Too Distracted – Isaiah 18-22

Distractions

I have been known to burn a few things in the kitchen. Bread, green beans and carrots have all fallen victim to the heat of my stove.  In fact I made pancakes last week and one of the batch was charred. I wouldn’t recommend that cooking method, it wasn’t very tasty.  My husband rarely has this problem because he sets a timer for everything he cooks. I try to follow his example and it really has cut down on my incinerated dishes. You might wonder why I have this problem. I become distracted! The door bell rings, the phone rings, someone is looking for something,…I try to multi-task and get this last little thing finished…that’s when I smell smoke. Life is full of distractions. Do you know that sinking feeling you get when you are supposed to have that assignment in and you are running out of time? I do.

I think the people of Isaiah’s time were the same way. They had full lives with lots of things to distract them from the messages that God was sending through His prophets. God had Isaiah use some extreme actions in order to issue a warning. He had to go around barefoot and stripped down for 3 years. Even though Isaiah was probably wearing his undergarment as the law required him to practice modesty, you would still think that was embarrassing for him. Yet his warning was witnessed by the people and his prophecy did come true.  This proved that he was speaking for the LORD.

Even though we do not have the physical presence of Isaiah with us today, we do have his messages. His messages along with all the other writings composing the scriptures should get our attention.

I asked some of our youth workers what they consider distractions and as you can imagine, the answer was “anything can be a distraction”.

Our challenge today should be to remove some of those distractions. We should truly focus on God and spending time in the scriptures. We should look at the example of Christ and the early Christians, learning how to interact with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

~ The Guthrie Grove Youth Ministry Team

 

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

Tomorrow, we continue reading the history of Israel in Isaiah 23-27 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Damascus Road Illumination

Acts 9

Acts 9 3 4

Saul was a man of deep convictions. He was deeply convicted that he was doing the right thing in the eyes of God. Not only did he feel he was right in the eyes of God, I believe he truly thought his vehement persecution of Christians was God-honoring work. Perhaps he even thought he was on a special mission from God. Saul was a Pharisee and Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the law. I think the law was like a blanket of security for him, a metaphorical checklist that he could check off point by point and be assured he was in good standing with God. How dare these Jesus followers, pushing their radical message of grace and echoing the teachings of Jesus that the contents of one’s heart far outweighed any outward action. Heresy! Something HAD to be done!

 

Is it possible that we are deeply convicted about something that we feel is God-approved- or even God-honoring- that in fact might not be? While we are not likely to have a flashing, blinding light from heaven to illuminate our paths and pinpoint the error of our ways, rest assured, our Heavenly Father does illuminate our paths. We have assurance from the well-known verse found in Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (NASB). We are also told in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NASB). Our Damascus Road illumination often comes in the form of scripture. We must be brave enough to continually compare our convictions up against scripture and prayerfully consider if those convictions resonate with the heart of God. In many ways our Christian walk is like a perpetual Damascus-road experience- if we are open to it. If we allow Him, God will continually refine our hearts and shape us. We read in Isaiah 64:8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

 

The beauty of being a Christ-follower is that we can have a new identity in Christ. We become a new creation. Saul’s conversion was marked by a change in name to Paul. Does our name-tag still read Saul? Or are we continually striving to be a Paul for Christ?

-Kristy Cisneros

Generation to Generation

rebecca 6

It brings me so much joy to see youth and young adults pursuing ministry. It is wonderful to see the next generation serving other members of the church and the community in the name of Christ. Young people that “get it”. They want to make a positive difference and make an eternal impact on the world around them.

I am so thankful for the people who were there for our generation. The adults that worked, studied, served, and prayed with us. Our Youth Workers’ commitments to our church and faith were evident in their church involvement.  I was so blessed because I got to serve alongside so many solid servants of Christ. We did the little, insignificant things along with the big stuff. It didn’t matter if it was unclogging a toilet, doing a food collection, visiting a nursing home, rolling coins after a fundraiser, working on a broken down church bus, speaking or singing in a worship service-whatever the task, our Youth Workers were working it out beside us. They spoke with encouraging words of wisdom and instilled confidence as we overcame difficulties that stood in the way to completing our mission. After all, a true follower of Christ is willing to present the gospel, help others, even wash some dirty feet…

The Apostle Paul had the opportunity to bring countless generations of people to Christ. We are still learning from his writings today. Timothy had the chance to learn from him first hand. Paul refers to Timothy as “my true son in the faith”. He had worked alongside Paul for years and had served the churches. Paul made sure that Timothy understood and practiced the essentials of the Christian faith. He also prepared him for leadership.

Paul informed him in 1 Timothy 3:15, “But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Paul wanted Timothy to know how to serve the Church, how to deal with problems and encourage the people to grow in Christ.  He warned him about terrible times in the last days because of how evil many people would become (2 Timothy 3:1-5). He also passed along a charge, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

What great advice for all generations!

-Rebecca Dauksas

You Are Not Alone

matt 4 4 (2)

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

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

And, then we all went home.

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

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

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

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

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

You are Not Alone,

Marcia Railton

Knowing Scripture

Matthew 4

Matt 4 4

It always impresses me when someone can quote scripture that is appropriate to the situation at hand, especially when they can quote it word for word, and know the reference.  Being impressed isn’t really because of their knowledge, but because if they can quote exactly what is in scripture, and tell me where to look it up and get more information means that I can know the truth from the Bible.

In Matthew 4, Jesus has spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting.  I think that would make it very difficult to remember anything clearly.  However, when tempted, Jesus is able to quote the necessary scripture to answer the temptations brought to him by the tempter.  When tempted with food, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  For each of the other temptations, Jesus again quotes Old Testament scripture that answers the temptation directly.  Because of these answers, the devil leaves Jesus.

How awesome is the power of scripture.  We can rebuff temptation with scripture in the same way Jesus did.  However, it requires us to know scripture, to memorize it.

I often find myself being able to paraphrase things, and maybe being able to get somewhere close to where it is found.  If given time, I can find it.  While this is helpful, it often falls short of what I need.  When I am having a difficult time, or trying to help someone, it is frustrating not being able to find the verses needed to help with the problem.

I encourage you to learn and memorize scripture.  Jesus is our example, and he knew the scriptures.  We should all follow that example.

-Andrew Hamilton

 

God Revealed

psalm 100 5

Yesterday we were discussing keeping God at the top of our thankful list – above all the great gifts He has given.  And we said it was easy to let God slip from this spot if we didn’t work at knowing Him more and more.  After all, it’s impossible to be in a thankful relationship with someone I barely know – or rarely think about – or only sporadically spend time with.

And so, daily digging into His Word where He reveals Himself to those who are seeking Him is the best way to deepen our understanding and appreciation of who He is and what He has done for us.  And, as an extra bonus, we also can receive valuable instruction on how to live to please Him when we dive into the 66 love letters He has sent to us.

If someone isn’t used to opening God’s Word to get to know Him better, it might seem a bit daunting.  It is indeed a big book.  A big book written many generations ago.  But still written with YOU in mind.  And written to show you who your Heavenly Father is and how to have a relationship with Him.

Let’s pull up our Psalm for the week and see what we can find out about God in these verses.

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

So, what do we learn about God…
verse 3 – The Lord is God.   He wants to be known.  He created us.  We belong to Him.  He watches over us.
verse 4 – He has gates and courts – like royalty.
verse 5 – God is good.  He is loving and His love lasts.  He is faithful – forever.
That’s a lot to learn about God in just 5 short verses!  Whether we are reading a short psalm of 5 verses or the historical account of the Israelites escaping Egypt, God is revealing himself in His Word.  And He wants to meet you there.
-Marcia Railton

What to Do with Doubt

Mark 9:14-32 (Monday)

Mark 9 24

None of Scripture was intended to be read.  Although that may seem strange to us today, the ability to read was incredibly rare.  For today, it’d be like having a doctorate.  There are a number of professor’s out there, but you don’t run into them every day.  Reading just wasn’t something most people needed to be able to do to get through their day.  The agricultural and craftsman lifestyles didn’t need to keep many notes themselves.  As a result, the writings, when they were used, were usually read aloud in a collective setting – and this is key.  Because Scripture is meant to be heard – not read!  All those with EARS, let them HEAR.

Because of this, there weren’t any of the nifty little headings that we find in our Bibles today.  It was just one long story without breaks or chapters.  So, the nice breaks that we often get around stories didn’t exist except for the past few hundred years.  For today’s reading, both of these things are really important.

These two vignettes in Mark 9:14-32 (the healing of the child and the misunderstanding of the disciples) come back to back and would have been heard that way by Mark’s original audience.  So, what I’d like you to do is try it.  Take just a second to read these verses out loud. If you’re somewhere public, just try whispering if you want.  But read it out loud and see what sticks out to you.  I’ll wait here and I’ll do it too…

[waiting]

So, how was it?  Awkward? Weird?  Probably a little.  But when I did it something new really stood out to me about this passage.  In the first story, a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus responds ‘oh you faithless people…how much longer do I have to put up with you.  Bring me the boy.’  The father, distraught over Jesus’ seemingly kinda cruel response, cries out – ‘I want to believe! Please help my unbelief!’  He wants to save his son and will do whatever it takes to save him.

The next story is between Jesus and his disciples.  He’s teaching them about what’s going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem.  But they don’t get it.  They don’t have belief/faith, just like the dad in the previous story.  However, instead of putting aside their pride and asking for Jesus to help their unbelief (lack of understanding), they stay silent.

Here, in these few verses, a man from “this faithless generation” reaches out, pleads, and finds Jesus meeting him in his unbelief while the ones who are part of Jesus’ own inner-circle remain unmoved in their faithlessness.  And this at a time when Jesus’s time with them was literally drawing short.

The problem with this is never unbelief.  The problem is how we respond to it.  We won’t have all the answers.  We will doubt and question.  Jesus doesn’t lament our struggle – it is one that he himself walked through (for he shared in all things but without sin).  Embrace the places where you are unsure.  Lean into the spots where the struggle is the most real and you are shaken like the son in the story.  Push forward and call out for a help, a grace that will fill us in our uncertainty and bring healing.

-Graysen Pack

The Storms of Life

Mark 4

Mark 4 41b

As I write this, masses are evacuating Florida in the anticipation of Hurricane Irma. By the time you read this, I hope that the storm has passed and that the loss will be minimal. I pray for the recovery teams who will be in the areas doing their best to help families begin to put lives back together.

 

In Mark 4 we read about another storm. One that scared the disciples beyond anything that they had ever experienced before. This huge squall was both a test and a teachable moment. Jesus was testing the men’s faith and trust in the Son of God. Jesus also used this time to teach the men the extent of His great power. If these men had any doubts before about who Jesus was and what He was able to do, His calming the winds and the waves certainly would have clarified any misconceptions, don’t you think?

 

I think that we all have to experience a storm or two in our relationship with Jesus in order to find out what our faith is made of. I can think of several of you who I personally know and the storms that Jesus has lead you through and how it has reinforced your faith. I too have been tossed about in a violent storm and the only thing I knew to do was to call out to Jesus. I’ve had my share of nights where the only thing that brought my mind enough peace was to sleep with an open Bible on my bed and my hand literally resting on God’s promises. I’ve had days when anxiety was so great within me that the only thing that could keep the negative thinking at bay was to read Scripture out loud for hours on end.

 

If you are not currently experiencing a storm, then now is the time to make sure that you are in the Word daily and living out your faith while the waters are calm. 2 Timothy 1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

 

If you are living through a storm right now, hang on tight. Hebrews 4:14 encourages us with this: “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess.”

 

I many not know the details of your personal storm, but I do know the One who is powerful enough to keep our boats from overturning. And He certainly will bring you through to the other side. Believe. Trust. Love. Obey.

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

Converse with the Almighty

bible

Saturday’s Weekly Recap with Graysen Pack

This week we’ve walked through another six chapters of Proverbs and found words that, although written thousands of years ago, still speak to the persistent struggles of human existence.  Answers to guide us seek the wealth that God promises, to join God’s work as he defends the orphaned and poor, to earnestly engage in honest community, to be aware of the emotional strife of ourselves and others, and to use our words to build a church of sincerity.

 

It can be easy to forget that even when we read the oldest parts of the Bible, the words are still alive and active.  And we don’t really read Scripture, but instead engage in a conversation with it.  It isn’t a professor lecturing at us from the front of a large classroom.  Instead, it is a dialogue that speaks to who, where, and when we are.  The words of God are both alive in the history of Israel and the church as well as our lives today.

 

As you continue to read through the Word of God this year, remember that you are entering a conversation that will speak to your life and the life of the world today.

2500 Years Later

Sunday Intro by Graysen Pack

God's Word RemainsLiving & Active

As we continue our readings in Proverbs (Chapters 22-26 this week), we are going to be leaving a collection of sayings by Solomon that contrast the wise and the foolish.  We’ll then move into a new section of Proverbs, the sayings of the Wise.  These proverbs, unlike previous ones, aren’t written down by Solomon directly but put down to paper by the servants of King Hezekiah years later.


This reveals one of the defining characteristics of Wisdom literature as it’s found in Scripture: it is a product of the dynamic tension that ancient people faced in their day to day lives.  These are sayings that were passed down for generations from the time of Solomon to the days of Hezekiah and then put to paper.  Unlike some portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Wisdom literature found in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, and Ecclesiastes are intrinsically shaped by the ways that the Jews of ancient Israel were trying to understand the role of faith in their daily actions.

 

This is what makes these scriptures deep, meaningful, and particularly relevant to the struggles we still face today.  So, as we explore the Proverbs this week, I encourage you to not see them as a detached set of sayings from a time long gone, but as markers laid out by individuals of faith who found themselves in older variations of the exact same challenges we encounter in our own lives some 2500 years later.