Prayer for Peace – and More

2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

“The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.” (2 Samuel 3:1). So begins today’s Old Testament reading. The “young” country of Israel was experiencing great turmoil as some remained loyal to Saul’s remaining relatives, and a growing number were excitedly backing the champion David. The commander of Saul’s army, Abner, becomes angered by an accusation made by Saul’s son and heir, Ish-Bosheth. Abner vows to help bring all Israel under David’s kingship. But the army commander under David, Joab, has a lasting feud with Abner, still distrusts him and kills him for revenge. David mourns and instructs Israel to do the same. When 2 thugs kill Ish-Bosheth they expect to be warmly received by David as they have helped clear the way to David’s legitimate rule. Instead, similar to his reaction to the Amelekite who announced the death of Saul, David orders the death of the two murderers. David sought for peace within the young nation and an end to the hostility, bloodshed, revenge, and distrust. He tried to show a better way.

Today there remains great tension and hostility in the land of Israel, and this week it has bubbled again to the surface with the worst outbreak since 2014. Last night after reading the Bible passages for today I read one more email before bed – it happened to be a request for prayer from an organization called Jewish Voice whose goal is to bring salvation to the Jews, that they may believe in Jesus as God’s Promised Messiah. I will include a few quotes from their email…

“Terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 1,700 rockets and mortars at major Israeli cities and Israel has responded with more than 700 airstrikes on terrorist targets…

To make matters worse, unexpected riots and clashes between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have broken out in multiple cities across Israel…

Please join me in fervent prayer for Israel and the Jewish people. Pray supernatural peace for Israelis who have been under continual fire for four days and may have to endure more. Pray safety for the IDF personnel as they battle terrorist forces and wisdom of Israel’s military leaders to know the right course of action. Pray for an end to the violence both between Israel and Gaza, and reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Israelis. Finally, let’s pray that these times of trouble would lead the Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah.”

As David wrote more than 3,000 years ago – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…Pray for the sake of the house of the Lord our God.” Psalm 122:6,9 NIV

In Acts 10 we saw God remove the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Now both could believe in Jesus and be saved. Jews and Gentiles could now remove the hostility between themselves and become brothers and sisters in the family of God! It was unheard of! And it was such an amazing event that Peter explains it all again in Acts 11. The Christians needed to know – the world needed to know. Jews and Gentiles don’t need to live in hatred to one another. Together, they can both be saved. But without the Jesus glue…it falls apart.

Paul would expand upon the prayer of David. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1 NIV). Just peace is not enough. But with Jesus comes salvation which brings brotherly peace even amongst Jews and Gentiles.

And, here we are today – needing the prayers of David and Paul just as much. For the nation of Israel, and for our neighbor across the street. We pray for brotherhood created by the blood of Jesus. We pray for peace. We pray for salvation for us, our families and churches and also salvation for those different from us. We pray for an end to hostility and take steps to love others. We also know that as followers of Jesus we will face many enemies and we pray for wisdom and strength in confronting them. We pray and long for the day when Jesus returns and a lasting peace will reign in New Jerusalem as God’s Kingdom is set up on earth.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

Love Your Enemy

2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

How do you treat people you don’t understand, people who are different than you, people who have hurt you, people you feel threatened by, people who are troubled, those who have become your enemy?

Both our Old Testament and our New Testament reading today offers some options.

The relationship between King Saul and David began back in 1st Samuel 16. “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (vs 14 – NIV). His advisors had heard of a fine young man who spoke well, played the harp well and bravely fought well. David was brought to the king and Saul liked him very much. It began as a helpful, mutually beneficial relationship. The shepherd boy David received a royal position as armor-bearer and musician. And Saul received relief from the evil spirit when David played his soothing music. It was a win-win – until the little harp-playing armor-bearer bested the Philistine giant and EVERYONE in Israel went gaga for the good-looking brave young hero. Saul became jealous and it isn’t long before Saul is pursuing and trying to kill David. How does David respond? He could have very likely led a successful revolt right from the start. He had many faithful followers at a time when Saul’s popularity was greatly declining. He also had many strong and logical reasons to oust the king. Wouldn’t the whole country of Israel be better off if led by a hero favored by the Lord rather than a has-been tormented by an evil spirit? He even had the support of the king’s son Jonathan. How long can you be loyal to a mentally unstable person who is trying to kill you?

But David, who made a practice of inquiring of the Lord, would not respond as so many others would have. Even when given the opportunity (at least twice) to kill Saul, he instead protected his life. David saw and respected Saul as God’s anointed king and so it didn’t matter how Saul treated him, he would not harm Saul. Revenge was not even in his vocabulary. He placed God’s desire above his own, even when it was hard and didn’t make sense to the rest of the world.

In 2nd Samuel 1 the Amalekite brings word that Saul and Jonathan are dead. He even takes credit for ending the life of the severely wounded king (even though this isn’t mentioned in the passage of Saul’s death in 2nd Samuel 31). But whether he did or he didn’t, he took the crown that had been on Saul’s head and brought it to David, the logical new king. I am sure he was expecting to be rewarded. It seems a logical thing to expect. It seems David would now be relieved, he didn’t have to kill the king personally, but it was done and he no longer had to hide and fear for his life. He could now become king. What good news!

But, no. His loyalty had been no act. He sincerely loved and cared for and wanted what was best for the tormented king, regardless of how he had been treated personally. The peaceful reconciliation he had hoped for had not come. David was in deep grief for his faithful friend Jonathan and for the troubled king who had been the Lord’s anointed. Rather than doing what had been expected of him long ago – killing the king – he now had the messenger who took credit for killing the king killed. And, in his grief he turned again to music, writing a lament to teach Israel to grief the deaths as he did.

In Acts 10 we see a different kind of fractured relationship – one that had never been allowed to develop – because Jews had always seen Gentiles as unclean. Jews and Gentiles had different upbringings, different religions, different nationalities, different goals, different understandings. God had been sanctifying the Jews – removing them from their worldly surroundings to keep them the holy, chosen people of God, untainted by others. And, so there had been many Jewish rules about not associating with Gentiles and with good reason at the time. But times were changing…and God was about to show what entering the new covenant was going to look like. The grace, love, and spirit of God was now going to be poured out on all who believed and followed Jesus, the perfect lamb and Son of God sacrificed for all regardless of whether they were a physical descendent of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (a Jew) or not (a Gentile).

It is hard to overcome centuries of isolation and distrust. Different is different and too often it becomes a barrier to compassion, understanding, brotherhood, and working together for a common goal – sharing Jesus with the world. It took the good Jewish Peter 3 visions from God and a perfectly timed God-ordained appointment with the devout and God-fearing Gentile Cornelius to be willing to accept that God indeed wanted him to change his view of Gentiles and reach out to them with the saving news of Jesus as well.

How are you doing in your view of those different from you? Do you see their need for Jesus and what you can do to bring Jesus to them? Do you react with compassion, eager to share the good news of Jesus to all, not full of judgement and isolation? How do you react to those you might have once considered impure or unclean? Do you want what is best for those who have hurt you or misjudged you? Does God’s desire and love for the troubled and lost motivate you to put off selfish desires and rise above what others expect of you? How are you doing at loving your enemies?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

See What You Can Do

1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

In 1 Samuel 25 we are introduced to Abigail. If you haven’t yet – go read her story now. Abigail – intelligent and beautiful, a safe place for the servant to come speak truth, she “lost no time”/”quickly” – woman of decisive action, generous gift-giver, humble and contrite, willing to accept blame (even when it more rightly belonged to her husband instead), thinking ahead to future ramifications, eloquent, known and praised for good judgment, discerning and a peacemaker. Not promoting peace by just keeping her mouth closed or looking the other way, but from speaking up and standing up for what is right and just.

I can learn a lot from Abigail, as well as from her servant. The servant who warned Abigail of her husband’s foolish treatment of David confided in her and said, “Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his household” (1 Samuel 25:17). Think it over – and see what you can do. Wise words of advice from the servant. I too often overthink myself into non-action. I get stuck in the ‘think it over’ stage. I might feel I have discerned a situation well and see the foolishness, wickedness or injustice but become paralyzed by what to do about it by overanalyzing or fear of getting personally involved. Or, just as unhelpful – I can come up with lots of solutions of what other people could or should do to fix the problem. But not Abigail. She thought it over and saw what she could do and “lost no time” in getting it done. Twice it says she “quickly” mounted or dismounted her donkey. She is wasting no time hem hawing around. There is action to be taken – and she will do it.

However, even though Abigail acts decisively and quickly – she also avoids erring on the side of rash, reckless behavior she might regret later. When she returns home to a drunk husband she doesn’t engage him then but waits til morning to tell him of all that had transpired. She still takes the time to wisely interpret a situation and choose the best time, not necessarily the first chance, to intervene and speak.

And, God takes care of the rest. I imagine it was scary for Abigail to approach David and then confront her husband – not knowing how either of them would react or what it would mean for her future. When we are called to act we usually don’t know what the results will be – either short or long-term. But we can know that God is faithful in providing for His children who have stepped out in faith to right wrong and peacefully pursue justice.

But wait – how did God provide for faithful Stephen in Acts? Like Abigail, Stephen was also a courageous, eloquent person of action and wisdom who boldly served his master and spoke for his king, Jesus, in the face of wicked opposition. He saw that disaster was hanging over all those who had rejected Jesus and he had considered what he could do – speak in Jesus’ name. And he did it faithfully, regardless of the outcome. A life cut short and the agony of being stoned to death doesn’t seem like much of a reward for bravely doing the right thing. But, when you read the description of Stephen there is an amazing amount of peace. He is not in fear or second-guessing his words or actions. He is full of the Holy Spirit and he is allowed a glimpse into heaven and sees, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). Even at his last moment before “falling asleep”, he is at peace with his Lord Jesus and even with his adversaries.

We don’t need to know the immediate outcome before courageously taking action and speaking up for what is right. Disaster is indeed hanging over so much of the world today. It is time for God’s children to think it over and consider what each one can do. And then take action, quickly mount your donkey, open your mouth, speak His words. You can be confident – you might not know the outcome, but God’s got His children.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

How Did They Forget?

Judges 3-4 and John 5

As I was reading through Judges chapters 3 and 4 I had visions of Chuck Norris. If he was armed with just one wooden pole with a metal tip (an oxgoad) could he take down 600 men like Shamgar did to save Israel? (Judges 3:31)

And, have you ever seen Forged in Fire, a competition between craftsmen who make handcrafted weapons and then put them through various tests to see which will be judged the best? I bet the judges would be impressed with the 18 inch double edged sword left-handed Ehud made that sliced through King Eglon’s belly until even the handle sank in surrounded by fat and the blade came out the back. A pity to have to leave such an impressive sword behind as Ehud cleverly escapes with his life and then leads an impressive rebellion against Eglon’s Moabites. 10,000 Moabites were killed that day and Israel victoriously rules over them for the next 80 years. (Judges 3:15-30)

And it’s hard to decide who should get the Wonder Woman award of the Bible. Both Deborah and Jael are incredibly strong and worthy candidates. Deborah, the wise judge of Israel who is bolder than Barak. She agrees to ride into battle alongside the captain of the army who wouldn’t go without her. And when the exhausted commander of the enemy army thinks he’s found safe haven in the tent of Jael, he sleeps, and she drives a tent stake through his temple and into the ground. Those, are some strong, brave ladies! (Judges 4:8-22)

God did indeed provide some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to fight for Israel when they were in need, surrounded and afflicted by their enemies, if they called out to Him. But, what got the Israelites into these messes over and over again? Hadn’t Joshua helped them clear the land and give them rest? The problem is – they didn’t stay faithful to the Lord. “They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” (Judges 3:7b NIV).

How could they forget God? After all that God had done for them, over and over again through the generations. What caused their falling away, over and over again? The verse immediately preceding explains what happened. Judges 3:6 says (with my added pronoun descriptions), “They (the Israelites) took their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) daughters in marriage and gave their own (Israelite) daughters to their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) sons, and served their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) gods.” They forgot God because of who they chose to marry. Their spouses brought false and foreign gods into their marriage, into their homes, and before long into their hearts and minds and children and future generations, too. You can’t become one with an unbeliever, or a false god worshiper, and have it not negatively impact the way you love and serve the One True God. And when they served false gods it wasn’t long before God’s anger brought devastation, invaders and great trials upon them.

We all know what to look for in the perfect mate – we’ve watched the Hallmark Channel, too! She/he makes me feel special and happy, has a great sense of humor, would make a fantastic mom/dad, loves all the things I love, makes me want to be a better person, has a lot of social media friends, is super polite and friendly, has a great shoulder to cry on, shares my political and moral persuasions, even my parents like this one, has a great work ethic, we agree on the correct number and kinds of kids and pets, is so much fun to be around, is talented and smart, is quite romantic, will be a great provider, is kind to the earth, speaks my love language, is a fabulous cook and likes to clean toilets, is even good-looking, doesn’t mind my (fill-in-the-blank), and we are madly in love soul-mates.

Nope. Not a good match. Don’t tie the knot. Try again.

This time, first and foremost look for and insist upon one who loves and serves the One True God, just like you.

Period. That’s the most important. It is not a negotiable. It is not a character trait you just hope develops with more time. It is not worth the risk when the wrong spouse so easily leads to forgetting and falling away from God. It’s not worth the risk of falling into God’s wrath. “Don’t be unequally yoked with believers”, Paul said (2 Corinthians 6:14). Moses said, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughter for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). If she/he isn’t serving the One True God they are serving false gods, even if you don’t know what those gods are named, just yet. It will leak unto you and your children and the generations that follow. Save yourself the heartache. Don’t even look at, date or consider as a mate one who doesn’t make the grade in God’s number one trait for your soul-mate spouse – he/she most love the Lord your God first and most.

I want to end today with a quick look back at what we started with today…God sending some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to lead and save His people. I suggest that the toughest, most courageous, wisest, strongest and most capable of them all is Jesus. These are not the adjectives most often associated with Jesus. We first think of him as a gentle, loving, humble, innocent, accepting, nice, merciful, meek, forgiving, helpful servant, a king who rides on a donkey and is crucified. And while those are not wrong, they don’t reveal his full character. Jesus was tough. We have only read the first few chapters of John and we have already seen him make a whip (impressive skill to have), overturn the moneychangers’ tables and forcefully clear the temple courtyard of the dirty animals and greedy, irreverent men. He wasn’t a wimp! He has questioned Israel’s teachers (and will use some pretty rough descriptions for them). He was wise and discerning and told it like it was. He has called out the Samaritan woman by pointing out how many husbands she has had. He wasn’t blind to sin and sinful lifestyles. And in today’s reading of John 5, after he heals the invalid of 38 years, he says, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14). He didn’t accept sin. He called people to repent and leave behind their sinful ways. And, when they did, he was full of forgiveness. Jesus is tough on sin and chosen by God to offer salvation to God’s children. But not all will receive it. Jesus is no gentle push-over. Are you ready to meet the real Jesus?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 3-4 and John 5 .

All Connected

Judges 1-2 and John 4

This year our Bible reading plan has included one Old Testament reading and one New Testament, Psalms or Proverbs reading every day. I’ve enjoyed the daily variety and I think rather than feeling disjointed, like I had feared, it actually helps me see the Bible more as a whole. There have been several times when one reading would refer to something in the other, if not from that same day then something recently read.

On Sunday our devotion was on Psalm 69, one of the most quoted and referenced Psalms in the New Testament. It portrays a zealous suffering servant of God who is surrounded by the enemy. And just 2 days later we read John 2 which included Jesus entering the temple and being shocked to see the disrespect and greed of the moneychangers and those wanting to make a quick buck selling animals for sacrifice rather than revering the house of the Lord and the holy God they should have been focused on. Jesus forcefully clears the temple, and John records, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ ” (John 2:17 NIV – quoting Psalm 69:9). Those disciples knew and loved the same book we just read! They saw connections and how Jesus fulfilled and carried out the Scriptures they were devoted to and knew well. That’s just one example of the many times it’s been exciting to see overlap and referencing reminding me of how precious this book is and how it all works together to show us God: His character, story, plan, majesty, and His Son and ultimately, what will our response be? As Joshua said (just yesterday), “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

As we see it all work together, woven together as one, it’s sometimes hard to decide which passage to write about. It’s exciting that God gave us SO much in His Word, we couldn’t possibly discuss it all thoroughly in one year of devotions. But every day we can increase our knowledge and understanding just a little, find a new thought or reference we hadn’t seen before, learning to love it and the God it reveals and putting His word to use to become more and more what He wants us to be and do.

And, today we read of the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in the land given to Joseph. This well is not specifically mentioned elsewhere in Scripture – but we did just read a lot about the land of Jacob’s sons’ families and we read of the tribes of Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manassah) receiving their inheritance and burying the bones of Joseph in his land. The Samaritan woman knew these stories and these families – and now she was going to meet the Messiah, the Christ, she has been waiting for!

That was a much longer introduction than I expected. No wonder we don’t have time to look closely at every passage every day. But, today I want to try something different. Instead of having you read any more of me than you already have, I want to give you some questions to consider for both the Old Testament and New Testament scripture – two excellent passages God wants us to consider. You could pick some of your favorite questions to think about today and even discuss with your family and circle of influence. Enjoy digging into God’s Word and considering what God wants you to see!

JUDGES 1-2

Judges 2 tells of the cycle of obedience and disobedience that Israel will fall into after the death of Joshua. Can you see in your own life, family, church, community, nation any similar cycles?

Have there been times when you have slipped away further from God? Any ideas what prompted that? What turned things around again?

How would you describe the difference between a life of obedience to God and one of disobedience? The results? (Use personal experience anytime you can)

Have there been times you have benefitted from having a strong Godly leader (like Joshua or one of the judges)? How so? What did they provide? What dangers do we need to avoid in regards to having (or losing) a strong leader?

How/when can you help others who are in a time of disobedience and trouble?

JOHN 4

What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? (especially verse 6, 9, 10, 13, 18, 26, 29, 34, 42, 53).

What did the Samaritan woman already know before meeting Jesus? What did she learn that day?

How would you describe Jesus as the Living Water? Would you say you have experienced him as living water, or will experience it, or have just heard about it? What does Jesus want to offer to the Samaritan Woman? To You?

What was the result of the Samaritan woman’s talk with Jesus?

Jesus said his “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (vs 34) and then he asked the disciples to see the harvest work around them. What fills you up or have you been feeling a little starved lately? What can you do today to help you feel full and satisfied? What harvest work around you does Jesus want you to see and act on?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 1-2 and John 4

John 1

How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?

What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?

John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.

John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.

John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.

It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.

John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.

So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.

So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).

Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.

Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.

In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.

Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.

We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.

I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 19-20 and John 1

Not a Fairy Tale

A Survey of the Land

Joshua 17-18

Fairy tales don’t have settings. Sure, technically the setting would include in the forest or at the castle or under the sea but we don’t REALLY know where the stories took place. City? Country? Even continent? We aren’t told. Believe it or not, Cinderella’s castle wasn’t actually in Orlando. Fairy tales don’t have detailed settings; because, fairy tales aren’t real.

But, the Israelites occupying the Promised Land, as well as SO MANY other events of the Bible, those are stories with a setting, a lot of very specific and detailed settings to be exact. For the last couple of days, and for the next few days, our Joshua Bible reading has and will include a good bit of geography from ancient Israel. Some of these places actually still exist in the exact same location, today! And others have been lost through the years. Just for fun I looked up the “Stone of Bohan son of Reuben” which is just one of several landmarks listed as part of the northern boundary of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:6). Sure enough, no one knows where that stone is today or what significance it held, but it meant something to the people of their day. The writer of Joshua didn’t give GPS coordinates, but he gave all the information needed for the tribes to find and settle their land, and he left enough clues for us to retrace and map out who got what.

This was their new home. The land promised to them by God. The home they had been anticipating for hundreds of years, and fighting for the last 4-5 years. It was better than a fairy tale or dream – this was a real true event. Real people in a real land receiving their real inheritance from a very real God.

I enjoy Bill Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas which offers a historical geography of the Bible. Every major Bible event is mapped out, with dates and commentary. And, this post would have been available sooner today, but I was having too much fun watching videos Schlegel created which include further photos and videos of the REAL land of Israel. They really help the Bible lands come to life. I encourage you to see for yourself at Satellite Bible Atlas and accompanying videos. As an associate professor in Israel for 25 years Schlegel knows the area very well.

One day I plan to visit the Holy Land, either before or after Jesus returns. Until then, it’s exciting to take some video field trips and learn more about the land God gave His children. Real people in real places. God’s promises are true.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here Joshua 17-18 and Psalm 70-72

If God Wrote Birthday Cards

Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

When I first read today’s passage and the opening verse of Joshua 13 I chuckled out loud thinking how inappropriate we would deem this opening remark, if it had come from anyone other than God. The verse says, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). Who wouldn’t love to open a Hallmark greeting card that says , “You are VERY old, and there are lots of things you haven’t been able to accomplish yet “? Thanks, God. I can always count on you for telling the truth. I am now ready to just curl up and die.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I am sure that is not what God was saying.

Sadly, we have become a culture that doesn’t honor the aged. We all want to be told how young we are, or look or act. We love to have others in awe of how much we have accomplished already in our few short years of life thus far. We sell products that will fix that devastating gray hair and wrinkles so you can look like you did 20 years ago so no one will ever have to know just how old you really are.

Joshua was there as a young aide to Moses when the 10 Commandments were given and the people were told that if they followed the commandments and feared the Lord they would be blessed. They would be able to cross the Jordan, increase greatly, prosper in the Promised Land and enjoy long life (Deuteronomy 6, specifically verse 2 for long life). Getting old is a blessing. And VERY old, a double blessing! “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24 NIV). When God told Joshua he was VERY OLD, this was definitely not a put-down as some would read it today. It was a compliment to Joshua and a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

We would do well to regain a thankfulness for every day we are “kept alive”, rather than constantly trying to turn back the clock. As well as, looking up to those who have been kept alive longer.

Job 12:12 — Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Proverbs 16:31 —Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Remember too, that God was not saying this to Joshua in the final verse, final chapter of Joshua’s life. We are still in chapter 13 and Joshua won’t be dead and gone until chapter 24 (at the ripe old age of 110). Yes, a lot of the ACTION of the book of Joshua, as well as the life of Joshua has been completed by chapter 13…but God is certainly NOT done putting Joshua to work! Biblehub.com gives a timeline of Joshua’s life and they suggest that Joshua will live 24 more years from this point. We can’t give away everything that is yet to be done in the rest of Joshua’s life and book, but God has a lot more direction and guidance to give to His servant Joshua and Joshua does it. Just a few verses down from God’s VERY OLD comment, we read how God says HE himself will continue the work of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and He wants Joshua to “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6 NIV). It doesn’t help to have taken the land, if no one will be there to justly divide it and distribute it. Even though Joshua’s work at the thrilling battle front just may be winding down, there is still a lot of important work to be done. Going from the front lines to the desk job isn’t a demotion. Your ministry may look different through the years. Be thankful for the long life and listen to see what He wants you to do next!

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

If God helps you escape death today, praise Him for it and be thankful for yet another day to dig in His Word, to serve Him and watch Him carry your burdens.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

Creating a Nation

Psalm 65-66 and Joshua 11-12

Joshua and the Israelites are getting things done and cleaning up Canaan land. Piece by piece, city by city, town by town, they are accepting their inheritance – the Promised Land that God has been preparing for them the past 430 years.

Beginning with the promise made to Abraham, the old man with no offspring, that if he followed God he would be made into the father of a great nation that would occupy the land. The promise was passed down to Isaac his miracle child, and given again to Isaac’s son Jacob, the father of 12 sons/tribes. It was these brothers that were saved by Joseph when he brought his family to Egypt to survive the famine in their land. A new pharaoh brought the Israelites into slavery and for the next few generations their numbers continued to grow in Egypt. Then Moses entered the scene with the 10 Plagues and “Let My People Go”.

This hasn’t been the easy way to grow a nation. But, God doesn’t have to go the easy route. He was not just creating any nation, but creating a holy nation that called on Him and relied on Him and followed Him.

In Joshua 11:15-16a it is recorded, “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took this entire land…”

The work passed on to the next generation and the promise passed on to the next generation. And here they were, back in the land where Abraham had pitched his tent. They were seeing the fulfillment of so many years of waiting and watching to see how God would make His promises come true. They had seen the waters of the Jordan stop flowing at flood stage so they could cross into this land. They had felt the ground shake when the walls of Jericho came down. They had witnessed the sun standing still! This was not a usual way to create a nation, because they did not have a usual God!

I love that this same awe of God is found about 200 years later in the writings of David. David is still writing about when God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6), as well as His majestic creation, His forgiveness, His care through rain and crops, and His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).

I especially love a passage from yesterday’s Psalm reading – Psalm 62:11-12

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard;

that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

We serve a strong and loving God who rewards his faithful children. It is not enough for God to just be powerful (that could be scary). It is not enough for God to just be loving (that is also scary if you consider a loving but powerless God). But a loving and powerful God is the one I want to follow. He will have good things for His children and the strength to deliver them. Just as He delivered in mighty ways for the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land under the outstretched arm of Joshua, God is now preparing the fulfillment of all His promises in the Coming Kingdom of God which will be ushered in at the return of His Son Jesus. And that is an event you don’t want to miss.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 11-12 and Psalm 65-66

Friend or Foe?

Don’t be Deceived!

Joshua 9-10

The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.

Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.

The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.

What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).

I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.

Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?

God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.

Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8

Don’t be deceived. Trust God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 9-10 and Psalm 62-64