We’re Marching to Zion

Zechariah 8-14

My mother always loved to put together puzzles, the more pieces, the better. It always amazed me how patiently she would work at it, but in the end, when all the pieces were together you could quite clearly see the complete picture. As I read Zechariah, all the puzzle pieces haven’t been assembled yet, and we can’t see clearly the complete picture, but we can see the incredible love that God has for Israel, the land, and his children.

Chapters 1-6 is about the rebuilding of the physical temple, Chapters 7-8 are about them obeying the laws of God, and Chapters 9-14 tells that God will send a Messiah who will be Priest and King. This Messiah will take away our sin and he will rule over us.

He has promised to bless those who returned from exile to Jerusalem.  In 8:3, He says “I will return to Zion, And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the Lord of hosts, The Holy Mountain.” Then we skip down to 8:8 “I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, They shall be My people And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness.” He wanted them to build His temple in Zion once again, and he encourages them to let their hands be strong, and not to worry about their enemies because He will protect them.  8:21 says “Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord And seek the Lord of hosts.”  It even says that people from other languages will grasp the sleeve of the Jews and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” He tells the people that He will take care of them. He will protect them from their enemies. He has promised them good things, but it always comes with a choice for the people. It has been a choice for them during this entire story, just as it is a choice for us today. They must obey his commands.

In 9:9, we have a prophecy about Jesus “Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey. A colt, the foal of a donkey.”  This was fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in the New Testament. They were looking to their King to come like Thor in the Avengers with power and great glory. They imagined their Messiah coming in on a royal stallion as a warrior to save them. In verses 11-17, he asserts that He will save His people, His flock.  In Chapter 12 he writes about the coming deliverance of Jerusalem. In Chapter 13:9b “They will call on My name, And I will answer them, I will say, This is My people, And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Chapter 14 is a victorious chapter about the coming of Jesus. When Jesus comes back the Second time, he will be coming as a victorious warrior, who will save His people. 14:9 says “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be- The Lord is one, And His name one.” I may not understand everything that Zechariah is saying but I know the most important thing is that God loves us, one day Jesus will come back as our Messiah, and Savior and will set up the Kingdom of God, and God will dwell with us in Zion. As Zechariah’s name proclaims, “the Lord has remembered”; He has remembered His promise to his children and the promise will be fulfilled.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Zechariah 8-14

Tomorrow we begin the exciting book of Esther (chapters 1-5) as we continue on our

Are You An Accountable Watchman?

Ezekiel 1 – 4

Ezekiel 3 17 NIV sgl

 

The prophet Ezekiel was among the Jewish exiles taken to Babylon.  While there, he had amazing visions of God, which are recorded numerous times throughout the book of Ezekiel.  In chapter 1, we read about his first vision.  He started by describing four cherubim inside a fire in great detail, including each of the four faces per cherub, and what their feet looked like (not what you might expect), he went on to describe in detail what their wheels looked like. And that was just the introduction.  He then went on to describe God’s throne, sitting on a platform above the cherubim, and then he went on to describe the glory of God that he saw sitting on the throne.  If you want the details, you’ll have to read Ezekiel chapter 1.

 

During this encounter, God told Ezekiel that He was sending Ezekiel as a prophet to the people of Israel.  God told Ezekiel in 2:7, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

 

Then, in 3:18-19, we read this, “17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.”

 

Wait a minute.  Does verse 18 really say that God will hold Ezekiel accountable for the blood of the wicked if he doesn’t warn them?  Yes it does.

 

God demands obedience.  And there is always punishment for disobedience.  That disobedience can range from eating forbidden fruit in a garden, to doing things He prohibited, to not doing things He requires.  In this case Ezekiel is commanded explicitly to warn Israel to return to the Lord, and he is warned that if he disobeys, there will be consequences.  As we read throughout the rest of the book, we will find that Ezekiel obeyed faithfully, but it cost him dearly.

 

We have been given some similar commands.  Jesus told his followers to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”  In 1 Peter 2:9, we find, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

Remember, as we’re told in 1 John 2:4, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

 

Will you obey?

Steve Mattison

 

P.s.  If you want the recipe for Ezekiel bread, please read chapter 4.  And while you’re there, please pay special attention to Ezekiel’s dining conditions.

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Ezekiel 1-4

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 5-8 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Why are You Destroying Yourself?

Jeremiah 41-45

Jeremiah 44_71 NLT sgl

Life is often not what we expect.  The last few days we have read about the Jews who went into exile to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar.  This was punishment from God for turning their backs on Him and following after their own selfish interests – false gods.  No doubt it would be very difficult to be uprooted from your homeland and all you have ever known to be taken to a foreign land – with a strange new language, foods, neighbors, rulers, homes and customs.  It would be easy to think that the ones left behind to stay in Judah were the lucky ones.  But, that would depend on how they acted.  After having just witnessed their brothers’ and sisters’ tragic deportation, you would have thought they may have learned their lesson and stuck a bit closer to God’s guidelines.  But….then you would read today’s Bible reading (Jeremiah 41-45) and find out mankind doesn’t always do the wise thing.

When Babylon invaded Jerusalem the foreign commanding officer released Jeremiah from prison and gave him the option of going to Babylon and being well cared for in a foreign land, or staying with those left behind.  He (or God) chose for him to stay behind – perhaps knowing how much the people still needed a word from the Lord – if they would listen.  Before the Babylonians left town with their captives they set up Gedaliah as governor of the land.  But just 3 months later he is assassinated by Ishmael who also kills several Babylonian soldiers, some Judeans who were loyal to Gedaliah, as well as 70 travelers who had come to worship at the burned down temple.  Next, Ishmael kidnaps the king’s daughters and others that had been under Gedaliah’s care.  Violence, treachery and strife are still rampant in the land.

It seems like a bright new start when Johanan saves the day and Ishmael runs away and the people ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do.  The people want to head to Egypt as they are scared Babylon will hear that the governor they left was killed and come to punish the whole tribe.  But they sound so brave and upright when they say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us.  Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5,6).   

Ten days later, Jeremiah tells them God says stay and He will protect you.  It should have been good news, and not too hard to follow.  But, suddenly their eloquent words mean nothing.  Because they were really hoping and thinking God would say to go.  That’s what they wanted to do – so that’s what they would do – regardless of a good speech about following God.  Suddenly, it was more convenient to call Jeremiah the liar and continue packing their bags in defiance of all God said, thus shattering the promise they had just made.

Jeremiah tells them that war, strife, famine, persecution and death will follow them to Egypt.  There is not a safe place to go to disobey God.  But off they go.  Totally disregarding God, they turned again to their false gods that would give them the answers they wanted to hear and let them go where they wanted to go and let them do what they wanted to do.

They thought they had won.  But they were actually destroying themselves (Jeremiah 44:7a NLT).  Just as Jeremiah foretold, Egypt was not a safe place.

It still happens today.  People who commit to follow God anywhere – until they decide they would rather make the rules and the map.  And, if you listen carefully to God and His Word, you can still hear Him say, “Why are you destroying yourselves?”.    Examine yourself and see if there are any ways you are breaking your commitment to God, and thus destroying yourself.  He has offered protection and hope for those who rely on Him and follow Him with their whole life.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 41-45.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 46-48 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Reasons to Obey

Deuteronomy 5-7

Deuteronomy 5 33 NIV

I had an oppsortunity to teach the importance of keeping the Name of God holy a few weeks ago. A five year old was loudly saying “God” clearly showing that she was surprised by something that was going on. I helped her understand that because we love and respect God that we would never use His name this way. Thankfully that is the last time that she has expressed surprise in that manner.

But this experience reminded me of Moses. He was not only the person that was bringing the people the Law-he wanted them to understand and practice it. We may hear that we should not misuse the name of God, but when we really enter into a genuine, loving relationship with God, we would only use His name with sincere words from our heart.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses summoned all Israel in order to recount the decrees and laws to them. He wanted the Israelites to learn them and follow them. He reminded the people that they were involved in a covenant with God.  The Law showed the Israelites which actions were right and wrong. God wanted them to know how to live as His holy people. He wanted them to know how to interact with Him and others. He wanted them to “walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

God still wants us to “live and prosper” today. We are His people, His family.

When we experience God’s love our motivation for doing what is right is produced from a place of love. (Deuteronomy 6) Christ later explained the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+5-7&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

 

A Firm Foundation

Proverbs 24

Proverbs 24 3 NIV

 

My husband and I both grew up in families that were involved in the building industry. His family had a building/remodeling company in Minnesota and my family provided materials for the industry in Michigan. We were both raised with a knowledge and understanding for the industry so when it came time to build our own home, we were super excited to take on the task.

 

We didn’t just wake up one day and say let’s go build a house! It was a process with very specific steps; first, you needed a blueprint to know what you are doing. There are building codes you need to adhere to. You also don’t want to use cheap materials or cut corners. Wisdom is needed in the construction process.

 

Today’s proverb uses building as an analogy, in 24:3-4 it says “by wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” The term house in the Bible also can mean home, family or even legacy. Here Solomon is telling us that we need wisdom (an understanding of knowledge and the fear of God) to establish our home and family. Establishing a family is also a process where you want to make good choices, plan ahead and measure risks. Most importantly is the foundation of your family; you need it to be “established” on a firm basis of Godly wisdom so it will withstand the storms of life. The result will be that your rooms (or life) will be filled with rare and beautiful treasures (children, relationships, community).

 

Jesus reinforces this principle in the New Testament with the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. In Matthew 7, he illustrates that if you build your life on obedience to God and the teachings of Jesus, then your house will be built on the rock.  When the storms of life come at us, the house will stand firm. Whereas if you build your house like the foolish man on the sand, you will ultimately fall (cue Sunday School song here).

 

If we want our families, marriages, parent/children relationships, etc. to succeed in the way in which God would desire our relationships to be , then we MUST operate in the wisdom of God. We cannot depend on our human wisdom. James 1:5 says if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

 

Establish your life and family on the firm foundation of God and his wisdom and you will have a structure that withstands the storms of this life!

 

Erin Bormes

 

 

She Calls Out, But Is Ignored

Proverbs

Proverbs 1 20 a

The wisdom of God is personified as a woman in Proverbs 1:20-33.

20 “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
21 on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:”

These verses paint a picture of Lady Wisdom loudly crying out in the middle of the city for people to listen.  She is desperately trying to get everyone’s attention.  The suggestion here is that God wants everyone to hear and respond to his wisdom.  Furthermore, everyone is eventually going to hear the loud calls, and will have to make the decision to either accept or ignore the offer.

 

Although wisdom is loudly calling out, few are listening to her.  The simple, the mockers and the fools are all ignoring her pleas.

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?”

 

Many will ignore the calls for wisdom, but the wisdom of God is available to those who do listen and turn from their sinful ways.

23 “Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.”

Nobody likes to be rebuked, to be strongly reprimanded, or have their actions criticized.  However, God will give understanding and wisdom to those that do repent when they have been rebuked.

 

Next the attention switches back to all those that continually fail to listen to God’s wisdom and are instead pursuing their own desires.

24 “But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
25 since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.”

These verses reiterate that this group of people had the opportunity to listen to wisdom and obey God’s truths, but they instead willingly choose to ignore God.  There are consequences for their choices.  Notice that these verses state when disaster strikes and when calamity overtakes, not if disaster strikes or if calamity overtakes.

 

The next passage illustrates the need to seek wisdom before we act.  Once we have acted foolishly or sinned, we must face the consequences.  Even if we ask for forgiveness and repent, there are often still consequences that we have to face.

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

We must wisely choose the correct path so that we can avoid disaster or calamity.  Too often we spend so much energy and time trying to get out of tough spots and wiggle our way out of bad situations that were brought on by our own poor choices. We would be far better off to listen to wisdom and avoid these bad situations and tough spots altogether.

 

The last two verses in the chapter contrast the foolish and the wise man.

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Failing to follow God’s wisdom has consequences.  Consequences now, but ultimately the greatest consequence will be on the final day of judgement.  Similarly, wisely following God’s plan does not guarantee a problem free life, but it will give you peace and joy in this life, and most importantly it will ensure a perfect and eternal life in the kingdom.

Jill McClain

What Kind of Heart Do You Have?

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 10

The messes people get themselves into.  Moses had gone off to the top of the mountain to be with God.  Out of that mountain God called out to Moses and laid out a wonderful plan for his people.  God told Moses that He had done wonderful things for His people, Israel, and that His people had seen with their own eyes what He had done to those miserable Egyptians.  Through those terrible trials with the Egyptians, God had been like an eagle and had bore His people, Israel, on His wings and had brought His people to Himself.  They were safe.  They were free.  They had a wonderful future ahead of them.  He described those blessings to them.  Israel would be His very own treasured possession, they would be a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.  Oh, the life, safe in the arms of the God of the universe!  It was theirs.  All they had to do was…. if only…why couldn’t they have done what He asked?  Oh, the messes we get ourselves into (Exodus 19:3-6)!

It would have been simple.  Very simple.  If only.  Instead they decided to build that stupid calf.  Not only did they build a calf, but they used their own treasured possessions to build it.  They gave up their own treasured possessions of gold to build a calf which would cause them to lose their position as the most treasured possession of God Himself.

All they had to do was simply obey God’s voice.  Instead they decided to obey the voice of sin.  Aaron described them well.  He told Moses, “you know these people.  All they think about is evil.”  (Exodus 32:22).  All they had to do was simple…simply listen to the voice of God Who had delivered them out of the worse mess they had ever been in while they were in Egypt.  All they had to do was listen to the voice of Him who loved them the most and keep His commandments.

God’s anger burned hot against His people! Moses’ anger burned hot against the people!  Then things really turned crazy!  Moses came down that mountain with his hands full carrying the commandments of God, written by God Himself, on two stone tablets front and back (Ex. 32:15-19).  It doesn’t say, but I think Moses’ might have thought he could straighten out the people by showing them those stone tablets containing the commandments of God.  Instead, they became part of the carnage.  When Moses saw what the people were doing, dancing and singing and worshiping a stupid calf, he threw those tablets made of stone and they broke in a million pieces.  He then took that golden calf, burned it and ground it to powder, then scattered it on the water and made the people drink it!  Their precious golden calf made by their precious golden jewelry was gone forever!

But God was not through with them yet.  God sent a plague on the people because they (correction – Aaron) made the calf.  We reap what we sow.  (Exodus 32:35).

End of story, right?  Nope.  God was not through with them yet.

Let’s fast forward to Hebrews 8.  Amazingly God was not through with the house of Israel and the house of Judah yet.  Here, Paul tells us that God is establishing a new covenant with them and with us.  The first one, written on tablets of stone long ago, will be replaced with one written in our minds and on our hearts.  Until the commandments and promises of God are written on our hearts and become flesh, we cannot become new people.   We are simply stone people. This new covenant, of which Jesus is the high priest, will not be displayed on tablets of stone which can be broken into a million pieces, but will be in our hearts and minds. Our old heart of stone will be removed, and a new heart of flesh will be given to us (Ezekiel 11:19).  This new covenant will change our minds and hearts because Jesus, the new high priest, is able to save us to the uttermost (completely and at all times).

What kind of heart do you have?  One of stone which serves sin and will break in a million pieces when sin is exposed?  Or one of flesh which loves and serves God who considers us His most treasured possession?

Luke Elwell

Submission to Governing Authorities

Romans 13 1

Romans Chapter 13  

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

 

Wow, this is a tough passage for me.  I hate politics.  Or more accurately, I really dislike polices, laws, and politicians that I disagree with, especially on a moral basis.  We live in a country where it is legal to end the life of a human baby, for no other reason than the mother just doesn’t want it.  I have a big problem with that.  So how do I deal with that reality in light of this scripture passage?

 

It would seem that God has allowed the people to be in position that have allowed abortion to become law of the land.  And yet God certainly would not approve of this law or many others that exist in our country and other countries.  Worse yet, we are told to submit to these authorities.

 

The truth is, God does not condone all of the decisions of government. He simply allows them to be in place.  Sometimes He may use rulers to bless people, sometimes He may use rulers to judge people and sometimes we may not know why he has certain rulers in place.  But regardless, the simple message from Paul is that we need to submit to authority in general.  This is a model of submission to God.  Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, it was during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

 

Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man.  John and Peter demonstrated that in Acts 4:18-19.

 

I have to live with and submit to the authorities that God has put in charge, but that by no means requires me to blindly follow every edict from those same authorities if it means breaking God’s law.  God is the supreme authority, and His rule is superior to anyone He has placed in lesser authority over us.

 

Greg Landry

 

Silence and Submission

but Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge

This week, we’ve seen Jesus be the peaceful yet persistent diplomat. He’s preached about turning the cheek and walking the extra mile. He’s told stories about forgiveness and even flipped over tables. Today, we see Jesus be silent. Matthew 27:11-14 tells of the exchange between Jesus and Pilate shortly after Jesus’ arrest:

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

 

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

On the surface, the story of Jesus before Pilate is about a conflict between, you guessed it, Jesus and Pilate. On a deeper level, it’s the resolution of a conflict between Jesus and God. The night before this encounter, Jesus was severely troubled by God’s will.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 27:36-39)

Jesus repeats this prayer two more times. He earnestly pleads to his Father to provide him a way out. Jesus is obviously conflicted because he wants to obey his Father, but he also doesn’t want to die. Jesus’ sentiments seem familiar. I often find myself wanting to obey God, but wishing God would call me to do something different. God has given each of us a cup, too. I find some of the things God has filled my cup with really fun and exciting, like getting to teach the middle schoolers at my church every week. Other things that God has filled my cup with are a lot harder to swallow. Loving my enemies? Forgiving those who have hurt me? Denying myself? Obedience and submission to God’s will is not a pick and choose; it’s an all or nothing.

Jesus refuses to defend himself before Pilate as an act of obedience toward God, it’s the resolution of last night’s conflict. It’s Jesus saying, “Okay, God, not my will, but Your will.” In his silence, there is submission. Jesus’ cup was beyond difficult to swallow, but he did it for God—he did it for you and me.

What’s in your cup? Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

God >Men

acts 5 29

Acts 5:27-32

God’s Not Dead. These movies are inspiring to me. Especially the second one, where the teacher is put on trial for her comments about Jesus. Now I don’t remember the whole story but I believe she wins the court case in the end, even though she had to go through some rash times. This movie sets a modern example for what Peter and John had dealt with in Acts 5:27-32.

Peter and John are once again preaching the Gospel and spreading the news of Jesus’ resurrection when they are stopped by the High Priests and associates. They were told before to not speak of Jesus or the resurrection otherwise they would be punished. But even in the presence of powerful men Peter answers with this “We must obey God rather than man.” (Does this sound familiar? Peter himself once tried to rebuke Jesus and almost this same phrase came from Jesus’ mouth. Matthew 16:23) After that Peter and John were flogged and released, but they were glad they were able to suffer for obeying God.

In God’s Not Dead 2 the teacher did not recant her words. Meaning she willingly accepted any punishment that would be appropriate in court – including losing her teaching license. It may not seem comparable to Peter and John, however it still was a big deal.

Here is my takeaway, Christianity is not fluffy. Christ call us to “Take up our cross” and follow Him. This means that when we speak the Gospel and we stand up to obey God rather than men, that it may be the most difficult thing we do.

 

Jesse Allen

 

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