Isaiah 13-17

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Isaiah revealed a prophecy against the nations in our reading today.  In some cases those that received these warnings had years before the prophecies would occur. There was time to listen, repent, turn their lives around, prepare and be ready. What holds us back from surrendering everything to God and getting ourselves “right with Him”?

Sometimes it is pride. In Isaiah 13:11 we read “I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” When we become prideful, we exalt ourselves as our own god. We put our desires and wants as our top priority. We justify and reason that our actions are acceptable because those actions are “right” in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). As I grew up, I had friends that rejected following God because “they wanted to do, what they wanted to do”.  They viewed God’s commands as restricting them instead of seeing Him as a loving Father providing the best way for His children to live life. Pride tells us that we know what is best for ourselves. We think that God does not understand who and what we are. C.S. Lewis stated that “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

In Isaiah 14 we see so clearly that the leaders in the world appear to have power, but they cannot defeat death. Those leaders claimed that “I will make myself like the Most High” (v.14), but only God has power over death. In the following chapters we see that the great cities and wealth of nations will not last. The armies of vengeance and wrath destroyed the cities and carried the wealth away. Punishment was administered to nations. In fact we explore that God is the only One who controls nature, which provides our food source. Though they planted the finest plants and imported vines, yet they did not have a harvest. These illustrations should show us that God is ultimately in control. We need to be humble before Him. Isaiah 17:7 contains the answer. “In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.”

That is the answer for us today. We need to come to God humbly, honoring Him as the absolute authority. God is sovereign. He is the supreme authority and all things are under His control.

We need to turn our attention away from the raging nations of the world, and turn to Our God who gives love, wisdom and salvation.

~ Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway.

Tomorrow, we continue reading the history of Israel in Isaiah 18-22 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

2 Chronicles 27 & Isaiah 9-12

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[j]; he has become my salvation.”

I am not where I planned to be today. You see for many years this weekend is when I have helped load vans, buses, SUVs and even a Volkswagen bug with a lively group of cheerful travelers as we start making our way to Northern Indiana. Our group is always made up of students and youth workers heading to a youth camp named FUEL. Weeks spent at camp are so incredible because we intentionally set aside time to focus on God. We worship, we learn, we laugh, we encourage, we grow, we pray, . . . This camp offers us the chance to spend some intentional focused time with God. We remember our ultimate life goals of loving God with all that we are and loving others as ourselves. We align our lives with these main goals. We determine our next steps and develop practical actions that show that we have a close, loving relationship with God through Christ and that we truly love others.

Unfortunately, we will not gather physically for FUEL this year, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking time to connect with God. Yes, He is in northern Indiana, but He is where you are right now (He is not far from any one of us Acts 17:27). God loves us so much that He wants to connect with us and He is always there to direct us as well. We just need to focus on Him.

Today we read about a King who did exactly that. He was Jotham. Jotham was the eleventh king of Judah. It was stated that he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.  What a great way to be remembered. We are also told that He grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God. Steadfastly-that could describe the way we order the habits of our lives! Walking resolutely, firm and unwavering because we are living our lives connected to God.

Jotham benefited from seeing what a king should and should not do from his father. He also benefited from being a contemporary with the prophets IsaiahHoseaAmos, and Micah. Praise God we have their writings available to us today! Just like the faithful kings we can read the message from God sent through these prophets. Isaiah (9-12) presents the coming of the Messiah, just judgment, the future rally of nations to Christ, the Lord’s glorious holy mountain, and the earth being filled with the knowledge of the LORD as waters cover the sea. What an amazing experience it will be to meet with those prophets and those kings that “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” in the Kingdom of God!

So even though we may have to be socially distant right now, we look forward to that perfect time. Isaiah (12) describes the people rejoicing on that day because the Holy One of Israel is among them. Today we can rejoice because the Holy One of Israel can also be with us!

~ Rebecca Dauksas

 

Read or listen to today’s bible passage on Bible Gateway: 2 Chronicles 27 & Isaiah 9-12.

Tomorrow, we read more of God’s prophecies to Israel and Judah in Micah 1-7 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

It’s All About Love

Luke Chapter 10

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The chapter begins by Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples with the order to spread the news of the Kingdom, and giving them specific instructions.  It is noteworthy that people that heard the message and rejected will be judged more harshly than people that did not.  

 

Later, starting in verse 25, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

 

Those are basic concepts that we can share with others when we have an opportunity to evangelize.  Add to that the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus, and then maybe sharing the Gospel doesn’t seem so hard after all.  We want people to be saved. We want that because that is what God wants as well. As we follow the two tenants of loving God and loving our neighbor, we should naturally want our neighbors to be in a saving relationship with their Lord and Savior.  

 

Not many of us are going to evangelists on the scale of Billy Graham, but we can certainly each do some small (or medium) part.  If you are worried about failing, and so hesitate to get started, I am sorry to tell you that you are guaranteed failure by doing nothing.  Doing SOMETHING greatly increases your odds for success. And remember, God wants you to be successful? He will help, and then you just have to hope that at least some of the seed landed in fertile areas. 

 

Greg Landry

 

The Second Coming

Revelation 19

Revelation 19 11 NIV
 
We’ve had some really heavy topics, and we are not quite out of the woods yet. We are coming to the point in the reading where there is just joy and happiness and peace, but we are not there yet. It takes someone showing up on the scene to make that happen. We have the coming of a rider on a white horse. The images that John uses only highlights that he is speaking about Jesus.
I love Christmas; the songs, the snow, the presents, the expectations. I even love the time leading up to it. In the wider Christian tradition, this time is called Advent, which is Latin for “to come”. We recognize in Advent the first coming of Jesus. And in Revelation 19, we are shown a picture of the second coming of Jesus. Those two images could not be more different. 
Jesus came as a peaceful prince riding on a donkey. Jesus will come as a conquering rider on a white horse.
When he came, many called him a liar and a demoniac. He will come and be known as “Faithful and True.”
He came to bring salvation. He will come to bring judgment.
He came with eyes full of tenderness and sorrow. He will come with eyes of fiery flame.
He came and bore a crown of thorns. He will come crowned with many crowns. 
He came and was wrapped in tattered cloths. He will come in a blood stained robe.
He came and was known as Jesus. He will come and be known as Word of God.
He came and refused the help of the legions of angels. He will come and be accompanied by the armies of heaven. 
He came preaching words of truth. He will come and his words will be a sword coming from his mouth. 
He came and only a small number knew who we was. 
He will come, and his name, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will be emblazoned on his thigh.
 
This is the Messiah we serve. He is not weak; he is not a push over; he is not a doting parent or Santa Claus. 
He is the conquering king, coming to claim the world that is rightfully his, to avenge his servants who have been oppressed, and to drive out those who did not honor him. 
 
Let this image of Jesus wash over you, and praise God that the King is coming. 
Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
Jake Ballard

The Choice is Yours

Revelation 16

Revelation 16 7 NIV

Yesterday, angels were sent out with plagues and bowls were prepared for pouring. Today, we get to see the dramatic moments when the bowls are poured. Each plague is horrific, especially when we recognize the wholeworld is experiencing each plague. Everyone, from everywhere, will be affected by these plagues.
(As a quick aside, that means all people who have chosen to turn their backs on God. Remember these plagues and bowls are the wrath of God upon those who chose to reject Him [see Rev. 15]. God has promised that we will not taste his wrath but his salvation, as we chose to follow him. [1 Thess. 5:9])
First, Sores cover those who worship the beast. Then, the sea becomes blood and all life dies. Rivers and streams turn to blood, so blood is the water over the whole earth. Then the sun begins to burn people, followed by the Kingdom of the Beast being plunged into darkness. Penultimately, Euphrates is dried up.
The reason we will stop at six is because I think the important part for John, what SHOULD shock his readers then and now, are the parts where he talks about the reaction to the plagues, what the people chose to do because of the plagues.
In verse 9, we see the sad and shocking reaction of those who are being effected by the plagues. Even as they have experienced the plagues and they know the plagues are coming from God, they choose to blaspheme His name and do not repent or give Him glory. Those who suffer the plagues are continuously, with full knowledge, rejecting the God of heaven after the plagues and bowls. They are not accidentally rejecting Him, or acting in ignorance. They are choosing to reject the God they KNOW is sending these plagues. They reject Him after the fourth bowl (9), and the fifth bowl (11). After the sixth bowl, demons round up the people of the world in their final rejection of God. The seventh bowl, poured out at the Mountain of Megiddo (Har Megiddo or Armageddon), is upon all those who have blasphemed God and continued to blaspheme Him.
Earlier I said it is sad and shocking that this is the reaction of those who choose not to follow God. But the truth we must see is that God is giving everyone a choice. He shows us that even with clear evidence that YHWH is the God of heaven and Earth, some will still refuse to repent and follow Him. The question for the original recipients of Revelation, and for you and I, is this : are we among those who refuse to repent and acknowledge God, or do we give Him the glory he deserves, and choose to do his will?
The choice is yours.
Jake Ballard

Refuse to Repent

Revelation 9

Revelation 9 20a NIV

If you haven’t found out by now, Revelation is a strange letter; there are all sorts of images and visions that don’t quite make sense to us most of the time. In chapter nine, things get much stranger, as we see some terrifying images of God’s judgment being sent upon unrepentant people that have killed God’s people (i.e. Christians). However, strange as it may be, this chapter is absolutely crucial to understanding what John is trying to communicate throughout the whole letter. There is a key theme that needs to be drawn out if we are to understand what John is talking about.

 

In chapter eight, we saw angels getting ready to blow seven trumpets that would bring about God’s judgment, in response to the prayers that God had heard from His people back in chapter six. When we come to chapter nine, the fifth trumpet is blown, bringing about this terrifying, demonic locust army that goes around tormenting people for five months. They look strange, sound strange, and behave in a strange manner. There have been many theories about what these locusts are, but I don’t believe John’s focus is on who or what these locusts are; they are more of a background image than anything.

 

John’s main point is found at the end of the chapter, after the sixth trumpet is blown. In 9:20-21, we learn that, even though all these terrible and strange things are happening to these people, they still refuse to repent and change their lives. That is the point of John’s message of the trumpets; even God bringing His fiercest and most terrifying judgment on people is not enough to get them to repent. We saw a similar situation in Exodus, when Pharaoh refused to repent, even though God brought 10 plagues on the land. This is also John’s point with the later seven bowls (16:10-11), and likely the point of the previous seals as well.

 

The question that we, as the readers, are left with is, “What will make people repent?” That question will be answered in chapter 11, when we are introduced to the Two Witnesses.

 

For you today, I encourage you to think about the way that you spread the gospel to others. What will work better? Preaching about God’s judgment and condemnation, or offering hope and encouragement? If God’s righteous judgment isn’t enough to bring about repentance in people’s hearts in Revelation, don’t assume that it will work for you either. Let’s offer a hope that is focused on the love of the cross and a merciful God that has offered His own Son for us all! Let’s preach the good news!

 

Talon Paul

Don’t Be One of Those People

2 Peter 2

2 Peter 2 1

For every ounce of truth a lie is out there.  In 2 Peter 2 the apostle warns of those people who would distort the truth or add to it.  He warns in verse 1 from the beginning that false teachers and false prophets are out there twisting, distorting, and adding to the truth.  By truth here he is referring to the message of Jesus Christ.

Today it is not uncommon to hear people say things like – all roads lead to God, and regarding religion: I’m looking for what works best for me.  These are twisted and in some cases flat out lies about the truth.  The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the son of God and that he is the ONLY way to the Father, and the ONLY source of salvation and forgiveness, and the ONLY hope for eternal life. This is the message that Jesus taught and that God confirmed when he spoke from the heavens saying that Jesus was his beloved son in whom he was well-pleased as referred to in 2 Peter 1:17.  Jesus is the ONLY way!   Anyone who would persuade you otherwise may fall into the category of the false teachers and prophets of whom Peter warns.

This is why it is important for Christians to know what the word of God says – so they will not be deceived by these false teachers and prophets.  If something someone says is contrary to scripture or seeks to add to it in ways that do not agree with scripture then watch out!  And for goodness sakes – don’t be so foolish as to be one of those people who leads others astray!  We must know God’s word and be filled with His spirit to be able to discern what is true and what is false.

In concluding the chapter Peter reminds us that God has not turned a blind eye to those who lead others astray because of their acts of deception but rather that their destruction is sure.  So to sum up Peter’s words to us:  Don’t be one of those  people  who is either led astray or leads others astray from the truth!

Merry Peterson

Are You Eagerly Waiting?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 15

I asked you a question yesterday as we considered some passages in Hebrew 8.  That question was for you to decide what kind of heart you have.  The reason that is important is because the kind of heart that you have determines what other people see in you.  Do they see a person who loves God?  Do they see a person with a heart for serving Jesus and others?  Do people see a person who trusts God no matter what might happen in your life?  Or, are you like the Israelites?  Do people see a person overcome by sin?  A person impatient with God, who wants things right now?  Do they see a person who is willing to give up everything for all the wrong reasons?  What we learned was that God’s laws and commandments don’t change us unless we allow God to write them in our minds and write them on our hearts.

But allowing God to write on our hearts and in our minds is not easy.  Taking out our old heart of stone and replacing it with one of flesh, required a blood sacrifice.  It always had, but now we know that no more blood is required.  In the past the blood of goats and calves was used to obtain purification and forgiveness for people.  But this ritual had to be repeated regularly and often.  That is, until Christ.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice; He was the only sacrifice without blemish.  His sacrifice was able to totally purify our conscience (minds and hearts) from dead works in order to serve the living God!

Because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, He was able to enter heaven itself in the presence of God Himself.  There, Christ, our high priest, continually intercedes on our behalf, to put away our sin.

End of story.  Right?

No.  Not the end of the story.  There is much more good news for us.

Take your Bible out.  Take your pen or highlighter and mark this verse: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with (your) sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”  (Hebrews 9:28)

Today’s question:  Are you eagerly waiting for Him?

Luke Elwell

 

No Daily Patch Needed

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 24 25 NIV

So often when we pray for ourselves or for others, we are concerned about certain specific things that are happening in the present moment of our life or their life.  This is okay, because sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by a situation or weakness in our life, that we want immediate help.  We fall on our faces or knees and plead for help in this particular situation or with this particular weakness, but never see the whole picture.  That’s because we are human, after all.  We often can’t see past the present moment. We want to put patches on what is torn or broken. We feel the pain right now, we experience the embarrassment of a sin and hope no one else notices, or we share in part with another in their present experience.  All of that is well and good as we plead for ourselves and intercede for others.  But then a new day comes, laced with all the same trials, tribulations, and temptations of life all over again and we look for another patch.

That was the life of a priest before the time of Christ.  Before a priest could do his job of offering up sacrifices for the sins of others, he first had to take care of his own personal business—his own sins, his own cares, his own violations.  So, each day, as he lit the fire to begin his godly work, he took inventory of the sins of his people and his own sins (Hebrews 7: 27).  Day after day, moment by moment, his mind raced with all these shortcomings.  His job was difficult and exhausting.

Then Christ came and became the high priest, and He holds this position permanently and forever (Hebrews 7:24).  He was after-all, “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7: 26).  Not only that but “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27).   The daily grind of fire building, killing a sacrifice, inner-searching, and finally offering up prayers ended.  Jesus paid it all.

That does not mean we do not pray for others or ourselves.  Indeed Peter says that we are to be “a royal priesthood” (I Pet 2:9), meaning we are to pray for others.  But unless and until we accept without question and wholly the atonement of Jesus in our lives, the daily grind of being a priest will continue for us. We will never get out of that cycle of embarrassment, regret, remorse and the need to pray for that “daily patch” to cover our sins along with the sins of those for whom we pray.

Jesus lives to make intersession for us (Hebrews 7:25), He prays for us continually.  It is because of His intercession that we can do our work of intercession for others.  It is all possible because Jesus has saved us to the uttermost.  No daily patch needed.  Jesus saves us totally and at all times.  Once we believe this as a little child of God, and we draw near to God through Him, He is able to save us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7: 25).  Then, with full assurance of our own atonement, we can put our full energy into praying for others which is our greatest work.

Luke Elwell