Rescue from the Coming Wrath

Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

As editor of SeekGrowLove, last December I created the Bible reading plan we are using this year. Each day we are generally reading two Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter. But, to fit it all into 365 days we’ve included Psalms and Proverbs in chunks throughout the year, taking the place of the New Testament reading. I didn’t pay much attention to what Old Testament and New Testament chapters were lining up together for each day. But, I have been amazed throughout the year at how often the two readings have complimented each other. It just goes to show how God’s scriptures are all connected, forever pointing us to the One Almighty God, His Son Jesus, and His plan of salvation and hope for the future. And, it’s been that way for all the generations who went before us, even for those who were reading His words as they were originally written by their writers.

Isaiah had been writing and preaching to the Jews around 740 BC. He was sharing many prophecies he’d received from God of what destruction was to come if the Jewish people and their neighbors did not repent and turn to God. Many of the things Isaiah wrote about did indeed come true within the next few generations. Some of the prophecies Isaiah wrote about (such as we find in Isaiah 24) were telling of a coming judgment further down the timeline – a time still in our future as well. We have not seen it all take place yet, but we can be sure that God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

In Isaiah 24 we read that God’s judgments will reach across the earth and affect everyone: priest and people, master and servant, borrower and lender, rich and poor. There are none who will be able to escape it because of their wealth or power or position. “The exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4b-6a NIV). This will be the fate of the majority, those stuck in their sins without a Savior.

Isaiah also gives hope. To the Jews of his time he spoke of a remnant who would survive the destruction from the conquering armies and return to Jerusalem. This too, has already happened. And, regarding the judgment that is yet to come, Isaiah also has a word of hope and restoration for those who do trust in God in a world that doesn’t – the “very few” that are left after the harvest has taken place. (verse 6 and 13). We have not seen it take place yet, but we can be sure God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

Those who are left are shouting for joy, giving God praise and singing, “Glory to the Righteous One” (vs. 14-16). Isaiah warns it won’t be easy. This group will be targeted by the evil who tries to trap them. But, God is coming with power and justice. “In that day, the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon…for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” Satan, his demons, and all sin and evil and those who have turned their backs on God will face God’s judgment. And God will reign.

Truly, there are so many passages that line up so well with Isaiah 24 (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Revelation just to name a few). For this is indeed a huge part of God’s story for the ages. It is what God wanted Isaiah to tell the nations nearly 3,000 years ago. And, it is what God wanted Paul to remind the church in Thessalonica less than 2,000 years ago. 1st & 2nd Thessalonians are often called the eschatological letters of Paul because of the many references to the end times (or, the end of this age and the beginning of the next). It was not enough for Paul to tell them how they ought to love and serve at the present, without preparing them for what was to come in the future, even if it wasn’t during their lifetime.

As we read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians this week and next, look for how many times Paul teaches, reminds, warns, and encourages the church with God’s perfect plans for our future. How does each chapter in 1st Thessalonians end? For a clue, let’s look at the end of chapter 1? “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV). It is especially exciting reading of a part of the future that Isaiah was only able to allude to – the second coming of Christ Jesus, since Jesus had not come for the first time at the time of Isaiah’s writing.

May we read and heed the warnings of Isaiah and Paul as sent by God. May we be encouraged by God’s plan for the ages as displayed throughout His scriptures. And may we too turn, “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

What will it take for you to believe?

John 7

In John chapter 7 you find an interesting story about Jesus’ brothers who question his authority. Jesus’ brothers try to get Jesus to go up to Jerusalem, so that the miraculous works that he had been doing ( 2:1–11; 4:46–54; 5:2–12; 6:4–14, 19, 21) would be more visible: “No man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” His brothers are very excited that Jesus can do such wonders as heal the sick and turn water into wine and feed 5,000 people; so they want him to get on with the business of showing himself to the world. In one sense Jesus’ brothers have a lot of confidence in Jesus: they really believe he can do miracles. They have seen him. Verse 5, then, is a shock: John says that the reason they urged Jesus on in his miraculous demonstration of power was “because even his brothers did not believe in him.” You can believe Jesus is a great miracle worker and yet still lack the faith Jesus wanted. His miracle-working is insufficient for saving faith.

Are we sometimes like Jesus’ brothers? Taking bits and pieces of Jesus but not fully believing everything he has done. Maybe believing he is a great teacher, but not accepting him as our savior. Maybe we believe that he did those miracles all those years ago, but he could never do a miracle for you today. What will it take for you to believe? Read John chapter 7 and Judges chapters 7&8 and try to find the principles for true belief. The goal is to have saving faith and believing fully in Jesus Christ in everything.  Jesus says in John chapter 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scriptures said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Do you believe this? Make it your prayer today.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 7-8 and John 7

The Good News Gospels

john 20 31

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

Show a Little Love

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13_1

Hello again everyone!

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Ask What I Shall Give You

The Second Book of Chronicles Chapters 1-4

Book of 2 Chronicles

Thursday, November 23

The life of King David comes to an end and ushers in the life and times of

King Solomon. II Chronicles opens with “Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and Yahweh his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly.”  This verse would be a great way to end the story of his life, but these are the early years when he was still seeking after God.

Solomon decided since his kingdom was in order he was going to reward himself and prepare a feast for his friends and family and fans to attend. He also offered great sacrifices to God. It was a partay magnificent~ He was consumed with doing everything right and pleasing God, but his spirituality was more of a surface variety and didn’t hold up to future challenges.

After the great amount of feasting and great amount of offerings, God came to Solomon in a dream that night and tells him to “ask what I shall give you.” I had never noticed this before. I had always assumed that God told him to ask for whatever he wanted. God was ready to tell Solomon something important and instead Solomon reminds God how he had shown grace to David and explains to God how he needs wisdom and knowledge to be a leader and judge Gods people.

God gives Solomon what he asked for and then tells him that all he achieves will be additional gifts from God. His riches, wealth, honor unlike any before him or after him will be from the hand of God. Solomon goes on to do marvelous deeds. He builds the temple and his own personal home (Palace) and hanging gardens that were the envy of the world. Leaders came from far away, just as God promised to bow down and offer gifts. He is a man on the rise. Only he isn’t the messiah, and he is also ready for a fall.

David had prayed that Solomon would be the Messiah and at times Solomon seems to believe he was. David prayed specific prayers over Solomon (Psalms 72) and he seems to try and live up to his father’s desires, but he falls short. Solomon, for all his wisdom and attempts at trying to be the messiah fails and shows us once again the need for a true savior.

I think we all need to look at v.7 again and put our name in place of Solomon.  “In that night (after feasting and worshiping God and giving gifts to God for all his blessings) God appeared to _______ and said, Ask what I shall give you.

“Ask what I shall give you!”…. He is our reason for all our Thanksgiving. Find a way today to bridge a gap or help heal a hurt or simply remind someone how much God has given and stands ready to give.

Glennis Walters

 

Sacrifice that is Pleasing to God (I Chronicles 21-23)

Monday, November 21

1-chron-21-24

Chronicles 21-23 continue with various exploits of David and opportunities to see the need for a savior to stand between sinful man and Yahweh. David had earlier gotten into trouble numbering the “strong men” of Israel who were ready for battle. He doesn’t seem to learn the lesson to trust in God and follow His plan. At times David seems ready to be God’s servant and listen before acting, but he can’t let go of the idea that he needs to be in control.

David decides to order a census. On the surface there is no problem, but God required a tax to be paid to the tabernacle or be plagued each time they were counted in order to take time and count their blessings before God. (Ex. 30:12-15) Joab reasoned the people would not want to pay another tax and would be plagued. In chapter 20:3 Joab asks David, “my lord the king are not they all God’s servants? Why become the cause of guilt for Israel?”

Joab did his best to intercede on behalf of Israel, but David would not relent and Israel was plagued. God keeps His word even when it hurts. When David realized what was happening to the people he asked God to forgive him and if you have heard the story before you know God offered David three choices. Three years of famine. Three months under the control of enemies. Or he could choose three days under the sword of Yahweh.

David asks that he fall into the hands of God because he had witnessed that the mercies of God were great. As God’s angel was ready to strike Jerusalem, God relented after hearing all the cries for mercy and ordered David to build an alter at the spot the angel stood. The story that follows is one of my favorites. Ornan and his four sons have seen the angel and are hiding, like that would help. David approaches to ask to buy the land where the threshing floor stands to build an alter for God and Ornan tells David to take the land and oxen for an offering and suggests David use his tools for the wood to start the fire and to use the wheat he has milled for a meal offering. Ornan says, “I give it all.” Talk about being “All In”!

David could have done just that, but he has had an epiphany. He understands that the sin belongs on his shoulder and he wants to pay the price. He tells Ornan in v. 24, “No; but I will certainly buy it for full price. I will not take that which is yours for Yahweh, nor offer a burnt offering without cost.” Forgiveness comes with a cost. Ornan was willing to give it all to protect his sons. David asked that Israel’s sin be counted to him and his family. He trusted God to love and show mercy and always provide a covering for the sins of men. David was so messed up when he acted on his own impulses. When he came face to face with God, I believe he realized he was a type of Christ to come to mediate for all mankind.

God asks so little of us when you really stop and think about it. Basically God said; if you want to be counted in your own strength, pay a tax to the treasury of God so you are reminded that all you have is mine, all you are is mine and we are in this together.” A sacrifice has to have a cost, otherwise what is the purpose of going through the motions.

Just as David came to realize how he set Israel up for failure and the need for a sacrifice to cover the sins of Israel; let us examine our behavior in light of God’s word and determine each day to be a guide rather than a stumbling block as we interact with our friends and family. And thank the Good Lord above He didn’t hide His son from us, but offered HIM as the perfect sacrifice and the light to a darkened world.

Glennis Walters