A Tale of Two Prophets

Jeremiah 27 & 28 and Hebrews 5

In Jeremiah 27 & 28 we have a meeting of two prophets. It’s kind of like Good Prophet/Bad Prophet. One prophet, Jeremiah, was sent by God to warn the children of Judah that if they continue along the path they are on, things will not go well with them. In fact, it says that the Lord tells them in chapter 27:5 “I have made the earth, mankind, and the animals which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have handed all these lands over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have also given him the animals of the field to serve him.” They have had years to make a decision to change and they didn’t so now it’s time to pay the piper. Jeremiah also tells them that the vessels in the temple will be taken away to Babylon and they will remain there until God brings them back. Verse 22 says “They will be brought to Babylon and will be there until the day I visit them,” declares the Lord. “Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.” Now to be clear, Jeremiah is not just making up prophecies on his own. He just tells the people what God has told him to say.

At the same time that Jeremiah is explaining what is going to take place, a false prophet, Hananiah, arises. He is telling them things that are more pleasant for the people to hear. They do not have to change their evil ways, and they do not have to worry because God will not allow the Babylonians to take over and cart off their important vessels. So, Jeremiah and Hananiah have words and Jeremiah tells the people that they will know which prophet was sent from God by what happens.

Then there is a showdown in chapter 28: 15 & 16 “Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah: the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘Behold, I am going to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you spoke falsely against the Lord.’” Hananiah died in the seventh month of that year. God has a way of dealing with people who try to go against his Word and plans. They do not prosper. And in the end everything that Jeremiah prophesied happened.  

Hebrews 5 ties in so well because the writer of Hebrews is writing to the early Christians and explaining how much better they have it now and how Christianity is better than Judaism in so many ways. He explains that the priests were called by God back in the day, and Jesus was also called by God.  Hebrews 5:4-5 “And no one takes the honor for himself, but receives it when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was. So too, Christ did not glorify Himself in becoming a high priest, but it was He who said to Him, ‘You are My Son, Today I have fathered You.'” Jesus did not choose to be the Son of God, he did not ask for this job, in fact, Jesus prayed for God to deliver him from death but he obeyed the will of God and died on the cross. He lived a perfect life so that he could be our sacrifice and we can be forgiven for our sins. And those who accept and follow Jesus will receive eternal life.

Just like those listening to Jeremiah, the early Christians and us today, we become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:14 sums it all up for us. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.” We need to constantly be aware that there is good and evil in the world, and we have to practice distinguishing between the two. It may not be popular and what the world wants to hear but as Paul said in Acts, “we have to obey God and not man.”

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 27 & 28 and Hebrews 5

Good News and Bad News

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  Which would you like first?  If you’re like me, you’d prefer to rip the band-aid off and get the bad news over with and finish with the good news.  So let’s get to it.

The bad news.  Humans have made a pretty big mess out of this world.  Yes, we’ve done some amazingly good things too, but we’ve made an awful mess of the world.  One of my ministry settings is as a hospital chaplain.  When I visit with patients, a lot of them are there because either they, or someone else, has made a huge mess of their lives.  Sometimes it’s from drug or alcohol abuse, sometimes they are victim of crime, often they have not taken very good care of their bodies.  Sometimes they’ve been in such despair that they attempted to end their life by suicide.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time listing the ways human beings have made a mess out of the world, if you need proof, just turn on the news for an hour or two.

Here’s the thing about messes, you can ignore them, and they will simply get worse, or you can clean them up.  Usually when you clean up a mess you preserve somethings and you discard others.  You try to salvage what is worth saving and discard what isn’t.  That requires some decision making.  What to keep and what to discard.  If you want clean dishes, you have to discard the dirty stuff that’s on the dishes.  If you want a clean house, you have to purge the junk.  If you don’t ever throw anything out then you become a hoarder and that’s an awful mess and no way to live a flourishing and happy life.

In today’s first reading in Isaiah, Israel had made quite a mess.  They failed to be faithful to YHWH, the God who created them and called them to be His.  Despite warnings and pleadings, Israel worshipped other gods.  They failed to give YHWH their exclusive love and devotion.  After numerous attempts to get them to stop, God finally allowed them to face the consequences of their unfaithfulness.  God allowed their enemies to conquer them, destroy their beloved temple and city, Jerusalem, and they went into captivity for 70 years.  That was the bad news.

Now for the good news.  God was going to rescue them, restore them and return them to their beloved Jerusalem.  

Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

Isaiah goes on to describe how much better things will be for God’s people.  He uses the image of a bride being rejoiced over by her groom.  God’s love for his people is great.

Toward the end of the section is the promise: ” ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him”

Notice God’s rescue of his people is good news for some, and bad news for others.  It’s both the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance.  

Think about WWII for a minute.  When the Allied Forces defeated Hitler and his armies and came to the internment camps like Auschwitz, it was good news for the prisoners, but bad news for the German army.  Hitler chose suicide over the swift justice that was sure to come.  For the men and woman who were set free it was good news but for the perpetrators of injustice it was a day of vengeance.

Jesus is coming again.  In Titus 2 we are told:

“1For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

God’s purpose in allowing His people Israel to face judgement was his way of cleaning up the mess that they had made and giving them a chance to start fresh, free from the worship of idols.

God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to extend the opportunity of salvation to all people, again, to clean up the mess and rescue those who are willing to receive the grace of God.  While we are waiting for Jesus to come and all the mess to be finally cleaned up, God invites us in the name of Jesus to follow him and live Godly lives, rejecting the mess of the world.

The world is a mess and God is fully and finally going to clean it up through the coming of Jesus Christ.  For those who reject God’s grace and mercy it will be a day of vengeance.   While we wait, God is working in our lives to clean up our messes and put us to work doing good, helping point others to God.  Are you willing to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions?  Are you willing to be different (FUEL 2019).  Are you eager to do what is good?  God wants to purify you and put you to work.  Are you willing?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at Biblegateway.com here. Isaiah 61-62 and Titus 2.

Receive Salvation not Wrath

Isaiah 31-32 and 1 Thessalonians 5

There is so much Paul still wants to say as he is wrapping up his first (recorded) letter to the Thessalonians. Perhaps the mailman is standing at the door ready to take the letter as Paul is finishing up. His writing style is often long winding sentences with many phrases linked together in what English teachers would now call run-on sentences. But he doesn’t have time for that today. He switches to short powerful sentences. “Be joyful always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). He has a lot to pack into his final instructions. Many of them deal with specifics on how to please God and how to love others (our two categories from the previous chapter that we are to do more and more). So, read them carefully and take note of how you are doing in these categories.

Paul also takes a final opportunity to remind them/us of the coming day of the Lord. Paul says this day will bring surprise destruction for many. It also becomes a great time to teach a bit on God’s character. Paul writes, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This reminds me of a beautiful passage from our reading in Isaiah yesterday, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18). God longs to see His people saved from the coming destruction. In the time of Isaiah. In the time of Paul. And, in our time. God longs to see His people saved from the coming destruction, but that does not mean that there won’t be a coming destruction for those who have turned their backs on Him, rejecting Him and His Son.

In Isaiah 31 we read of trouble and God’s judgment coming to the wicked and to those who have turned from God. He denounces those who see they need help – but turn to human allies or their own strength instead of turning to God. They have failed to wait on the LORD, and for them, judgment is coming. God’s perfect plan of salvation requires His children to seek God and accept the salvation offered through His Son Jesus. A response on your part is required to avoid the coming wrath and receive salvation instead.

I will end today, as each of the chapters of 1st Thessalonians have ended, with a reminder of the coming return of Christ. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thesssalonians 5:23-24).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 31-32 and 1 Thessalonians 5

Untitled Thoughts About Galatians 4 – or – If Jesus hands you a burger

Galatians 4 (& Ecclesiastes 7-8)

“All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.” (Ecc 8:9)

As you are all aware, the United States has a deep and dark history with slavery. Generations of family wealth were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of slaves. We abused our power and took advantage of others for our own gain. Thankfully, although through great struggle, we abandoned the practice.

But we still feel the ripples of our past today. Slavery ended, but it took many, many years before everyone could say they had the same fundamental rights. It takes a long time to recover from being held down as a people for so many years, especially as those in power do everything they can to stay in power. It is painful to see that senseless acts of racism and hate still happen, and that the systems and powers still propagate forms of racism. I do not claim to know what the solutions are, but there is still a lot of work to be done to correct our great wrongs.

The United States wasn’t the first nation to have a practice of slavery. For an example, let’s go back in time to the exodus. You probably remember the story, but if not, it’s… in Exodus. Moses and the Israelites were miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt. This was an important memory for the Israelites and was commemorated by the Passover meal. In fact, we trace our tradition of communion back to one particular Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

If we move forward to the time when Paul was writing to the Galatians, slavery was a thing then too. It was a normal part of the culture. Although, compared to what the United States did, it was milder. Think more along the lines of indentured servitude. It was not a good situation to be in, but it was not to the level of horror that we took it.

Unfortunately, the practice of slavery is still alive and well in our world. There are more slaves in the world than ever before. Usually we call it “human trafficking” now, but the concepts are not that different. It is about owning people. The mindset that you can own a person and profit from them is big business, and it’s terrifying to think about.

We come to Galatians 4 and see that Paul is drawing a strong connection between following the Jewish law and being under slavery. This seems to fly in the face of what we have seen elsewhere in scripture about the law. The law is supposed to be a good thing that was received from God. For the Israelites, it was an important pathway toward connecting with God. Jesus himself upheld it as something good (Matt 5:17 and surrounding verses). In Galatians 3, Paul seems to agree it was good, and even necessary for a time. But if we have a chance to corner Paul and ask if he thinks the law is good or bad, he’ll probably say “Yes!” There are two sides to this.

Usually you don’t think of things as absolutely good or bad. You compare them to other things or judge them in context. A burger is better than salad. It is savory with lots of protein and fat. The salad is better for providing micronutrients and some fiber, otherwise it is worthless. I would put a tomato slice and lettuce on the burger and call it a day. If you are hard pressed for finding food, then a salad is better than nothing. But if you had access to a burger, then you would not bother with a salad. I am the least picky eater I know. I can enjoy and see the value in a salad. They are a good thing. But there is just no comparison to a burger. A burger wins every single time.

The law is like the lettuce that the Jews had to live on until they had burgers. It was the best option for a long time, and it was a blessing from God. But now that we have grace, the promises of God, and the spirit through Jesus, the law looks pathetic in comparison. After a bite of that burger, you won’t go back. Taste and see!

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:4-7)

Paul is saying it is better to be a child and heir than to be a slave. Because of what Jesus has done, your status has changed from a slave under the law to a child of God and an heir of his promises. If you’re a child and heir, with rights and a large inheritance, you wouldn’t think of going back to having nothing.

You can imagine that trying to follow the letter of the law would feel burdensome, like it owned you. And the law has a way of making you hyper-aware of your sin. And sin is all tangled up with death. Thankfully we are filled with and are influenced by the spirit of God to help guide us. If we keep in step with the spirit and make ourselves vessels of God’s love, we don’t have to worry about breaking God’s laws. It is like they take care of themselves.

Starting in Galatians 4:21, Paul gives us an allegory of the slave woman and the free woman. He’s presenting us with a crossroads of sorts, but the choice should be easy. Of course if Jesus hands you a burger, you take it, and don’t bother with the salad. Why be a child of the flesh when you can be a child of the promise? Why be a slave when you can be free?

With all of this influence from Ecclesiastes lately, I can’t help but think Paul would say being slaves to the law is like chasing after the wind.

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at Bible Gateway here – Ecclesiastes 7-8 and Galatians 4

Being the Church Jesus Wants to Return To

My boss recently traveled to Turkey with his father who is a Biblical unitarian pastor to see some Biblical historical sites and came back with lots of stories. He did not bring me back any Turkish delight, but he provided a pretty neat church history lesson in the middle of our therapy department this week. He talked about Constantine, the Roman Catholics, church disputes and the historic structure he toured called the Hagia Sophia, that has apparently withstood centuries of empires/turmoils in what is now Istanbul. Though I know a little bit about Constantine and find history pretty interesting, this place he mentioned was completely new to me. Hearing it was from the 400’s and some of the history behind it had us all talking about the nature of conflict that is always a part of world history and church history. And some if it explains a lot.

Arguments and divisions are nothing new in societies or religious organizations. I use the term religious organization because sometimes I hate to even taint the word “church” more than it already is. As followers of Christ we are part of the greater church. The true church. Not the Sunday morning entertainment center or tax exempt non-for-profit club. We are part of the body of Christ/church family that transcends state lines, continents, races, and generations. And within that church we are to be unified in truth/purpose and actively loving one another more while serving ourselves less.

When we think of “church” today, any number of ideas might come to our minds, though I am not sure much of them are what the New Testament church would have hoped for centuries later. If anyone wants a very convicting laugh…..check out the YouTube video “Drive Thru Church”.  A friend shared this with me and it just rang so true. But, maybe we’d have less of a consumer-driven attitude if we, as the body of Christ, were consistently doing what we were called to do. And that calling is high, but worth it. There is a day coming sooner rather than later when it seems that the true church is going to need to become more and more distinct from those who slap that name on their seeker-sensitive organizations or lukewarm social gatherings Jesus tells us he wants to spit out of his mouth. But, this isn’t the time for the pot to call the kettle black. It is the time to ensure that each of us is prioritizing his/her relationship with God and His family, loving the “one another” of the church body, and together upholding the inerrant Word of God as representatives of His kingdom.

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching”  Hebrews 10:25

“I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21

–Jennifer Hall

Keep at the Bible reading plan. Today’s passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Job 21-22 and 2 Corinthians 12

Set Apart – Together

Earlier this week we read about the importance of being set apart from the world as a follower of Christ. To be called out. Sometimes at work, I get “called out” of a meeting to talk to someone. Sometimes I help patients of mine by intentionally setting him/her apart from other distractions to complete a task. Since I work at a hospital, I frequently go to the waiting room to call out a name, asking that person to stand up and separate from the others to come with me.  Depending on your contexts in life, being called out or set apart might bring that visual of being alone or isolated from others. Maybe sometimes that might sound nice?  For sure at other times, that can sound scary and undesirable.

While we are asked to be set apart from the world in the spiritual sense, we are not created to live, love, worship, and serve in isolation. In fact, 2020 shed some light into the devastations that can be caused by being set apart….alone. That isn’t what Jesus was talking about. The Greek word most frequently translated as church in our Bible is “ekklesia” which means the idea of an assembly of called out people.  The church is called to be set apart from the world. Since our English language often associates the word “church” with building and not the group of people, it is easy to overlook the meaning of the importance of our calling sometimes. In the New Testament we see a group of people called out from the world…..TO GOD. A group asked to be set apart together.

Ephesians 3:16-21: 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

He calls us out to love one another. To be mindful of other’s needs and meet them. To edify one another. To be unified. To bring glory to God and Jesus in what we do as an ekklesia. To come together in prayer. To find strength and function as one member of a greater body. 

As we navigate another season of viruses and news stories laden with fear and confusion, let us not do it alone. And let us also not find our church families looking and sounding just like the world. Instead, let us actively seek to be set apart from the world following Jesus in our own individual lives, to find the planks in our own eye, so we can best build up the ekklesia  as we await the return of His son.

We are the church.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”  Matthew 18:20

-Jennifer Hall

This week the devotions are on other passages reminding us of the importance of of being connected to God, Christ and the church, but if you are using the SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan keep enjoying the daily passages. They can be read or listened to here at BibleGateway Job 13-14 and 2 Corinthians 8

The Vine and the Branches

John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  2  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [a]  so that it will be even more fruitful.  3  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  4  Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can
you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  6  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is
thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

One of my favorite things about summer is the chance to have a garden and watch seeds grow from tiny seeds into plants taller than me sometimes. This summer I planted a spaghetti squash seed for the first time. The tiny seed I planted in the spring has now become a huge plant, growing into a vine so big that it keeps spreading into the neighbor’s yard and crowding many of
my other plants. At first I tried to wind it around our fence to keep it climbing there, but that vine continued to spread and really wanted to bear fruit next door too! It has forced me to really watch to see which branches have the flowers turning to fruit and which do not so that I can determine which to remove.


The branches I cut off are tossed away, turning brown and withering very quickly. While I have removed many branches and seen withered plants over the years, this particular squash plant has been so prolific with fruit (which not everyone in my household is thrilled about!) and grown into such a large vine, it has really been a good practical lesson for me regarding this passage.

Fruit doesn’t grow unless it is attached to the vine. But, flowers/branches attached to the vine can grow bigger and bigger producing exponentially more seeds than I started with in April. It is clear from the book of John that is true of us also. It is a nice picture really, but one we should take seriously considering what happens to the branches in verse 6. God is the perfect creator and gardener. He knew we couldn’t bear fruit alone and sent His son, Jesus, to be our mediator and through his sacrifice and forgiveness we are able to have a relationship with God and bear fruit for His glory. To bear fruit we must remain on the vine. If you read further in John 15 you will see some descriptions of what remaining in the vine involves. Keeping the commands of Jesus, laying down our lives for other followers of Jesus, and loving one another as we have
been loved.


But, we aren’t asked to do it alone. We are asked to bear fruit alongside other believers growing in love and obedience to Jesus together. And we aren’t told to do it just so we aren’t cast away and die. In fact, we are appointed to do it “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (v.11)”. God’s master gardener plan is to bring us joy, and that can be found nowhere but in Him.

-Jennifer Hall

Even when the devotions are on other great passages – you can keep on reading through the Bible plan – read or listen to today’s passages at BibleGateway.comJob 9-10 and 2 Corinthians 6.

What are you living for?

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Job 7-8, 2 Corinthians 5

We began this week by asking the question ‘Why?’ Why do you do what you do? What motivates your actions? Knowing our why – the purpose behind our actions – can help us align our thoughts and actions with what we really find important. To help us find our why, we need to ask ourselves another question. This will be the question on which we are judged before we enter into the kingdom (or to the lake of fire). This is the defining question of our lives: “What are you living for?” 

The answer to this question will show us what our why is. When we are living for our next paycheck, every action that we do will lead us back to how we are going to make money. When we are living for attention from others, every action we do will lead us to how we are going to get more likes, more glances, or more applause from others. It’s so important to know what we are living for. But, hopefully, it’s not too hard to figure out that the thing we are living for is Christ. 

When we are raised to Christ, everything we do should be to live for him. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “15 And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” We live for him! 

What does living for him look like? Paul gives us the answer later in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 “18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Christ began the reconciling work when he died for our sins, and now, we continue his reconciling work as we become more like him and inspire others to do the same. We can have the righteousness of God only because Christ did this reconciling work for us. When we are living for Christ, we become ambassadors. We become the hands and feet of Christ in this world, and at every moment, we should be pointing others back to who God is and what he’s done. 

What are you living for? Be the minister, the ambassador, you were called to be in Christ. Point others to who he is, because you live for him!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 7-8 and 2 Corinthians 5 .

Don’t give up!

Friday, August 6th, 2021

Job 5-6, 2 Corinthians 4

I live a short drive from the Blue Ridge mountains. The rolling hills of the piedmont area where I live slowly turn into mountains that tower over everything, rising up in the distance to dominate the landscape. Being so close means that hiking was a favorite pastime of mine growing up. The go-to hike in my area is called Table Rock. Just to the north of Greenville, there is a mountain that overlooks the rest of the upstate. At the very top, there is a bare rock outcropping that provides the perfect spot for a picnic. It can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to get to the top of the mountain and most of that time is spent going straight up. Still, I loved the feeling of anticipation of what the view would look like when we reached the stop and that anticipation kept me going even when I felt like my legs were about to give out. Towards the end of the hike, I was always red faced, gasping for breath, straining towards the next step up. But, that momentary struggle paled in comparison to the views at the top. 

We’ve all probably faced times where it feels like our physical body is just about to give out. If you’re like me, it may be running 5 or 10k, a hard workout, a game of ultimate frisbee (or your favorite sport), a day spent weeding the garden in 100 degree heat, mulching the yard (also in 100 degree heat), or maybe just a really long day at work. These are moments where it seems like you’ll never make it to the end and your main thought is how can you just stop what you are doing and sit down. Each of these things, even if it seems like the difficulty will never end (and I’ve pushed through them all), has a time stamp on it. The struggle will come to an end, and we will arrive at what we’ve been working towards. 

Paul knows about this. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, he writes, “7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. 14 We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. 15 Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.”

The clay jars are us! We are fragile. We can be pressured, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but through it all, we will overcome. We live knowing that God will save us and raise us with Jesus. So when we feel like we are at the end of our rope, we are reminded that we are overcomers. 

Paul goes on in verses 16-18, “16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

We are renewed day by day for an absolutely incomparable eternal hope in glory with Christ. We will be glorified in the kingdom, so we don’t need to worry about the present sufferings we may face here. Our momentary struggle pales in comparison to what we are promised at the end. Don’t stop striving! Don’t give up! We have an eternal promise that is greater than everything we face now!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 5-6 and 2 Corinthians 4 .

The Law of the Letter or of Life

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Job 3-4, 2 Corinthians 3

The Olympics are going on in full steam with the final days approaching this week. Though I’ve never been one to follow gymnastics, swimming, track, or fencing, when the Olympics comes around, I’m glued to the screen watching people strain towards earthly glory in the form of a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Today, I was watching the morning news, and Caleb Dressel was doing an interview. When asked about how he took care of his mental health, he said that the first thing he did when he got back home from a big event was to not think about swimming for at least two weeks. When he got home, he wasn’t a medal winning athlete; he was just himself. He said if he didn’t do this, the pressure would be too much. He would start to go after an unattainable goal that would ultimately lead him down a dark path. 

Though we can pursue earthly achievements in our careers, finances, homes, sports, hobbies, etc., we are called to live with eternity in mind as Christians. A gold medal, large retirement account, promotion, or degree is not the pinnacle of our life. The way that we live now is working towards that final goal which will come when the trumpet sounds. As I talked about earlier this week, we can rest in assurance that this goal has already been achieved. The victory is won, and we wait for Jesus to come. 

I can say that… but in my heart of hearts, sometimes it’s hard to live like that is actually true. I like to be in control, and for the things that I’m actually good at (which is not sports), I like to be one of the best. I will go all out. And, so in my Christian walk, I can fluctuate from being distracted and worried about the cares of the world and being so legalistic that I stifle the relationship that I’m trying to work towards. When I make it about me, I can go down a wrong path – just like Caleb Dressel. I can’t do anything to add to the accomplishments of Christ, and so all of my actions where I am trying to be the ‘best’ Christian ultimately burn me out and leave me empty – and they can actually leave me further away from Christ (like the Pharisees). 

In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul writes, “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We don’t have to live by the law of the letter anymore. We can live in the freedom that comes from living in the Holy Spirit. We are not changing ourselves on our own power; we are relying on the power of God. And, God can do so much more than any man – Olympic medal winning or not. When we rely on him, we have the victory! Whose power are you living in?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3 .