A Mountain Top Experience

Matthew 17

January 17

When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top). 

That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.

Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.  

The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
  2. Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
  3. The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
  4. Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?

Master Storyteller

Matthew 13

January 13

I was excited to see that Matthew 13 begins with the Parable of the Sower because that is definitely one of my favorite parables. And then there was the Parable of the Weeds – oh that’s a great one, too. And, the Mustard Seed and Yeast. As well as the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl and finally, the Fishing Net. I believe Matthew 13 is the home of more parables than any other chapter of the Bible -but please correct me if I am wrong. It’s been a long time since I was in junior high, but I still remember Joyce Knapp, my junior high class Sunday School teacher, describing parables as earthly stories with heavenly meaning. Jesus was a master at telling stories about common, everyday things everyone listening would know about (fields, farming, seeds, yeast, weeds, fishing nets), and creating out of it a deeper spiritual, godly lesson. He didn’t give long confusing lectures filled with mile long words that you need a masters level degree to understand. He wanted to make it as simple as he could so that anyone willing to listen with an open mind could learn, even while knowing that many would not get it because they didn’t want to change or didn’t think they needed what Jesus had to offer.

What was it Jesus was offering? What was the point of all these earthly stories with “heavenly” meaning? It is interesting that Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like…” to introduce many of Jesus’ parables. In fact the term “kingdom of heaven” is only found in the book of Matthew (31 times – and 8 of those are in Matthew 13). The other gospel writers, as well as Paul in his letters, refer instead to the kingdom of God (even Matthew uses this term 5 times). When Matthew was writing with the Jews in mind he knew they took very seriously the commandment to, “Not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) So, in order to remain guiltless it might be better to not use his name at all. So, when speaking of God and godly things, Matthew often replaced the word God with heaven as that is the throne of God and it would be understood that he was speaking of godly, holy matters belonging to God, without having to risk misusing his name or offending a Jewish listener. These parables are not about being whisked away to heaven when you die. Indeed, they are very much grounded in what is happening on earth both now and in the future judgment. These parables of the kingdom of heaven/God are down-to-earth stories illustrating spiritual/Godly matters.

Take some time today reading and even rereading these parables. Each one has a gem hidden for those who will listen and seek. Each one reveals a little more about what Jesus found most important, what God is preparing, what is required, what is most valuable, what the evil one is up to, what is promised, what are dangerous challenges, what is worthy of sacrifice, what judgment will look like, what is to come, what will be. It’s a treasure hunt in Jesus’ parables. What does the Master want you to find in his stories?

There is one verse that really struck me as I read and re-read Matthew 13. It seems to say perfectly what discussed earlier this week about not throwing away the Old Testament but adding to it the love and beauty of Jesus and what he taught and what he has done and will do. After telling 7 parables Jesus asks his disciples if they are getting it. They reply yes. Then, “He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.'” (Matthew 13:52 – NIV) The teacher of the (Old Testament) law who learns and lives by these (New Testament) principles spoken by Jesus and recorded by Matthew as the kingdom of heaven parables and teachings has double the treasure – both old and new.

What treasure in His Word will you find today? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in your life? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in someone else’s life?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Which of the Matthew 13 parables is your favorite today? Why? What is the lesson Jesus was teaching? Why is this important? How can you apply it or put it into action today?
  2. Jesus chose perfect illustrations for his parables. Even 2,000 years later, even if you are not a farmer, you know what happens when a seed is planted. Even if you have never been fishing, you understand how a net works. But consider how you would create a parable with one of these same teachings using a modern day illustration.
  3. Consider the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23). What 4 types of soil did Jesus mention and what do they stand for? What happened to each of the seeds? Have you seen these 4 instances occur to others? What kind of soil best describes you right now, and in the past? What lessons can you learn for evangelism from this parable?

The Opening Act

Matthew 3

January 3

The prophecies foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament continue in chapter 3, but this time in regards to a man known as John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesied that there would be, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him'” (Matthew 3:3, and original thought in Isaiah 40:3). This John is a relative of Jesus, born to Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth. See Luke 1 for more on his family and the events surrounding his own miraculous birth about 6 months before the birth of Jesus. Even as a pre-born baby in his mother’s previously barren and aging womb John reacted with joy at Mary’s greeting when she came to tell Elizabeth about her encounter with the angel Gabriel and the child she would carry. These young men, Jesus and John, have quite a connection. They go way back – not just to their days in utero, but going back 700 years to Isaiah’s prophecy.

John had a job to do. A job that had been waiting for him for 700 years – prepare the way for the Lord. He was the opening act. His job was to prepare the audience. Pump them up. Get the crowd ready to listen to and appreciate and adore the one who would come after him, the one who is greater than he is, the one who is the main act, the show stopper. He got to introduce the crowd to the one who could be their Savior.

John definitely had a way of getting people’s attention. But not in a flashy way at all. I don’t think he would be found in the mega church today. He was the preacher out in the desert. The one wearing weird, worn and outdated clothing and also known for his curious all-natural diet. He wasn’t about gaining popularity points or fitting in. He knew it wasn’t about him. It was about Jesus. And he had a job to do.

His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). With Jesus’ earthly ministry now ready to start, it was time to make changes. They were closer to God’s kingdom now than they ever had been before. A kingdom needs a king and they were about to get their first look at the king chosen by God to rule His kingdom. But were they ready? No.

Repent of your sins, turn your life around. Stop using your religion as a show to look better than others. Stop relying on your impressive family tree for salvation. Repent of your sins, turn your life around. Start producing good fruit that shows you have changed. Start preparations for the coming judgment day. It’s closer than you think. Repent of your sins, turn your life around. For the Kingdom of heaven and the judgment day that comes with it is closer than you think. Let me introduce you to God’s chosen king – His Son Jesus!

-Marcia Railton

Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. Repentance is not just feeling sorry or regret for doing wrong, but also a commitment and action for change, turning from your sins to do right. In what ways have you sinned and need to repent? What will it look like to turn in the opposite direction and do right? What good fruit is God wanting to see in your life?
  2. Jesus, even though sinless, was baptized by John to set an example for believers. Baptism is a physical act to show your need for repentance and your acceptance of a Savior. Have you been baptized? If so, what does it mean to you? If not, do you have questions about baptism you would like to discuss with a spiritual mentor or pastor?
  3. What was seen and heard at the end of Jesus’ baptism? What do you think Jesus was feeling or thinking at this moment? What do you think God was feeling or thinking at this moment? How do you feel, what do you think, as you envision this scene?
  4. Who has been a John the Baptist for you – someone who helped point the way and introduce you to Jesus? If you know Jesus now, who will you introduce to Jesus?

Resolution 6: Finish What You Have Started

Malachi 3-4 and Revelation 22

If you are reading this, you have officially made it to the end of 2021, like it or not.  For many, whether they have faced greater hardships or substantial joy, they are ready to see what God has in store for their next year of life.  For me, the calendar is one of the few things that I can say each year that I saw through to completion.  I have successfully completed the calendar 36 or so times; however, one year, if the Lord tarries, I simply won’t.  Poof.  My dusty remains will most likely rest in some sentimental location in the earth’s crust to wait for the return of Jesus Christ, awaiting to receive his promise alongside all those who faithful have served Him (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Conversely, with about every other element in my life, I am a terrible finisher.  Currently, I have several projects going on at my home: a mostly finished deck, one mostly finished fence, one mostly unfinished fence, and a horseshoe pit that I decided to begin work on a couple of days ago. I present this as evidence that I am a terrible finisher, and this is just a single outlet of my life.  This is true in pretty much every aspect, from professional work to text messages, there is always something left undone.  Thank you, God for not making the Christian walk a checklist that has to be completed before I bite the big one. No matter how many “tasks” I have performed, how many prophecies I have spoken, or how much love I have shown, if I wake up the next day still sucking air, I am not finished, and that is a feeling very familiar to me.

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:10-11

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4: 6-8

God has us covered with grace.  If He cared, like Kingdom of God-cared, about my fences, deck, or horseshoe pit, then they would already be made complete, and I could move onto the next project at hand.  But we have an eternal God whose mind is set on eternal things.  He doesn’t care about my home projects.  Only my heart in pursuing them. He doesn’t care about my career, only my heart in pursuing it.  He doesn’t care about my resolutions, text messages, or what I am leaving undone, only my heart when pursuing each of those things.  His grace is already complete, so the thing He and I work on are the hearts that will find their way to the Kingdom of God, including, and most importantly to me, my own.

If 2021 is my last calendar year, I will leave behind much undone, which may resound with you because many of us are in the same boat. However, my heart is the one project that I have assuredly been working on and hope and pray that it is finished and made God complete through Christ Jesus (Col 2:10). Everything can be (and really will be) left undone, unfinished, and incomplete. I encourage us all to close out this year being finishers. Not by checking off the last couple of boxes of projects, resolutions, or bucket list items that remain, but by considering matters of the heart: your faith, your actions, and your pursuit of eternal things, so you can end this day, this year, and this life, strong.

“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. – Malachi 3:17-18

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:4-6

-Aaron Winner

As we finish off our 2021 Reading plan…we are excited about beginning a new plan for SeekGrowLove for 2022. Watch for more information coming today! Sneak peak – tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 1. We are glad to have you on this journey working on our hearts as we Seek Him, Grow Our Faith and Love Him and Others through another calendar year!

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Malachi 3-4 and Revelation 22

Resolution 5: Make Healthy Choices

Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products.  Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines .  I personally give it a sniff and stir test.  Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste.   The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give.  At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it.  I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences.  I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time.  This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.

 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8

Now to frame these choices into a different context.  Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God?  Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse?  Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer?  Or do you pray when you have time.  Or if you get up early.  Or when you’re in the car alone.  Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills?  And that is only if there is anything left.  Or maybe not this month because things are tight.  Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house?  Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck?  Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule?  Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased.  When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits.  The unblemished.  Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires.  He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32

God didn’t skimp on salvation.  He didn’t provide someone who was expendable.  He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal.  He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins.  He picked the best.  The only man unblemished by the disease of sin.  This is our example of what sacrifice should look like.  Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies.  He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come.  The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now.  Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made.  The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence.  Wow!  Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun.  You will have to wake up early or stay up late.  You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities.  There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world.  But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

Thank You, LORD!

Psalm 134-135

“Your name, O Lord, endures forever,

    your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

For the Lord will vindicate his people,

    and have compassion on his servants.” -Psalm 135:13-14

Who better to be thankful for than God? 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Ah yes, the day where Americans all over come together, filled with gratitude as they gather with their families. It helps that amazing food is normally involved…

I hope you are enjoying your thanksgiving morning and that your hearts are full of gladness. There is SO much to be thankful for this year, good health, family, job security, new friendships, the list is endless. 

My encouragement to you today is to not forget to be grateful for the one who brought you all of those blessings and more today. God is worthy of our praise! He deserves it! 

The Psalmist for Psalm 134-135 does an incredible job expressing his love and spirit of thanks for the LORD. 

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place,

    and bless the Lord.

May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,

    bless you from Zion.” Psalm 134 

Wow, what an exhorter this author is. I wish I could have been there to raise my hands with him when he first proclaimed those words. 

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;

    sing to his name, for he is gracious.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,

    Israel as his own possession.   Psalm 135: 3-4 

God is gracious. He freed the Isrealites. He raised his Son from the Dead. He knows you by name! And he has a spot for you at his table to come and dine with him.

So, today, as you likely gather around a table with a feast of your own, praise the LORD and thank Him for the table he has for you in the Kingdom of God. And get excited for how rich it will be. 

Today’s song is a classic. “Thank You, Lord” by Don Moen. It’s a perfect morning energizer.

With a grateful heart, with a song of praise, with an outstretched arm, I will bless your name… Thank you, Lord! 

-Leslie Jones

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 134-135 and Ezekiel 45-46

Wise Final Instructions for the Best Outcome

Hebrews 13

When children finish high school, and they go off to college or to live on their own for the first time, those frenzied final weeks before leaving are usually a flurry of activities.  To-do lists are checked off and then added to, last minute shopping trips become a daily occurrence, and packing everything needed seems an impossible task.  Finally, the day arrives, and the slightly panicked parents are often confronted with this stark realization:  did I prepare them sufficiently for the challenges they will face in life?  And so ensues final reminders, gentle warnings, and many sentences starting with “Don’t forget,” or “Remember.”  The parents want the best experience for their children at college and in life.

The writer of Hebrews also desires the best outcome for his dear readers, his spiritual children, as he finishes his letter.  Of course, that best outcome is eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Thus, Hebrews 13 concludes with straightforward instruction to reach this prize.

Consider the direct instructions found in verses 1-7, and the reasons WHY these instructions are important.  

  • “Keep on loving each other as brothers”
  • “Do not neglect hospitality to strangers—(WHY?)—”for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
  • “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are badly treated—(WHY?) – since you yourselves also are in the body.”
  •  “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; – (WHY?) – for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.”
  • Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; – (WHY?) – for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you.”
  • “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; – (WHY?) – considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith.”

Verse 17 goes hand in hand with verse 7.  “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, – (WHY?) – because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Hebrews 13:8 can be a stand-alone statement and beloved promise, easy to memorize (and it should be) and underlined in your Bible.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

What an assurance to us that Jesus has not changed and will not change—he is our Savior and coming King.  Perhaps the writer felt a plain statement of our basic hope was warranted after his beginning list of directives. 

Building on that simple reassurance, verse 9 warns the early Christians and us today, not to “be carried away by varied and strange teachings,” just as parents might advise their departing children—stay true to your foundation, the principles of your upbringing.  It is firm, it is solid, it will keep you grounded. 

Now, remember our reading from Hebrews 10 a few days ago. 

“But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:12-14)

Continuing in Hebrews 13, verses 15-16 should be OUR response for this sacrifice. 

 “Through Him then, let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Our Salvation Gift from God:

Jesus—ONE SACRIFICE for all time

Our Response:

CONTINUAL SACRIFICE of

  • Praise
  • Doing good
  • Sharing

As the end of verse 16 says, “for with such SACRIFICES God is pleased.”

The writer concludes with a benediction or ending prayer in verses 20 and 21 that sums up his thoughts in this chapter. 

“Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

This prayer serves as the perfect final reminder for young adults off to college, and for each one of us. 

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 43-44 and Hebrews 13

Better Days are Coming

Jeremiah 31 & 32 and Hebrews 7

Do you feel like many of us, and you want to hear some good news? I’m thinking that the Judeans may have been feeling this way. Can you remember times that were pure joy? I used to love summers, no school, visits with family, church camps, and family vacations. It was the best time of the year! Looking back we forget the bad times and just remember the good days. The chapters of Jeremiah 30-34 are referred to as the book of encouragement, it was the good news after all the doom and gloom. We get to read about the brighter days that are coming for Israel and Judah together again. There are better days ahead.

The Bible is a book about us having a relationship with God. Jeremiah is about a restored relationship with God. When we have a relationship with someone, we want to spend time with them, we talk to them, we ask them questions because we want to know everything about them. This is the kind of relationship God wants with His children. Jeremiah 31:1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”  And in verse 3 it says “The Lord appeared to him long ago, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you out with kindness.” God loves us, with an everlasting love but he allows us to make the choice if we will return His love. Not only is He a God who loves, but He is also a God who judges. We have to decide if we will return His love, seek Him, and follow Him. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” That is His deepest desire, that we be His people. At this time the nation of Israel and Judah were separate, Israel had been in exile for years, and Judah was going to be captured by Babylon in the near future.

In Jeremiah 32 King Zedekiah has had Jeremiah shut up in the palace guard prison because the king wanted Jeremiah to quit prophesying that they would be captured by Babylon. But this is what God told Jeremiah to tell His people and it is exactly what will happen. God tells Jeremiah, the children of Israel and Judah have done evil for years, they have turned their back on me, they have followed other gods, and they have burned their children as sacrifices to Moloch. They have done evil things. But when they call out to God, He will bring them back to their land and verse 38 once again says “And they shall be My people, and I will be their God!” When we call out to God, He always accepts us back.

Hebrews 7 is about a new covenant, in the first covenant the Levites were the priests for Israel. Jesus was not a Levite he was from the line of Judah. He was made our high priest not because of his lineage but because he led a perfect life that made him worthy of being a priest. Hebrews 7: 26-28 “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; who has no daily need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all time when He offered up Himself.For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever.” When Jesus, our High Priest, returns to set up the kingdom, our better days will be here to stay. What a glorious day that will be.

-Sherry Alcumbrack


Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to here at BibleGateway.com – Jeremiah 31 & 32 and Hebrews 7

Identity: From Death to Life

If I’m honest, today left me feeling weary, burdened, and frustrated along with bit of grief. I know we all have days like that from time to time as it’s just part of living in a broken world. As easy as it is to fall into a pattern of lamenting about how awful our day was and wondering if it’ll ever get better, God wants us to respond by giving Him our burdens, worries, grief and concerns. It’s much easier said than done, but if we have faith that God has created us in His image, instilled purpose in us and loves us to the point of adopting us as His children, then can’t we trust Him with our day-to-day struggles, too? Not only that, but as children of God, we believe in the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom where there will be no more trials, pain or obstacles because Jesus overcame them all!

Matthew 6: 31-34

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (CSB)

This passage is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Jesus, God’s son, is telling us that God knows exactly what we need and will provide accordingly. This isn’t limited to just physical needs such as food and drink; rather God will always take care of us in all aspects.

John 3: 1-6

There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. (CSB)

Once we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and submit to God’s authority over our lives, the Holy Spirit starts to work within us and we then become a child of God. If we are a child of God, Galatians 4:7 tells us, “So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.” (CSB)

The word “slave” is referring to being a slave to sin. We are no longer bound by sin’s punishment of death, but instead we are redeemed through Jesus and therefore able to inherit the gift of the Kingdom! (Romans 6:23)

God’s redeeming grace brings us from death to life. How incredible is that? I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what has been weighing you down lately. What burdens have you been carrying that you need to surrender? Maybe a circumstance where you don’t have all the answers and don’t know how you’ll make it through? Maybe a strained relationship? Maybe a pattern of sin that you need God’s help to break? Whatever the situation may be, we know that the same God who fulfills His promises (Joshua 21:45; Numbers 23:19) is the God who made us. And because He never fails, we can rest in Him until the end of the age when we inherit the gift of the Kingdom.

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 3-4 and Ephesians 5

How to Discipline

Proverbs 19

My last devotional for this week comes out of Proverbs 19:18. It says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” After doing this for a week now, the first portion of this passage made me immediately think about Amon. Remember him? He was that king of Judah that was murdered by his servants after reigning for only 2 years. He did evil in the sight of Yahweh. His father, Manasseh, also did evil in the sight of Yahweh but eventually repented and renewed his status with God. I had commented to myself on paper, thanking God for repentance – as there’s still time for it. What if you don’t have the time like Amon? What if you don’t even know that repentance is an option? This is why we are commissioned! Find those Josiahs and let them know the good news!

Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death… Why would any good parent desire their child’s death? My studies this week have also led me to some wisdom, I think, regarding the latter portion of this verse in Proverbs. I don’t think I would have understood the latter part if I hadn’t immersed myself in the word for a week. Words mean something. This is a wise, powerful statement that lets us know we DO desire our children’s death if we don’t take action to discipline them. We’ve got a great commission in our own homes if we are parents.

I have been wanting to do a study on child-rearing for a while now. Since I desire that my children live, I started by looking into discipline as it is demonstrated in the word. I found that my idea of discipline was nothing like what discipline actually meant in the bible.

Look at the Old Testament and how God, through Moses, disciplined the children of Israel in comparison to the New Testament and how God, through Jesus disciplined.

Deuteronomy 11:1-13 (NIV)

11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—

Let’s go through this passage carefully. Through Moses, God disciplined the 12 tribes of Israel (the children of Israel). He disciplined them by first showing them his majesty, or who he was (Yahweh God!). Who he was could be recognized by the works he did (e.g., signs, miracles, plagues). He rescued them (from Egypt) and defeated their enemies (Egypt in the red sea). Along their journey to the promised land, he performed miracles to sustain them in the wilderness (e.g., manna, water from a rock). He got rid of the people among them who were insolent and tried to usurp Moses (i.e., Dathan and Abiram; Korah).

He then disciplines the children of Israel by telling them to obey the commandments they were given (i.e., obey the law of Moses) so that they would have strength to enter the promised land. He entices them to obey the law of Moses by describing how wonderful their hope is. In it, they will have long life and it will be well with them. In it, they will have good things (flowing with milk and honey). It is a land they won’t have to tend themselves (like they did in Egypt) to receive the good things in it. The good things will be sustained through heaven. To me, the last verse shows God’s heart. He cares so much about that land that he desires to give to his children.

Now let’s look at the New Testament and the discipline of God through Jesus. He pretty much does the same thing but gives greater honor and authority to Jesus since Jesus literally is the one who rescues the people.  

In the New Testament, Jesus disciplined the 12 disciples by showing them who he was (is) (The Son of God! The Messiah – pretty much described throughout the whole book of John). Who he was (the Messiah) could be recognized by the works he did in their presence. There were some pretty distinctive works he did that pointed to himself as the Messiah (i.e., Isaiah 35:5-6a “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.).

It is Jesus himself who rescued them from their enemy (sin and death) by his death on the cross. Once seated at the right hand of God in heaven, it is Jesus who sustains them along their journey to the Kingdom of God (KOG). Post resurrection, it’s up to them (and us) to do these final things to enter into the KOG through Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life and he is the rock of our salvation who provides living water. He chastens us by pruning us along our journey (e.g., If your right hand offends you, cut it off – get rid of the people and things in your life that try to usurp Jesus as Lord of your life because they’ll prevent you from entering the KOG).

Jesus disciplines us by telling us to obey the Law of Christ (i.e., Love God and love people like Jesus loved). We need to obey these commandments so that we will have strength (through the receiving of the holy spirit) to enter the KOG.

The love of Christ compels us to obey by enticing us with the good things in the KOG, our hope. In the KOG, we will live forever with Jesus (and eventually with God himself). God will wipe away every tear from our eye; sin and death will be no more (the incorruptible crown; the crown of life). In it, we will be rewarded with good things, positional rewards based on how we built upon the foundation that was laid for us (built upon Jesus) (the crown of rejoicing; the crown of righteousness). If you’re an elder in your church, you’ll receive a crown of glory!

Once there, we won’t have to labor like we do now to enjoy the KOG. There will be a river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and from the lamb. In it will be the tree of life on either side of the street with 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations. I realize that this may not all be literal. All I really know is that it will be unimaginably good and that God and my Lord Jesus will be there, so I’d like to be there too.

And then for my correlation of the last verse. I can only imagine the joy Jesus must have when he thinks about the coming KOG. It is his reward. He’ll be ruling the whole world from the new Jerusalem. I think this was God’s plan all along, with Jesus in mind as the king of his kingdom before the foundation of the world, to a people whose desire is for them whom they love.        

Going back to the Old Testament passage, we see that not all of the children of Israel were witnesses to God through Moses. Therefore, he instructs them to discipline their children who were not witnesses. An example of discipling for the children of the children of Israel who were not direct witnesses was laid out for us in Deuteronomy 11.  

Similarly, not many of us were direct witnesses to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Therefore, he instructs his disciples to discipline the rest of us who were not direct witnesses. I believe that through the power of the holy spirit however, we too can be called witnesses of Jesus, and are therefore also commissioned to discipline our children and others (the Josiahs). An example of discipling for us is laid out in the new testament, beginning with the gospels.

Can you say amen?

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 5-6 and Proverbs 19

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