The Goal

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 1 NIV

I think the ultimate goal of Christianity is to have a relationship with God. I think this is ultimately the goals of our lives as well if you believe in God. I once heard Pastor Vince Finnegan, Sean’s dad, say that as long as he had his relationship with God nothing else really mattered. He said this years ago and it has still stuck with me to this day. This is crazy because despite my ability to intensely focus on things there are days that I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached to my body.

Back to my point I wanted to open up by reminding you what is the point of our lives.

No one starts out running marathons by just running a marathon or hiking really huge mountains by just going and doing it. You have to start out by training for a marathon or hiking smaller mountains. You need to build endurance to complete formidable tasks. The cost of admission for hiking that larger mountain or running that marathon is rigorous training before hand. If you only do half of the marathon training, you probably won’t be able to run the whole marathon. That’s generally just a rule of life.

The real life long question for me is how can I draw closer to God and I think Ps. 24 lays out a way in which we can do that. You should go ahead and read it all the way through right now then we will talk about it some more.

I love the way this Psalm opens and I think it is super appropriate for what David is going to ask in verse 2 as well. David opens up the Psalm by acknowledging and praising God for his creation. He says that the earth is the Lord’s and all who dwell in it. If you read yesterday’s devo you know I love the idea that all I am and all I have is God’s. “I deserve nothing and I have been given everything” is probably my favorite saying and David’s opening lines feed directly into that. The reason I think it is so appropriate that David opens the Psalm like this is because he is acknowledging the greatness of God. He is acknowledging that we really haven’t done anything and don’t really deserve anything from God.

Verse 3 is the focal point of this psalm. David says “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?”. This isn’t just talking about standing on a hill or standing in God’s holy place just to stand there. And to clarify no one is worthy. Well, except Jesus. Jesus is always the exception and the answer. Haha.

Back to what I was saying before I distracted myself. David isn’t only saying this to proclaim God’s greatness. Ascending the hill of the Lord and entering his holy place are ways in which we can draw close to God. Psst… remember the opening paragraph. So, whatever comes next may be pretty important for us.

Verse 4 says “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, and doesn’t lift up his soul to what is false?” Remember what I was saying earlier about the cost of admission? Here it is. The disappointing part is that even if we cover the cost of admission we still need God’s help to cover the rest of it but that’s in the next verse. So, what do you think clean hands and a pure heart is? I think I can probably define it but I’m gonna take the easy way out with this one and say being like Jesus. Remember the answer is ALWAYS Jesus. So, to define living like Jesus is much easier for me; it’s living a life where from my heart my actions reflect love of God and his people. I just don’t see Jesus getting angry because he had to help another person because his actions where overflowing from a pure heart. The goal here is becoming more like Jesus.

I love the way that David phrases this second part ‘don’t lift up your soul to what is false.’ It speaks of something so true. Anything that we look to for satisfaction from, other than God, is false. We can give it life and make it out to be true but it will not satisfy.

In verse 5 it says that, “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” It says here that we will receive righteousness from the Lord as well. God is even supplying righteousness in the areas in which we are lacking in order to draw close to him.

Verse 6 gets to the heart of what we have been talking about here. God is looking for those people who will seek his face and draw close to him.

I pray that God will help me to draw closer to Him by cleansing my hands and purifying my heart and helping change my heart. That my actions would be an out pouring of my heart and I could become holy as he is holy and draw closer to him.

Bonus Material: If you wanted to read another Psalm similar to this one Psalm 15 is great as well.

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+1-2%2C+15%2C+22-24%2C+47%2C+68&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 89, 96, 100, 101, 105 & 132 as we continue with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Do You Have a King?

Judges 19-21

Judges 21 25 NIV

If Judges 19-21 were made into a movie, I would not go and see it. It’s too gruesome. It’s too graphic.

And yet, it’s recorded within the Word of God.
Why did all these terrible and awful things happen? We’re told at the beginning of Judges 19 and it’s stated again at the end of Judges 21, as well as recorded multiple times throughout the book of Judges: “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
When societies and individuals do nothing to invest in a relationship with God, our moral compasses become messed up, our values and priorities get out of alignment, our behavior goes out of control.
Let’s not sugar coat this – this passage of Scripture certainly doesn’t – our actions have consequences. What may seem like something small and innocent can end up wrecking havoc on not just your life, but the lives of others.
Twenty years ago I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. I was stopped at a red light and I heard screeching tires behind me and suddenly my car lurched forward hitting the car in front of me. I had a cassette tape (Google it) sitting half-way in the tape deck. Thanks to Newton’s First Law of Inertia, it ended up in my back seat. And I ended up with whiplash. My neck and back have never quite been the same.
I’m sure that the driver had no intention of getting into a car wreck as he consumed his alcohol and then decided to get behind the wheel, but it happened. I certainly had no realization that when I got in my car to head home from a friend’s house, that my life would change due to someone else’s reckless choices, but it happened.
Whether it’s drinking and driving, or telling a “small lie”, or cheating on a test, or being unfaithful in a relationship these behaviors have consequences. When we start to do our own thing rather than submit to God, life gets messed up and people get hurt.
Thankfully, God sees fit to forgive and redeem. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” How awesome is it that God longs to still want to have a relationship with messed up people?!?! This includes you and me.
We have a King – will you acknowledge Him? Instead of letting your passions and desires rule your heart, will you humble yourself and submit to Him? Let the love of God cover you today.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow we will be reading the book of Ruth as we continue (or begin) our Bible reading plan.  Print your own copy here 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and mark off each day’s reading.  What is God wanting to tell you in your waiting – open His book and find out!  

Seek!

Jer 29 13

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Most Christians, myself included, are eager for God’s blessings, assistance, and attentiveness to our needs. We crave to know our Creator in an intimate way and desire that He listens to our prayers. However, we often forget that there needs to be effort on our part as well. In the same way that a relationship with a spouse is a 2-way street, requiring effort from both members of the relationship, so we are expected to put some effort into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are told, clear as day, that we will only achieve that intimate relationship with God when we “seek after Him with all of our heart”.

 

When I was growing up, I often went to church services and programs, but never put any effort into developing my faith. I assumed that, because Jesus died for my sins, that I wasn’t expected to do anything else. I told myself, “God knows I’m just young and dumb. He will forgive me”, without ever considering how much I personally needed to change and seek after Him. It took a dramatic act of God to get my attention and drive me to look deeper into my relationship with Him. Fortunately, God led me to Atlanta Bible College, where I was able to pursue Him intentionally and with great vigor. It was during this time that I truly felt that my relationship with Him had really  begun.

 

While not everybody’s story is the same as mine, the same command from God applies to all of us: “Seek me”. We need to be intentionally developing our relationship further with our Father if we expect Him to do the same for us. So, as we begin a new year and a new decade, I want you to consider the following questions:

 

  1. How is my relationship with God and Jesus currently?
  2. How much effort am I putting into that relationship?
  3. What can I do to develop that relationship further this year?

 

May you be blessed as you seek after your Heavenly Father in 2020!

-Talon Paul

 

One way to be Seeking God in 2020 is to commit to daily being in His Word – a most wonderful place to find Him!  Come join us on a chronological Bible reading plan!  Print out the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and start reading on January 1.  Subscribe to be a follower at the SeekGrowLove.com site and you will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s reading.  Come Seek Him!  You won’t be disappointed when He shows Himself to you.  It’s well worth the effort!   And, change a life by inviting a friend to seek with you.                                         – Marcia Railton, Editor

Overcome

Revelation 2

To him who OVERCOMES
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”  Revelation 2:7
One of the phrases I would like you all to notice and underline when it repeats is this, “To him who overcomes”. This phrase refers to specific obstacles in Revelation 2 however this phrase could mean any obstacle in the way of your relationship with God. If you overcome your greatest fears and struggles and rely on Jesus, your relationship with God will thrive.
Jesse Allen

Tâmîym, ʼâbad, kâlâh and kârath

Psalm 37 22

            Today, we are in the middle of the week and we find ourselves in the middle of our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) of Psalm 37.* Today’s reading is a little more in-depth, so if you’re in a hurry you might wish to come back to this at a time later today when you can invest a few minutes into reading/praying.  My goal here is not just to give you a fish and feed you for a day but to teach you how to fish so you can learn to feed yourself for the rest of your life (and feed others).

            Remember, the purpose of Lectio is to draw us into God’s presence and rest through reading, meditating upon and praying with the Bible.  While the goal is not simply intellectual understanding, but relationship with God, it is still important that when we read and meditate we are doing so correctly.  We want to be as accurate as possible about the meaning of God’s Word.  We want to think about what it actually says and what it meant when it was written and what it means for us today.  It wouldn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time meditating upon something that was not correct.

            If you have internet access, there are some tools readily available which cost nothing and can help you.

            One tool is Bible Gateway.  I began working in a Christian bookstore when I was attending George Mason University back in 1982.  I became aware of a lot of different Bible translations that were available (beyond the King James).  I started building a library of various Bible translations and nearly 40 years later I have over 50 different translations on my bookshelves.  You can now get almost every one of those translations (and many more) on Bible Gateway.  Choose the text you wish to study, and choose which translations you wish to use and you can see a side by side comparison of the texts.  This can be helpful when you are studying a Biblical passage.  It can help you understand the nuances of meaning.  Some translations are more or less word for word, while others are more thought for thought.  There are also paraphrase versions which attempt to convey the meaning in modern contextual language.

            The second tool is Blue Letter Bible.  While the available translations are fewer than on Bible Gateway, BLB allows you to do a detailed analysis and word study of various words.  You can look up the original Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek words and see some of the various ways that word is used in the Bible and have a greater understanding of what the Bible was saying back when originally written and you bridge that into modern day language/ways of thinking and speaking.

            With that said, I’ve identified 4 key words that are used in today’s reading and give you a summary of the word meaning and usage in the Bible:

תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’;  entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also   integrity, truth:—without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely, sound, without spot, undefiled, upright, whole.

אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’; to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish:—break, destroy(-uction), not escape, fail, lose, (cause to, make) perish, spend, be undone, utterly, be void of, have no way to flee.

כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’; to end, to cease, be finished, perish, consume, destroy (utterly), be done, , expire, fail, faint, finish, fulfill, wholly reap, make clean riddance, spend, take away, waste.

כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’; to cut off, down or asunder, by implication, to destroy or consume; destroy, fail, lose, perish.

With that background in place, you are ready to proceed with today’s Lectio Divina reading of Psalm 37:18-22.

  1. Read.  Read through the passage slowly, at least 3 times:

18 The blameless (תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’) spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish (אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’):
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed (כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’), they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed (כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’)

  1. Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase from the text to  meditate upon/ think deeply about.

For me, I chose 3 words- perish, consumed, and destroyed.  Those who are wicked will perish, be consumed and destroyed.  The Hebrew abad contains the idea of wander away, lose oneself, have no way to flee, be destroyed.

            As I think about what this means I’m reminded of the story of Christopher McCandless whose story is recounted in the book “Into the Wild” (and later movie) written by Jon Krakauer.  Chris was just a few years younger than me and grew up just a few miles from me in Northern Virginia.  After college he decided to ditch everything and walk into the wilderness of Alaska and live off the land.  Unfortunately, he did almost no preparation and he lacked the minimal survival skills necessary for such an adventure.  He crossed through a small stream and found temporary shelter in an abandoned school bus.  Unfortunately, within a short time the stream swelled to an un-crossable raging torrent and Chris was essentially trapped.  He spent weeks and months unable to escape that spot and soon ran out of food and was forced to forage.  He ended up dying of poisoning from eating poisonous berries.

            I tell that brief story because it illustrates the meaning of abad, kalah and karath.  He wandered away and got lost, trapped and had nowhere to flee to and his own foolishness ultimately destroyed his life.  That’s what the Psalm says is happening or will happen to the wicked.  I know that sometimes people have trouble thinking that a loving God would punish or destroy people.  As I think about this Psalm, the greater nuance emerges – God doesn’t choose to punish anyone.  Ultimately we end up punishing ourselves when we wander off the path that God has given us to life.  It’s a matter of cause and effect.

A few weeks ago I went hiking in Zion National Park in Utah.  A gorgeous place.  It had paths and the signs on the paths warned “stay on the path- it is dangerous and life threatening if you leave the path.”  I stayed on the path, it was difficult at times, but I remained safe and returned alive.  Had I veered off the path and ended up falling down a steep embankment to my death, then I alone would have been responsible for my destruction, not the park rangers, or God.

            This Psalm is like the sign on the path: stick to the path or you’ll destroy yourself.  But if you stick to the path, you’ll be blessed with a beautiful inheritance God has planned for you.

            As I personalize this reading I have to ask myself.  When have I gotten off the path God told me to stay on?  Have I ever wandered and gotten lost?  Isaiah 53 says that I, like everyone else, am like a sheep that sometimes wanders away.  How has Jesus, the good shepherd, come searching for me when I’ve wandered astray?  How does the Gospel reveal God’s merciful love and grace that sends his son to seek and save me when I’m lost.  How am I called by Jesus to do this same work of seeking those who are lost and leading them back to the path?

            You might choose a different word or phrase upon which to reflect, but that is an example of how my deep reading of a short part of this text raises some important issues in my mind and heart.

  1.  Pray– I pray a prayer of gratitude to God for loving me enough to go looking for me when I get off the path.  I pray a prayer of confession to God, for I am still “prone to wander” off the path.  I recognize the important mission that I’ve been given by God to join the search for others who have gone off the path and the responsibility I have to point the people in my care- my family, my Church, my co-workers, my community, to the one who guides them back to the right path and helps them stay on the path, Jesus.  I invite you to bring to prayer whatever you’ve been meditating upon.
  2. Rest in God.  I’m so grateful to God for his mercy and love.  I’ve been lost, but now I’m safely in the arms of my loving God.  I invite you to rest in God too.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer back to the Sunday, August 11th  devotion.

Be Still

psalm 37 7a (2)

Happy Monday!

This week we are focusing on only 1 chapter, Psalm 37.  We are reading a few verses each day and we are using a Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) format.  If you are unfamiliar with Lectio Divina go back and read Sunday’s devotion which gives the explanation.  Go ahead… I’ll wait!

Remember:

  1. Read
  2. Meditate
  3. Pray
  4. Rest in God

(Note, this does not lend itself to being on the go.  It is better when you have a few minutes to sit and quietly read, reflect and pray).

Psalm 37:5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,

your vindication like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret—it leads only to evil.

9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,

but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land

and enjoy peace and prosperity.

  1. Read through this slowly, several times. (at least 3)
  2. Choose a word or phrase that especially speaks to you.  Spend some time chewing over that word or phrase.  I chose “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”  What does it mean for me to “be still before the Lord?”  Is this talking about my body?  My mind?  My heart?  Is there any area of my life about which I’m feeling restless or disturbed?  What is causing that restlessness?  Am I having trouble being patient about something?  Can I name what that is?  Why might I be having trouble being patient about this particular issue?  Am I habitually impatient or is this unusual for me? Wait!  I’m still not being still.  Breathe.  Let go of my thoughts and simply “be still.”
  3. Pray.  Bring whatever has arisen to God in prayer.  Have a conversation with God as you would with any other good friend or loved one.  Trust that whatever you bring to God, God will hear and will understand.
  4. Rest in God.  After you pray, simply release whatever has caused you to be “un-still” and rest in God’s love for you.

(Note: verse 11 is one that Jesus himself quoted in his Sermon on the Mt.  You might want to reflect on this verse.  What does it mean to be meek?  What does it mean to inherit the land, or earth as Jesus phrased it in Matthew 5:5?  What does your understanding of your future inheritance look like?  Here it seems that we are promised earth or land as inheritance as opposed to heaven.  How does a future eternity on earth sound as a hoped for reward?)

There are many fruitful issues that could emerge with each verse.  Can you see how Lectio Divina as a way of reading the Bible can really open up a Bible verse and immerse you in the text and bring you into conversation with God?  If you practice these skills every day this week you will have in your spiritual toolbox a great resource for growing in your relationship with God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

Different – Like Jesus

Mark6BellaPic

Mark 6

 

Wow! It’s now been a full week since Fuel ended, and I’m sure that many of you who attended are, like me, missing your friends, your classes, the sessions, and the overall atmosphere. But hopefully, we have been able to take what we learned that week and apply it to the way we live our everyday lives. How to be (drum roll, please)…DIFFERENT! We can see many examples of how to be different and serve the way Jesus served in Mark chapter 6. I think of this chapter as a sort of series of steps telling us how we are meant to serve.

So Jesus starts this chapter off with saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) The King James version actually says, “in his own country.” So in essence, he’s telling us, “Hey, I know you like your friends, your family, your home, and it’s easy to feel comfortable there, but I need you to GO OUT and share the truth with the world.” It is not God’s will for us to stay confined to our own little nook of the world. We have to go love everybody, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, and love people there.

The next main point Jesus gets to is that when you stop in a town to share the truth with people, they might not accept it; they may simply say “no”. In that case, our job is to “shake the dust off our feet” (Mark 6:11), and move on. Because what happens when we stay in one place, working on bringing the same person to the truth for too long? We miss out on bringing so many other people to the truth! If someone is not willing to accept the truth and live for God, we have to know that it’s time to move on and find people who are. Because our mission is to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.

After the sad and brutal story of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus told the disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31) In order to help other people build a relationship with God, we need to keep ours strong. Luke 5:16, one of the memory verses from last week, says “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” So one important step we have to take in our lives is to take the time to go somewhere by ourselves and focus on our own spiritual health, so that we may be better equipped to go out and make disciples.

In verses 33-44, we read about how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It says in verse 34 that Jesus saw them and felt compassion for them. But he didn’t just push the feeling away and continue on; he acted on his compassion. He did something. It may seem impossible to do what Jesus did, but God provides you with the means to do what you are called to do. And it’s not impossible by the way – if God thinks that you should feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake, you will feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake.

Next we come to Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were astonished when he climbed in the boat all nonchalant after walking out to the middle of the sea to calm the winds for them. Why were they so flabbergasted? I mean, they just witnessed him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish! Well, in verse 52 we read that they “had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Don’t let your heart be hardened. Open your eyes to the things God is doing all around you, and let it affect you. Let it change your mindset, your behavior, the very way you live your life. Because that’s why God let Jesus do these crazy things, so that we could see His power and have faith in Him. Later on, in verses 53-56, we see how the people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus and flock to him, assuming that he can heal them, because they know he has before. Flock to Jesus. Know his Father’s power. Trust in Him. Let Him make you different.

 

-Isabella Osborn

 

 

 

 

A Royal Mess

matt 1 1

Day 1 of your new Bible reading. You are psyched! You are committed. You brew a cup of coffee, clean off the kitchen table, and pull out a new set of highlighters.   You grab your large-margined Bible and you open up to your first reading:  Matthew 1. This is it. Your moment of great revelation, and then…you are instantly deflated. Genealogy. Blah. Wait…No…You are committed to do your reading.  You have new highlighters after all! Okay. Here we go. A couple verses down, and…still nothing worth highlighting. “Maybe I will just skim this,” you say to yourself, feeling a compromise is essential to keep up your determination.  The sea of names continues. Sigh. “I think I got the gist, I’ll just go to the end.” Although you made it through Chapter 1, you feel a bit defeated. No highlights; no underlines. You have made a royal mess of your reading.

 

So what is the significance of Matthew 1 anyways? Why not just hop into the Christmas story?  The answer: context. This genealogy of Jesus through his earthly father, Joseph, is to establish the pedigree pointing to Jesus as a descendant of the ruling class of Israel.  God’s so purposely positioned Jesus that there should have been no doubt remaining that Jesus is the Messiah or “The Anointed One”, the one who would reestablish the throne of David.  A fact made instantly clear upon the arrival of the Magi and Herod’s petitioning to and response from the scribes (Matt 2:1-6). As much as God was at work in these plans, He did so in spite of many actions taken by those who make up the family tree.

 

How did the ancestors of Jesus depart from the ways of God? A few quick examples. Abraham laughed at God. Jacob, and subsequently his son, Judah, both betrayed a brother.  David, God’s chosen King, is mentioned alongside his mistress (later turned wife), Bathsheba, and the man he murdered, Uriah. Among the other names are hidden even more wayward actions (idolatry, stealing, lying, etc.), culminating in Jeconiah, who did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 24:9), which leads to a curse that cuts off the line of David, seemingly forever (Jer 22:30).

 

If you only looked at part of their story, collectively, it would seem like a pretty hopeless lot.  Thankfully, many of the these men and women wrestled with, fought for, and maintained their relationship with God.  In the midst of sin, reputation, or nurture, they connected, repented, and praised God. They were a royal mess, a line of sinners seeking God and putting their hope in his promise of redemption and restoration.  It is no surprise that we find many of their names in Hebrews 11, among those who are waiting to receive their promise (v. 39,40) of a hope and heritage found in Jesus Christ.

We are equally “messed-up” and have fallen short of the standards set by our King (Rom 3:23). When we struggle with sin, our history, or circumstance, it makes us feel unworthy of the faith and hope we have. Don’t give in.  Remain Psyched. Wrestle. Fight. Maintain. You may be a mess, but you are a royal mess, an heir according to the promise, directly tracing your spiritual heritage (the only one that matters) to Jesus Christ.(1 Pet 2:9; Amos 9:11) Having these roots means, we receive a special connection to God through His Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17) and are covered by grace when we miss the mark (Eph 2:8,9).  Today, spend some time examining the stories behind these names a bit more closely, but also look at your own faith story. Whether you relationship is God is slightly disharmonious, somewhat distant, or completely disconnected, you are not disowned; your heritage is Jesus Christ. He will restore the throne of David, and He will restore any mess appealed in His name.

-Aaron Winner

God’s Party

Luke 15 32

Thursday, November 22, 2018  Thanksgiving USA

Luke 15:32

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Some people envision God to be somber or angry and punishing. I love this story Jesus told. We often refer to it as the Prodigal Son, with the focus on the bad boy who turned his life around. But I think it has more to do with showing us how much our Father Loves us, and how much joy it brings to him to be in relationship with us. Jesus came to show those whose view of God was somber and dutiful that God is first and foremost about relationship.

God throws a party when we respond to his offer of relationship. Shouldn’t we?

-Jeff Fletcher

You Are Not Alone

matt 4 4 (2)

I just returned from FUEL2018 “Mission” – a great event for youth which brought together students and staff from many states and Canada.  It was better than a week of vacation or band camp or soccer camp or working that good old summer job.    And what made it so powerful was our connection through God’s Word.

I enjoyed reminiscing about a missions trip I had taken with other staff members years ago – a trip in which our mission was to teach about God, His Word, His Son and His Coming Kingdom.  I enjoyed the worship music which helped us praise our Creator (which we read about in Genesis) and remember the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior (as recorded in the gospels).  The general session teachings, classes, workshops and family group times brought Godly men and women speaking God’s Word and how it had impacted them and those they knew.  They spoke wisdom from the Scriptures on who God is, what He desires from His children, who His Son is and how to grow a personal relationship with Him.

And, then we all went home.

Perhaps in some small way we can feel the emotional let-down of the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven and then asked themselves – what next?  They had been so close to God’s representative – his own Son – and now they were separated?  How would they continue learning, growing, acting in his name – without his bodily presence and audible words there to guide the way.

So, too, we can feel a little lost and let-down upon leaving such a spiritually pumped up place as FUEL.  But, remember, you are not alone!

Stick close to your Christian brothers and sisters and mentors.  Get into church this morning – and throughout the year!  Listen well to God’s Words through your pastor and SS teacher and worship leader and youth leader.  Ask questions, look for connections, serve the church body, talk to the lonely, encourage the weak, invite a friend, share what inspired you at FUEL, and then make an opportunity to meet up with some faithful followers sometime this week to encourage and strengthen one another.  In a section sometimes titled “Call to Persevere” the writer of Hebrews gives these directions: “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24,25).  Don’t try being a lone-ranger Christian.  You need the body of believers – and they need you!

And, just as you wouldn’t dream of not eating again until you were back on Manchester’s campus next July, don’t waste away from a lack of God’s Word!  Keep serving yourself daily portions of God’s Word – for this is your source of spiritual food and nourishment.  You are not going home alone when you are going home with God’s Word.  It is here He reveals himself, His love for you, His precious Son, His plan for the ages, His goals and dreams for you, and the Mission He has given you.  It is here he shares all truth and how to be wise against deception and evil.  You can not protect yourself from falling for false worldly Gods if you do not know the true God in His Word.  It is here you learn of His all-mighty power, holiness, wisdom, presence, mercy, forgiveness, as well as His fatherly (good) discipline when needed to help you stay where He wants to bless you.

This blog/email list of daily devotions is one way we want to encourage you to stay in God’s Word every day.  God’s Words are the Best Words.  Every week you will read daily devotions written by someone in our FUEL family who is passionate about God – and YOU – and wants to help keep you connected to Him through a deeper understanding of His Word.  Thank you to Aaron Winner who wrote during FUEL on the MISSION we have!  The week before I wrote on an overview of the Old Testament, so this week we will continue on with an overview of the New Testament.  So, come back tomorrow ready to jump into the gospels!  You can be thinking about . . . what do you most appreciate about Jesus?   What is your favorite miracle?  Favorite parable?  See you tomorrow!

You are Not Alone,

Marcia Railton