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If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

Things That Are to Come

2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3 13

Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return?  That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point.  We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ.  These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4.  We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God.  But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him.  He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.

In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them.  He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements.  Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out.  Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat.  HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made.  This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns.  This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell.  All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.

I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada.  Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way.  Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised.  What new natural beauty will be there.   In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day?  I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!

Merry Peterson

 

Following the Alien Way

1 Peter 1

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As we open the first letter from Peter, we find that he identifies himself as an apostle. This is a word that is rarely used outside of the church today. It translates to one who is sent. Peter says of himself, “I am one who is sent of Jesus Christ, I am his ambassador, his representative to you.” The you he refers to are all of those “living as aliens” across the region. I remember when I was a child, I would think of Marvin the Martian or some other made-up extra-terrestrial when I though of the word alien. Now I understand that an alien is simply one who is living in a place that is not their own. I now know that we, as servants of Christ, are living as aliens in a world that has turned itself over to follow evil. So, Peter is actually writing to us as well.

He continues by saying that we are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. So, God knew the future enough to chose us as His servants for this time and to guide us to believe in His Son so we can enjoy life everlasting in His amazing Kingdom at the appointed time! WOW!!! It is incredible to think of the ways that God sets so many things in motion for our good, even when we have no idea of what He is setting up. We are set aside to obey Jesus and be cleansed by his blood. As if that was not enough Peter then asks that grace and peace be ours in the fullest! This is quite the blessing … and that is just the first 2 verses!

In the next three verses he reminds us that our inheritance is stored up where moth and rust cannot destroy. He says our hope is in resurrection and salvation is to be revealed in the last time. This is a beautiful reminder that the dead sleep and we will receive the promise together. In verse six Peter reminds us that the troubles of this time will pale in comparison to the blessings of the Kingdom of God, and this is where we draw our rejoicing from.

Verse thirteen says because of the gospel that has been preached to us we must be ready for action, with our hope fixed, because the world will continue to resist us for a time. Therefore, we must be obedient. We are called to be like Him.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”     1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB)

In the last parts of this chapter Peter again writes of what is imperishable. This time he is telling us that we were not saved by what is perishable, such as gold and silver (these even vary in worth today), but by what is eternal, the blood of Christ. “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

-Bill Dunn

Hope and the Faith of Abraham 

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 15

In Genesis God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise: “Through your seed shall all peoples of the earth be blessed,” (Genesis 22:17-18).

The immediate seed was Isaac, born of Abraham’s old age; but the ultimate Seed is Jesus. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that this promise is fulfilled, and all the peoples of the earth are blessed through Abraham.

This promise was later confirmed by an oath, God swearing by himself (because there was nothing greater to swear by) that he would fulfill what he had said. The writer is simply pointing out that Abraham had faith and believed God’s promise.

Why did he believe it? It was not because he immediately saw it fulfilled! There were twenty-five long, weary years before Isaac was born, and in the meantime, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were growing older and had passed the time of life when it was possible to have children. Through multiple opportunities to doubt, Abraham believed that God would do what he said he would do.

We have become too eager for immediate results. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve tried prayer/church but it doesn’t seem to work.” It seems to me that is putting it the wrong way. People who are looking for immediate results tend to drift when it doesn’t happen the way they want. But the one who sees no longer needs to believe. Faith is not found in sight. It is believing in what we cannot see.

Vs. 19 – This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We are offered something to put our faith in, too. We have hope in the same blessings that were promised to Abraham. Jesus has gone before us and promised those who put their faith in him will be rewarded with salvation.

Let that hope anchor you through whatever life throws your way. Keep the faith even when things are difficult.

John Wincapaw