Renewal

 Joshua 22-24

Joshua 24 15 b NASB

Chapter 22 sees the return of the Eastern tribes to their allotted land across the Jordan river, after helping the rest of the tribes of Israel conquer the remainder of the Promised Land.  Verses 1-4 says, “Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, ‘You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now -to this very day – you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.'”

 

I see a  parallel here between the Israelites serving God faithfully and being rewarded with their home in the Promised Land, and our own lives being measured, with the reward being a place in the Kingdom.

 

Verse 5 then says, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Soon after, the Eastern tribes set up an altar to God along the Jordan River as a reminder to the Western tribes that they worship the same God.  But the Western tribes were alarmed that they may have actually set up an altar to other false Gods.

 

Thankfully, at this time, they had not set up altars to other gods.  But maybe we have.  We are going through tough times in our world right now.  For most of us, this is the first time we have gone through really tough times.  Even though our country is and has been at war many times in our lifetimes, and even though the United States has endured terror attacks and financial low points, for the most part, we have had it easy.  Probably no one reading this lived through the Great Depression.  This isn’t to say that we have not endured tough times individually for any number of reasons, but for the most part, we have all lived charmed lives.  And that my friends, is poisonous.  When times are good, we don’t feel the need to turn to God.  When we hear about the Kingdom of God in church, and how we should be looking forward to it, we think, “I’ve got it pretty good right now, why would I want that to change to something else?” And yes, we allow things like careers, hobbies, future vacation plans, possessions, even our spouses and children, to become idols in our lives, taking our focus and gratitude away from our Heavenly Father.

 

We often look at all of those wonderful things as blessings from God, and certainly they may be!  But He doesn’t bless us in order for us to turn our backs on Him and others.  Instead, He blesses us and then expects us to be grateful every minute of the day for those great blessings, and in turn take the opportunity to bless someone else, as He has blessed us.  Our blessings should make us outward focused, but instead it is far too easy to allow them to keep us inward focused, and then allow those blessings to distance us from God.  We think that we did something ourselves to earn the blessings, or convince ourselves that we deserve this or that.  Wrong attitude.  Any blessing, including each breath you are taking as you read this, is solely a result of the grace of God.  We deserve nothing, due to our sin nature.

 

As we endure this Pandemic crisis, which means different negative effects for so many people, some of which are terrible to think about, I hope that if you have not yearned for the Kingdom of God before now, that you are finally doing so now.  In the Kingdom, there will be no pandemics, no viruses.  There will be no fear and no anxiety.  There will be no sickness and no death!  Praise God.   That is something to be yearned for.  That is something to be excited for.

 

With so much extra free time right now for so many of us, this is a perfect opportunity to rededicate our lives to Christ and to reconnect to God.  Will you do that?  Are you trusting Him right now?  You should be.  He keeps His promises.  As Joshua is about to die, in chapter 23, verse 14 he says, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” That holds true today folks.  But read the next two verses as well.  Those also hold true today.

 

So what will you do?  Here is what Joshua decided he would do:  24: 14-15  “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

 

If you are choosing to make a renewal or re-dedication of your life today, I celebrate with you, but I also encourage you to mark the occasion in some way.  This period of difficulty and uncertainty will pass.  (And yes, that is a very good thing, but only as long as we are changed.)  So we need a reminder of the commitment we are making, and a reminder that God was with us through this, because as things get easier, we tend to return to our old ways.  So, make a note to yourself on your mirror, or change your smart phone wallpaper, or even stack some rocks up in your front yard, just like the Israelites did to remember things.  Just do something so that the renewal isn’t short lived.

 

Encouraging verse of the day:

Psalm 118:14

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

 

Greg Landry

 

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+22-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin a new week and a new book of the Bible as we jump into Judges 1-2 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Be a Berean

ACTS 17

acts 17 11

In Acts 17 we see three very different cities and their different responses to the Gospel.

Thessalonica hears the word and some Jews and a lot of Greeks believed.  But other Jews did not like how Christianity changed their culture. They liked the status quo and therefore used their influence to stir up trouble for Paul and got him kicked out of the city.  Similar to the rich young ruler there are some people that are very happy with life as it is and just cannot accept the changes required to follow Christ and will fight it tooth and nail to hold on to their old lives.  We cannot hesitate and look back when we follow Christ.

 

Berea is very different.  The Jews there hesitated when they heard Paul’s message, but they studied the scriptures and saw that Jesus did indeed fulfill the prophecies and they believed.  It is very important that we seek out truth and question things that we hear and compare them to scripture. There are too many people in the world today that hold a certain belief just because their pastor or their denomination told them so.  Those people might be right and might have a lot of wisdom and knowledge to pass on, but at the end of the day I am the one that is responsible for my own salvation and I need to know that what I believe is the truth. Deep study is a great way to make your faith your own.

 

Lastly there was Athens, which had been a hub of culture and ideas for hundreds of years and had idols of many different gods from many different cultures.  The Athenians knew that God was out there, but they were searching for him in all the wrong places. There are many people around us today that similarly feel a need for something more in their lives, but instead of finding the one true God they fill that void with idols.  Those idols come in many different forms such as jobs, significant others, money, or belongings. Even though the Athenians were searching in all the wrong places at least they were searching and were therefore open to listening to Paul’s message. I think that Athenian culture is one of the most similar cultures from Bible times to our culture today, and I think that God is likely similarly unhappy at the number of idols that we have placed in our lives.

 

So, to conclude, I would encourage you to let go of your old life, study the scriptures and make them your own, and remove the idols from your life.  If we can do these things then we can consider ourselves to be of noble character like the Bereans.

-Chris Mattison

What Moses Teaches Us Today

Heb 11 26

Summary

Thanks for reading along this past week, and I really hope you have benefitted from this.  I know I have enjoyed studying and writing this past week. I just wanted to finish off with a quick summary.

 

The story of the Exodus is a story of a people who had been promised so much from God, but had forgotten him and taken on a culture and pantheon that was inherently sinful.  God then works through Moses to directly attack every sinful aspect of their culture and every false god that his people were following to show them beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that there are no gods before him.  As they are heading out of Egypt on their way to becoming their own nation with their own land God begins to form their culture around himself in order to help them to stay true to him.

 

So many aspects of the passover point the Israelites towards Jesus in the future and prepares their culture for his coming, but we know that when Jesus did come they did not accept him because they had walked away from the lessons they had learned under Moses.  Similarly Jesus’s message brought a massive change in culture to all those who followed him. People started to live changed lives and loved others truly instead of just following rules because they had to. That is the changed life that we are supposed to live.  Just as the Israelites had to sacrifice the lambs that the Egyptian culture worshiped we need to lay aside the idols in our culture that only bring sin into our lives. Maybe that is social media, or crass tv shows, or sleeping around, or any number of other things that are standard in our culture but can easily consume our lives and become idols.

 

Also just as Moses’ story and the Exodus points towards Christ, Jesus’ points us towards the Kingdom and his second coming.  So unlike the Israelites we need to remember what Jesus taught and live by his teachings so that we will be ready for his return.

 

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3  4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Chris Mattison

Revelation 21-2,3

Of More Noble Character

Acts 17 29

Acts 17

I want to be of more noble character.  I want my family to be of more noble character.  I want my church to be of more noble character.  We read in Acts how to do it.  Paul called the Bereans of more noble character because they, “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  Getting excited about God’s Word – opening it daily to find the truth for yourself – that’s what I want for myself, for my family and for my church.  What about you?  If you too want to be of more noble character –  keep digging into God’s Word!

 

What makes your blood start to boil a bit?  What causes you to feel distressed or grieved?  What do you find really provokes your spirit?  For Paul this happened when he saw the city of Athens full of idols (17:16).  Too often today I fear we have become desensitized to the city of idols and immorality we live in.  We’ve become so used to hearing and seeing and running into idols and evil that it doesn’t faze us anymore.  Do we really see and understand the lost state of the world around us?  Do we see danger for what it is?  And, are there any areas where we have allowed it to seep into our own lives as well?   When we don’t see it for what it is, it becomes impossible to guard against it.  Pray for God to help you see clearly the world around you.  Pray that you would be grieved by what grieves God and see danger for what it is.

 

In a world that is so full of idols, people are creating ‘gods’ out of anything and everything: sports, entertainment, high scores on …(fill in the blank), social media, A’s, fitness, selfishness, and the list goes on!   They think “God” can be whoever and whatever they want God to be.  If they want a teddy bear god (soft and comfy and great for giving hugs) – he is theirs.  If they want a god in nature (but never in church) – he is theirs.  If they want a three-headed god with purple polka-dots – he is theirs.  But gods that we fashion with our own human minds and desires are NOT gods – they are idols.  There is ONE true God and He cannot be, “formed by the art and thought of man.”  (Acts 17:29).  He is a jealous God and demands that we worship Him and Him only – and rightly so.  Creating your own “Build-a-‘god’” won’t cut it when your salvation and eternal life is on the line.

 

Thankfully, in a world of imitation gods – there is a way to find the REAL TRUE GOD!  He reveals himself when we dig into His Word – that’s why He wrote it for us.  Open God’s Word – get excited about it – and find the ONE TRUE GOD!   And while you seek Him in His Word, don’t be surprised to find yourself becoming of more noble character, too!

 

-Marcia Railton

Spiritual Adultery

Ezekiel 14-16

ezekiel 16 14

Wednesday, March 22

Chapter 14 gives us a picture of the heart of God.  Elsewhere in the Bible it says that God is a jealous God.  God loves His people Israel as a husband loves his bride.  Israel turned away from God’s love, their hearts were no longer given to God.  God wants more than anything else to recapture the hearts of His people who deserted him to pursue idols.  God wants them to repent and turn back to Him.

God wants to have His people love Him exclusively.  He will not let them worship idols, yet still come to him for prophecy.  This would be similar to a woman who both goes to her lover but then comes to her husband as well.  God will have none of this, no two timing wife.  Israel must have a change of heart and that will only happen through judgment.  The prophets were not permitted to prophesy for people who were also consulting idols.  If the prophets did prophesy to those seeking idols, they too would be punished.

God tells Ezekiel that His judgment is certain and that no human being, no matter how righteous or faithful can stop that judgment.  He warns that even if such great men of faith as Noah, Daniel or Job sought to keep Israel from judgment that their righteousness would not be able to save Israel.

In Chapter 15 God promises to make Jerusalem as desolate and useless as a dried up vine that has been thrown into a fire.  Just as the vine will be totally consumed by the fire, so too, will Jerusalem be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment.

Chapter 16 is one of the most graphic passages in all of the Bible.  If the Song of Solomon was rated PG-13, Ezekiel 16 would probably be rated R or NC-17.  It is extremely disturbing to read.  God compares Israel to an unwanted, discarded child whom God rescued from its disgrace.  God later came along when Israel was old enough to be married, but she was naked and dirty.  God cleaned her up, covered over her nakedness, dressed her up like a princess and made her his bride.  Israel was blessed beyond imagination by God her husband.  But then, tragically, Israel turned to prostitution.  Here Idolatry is likened to a form of spiritual adultery.  Israel had brought great shame upon her husband.  In fact, she was worse than a prostitute in that she paid others her gold and silver to sleep with her.  It’s such a disturbing picture.  And it’s designed to give us a visceral reaction.  It’s a gut punch.

The fact that God must punish Israel for her spiritual adultery is not surprising.  Israel is only getting what they deserve.  What is surprising is that God is going to restore Israel.  Not because Israel deserves it now any more than it deserved it when God first cleaned her up and made her His bride.  God is doing it because God is faithful to His Covenant promises.  God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, Israel.  God does not forget His covenant or break his promises.  God is filled with steadfast love for His people.

After punishing Israel, God will then make atonement for them.  He will cover over their sin and guilt and forgive them and take them back.  Then they will remember their vows and be ashamed of their guilt and will become a faithful wife and turn away from idols.

As Christians, we have been grafted into God’s family and we are now included as God’s bride.  Through Jesus Christ God has found us in our sin, cleaned us up and made us His own.  Are we sometimes guilty of idolatry?  Do we ever act unfaithfully toward God and give our hearts to someone or something else instead of God?  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all your heart.  God wants All your heart.  God is jealous when we give our hearts to another.  May Israel’s spiritual adultery remind us that we must give our hearts fully only to God and no one else.  Otherwise, God may have to win our hearts back the way he did Israel, and we can see how unpleasant that process was for them.  Let’s always keep our hearts faithful to God alone.

-Jeff Fletcher

 

 

Even When It Looks Like Chaos

Jeremiah 44-45

Jer 44

Monday, March 13

Jeremiah went to Egypt and he continued sharing God’s messages to the people, who were worshipping the Egyptian gods. Jeremiah warned them that God was upset with them and they would be punished for their sins, but they didn’t believe him. However, because of their sin, the very things they went to Egypt to escape – war and peril – would follow them to Egypt.
Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch was having trouble dealing with all this turmoil, but God had a message for him too (in chapter 45):
“But God says, ‘Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck, and what I’ve planted I’m about to rip up. And I’m doing it everywhere—all over the whole earth! So forget about making any big plans for yourself. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.” (The Message) 
Baruch had a lot of other things he would rather be doing with his time than wading through the chaos that was going on among the people. It is not known exactly to what he was aspiring – power, fame, fortune – but he was weighed down by all that was going on that prevented his desires from coming to fruition. God provided him some encouragement and reminded Baruch that He has a plan and is in control, even when it looks like chaos.
 There have been many times in my life when I wish I could have some of the “Back to the Future” movie magic in real life – not to relive the 1980s fashion that I remember from my childhood, but to experience the time travel feature! Sometimes, we just don’t want to deal with or sort through the mess in which we find ourselves. I’m sure Baruch would have liked to travel through time and just have the whole terrible experience be over.
Life sometimes throws us hard balls, and it can be difficult to find joy in the journey. But it is important to remember that even in the hard times, God is still in control. Pray with me to have an open heart to see what God might be teaching us through difficult times, and to “be full of joy in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4) even in the midst of our undesirable circumstances, seeking and praising Him through every moment of life.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/why-provoke-me-to-anger-with-what-your-hands-have-made-burning-incense-to-other-gods-in-egypt-where-you-have-come-to-live-you-will-destroy-yourselves-jeremiah-448-295864/)

Awesome God!

Isaiah 54-57

isaiah-55

Wednesday, February 22

Today’s chapters make it pretty clear that our God is an Awesome God! He is all powerful and reigns over the whole universe, yet he loves you and me, and every person individually. That is just amazing to me. These chapters also highlight some of God’s promises again, and how merciful he is. Since I mentioned his promises a couple days ago, I want to talk a little bit about what is asked of us in these chapters. (His promises are still going to be mentioned, because they are pretty amazing.)

Chapter 54 talks specifically about the promises that God has made, and because he is perfect in all of his ways, and is true to those promises, we should know that he will keep them. At the very end of chapter 54 in verse 17 God says, “…This is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh, and their righteousness which is of Me..” All God is asking is that we be his servants, and that we listen to him and follow him and dedicate our lives to him. If we do this, then God will have “mercy on us with everlasting loving kindness” (verse 8 paraphrased). He also says in verse 10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed; but my loving kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed.” God is saying that if we will be his servant, he will FOREVER be merciful to us with everlasting loving kindness. After everything that God has given us, it’s pretty small thing to ask of us.

Chapter 55 goes a little bit deeper into God’s mercy. God reminds us in verse 8 That, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, My ways, says Yahweh. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. “ God knows that we mess up sometimes, he acknowledges that we can’t think exactly like him and we don’t do things like he would, but we need to trust that his ways are better, because they are. His is merciful and great and loves each of us so much, that he takes care in instructing us to recognize that we are not him and that his ways are different and better than our own.

Chapter 56 – This chapter again talks about how accepting God is. God is telling us that even “Faithful Gentiles” will be accepted. We are Gentiles, because we are not Jews. God says in this chapter that his house of prayer is for ALL peoples. Our faith, and trust in God is not just for us, it is for everyone. God’s love and mercy is not just for us, it is for everyone! (We should share it, because this is an awesome gift!)

Chapter 57 is all about idols again. We should not let idols distract us from our walk with God- and idols are not just little figurines of some mythological creature. Idols are anything that can be a major distraction. This might a “friend” group that you have that maybe isn’t the greatest for you to have influence you. This might be technology-maybe it is distracting you from being in the moment and letting God speak to you. ( I am not saying that all technology is bad, sometimes it can actually be really helpful in connecting with other believers, finding resources, Christian music and the Bible) These are just some examples. I encourage you to examine your own lives and see if there are any idols hiding in the corner that are a distraction. This chapter finishes out with a hope of how to overcome these idols. It says in verse 14 “He will say, Cast up, cast up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people.” God doesn’t want you to stumble and he does want to help you! It might be difficult, but asking God for help might be a life changing step. If this is you in any way and you want to to talk to someone about it, I encourage you to reach out to a parent, or a friend, or a pastor because they will want to help you as well.

Some songs for today:

Always by: Kristian Stanfill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7ltcijkLKs

Dancing Generation by: Matt Redman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P2A1VUZYss

Unchanging by: Chris Tomlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS2Z4Aa8mNM

Devotion by Jana Swanson
(Photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/book/Isaiah/37)