Making Faith Our Own

Ezekiel 18-19

Ezekiel 18 30 NIV sgl

Ezekiel 18 describes three generations of men in a family, the first generation is righteous and follows God, the second generation is evil and does everything that God detests, and the third generation is Godly just like the grandpa.  According to the thinking of the Jews of that time each person inherits God’s blessings from their parents, so the evil man would be blessed by God and live a happy and fruitful life because of the righteousness of his father, while the son of the evil man will have a miserable and cursed life because of the evil of his father.  God is going to make it very clear to them that their thinking is fundamentally faulty, because obviously a person who goes around robbing the poor, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and worshiping false gods is going to have a miserable life.  He won’t have friends, and will never be trusted, no matter how great his father was.  How is that a blessed life?

The opposite is also true, if the evil man has a son and that man lives a Godly life and helps the poor, and gives money to the needy, and keeps all of God’s laws he will have a full and blessed life.  People might remember how horrible his father is, but his own actions will speak for themselves, and God will also see his actions and bless him.

This is summed up perfectly in Ezekiel 18:30-32.

“30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

 

This verse is a great blessing, but also a warning.  It is a blessing if you or your family has a past that is full of sin and brokenness and you want to break the cycle, repent and live!  It doesn’t matter what your parents did, good or bad, God will judge you for your own actions.  This makes it very important to make our faith our own, because even though my Mom had and Dad has faith that can move mountains, that does not make me a Christian by default, I still have to work hard at it and build my own faith up.  Just like how knowledge will never transfer from your textbook to your brain when you use the textbook as a pillow, righteousness will not transfer from your parents to you when you sit next to them at church, you have to open the book and read for yourself.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway, here – Ezekiel 18-19

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 20-21 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Isaiah 35-36

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

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

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

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

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

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

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

Isaiah 28-30

Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote

As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place. 

When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given. 

We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled. 

When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 31-34– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Hosea 8-14

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you_ sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Reading through the prophets can be difficult. Just like the story of Gomer that we read yesterday, we may find ourselves wanting to reach through the pages across the span of time and just whip these people and nations back into shape. Because of our hindsight, we think (arrogantly) that we would have made better choices if we walked in the shoes of our ancestors. The Israelites downfall is that they always seemed to fall prey to idolatry, though that idolatry existed in many forms. Unfortunately, like we saw yesterday, we are quick to worship those same idols in different forms.

If we look back to the birth of the Israelites as a distinct set apart nation, we return to the infamous scene with the golden calf in Exodus 32. The Israelites had the choice to follow the word of God or follow the gods of the surrounding nations. While Moses was receiving the law, they chose to worship the golden calf. Hundreds of years later, the calf returned in 1 Kings 12:28-30. King Jeroboam of Israel created two golden calves and set up places to worship them, going directly against the laws of Moses that all of Israel has received. The Israelites had continued to worship the calf through Hosea’s time as we see in Hosea 8:5-6: “Your calf-idol is rejected, Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? For this thing is from Israel – a craftsman made it, and it is not God. The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits.” For hundreds of years the Israelites worshipped the calf, and because of it, they started to resemble the thing that they worshipped. In fact, we see the qualities of the cow come out in the Israelites in Hosea 4:16 where it says, “For Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow. Can the LORD shepherd them like a lamb in an open meadow?” They had held the cow as an idol for so long in their life that they started to imitate that. This imitation led them directly away from becoming the people that God wanted them to be. 

Israel thought that they knew God and were seeking after him (Hos. 7:16, 8:2-3), but they were really seeking after their own hand-made idols. A life that seeks after God cannot be categorized as lustful, greedy, selfish, or prideful. If our life looks like that, we have begun to imitate those idols that we may follow. A life that follows after God will be full of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. If we follow after God and not idols, we will seek his righteousness all of our days. 

So, ask yourself: Who or what are you worshipping? Who or what are you imitating? 

“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.” ~ Hosea 10:12

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 8-14.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 28-30– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

 

Stay in His Program

He is for you

2 Samuel 11-12 & 1 Chronicles 20

2 Samuel 12 8 9 NIV sgl

A couple of weeks ago I was working on my unit as a residential counselor for severely traumatized and troubled youth. There is a younger kid on my unit named Mike, for the sake of this story, he has a history of violent aggression and has anxiety issues which can lead to this violent aggression. In order to help him when he gets anxious to avoid his going into crisis and having a violent episode, we take him for safety walks or he can go for a walk outside by himself as long as there are no other youth outside.

Mike and I have a pretty good relationship and I have been able to calm him down and deescalate the situation to keep him from going into crisis. I have also helped him work through the aftermath of a crisis. At the current moment because the whole country is shut down my background check from Georgia has not come back. I am not allowed full clearance to be alone with any of the children until that clears, unfortunately. This has caused a lot of problems and has interfered with my effectiveness at work.

Mike was starting to get anxious a couple of weeks ago so he asked if he could go on a walk by himself. Unfortunately, there was already another child outside on campus going for a walk. So, the only way that I could get Mike outside for a walk was if he went with a staff member. Due to the restriction I couldn’t take him unless another staff member went with me. So, I start running around seeing if there were any additional staff to take him. I asked the supervisor who could take him and he told me to find another staff. In order to let Mike know I was working on it I went back to my original unit and let him know. Otherwise his anxiety levels would continue to rise. After that I went and found the staff member and asked them to take him for a walk. They said yes. So, I go back on to the unit and tell him they are coming, just give them a minute.

A few minutes go by and I can see his anxiety levels rising and could tell that he was about to hit the crash bar or emergency exit. The crash bar when its hit sounds an alarm and also means that the client is out of program and an incident report needs to be filed. This means that Mike would have consequences for leaving without a staff member. So, in a rush to try to keep Mike from the crash bar I go get the other staff and urge them along to try to keep Mike in program. I wanted desperately to keep Mike in program and to not have him suffer the consequences of acting impulsively by not waiting for a staff member.

I talk to the staff member and they grab their jacket and we walk on to the unit. Where Mike had literally just hit the crash bar and went outside by himself and out of program. All Mike needed to do was wait 15 more seconds. 15 more seconds was all that he needed for a consequence free walk.

This was so frustrating. I remember saying this is so stupid. It was so stupid. 15 more seconds. I was frustrated because I went running around talking to different people and he still went out of program. I wanted so badly for him to have another good day and stay within the rules.

This more than anything I think is the feeling portrayed by God in 2 Samuel 12.7-15. In my case, if Mike had waited 15 more seconds, he could have realistically been one more day closer to going home. I think we all know the story of David and Bathsheba. So, I am not going to rehash it.

I want to look at God’s response through Nathan.

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:7-9)

Does God condemn David for his actions? Totally, but he also says something else here as well. God goes over all that he did for David to try to set him up for success. He saved him from Saul and anointed him and made him King over Israel, he gave him peace, gave him his wife, Saul’s daughter, back, and made him the beautiful covenant promises that we saw in 2 Samuel 7. Was there any more God could have done for David? Yet David still did this absolutely terrible thing. The last line in verse 8 really gets me. God tells David He would have done much more for David. If David had waited 15 more seconds and stayed in God’s program what would God have given him? God was actively rooting for David and trying to help him stay in his program. His program that gives life and peace and a relationship with God.

In verse 9 I can hear the sadness in God’s voice. Why did you despise my words? Why did you go astray and hurt yourself? Why did you hurt me, God, by doing this? Why did you have to make me see you do that? Why did stray from me?

I’m not framing it like this to heap grief on us for our sins. I am framing it like this because I want you to see there is someone actively working to help us follow Christ. The way that leads to peace, life, love, and grace. He is actively with us trying to help us keep on his way. I want you to know the depth shown in scripture of how the Lord cares for us and how he is seeking our good through righteousness. In our times of temptation, we have a loving God alongside us to ask for help. He is seeking our good far more than we seek our own. Fulness of life is found when we hold true to his way to love God.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+11-12%2C+1+Chronicles+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Who Are the Wicked?

Job 17-20

Job 19 25 27 NIV (1)

 

Just who are the wicked?  What does it take to wear that label?  The three friends have talked much about the fate of the wicked – and they have even placed Job among the ranks of the wicked.  Job often speaks of the wicked – and hotly contests that he is NOT one of them.  How do you know?  How can you tell?  What is the criteria for wickedness?  Is it possible there are many who will be surprised to learn they fall within God’s wicked classification?  We don’t ask these questions to play judge and jury on the rest of the world – but for the very real task of keeping ourselves where we need to be.  On the wicked-righteous continuum we have some strong candidates for either extreme, but what about everyone else?  It gets quite muddled in the middle.  It’s a big question for a little devotion – but let’s see what we find here in the pages of Job.

 

First of all, let’s restate from previous days that we can’t tell who is evil by seeing who is suffering – as Job’s friends are arguing.  Yes, sometimes our sins bring very real consequences of suffering.  And, yes, wicked people will ultimately be judged and pay for their wickedness.  However, suffering does not necessarily equate with wickedness.  In Job’s case we know that God was pleased with Job’s righteousness, but still allowed Satan’s attacks against him, even though He would be blamed for them.  There are many reasons one may be experiencing suffering (more on that another day soon), but we cannot assume that all suffering people must be wicked people.

 

We can find some truth regarding the wicked in Zophar’s speech in chapter 20.  He says, “For he (the wicked) has oppressed the poor and left them destitute” (Job 20:19).  We know this is true of the wicked from many other passages, including the separating of the sheep (the righteous) and the goats (the unrighteous/wicked) in Matthew 25.  In this parable how well you do – or do not – care for others, especially the disadvantaged/least of society (those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers in need of being invited into your home, the cold and underdressed, the sick, the prisoner) will determine whether you are ultimately saved with the righteous or doomed with the wicked.  I don’t know about you, but this convicts me.  I have some work to do on regularly seeing the needs around me and adding these commitments and opportunities to my calendar – actually making them a priority not just an intention.   In this parable many believers were surprised by their placement with the wicked – and I believe that will be true in the day of judgment as well.  Seriously take the time to evaluate and challenge yourself regularly.

 

Some people may be feeling pretty comfortable right now because they do make it a priority to care for others.  But, there will be more than that required as well.  In Bildad’s speech in chapter 19 the evil man is synonymous with, “one who knows not God.” (Job 18:21).  Looking ahead to chapter 21 Job says of the wicked: “They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways.  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?’ ” (Job 21:14,15)  To know God and know His ways – so you can serve.  Faith and deeds.  How do we know God and know His ways?  Reading His Word is the best way I know.  I fear there are many today who would much rather create their own god with their own ways.  So they create a god who condones their actions and attitudes and beliefs.  It is a trap we could all fall into – unless we are grounded in seeking out and knowing the One True God and His ways which are revealed for us in His Word.

 

It is that grounded faith in God that is keeping Job going even as his world is falling apart.  He is hurting.  He is questioning.  He is still believing.  He knows that his Redeemer (the one who will care for him) lives and he can not wait for the day he will see him face to face (Job 19:25-27).   May we too look forward to that day – and not be caught by surprise.

 

Know Him and His Ways and Serve,

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading of Job 17-20 can be read or listened to here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+17-20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 21-23 as we progress through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry!

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5 6

As I sit here in a coffee shop the day before Thanksgiving I am currently starving. I made an apple pie this morning and this may be the reason the normal ‘breakfast, no lunch, straight into dinner’ game plan has not satisfied my hunger. This is very fitting for our beatitude of the day and tomorrow being Thanksgiving day. So here it is Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” Ok, so a moment of honesty, I love this one too. But let’s be real the beatitudes are like bacon and how can you not love bacon.  

I don’t know about you but Thanksgiving at my house has two hunger conditions. I’m either starving or completely stuffed from all the food that I just ate. I have a small family. Thanksgiving dinner is normally an ordeal to put together and I generally end up in the kitchen for a good part of the day. It’s actually pretty amazing how a person can be around so much food all day in the kitchen and still be starving. I feel like Thanksgiving is one of the few days where people actually look forward to the dinner they are preparing and try to make sure they are really hunger for it. The normal routine of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner even if we aren’t quite hungry doesn’t apply on thanksgiving. One thing that I can say after all that cooking and putting together a good meal, I am normally pretty satisfied. I am happy with the job that I did cooking and I‘m also happy because I had my fill of good food.

I think that the satisfaction that is promised in this beatitude is deeper than our after Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. First, we should look at what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I want to challenge the way you view righteousness. I don’t believe that righteousness is abstaining from the things that we need to abstain from and do the things we are supposed to be doing. Jesus wasn’t giving a checklist in the beatitudes but he was giving us attitudes and a way of life that we should adopt.

Jesus had a lot of confrontations with the Pharisees and in Matthew 23 he addresses the righteousness of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were righteous in that they checked the boxes but they lacked the true elements of righteousness like mercy, grace, godliness and love. When I view doing what is right I see it as loving people and God with discernment. The rules that God gives us are obviously important but the attitudes of our hearts he wants us to adopt are just as important  to righteousness. I think that we practice righteousness when we try to live by God’s rules and laws and practice mercy, grace and love.

I said earlier that the satisfaction promised here is deeper than our Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. I think Isaiah 55.1-3 shows this. Here God is saying come, eat and be full. He is offering food and water to those who don’t have money. In verse 2 he is saying we labor for things that don’t satisfy like being ungodly or looking for fulfillment in things other than him. He then tells us to listen to him and delight in the rich food that he has given us. Verse 3 says “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” Verse 3 shows us that when we come to God, listen to him and obey his commandments that our souls will live. Besides serving God my goal in life is that my soul would live.

Godliness and living a Christ like life where not only am I sinless but I have adopted God’s heart for him and others is what I think this beatitude is saying we should be hungering and thirsting for. The result of this though is that we would be truly satisfied and have souls that truly live. So as we think about the physical hunger we have to consider what we should really be hungering for and when you are satisfied after that Thanksgiving meal think about the satisfaction that God has promised us when we live righteously.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Daniel Wall

Baptism – What is the Big Deal?

Matthew 3:13-17

Matt 3 17 (1)

Conversations abound over the importance of water baptism. Is it the baptism or simply a confession of faith? If baptism, then is it pouring, sprinkling or immersion? There is a semi-famous song about this. What about infant versus conscious baptism? What about those who do not have access to water? So many questions surround this topic. And these are just focusing on the methods and timing. What about what happens when we are baptized? What is the point or reason for being baptized? Why is it a public thing? It can be exhausting and at times confusing.

So let us look at the example set by Jesus. He travels from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan River where his cousin John is baptizing people in droves. Baptism itself was commonplace but it was a simple cleansing ritual. It was not too deep or meaningful and was certainly not a public spectacle. The people had never seen anything like what John was doing. In addition to the large masses of people coming to him he was telling them that this baptism was for the repentance of their sins. John was the precursor to Jesus, the keynote speaker if you will. He was highlighting the points that would be vital to Jesus’ ministry – repentance and the coming kingdom.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. John however recognized Jesus as the Messiah and understood that it was Jesus who should be baptizing John. He tried to argue with Jesus because he understood that among them only Jesus was righteous and sinless. Jesus was the only one who did not need this baptism.

Jesus’ response was that he must be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In doing so he was consecrated by God and officially approved by Him. His baptism had nothing to do with Levitical Law though. John’s message of repentance and the coming kingdom pointed to a Messiah who would be righteous and bring righteousness to the sinner. Jesus was identifying with the sinful world even though he himself was without sin. His baptism also marked the arrival of the long expected Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And finally his baptism was symbolic of his death, burial, and resurrection and was an example for his followers to come.

Upon being baptized the spirit of God rested upon him. This is the moment when God gave Jesus all authority and power to carry out his Father’s perfect will here on earth. Jesus later told his disciples that this same spirit, a portion only however, would come upon them. It is the same spirit received by all who come to God through Jesus and the waters of baptism. This spirit strengthened and encouraged Jesus when he needed it most, as it does for each of those who faithfully follow his example.

So he comes up out of the water and the Spirit of God comes upon him and then it happens! Something incredible! Something amazing! Something that has not happened for four hundred years. Man hears the first words from God since the close of the Old Testament. His silence is broken so that He can confirm Jesus is His son, “Whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” This statement in itself is timeless. God was not simply pleased that Jesus was beginning his ministry. It is the culmination of a millennia old plan to bring all people back to Him. The fulfillment of His covenant with Abram is realized in this moment. All people will be blessed through Jesus if they choose Yahweh as their God and Jesus as the way to Him. Past, present and future balanced on this man’s obedience to God.

John was baptizing in a river and most examples of baptism in the New Testament appear to be in or around large bodies of water so immersion in water makes the most sense for how we ought to be baptized. There are biblical examples of baptism of the spirit alone, a confession of faith without involvement of water. These examples however appear to be the exception and not the rule. People without access to water or without time to get to water are exceptions.

If someone has the means and opportunity to go through the waters of baptism and does not are they saved by confession of sin and repentance alone? I do not know just as I do not know if someone who confesses, repents, and is baptized is saved. We have biblical and personal examples of people being baptized and living in a way that is completely opposed to God’s will. God alone knows our hearts. He knows where we stand.

One of the radical things about what John was doing is that those who came to him to be baptized were obeying God from their heart. It is a conscious decision to be baptized. I was “baptized” as an infant but it meant nothing to me. I had not made the choice to change my life. I had not chosen God or His son until I was a grown man. That has been the point from the beginning, back when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. They had a choice to choose God or not, trust Him or not. They chose not. Jesus presents to the whole world that very same choice.

In this moment when Jesus was baptized God’s confirmation of Jesus was both for his assurance and for a witness to others. This is the same reason for us to publicly surrender and commit to God through Jesus. We need the inner confirmation of His great blessing upon us, and the world needs the testimony of a life committed to His will through Jesus.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

The Source of Wisdom

PROVERBS 1

Proverbs 1 7 NIV

For the rest of the week we will be examining the first five chapters of Proverbs.  The writer of this portion of Proverbs is Solomon, the man who asked God for wisdom.  The book of Proverbs was written as an instruction guide, offering advice, and teaching fundamental truths about life.

Proverbs 1:1-7 introduces the book of Proverbs.  This section implores the reader to study continually, always in search of knowledge and wise instruction so that he may gain wisdom and develop the discernment necessary for righteous living.  Discernment is the ability to judge well, make the right decisions or proper choices.

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

                                    (Proverbs 1:1-6)

Then in verse seven we have the theme.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  All knowledge and wisdom begins with God.  Knowing and obeying God is the foundation for every Christian.  The Creator used wisdom to create the entire world, and wisdom is fundamental to all of life.  “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Proverbs 3:19-20)  We can know nothing, without it first coming from God.

The proverb of greatest importance is to fear God.  There is nothing more important than to know and obey God.  The next instruction for a successful life is to obey your parents.  In Proverbs 1:8-9 Solomon warns us to honor our parents’ teachings. He says that a parent’s instructions should be seen as treasures, valued and obeyed.  “Listen, my son, to your father’s instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”  (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Skipping ahead a little to the beginning of chapter 2, we hear again the importance of pursuing wisdom.  We are told to purse wisdom, just as we would pursue a hidden treasure.  Then we are told again that God is the source of all wisdom.  And finally that wisdom will lead us to righteousness, justice and protection.

1My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

(Proverbs 2:1-11)

Just as surely as God gave Solomon wisdom, he can give it to you, too.  “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). However, it does require a constant searching, as if searching for a hidden treasure.  Actively studying your Bible every day is a great way to search out the treasure of wisdom.
Jill McClain

Things That Are to Come

2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3 13

Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return?  That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point.  We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ.  These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4.  We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God.  But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him.  He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.

In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them.  He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements.  Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out.  Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat.  HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made.  This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns.  This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell.  All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.

I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada.  Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way.  Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised.  What new natural beauty will be there.   In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day?  I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!

Merry Peterson