Luke 14-15

I love enjoying Sunday dinner with others. Sharing a potluck or going out to eat together is great, but in our reading we see Jesus was invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee where he was being carefully watched. Some of the leaders had been listening very carefully to Jesus, but not to learn from him. They hoped to find fault with Jesus and to catch him in something he said then report him to the authorities. Imagine being a guest at this table. You have the opportunity to sit and eat with the Son of God. You have the chance to hear his teaching. But these leaders are so blind that they are trying to set a trap for Jesus. The leaders get their wish because a man who is suffering is there. Of course, out of compassion the Lord heals the man. Rejoicing should have happened around this table, but instead Jesus has to explain that healing on the Sabbath is doing good and it is acceptable.

Jesus noticed that these guests were picking the places of honor at the table. They were self-promoting and needed to learn the importance of humility that Jesus illustrates through a parable of taking the lowest position at a feast.  Explaining that “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  

Jesus then teaches that meals should be given for the less fortunate, which will result in the host being blessed and repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Someone at Jesus table said to him, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus then used a parable to explain that the “stuff of life” should never keep us from accepting the invitation we have received from the Lord to the great banquet He has prepared for us. When we count the cost of being a disciple, we realize that giving up the things of this life are a small price to sit at the Kingdom feast table. As Christ said “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom.” I love that he states that there are places for us at that feast (reserved seating). Each person is important to God as we see in Chapter 15. Stay close to our Heavenly Father and rejoice when those that are lost are found. Remember that we will one day celebrate like never before around our Father’s table at the Kingdom feast.

~ Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 14-15.

Tomorrow we will read Luke 16:1-17:10.

Luke 12-13 – Heavenly Treasures

This week has been a whirlwind of to-do’s and tasks that seem to be never ending. From Monday when I woke up to a day ‘off’ that was filled with cleaning and yard work to a FULL week of teaching virtually and face to face with a classroom observation thrown in, I barely had a minute to pause and remember to pray. 2020 has shaken up many of my routines and added a whole lot of responsibilities. When I’m trying to guzzle my third cup of coffee as I step out the door at 7:00, I think if I only had a few more days off, I would be able to fix my house, my life, and my relationship with God. I wish I just had more time! 

The truth is I got that wish earlier this year, and it didn’t really revolutionize much in my life. Sometimes, I feel like kicking myself when I think back to the months between the time schools closed in March and the time that they reopened in August. I had so much free time! And, I filled it with a lot of hobbies, habits, and pursuits that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. 

In this year that has been full of changes and stressors, I know that I have felt full of anxiety – anxiety about finances, work, my house (under year 2 of renovations, my job, elections, pandemics (and the list could go on). When I think about all of these things, my mind likes to turn into overdrive. I make lists, and to-dos, and try to work on ALL THE THINGS to try to make my mind slow down and stop racing. Or I veg out on the couch and binge watch an entire season on Netflix eating a bag of chocolates. It doesn’t matter if the list of things that I need to do is a mile long or (like in quarantine) my main goal is fold a basket of laundry that day – I seem stuck in these two cycles. 

And I think I have figured out why. In the hustle and in the ‘rest,’ my activities, thoughts, and feelings center around me – what I need to do, what I need to buy, what I think I need to be. Those things become the thing that I am striving after. But, like most human made goals and plans, I can easily get derailed through distractions and setbacks that cause me to eventually fall flat on my face (cue the chocolate induced coma after the 16th episode of Seinfeld). When I don’t meet those expectations of myself, the anxiety kicks in, and I worry about how I can meet my own demands of myself. 

God calls us away from this striving, away from this cycle of stressful work and anxious thoughts. He calls us to him. In the chapters we read today in Luke 12-13, we read parables of people who sought after their own goals that were made based on the standards of the world. These goals sucked the life out of the people who made them. They caused the people to spend more time trying to glorify themselves and not glorify God. Like the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9, this striving for self-glory will not produce good fruit. Instead, we need to strive for storing up treasures in heaven. Seek after the good things, and work to give God the glory with your life. 

That is really all that matters. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 12-13.

Tomorrow we will read Luke 16:1-17:10.

Isaiah 35-36

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

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

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

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

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

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

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

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

God Willing

Proverbs 16

Proverbs 16 3 4 NIV

Whenever I tucked him in, I would tell him I’d see him the next time I worked. He’d tell me, “God willing and the creek don’t rise!” He was about 80 years old, living in the nursing home where I worked. He had a lifetime of wisdom and colloquialisms.  I had not heard that phrase before meeting him but immediately appreciated the meaning.

Due to modern transportation infrastructure, rising creeks don’t ruin our plans as often as they used to. However, our lives, no matter how modern, are truly in God’s hands. Proverbs 16: 1, 3, 4, 9 and 33 specifically discuss the plans we make. No matter what we do and what we plan to do, God will ultimately guide these plans or even change them.

Verse 3 is a bit of a struggle for me. I’ve made plans I thought were for God, but they didn’t turn out the way I thought they should. They didn’t succeed, at least not in my mind. But in the very next verse it states that the LORD works out everything for His own ends. Sometimes I clearly see through hindsight how my failed plans served God.

But not every time, I’m still working through that. During a particularly hard time in my life, I defeatedly told my aunt that maybe I’d figure out WHY this all happened when I entered the kingdom. Her response was perfect. “And then it won’t matter.” WOW!!! What a gift! What a promise! Our dashed hopes and failed plans will fall away when we see Christ!!! Nothing else will matter!  Reading Revelation 21 makes me tear up with excitement!

In the meantime, God, through the proverbial writers, gives us instructions on the behaviors and plans that destroy (verses 4, 5, 18, 22, 25, 27-30) and the behaviors and plans that build up (verses 6, 8, 10-14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 32, and 32). Plan to build up others and glorify God!

One of the other reasons I appreciated and remembered “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” is because it reminds me of Dr. Joe Martin. Whenever he speaks of his plans, he adds, “God willing.” This is a sincere example of what trusting God with every area of life looks like.

I truly hope to see all of you at FUEL 2020.

God willing and the creek don’t rise!

Maria Knowlton

Waiting for the Gift – and His Timing

Acts 1

Acts 1 4

It is amazing for as much time this group of men spent with Jesus, they were still confused. Just as we long for the kingdom, the disciples were ready for it. And like us – they didn’t want to wait. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days popping in and out on the disciples. While he was with them he was calming their doubts and promising a future gift. When he left, they were preparing his take over to free them from Roman domination.

On one of his visits he gives one of the hardest commands – wait! Stay where you are and wait. This prompts multiple questions that have been on the minds of all the people: Has the time finally come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? How long do we have to wait?

His response: it is not for you to know – or in other words; none of your business! He then picks up where he left off – the promised gift – the holy spirit. Following his answer and promise, he was taken up before their eyes never to be seen again.

The disciples get the lesson of patience we all need. God is at work but is not working on our schedule. Christ was preparing his followers to join the work God was doing while they were distracted with their own plans.

We often face trials in life that are less than desirable and we long for the problems to be taken away. We know of God’s overall plans but want them to be done now! We want insight and details – the who, what, where, when, why and how – and often times the response is that is not for you to know. Stay in your lane, bro!

Like the disciples we are given what is needed to do the work that has been set up for us to do. They were given the same power that was at work in Christ and told go be a witness to the world. We also have access to that power and are given that same mission.

-John Wincapaw

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night

 

The Christmas carol, “O Holy Night” has a fascinating history.  It was first written as a French poem in 1847 by Placide de Roquemaure, and was set to music by Adolphe Charles Adams that same year.  In 1855, the Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song was made popular in the United States by abolitionist during the American Civil War.  According to tradition, “O Holy Night” played a significant role in causing a Christmas day cease fire during the Franco-Prussian War.  And in 1906 it was the first song ever played over the radio.  You can read more details about the history of the song here, https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx, a reprint from “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Zondervan.

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!

O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,

Oh night when Christ was born,
O night divine
O night divine.

            One of my favorite lines in the carol is, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”  Jesus came to bring us hope. Paul, in I Timothy 1:1, states that Christ Jesus is our hope.  Peter explains that hope further in I Peter.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (I Peter 1:3-4). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (I Peter 1:13).  Our hope is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was raised back to life, and is coming back to Earth to live with us eternally.

Today, we are accustomed to talking about hope as wishful thinking.  I hope for a large, year-end bonus.  I hope one day the Lions will win the Super Bowl.  I hope to win a new car.  Each of these statements are just my desires or my wishes; they do not foretell the future. However, Jesus came to bring us an entirely certain hope.  A definite hope that cannot change.  The hope talked of in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but rather an absolutely true promise of things to come.  A hope that will never fail us, never disappoint.  We can choose to put our hope in our church, our job, our spouse, or other earthly things.  However, over the course of time all of those options will bring disappointment. On the other hand, living for the promise of the kingdom will bring us perfect, eternal life.

Everyone puts their hope in something.  Kyle Idleman suggests you can tell what you have put your hope in, by observing what you spend your time and money on, or what makes you worried or mad.  So what about you?  What are you putting your hope in?

 

-Jill McClain

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

God’s Fan

psalm 122 1

If you haven’t been paying attention, its football season. A new season of hope, optimism, and excitement for what could be coming for your team. As a fan of the South Carolina Gamecocks my joy lasts until our first loss and then the thoughts turn to next year. I see so many people put so much thought and preparation into tailgating and cheering on their team and it makes me think:  What if we put this much excitement into serving the ONE true God. I think of Psalms 122:1 where David says he was glad to be able to glorify God in the house of the Lord. This wasn’t just one verse, the pages of the Psalms are filled with praises to God from men excited by what God has done, is doing, and will do when his kingdom comes. No disappointment of being on the wrong side of a football score.

This is a morning to wake up and glorify a God who when we put our hope in him through his son Jesus, never disappoints. When we read Rev. 21 and 22 we read about why we should have more hope, excitement, and optimism than an Alabama fan. So as this excitement over this time of year in football fades, remember you are a child of God and that excitement will never fade. Jesus says to seek his kingdom first. When is the last time you thought about what you will do in your first ten years in the kingdom, who are your ” top 5″ people you want to meet, what it will be like to have communion with Jesus, etc. I have to admit when I focus on this, football seems to fade, as it should. This morning we will be at different areas of the world but I hope God is pleased when as a unified body we lift praises to our God.

-Joseph Partain

God’s Timing: God’s Patience: God’s Love

2 Peter

2 Peter 3 9 (1)

I normally like to focus these devotions on verses we sometimes don’t pay too much attention to. 2 Peter sure has a lot of those verses. But today, I want to focus on a verse we have read a dozen thousand times.
The verse is, of course, 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
The Lord does not delay His promise. The promise of God is that the Kingdom will be restored to Israel and that sin will be eradicated on the earth. God is not slow in bringing that about. He is not delaying it just because he is putting it off. He is not waiting till the last minute by divine fiat alone. Instead, God is patient with US. With each and everyone one of us. He is waiting for us to come to him. He is waiting for us to repent, but he is also waiting for those who are far off. He is waiting for repentance to be found the world over. Why is he so patient, even now, 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth, 2000 years of church history and many hundreds of years of corruption and war and poverty and hate and greed and problems and sin even after the death of Jesus on a cross?
Because God doesn’t want any to perish. He does not want a single person to miss out on the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom, the gift given through Jesus. He doesn’t want any to perish, but he wants them all to come to repentance. Will they? No, this verse doesn’t say all will come to God. He does say that any who come to repentance, any who turn from the ways of sin to do righteousness, will not perish, but will experience true life.
I don’t have much more to add to that. If we remember this verse, lock it away, hide it in our hearts, it reminds us that God is love. That God cares about every person. That every person is a step away from salvation. That the time we have waited for Jesus is the patience of God made evident to a waiting world.
May we remember this verse and come to repentance to have life.
-Jake Ballard