God’s Face

Job 31-32 and Psalm 79-80

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses like these are famous. We’ve all heard them. They receive the bulk of our attention when reading Scripture. If you’re following a reading plan, though, you’ve probably come across some passages that are hard to swallow: “How long, LORD God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?” (Psalm 80:4).

Today, Psalm 80 was on the reading plan. Some may look at Psalm 80 and see a passage about God’s anger, or God’s burning justice. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand these passages. But when I read Psalm 80 (and other passages like it), I don’t see an angry God– I see a hurting person placing their trust in the only One who can help them. 

Look at verses 3, 7, and 19. Did you notice they look almost identical? The author is using a phrase that his audience would know well: “make your face shine upon us.”  During the time of the Exodus, God gave a prayer of blessing directly to the high priest, Aaron, in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” It’s clear that the author of Psalm 80 was remembering this famous blessing that God had given them (on a side note, verses 8-11 of Psalm 80 are also about the Exodus. The author was probably remembering all the good things God had done for Israel!).

But what does that mean? When I think about someone’s face “lighting up,” I think of someone smiling with favor and affection. Or maybe I think of Moses, who came down from the mountain, literally shining because he had been in the company of the God of the universe. When I think of God’s face shining down on us, I think of favor, company, and affection. God is looking upon us favorably. He is keeping us company. And he has affection for us. 

Let’s remember, alongside the author of Psalm 80, that things will not always go well for us. Life can be difficult sometimes. It’s not always clear why. But we have a God who has done incredible things in the past, and wants to keep working in our lives. Let’s pray “God, make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”

-Levi Salyers

Levi is a recent graduate of Atlanta Bible College, current pastoral intern, and last week he received his ministerial license from the Church of God Ministerial Association. Congratulations, Levi! Keep sharing God’s love and wisdom to the world in many ways! Thank you for writing for us today!

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 31-32 and Psalm 79-80

Strive for FULL Restoration

2 Corinthians 13

Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians 13 and Paul is writing to the people of Corinth, even though he has already visited them twice but still they are unable to perform the will of God and be faithful righteous believers. In verse 11 Paul writes “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!…” We see that even though the Corinthians have all of these issues in their lives he calls them “brothers and sisters” because he loves them so very much that they are family to him.

“Strive for full restoration.” Paul wants us to be the best version of ourselves. I was just recently baptized and I have been working on restoring my relationship with God. As Kyle McClain said this past week at General Conference everything takes time, and the longer we go without praying and reading our Bible the farther we stray from God. Love God and trust in him and he will guide you. And closing with verse 14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

God bless.

Thank you, 

Samuel Turner

This week we will get the pleasure of hearing from some new SeekGrowLove writers – and some not so new, too. Samuel is a high school student I enjoyed spending some time with at FUEL and General Conference. Thank you for writing, Samuel! Congratulations on your recent baptism! It will be fun watching God guide you as you continue seeking Him and striving for full restoration!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 13 and Job 23-24

Hello, IT. Yeah Huh. Have You Tried Forcing An Unexpected Reboot?

Ezra 1-3

The book of Ezra picks up the story of Israel at a very important moment: the return from exile. The Persians swoop in and conquer the Babylonians in 539 BC. The persian King, Cyrus the Great, acknowledging God for giving him the kingdoms of the earth, issues a proclamation that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. The Jews who were taken captive and exiled in Babylon are allowed to return to the land they call home and help rebuild the temple. We’re reminded of the Exodus, when God’s people were freed from the clutches of Pharaoh.

For an ancient king, Cyrus seems to be especially respectful of the customs and religions of his subjects. It turns out that this is in a way beneficial for him, since allowing your subjects freedom of religion and not enslaving them earns you so much more support and makes for a more stable empire. He was a bit of a trend setter in this regard.

Cyrus is reversing what Nebuchadnezzar set in motion. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian empire conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, took the temple vessels, and scattered the people into exile. Cyrus has conquered Babylon, allowed everyone to go back to where they call home, given back the temple vessels, and ordered the temple rebuilt. But really it is God doing the exiling and reversing, through the hands of these kings, to give his people another chance.

Ezra 2 gives an extensive list of the wave of 50,000 some people who returned to Judah, and details the livestock, if you were dying to know. We usually think this kind of passage is a bit of a drag, but it’s really more of a celebration, with more confetti at every name and number. Think of the importance they placed on leadership, and the legacy and roles of the people mentioned. Each of these people are going back to wherever they call home, where they have deep roots and history. Each of them has something unique to contribute toward rebuilding their lives, and they’ll need the skills and resources of everyone to restore Jerusalem and the temple.

Similarly, in the body of Christ, we need the unique skills and gifts everyone brings to the table. We all play an important role in taking care of each other and reaching out into the world.

And so the project begins. First things first! They make sure there is at least an altar and that the usual schedule of sacrifices is back on track. They are trying to build a continuity between what their lives were like before the exile and what they are like now after the exile. Being able to worship again is a stepping stone toward restoration. Routines are important!

Into the second year after returning to Jerusalem, the materials and workers are all being gathered to get the temple together again. When the foundation is laid, there is a big ceremony with music and singing to God. They sing, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” Things are looking up. We’ve got the people, the temple foundation, and some semblance of our usual worship.

But there is something in the air that signals to us that not everything is quite right again. While many people are shouting loudly for joy, many of the older folks who saw the first temple are weeping loudly. It is bittersweet. It is good that there is now at least part of a temple, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to what it was before.

We end chapter 3 with this very divided response to the temple. The noise is so loud that they can’t tell who is joyful and who is sorrowful. They’ve been waiting so many years just for this chance to rebuild, and now it’s not even clear if it is a good thing or not. 

But restoration is a process. Most things that we want, we can get almost instantly. I can drive to the store and get ice cream. I can order something from Amazon almost without moving a muscle, and it will arrive in two days. Way in the future, in the year 2000, we’ll just think of what we need, and it will materialize in our teleportation device. But doing something of significance takes time, effort, prayer, and also probably money. And so does rebuilding Jerusalem. It is tempting to compare back to what things used to be like (the “good old days”) and be discouraged. What we might be missing is that God’s plans and ideas usually break our categories for what we think is even possible.

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on BibleGateway here – Ezra 1-3

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezra 4-6 and Psalm 137 as we continue on our

One Thank You

Luke 17

Luke 17 17 edit

A simple, but important rule in my sixth-grade classroom is students must say “thank you” anytime they receive something from me.  It doesn’t matter if that something is homework, a reward, a present, or even a consequence, the expectation is always that I am thanked.  Why?  There are a few reasons.  First, when you thank someone you acknowledge you are receiving something.  Second, when you thank someone you acknowledge they are the giver of that something.  Finally, when you thank someone you are showing that you have considered and accepted that something.  Conversely, if I am not thanked, I must assume my students do not value the item, the giver, or its intention.  Now, I am not naive enough to believe every eleven-year-old that says “thank you” has gone through this thought process.  They may simply be well-mannered (or well-rehearsed).  Maybe they know it is a rule and do it to avoid a negative consequence (which they would have to say “thank you” for anyways).  They simply may do it because everyone else is doing it.

It can be hard to tell the authenticity of a thank you, but one pattern I have noticed is when someone is truly thankful, they will seek you out to tell you.  Such was the case of a student of mine who delivered a letter to me on Teacher Appreciation Week last year.  While the standard fare is a box of chocolates, a coffee mug, or a cleverly-punned present, she crafted an honest-to-goodness thank you card.  There were no generic references to how awesome I was, how my class was the best, or how funny I am (which all are true), but she acknowledged specific words I had written in her yearbook at the close of the prior school year. She stated those simple words had changed her attitude, and she wanted to let me know that she greatly appreciated the time I took to consider them, write them, and live them.  Favorite “appreciation” received to date.

In today’s reading, Luke 17, Jesus amid traveling from Galilee to Samaria is met by a lot of lepers.  They each want the same thing: to be healed.  Jesus obliges, and without much reference to how he did it, he simply states in verse 14, “Go and show yourself to the priest,” meaning they would now be known as the men who formerly had leprosy.  They were cleansed, restored, no more peril or pain. They could now enter the city gate, walk the street, and be with all those they had left behind.  In their excitement, nine men rush to show everyone how they had been healed.  A single soul stops; he turns to praise God and give thanks to Jesus for this wonderful blessing beyond measure.  Jesus is curious about the other nine, but tells the lone returner he was “healed because of his faith.”

So many times I have read this story and am left wondering, “Why did Jesus say this man was healed ‘because of his faith’? Were they not all healed?” The more I read over this passage, place it preceding Jesus’ next topic, the Kingdom of God, it begins to resonate what Jesus may be alluding to.  While this thankful leper was cured in the very same way as the other nine, he alone received the lasting healing and life that comes through the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.  This thankful man’s healing was not physical transformation but an allegoric alignment of his spiritual salvation.

So where does this leave us?  Often, we are the nine.  We joyously jog back to the place we came – complacency or repetitive sin — because we know we are restored, we can enter the city gate, we can walk the streets, and we can be with those we have loved because Jesus has already paid the price for us to do so.  We may thank him because we are well-rehearsed to do so in prayer.  We may thank him because we fear what might happen if we don’t.  We may thank him because that is what everyone else is doing; however, the minute everyone else turns and runs, we are there following them instead of running to our Lord and Savior.  Take a moment to stop. STOP!  Turn around.  Run to Jesus (repent).  Praise God (for your blessing)!  Tell him what he has given to you, what He means to you, and how that is changing your life, not because that is something you do, but because that is something YOU do!  When we offer thanks to him in this way, we will know the eternal healing that comes through a thankful faith.

-Aaron Winner

What’s Your Motivator?

Isaiah 10-13

isaiah11_9

Wednesday, February 8

As we continue on with Isaiah, we also continue on with scripture about judgement.  The book of Isaiah as a whole can be split into two sections: judgement (1-39) and restoration (40-66).  Therefore, if you aren’t a fan of this judgement variety, then just stick with it and the restoration will come at the close of Isaiah.  However, even if you aren’t a fan of the judgement material, valuable lessons can still be learned from it.

When reading the judgement material throughout Isaiah, I get a bit tense.  I get tense because the judgement that is coming for so many is severe.  We see the sin of Israel and the surrounding nations causing God to become angry with people, and in reading Isaiah, we are assured that God’s wrath will come out sometime.  The following snip-it’s from this reading give a sense of the kind of judgement coming: “the LORD will utterly destroy,” “shall be cut off,” “destroy both soul and body,” “anger will be directed to their destruction,” “kill the wicked,” “destroy its sinners,” “destruction from the Almighty,” and “fierce anger”.  This is what is coming for those who do not turn their lives over to God.  Furthermore, from Isaiah 13: 6, 9, and 22 we know this day is coming soon.  Although turning our lives over to God to escape this punishment should not be our main focus or motivator, it is still a motivator nonetheless.  I know personally, I do not want this punishment that many will receive.  We know many will receive this destruction as God says, “I will make people more rare than fine gold,” (Isaiah 13:12).  Last time I checked, there wasn’t just a bunch of fine gold laying around.

Yes, escaping a severe punishment that many will receive is motivation to give our lives to God.  However, the greatest motivation of all is found in chapter 11, and that motivation is the Kingdom of God.  One thing the Church of God as a whole is great at is keeping the focus on the Kingdom of God.  One of the great Kingdom prophecies is found in Isaiah 11:6-9.  This passage describes the peace that will take place in the Kingdom.  It describes that a nursing child will play over the hole of the cobra.  Last I checked, no parent in this present age won any parenting awards for leaving their babies next to cobra holes.  However, in this future Kingdom, there will be no death, mourning, crying, nor pain in the coming Kingdom.  The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD.  The Kingdom is a never ending celebration.  I know that I want a part in this.  To do this, we must turn our lives over to God.  Let the hope of the coming Kingdom drive you in growing closer to God every day of your life.  The reward for living a life for God is beyond imagination.

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/11092012/)