Naked

Genesis 3-4 and Matthew 2

One of the more lingering adolescent experiences was changing for gym in the middle school locker room. I can still smell the dense body orders and feel the salty mist hanging in the air. I tried to get to the gym early, that way I didn’t have to skimp down to my drawers in front of everyone.  As a kid that was called “dough boy” in the last two years of middle school, I definitely had some heightened body image issues that directly correlated with my self-esteem.   Taking your clothes off in front of people (or having people take them off in front of you) can be pretty embarrassing to say the least.  Thankfully, I powered through those moments, but can say without a doubt that I didn’t like and still am not a fan of dressing out.

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Gen 2:25

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” – Genesis 3:7

The Garden of Eden was originally a nudist colony of two residents: Adam and Eve.  The thing is, they had no idea that they were even exposed.  I have thought about this a great deal (in a less picturing, more vicarious way), and came to peace with nakedness neither being the sweat-building, panic-inducing deal that it was in my middle school locker room, nor the lust-driven, eye-catching act that entangles many men and women (but especially men).  It isn’t a source of shame or sexuality.   If there is no sin, we are free to walk around naked.  Now this is not a call to rip off all your clothes and walk out into the world in your birthday suit.  Remember, you don’t live in Eden.  Sin still exists.

As we do everything we can to walk closer with God in his garden, We might expose ourselves in a different way.  First, we come before God honestly.  When we pray, let’s not hide or lie.  God already knows the truth.  It may be completely shameful what we have done.  We may field consequences from God, but isn’t open repentance much better than the persisting falsehood?  If we live a lie long enough, we will begin to believe it over what God is directly telling us.  Also, we can live more exposed in front of others. Again, clothes on.  Shame is the depressant that keeps us from forgiveness and moving forward.  Being vulnerable, sharing the most disastrous parts of your testimony, can be tougher than any middle school locker room.  You open yourself up to the loss of opportunities, ridicule, and even persecution.  It doesn’t matter.  God, who works all things together, will turn your shame into His glory, and in the process you will be restored.

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a groom puts on a turban, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10

Now, there may be a few pistons firing, making the connection that the Kingdom of God will bring about something similar to a second Eden.  If so, will we be naked?  Thankfully, there does seem to be some subtle statements about being clothed, at least with a crown and a smile, but the reality is it will not matter.  We will be made new and complete in the most ultimate version there is.  No sin.  No shame.  So, naked or not, here I come.

Thank you all for the opportunity to share my faith with you this week.  I pray that 2021 holds many blessings from God, and we all have the provision, strength, and wisdom to pursue whatever path he has laid out for our lives.

-Aaron Winner

SeekGrowLove.com Editor: Welcome to the Second day of our 2021 Bible reading plan! Print your copy below so you can mark and keep track of your progress. Most days we will read 2 Old Testament chapters and 1 chapter from the New Testament or Proverbs or a few Psalms. Every week we have a new devotions writer who will either write about the daily readings – OR – they may write all week on one Biblical theme they would like to pursue further. Tomorrow, we begin the first theme week as Greg Landry takes a closer look at Creation. We look forward to together Seeking God, Growing our Faith and Loving more and more this year!

With Christ

Galatians 1-3


Social conversations today sometimes revolve around issues and individuals with whom we can relate or identify. For example, I am a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and when there is an exciting play on the field, I tend to get loud. And when the team wins a game, I feel like there is some part of me that also wins, even though I watch the game from home while ironing clothes for the week ahead. If the team loses a game, I feel bad for the team knowing how hard they fought to bring home a victory for all those who choose to cheer them on! I might not ever get the chance to score a touchdown or take a ready position on the offensive line trying to protect a quarterback, but I still feel like I am part of the team. 

When I read the words written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, I claim his declaration in chapter 2 verse 20 as my own. “I have been crucified with Christ” is a phrase that I believe I might have written myself if I were the one penning this epistle. When Jesus offered his life on the cross, he wasn’t doing it just for himself. He wasn’t doing it for all of the believers who were alive at the time. He allowed nails to be driven into his wrists and feet and his blood to pour out for all of us. This is something that I identify with. Jesus was willing to die for me. It’s a gift that I am willing to accept so that I do not have to pay that debt myself. I claim that Jesus is my Savior.


But Jesus is not just my Savior, he is also my Lord. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Because of what Jesus has done for me, the only response that I can have is to dedicate my life in service to him. The thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, the actions that I take, are all a reflection of what it means to “live by faith in the Son of God”. Make no mistake, I mess up often. But thankfully, because the grace of God is never ending, I can be made right again upon confession and repentance. 

And so I ask you, with whom do you identify? Is it your family? Is it your school or workplace? Is it with a professional sports team? Is it your church? While all of those people and organizations are most likely good people and places to associate yourself, remember that the ultimate person with whom you can identify is Jesus the Messiah. He died so that you wouldn’t have to. 


So what will your response to this sacrifice be? Will you align yourself with Christ? Will you choose to be on his team and play every play on the field with all of your heart? Will your thoughts, words, and actions reveal your true allegiance?

I challenge you that if you haven’t already accepted Jesus as your Savior, to do that today! And if you have already done that, remember that he is Lord of your life too. Now is the time to start living like it!  

-Bethany Ligon

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

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Galatians, chapters 4-6.

Matthew 20-21

Election day is only a few days away. Every election cycle seems more divisive as the sides pick and choose what truths they want to adhere to from news media and officials. When we see each side yelling at each other and calling the other names, it can seem like it’s hopeless. How can we piece back together mutual respect and trust – despite the fact that we believe differently? 

In our reading today, we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry, in addition to some parables. In Matthew 21, we get the story: 

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a sign of suffering, humility, industry, and peace rather than a horse, a sign of war and wealth, to show how his kingdom would be different. The people are sure to welcome him into the city and even drape their coats on the ground so that the donkey’s feet would not touch the ground. Even though the people warmly welcomed Jesus and gave him the honor he deserved, the Pharisees saw this and were jealous. After the triumphal entry, they began plotting against Jesus to kill him. 

In the swirl of the election cycle, our focus can get hazy. As we’ve read this week, there is so much that can cloud our vision and cause us to stumble and fall in our pursuit of God. But, as we inch closer and closer to the day when our votes are counted for this country, we need to rest in the truth that this is not our home. We are a holy priesthood – a set-apart nation. We are the kingdom of God on earth, ambassadors of Christ. We are not waiting with bated breath for the winner of this election season to save us. 

Our King rode in on a donkey 2,000 years ago. He is who we are waiting on, who we are trusting in. He is the one who saved us.

~ Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 20-21.

Tomorrow, we will read Luke 18:15-19:48.

Matthew 19 & Mark 10

In Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, he describes the ways that we put other areas of our life in the role of ‘god of our lives.’ Though the handmade idols that the Israelites worshipped – like the Baals and Golden Calves – may not exist anymore, idolatry is still very present in our modern day life. Keller describes how we, as humans, have a tendency to make good things god things, and consequently, we allow those things to turn our focus away from God. Sex, marriage, money, wealth, (self-)righteousness, and status can all be good things, but these things cannot be the ultimate thing. 

In today’s passage, we meet the Pharisees who were trying to trip Jesus up with a question about divorce. They wanted to know if Jesus was going to contradict the law of Moses by saying that divorce was not legal. After Jesus responded that divorce should not happen outside of sexual immorality, the disciples were amazed and said, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). Jesus agrees with them in v. 12 when he talks about the eunuchs who chose to live that way for the sake of the Kingdom. 

Then, later on in Matthew 19, a rich young ruler comes and asks Jesus what rule he needs to follow to get eternal life. Jesus tells him the thing that he needs to do is give his possessions to the poor. He “went away sad, because he had great wealth” (v. 22). When Jesus tells his disciples that it is incredibly difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, they are amazed and asked “Who can be saved?” (v. 25). Jesus responds in v. 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In Matthew 19, Jesus focuses on 3 areas of life, and in each case, he shows the disciples that they need to obediently follow what God says, despite how contrary it looks to the world. These 3 areas of life can be areas where we all easily fall into idolatry. They are good things – but they cannot be the ultimate thing. These things cannot be our god, but we try to put them in that place. 

The pharisees (and the rich young ruler) struggle with self-righteousness. They wanted to be good enough to be their own god – so that in effect, they wouldn’t actually need God. Though no one in the story seemed to struggle with marriage and sex, the question the Pharisees asked brings up this next idol that so many people make an ultimate thing. Both of these marriage and sex are created by God, but so often, we do not act with obedience to God’s word in these areas, and we step out of God’s design for us. By doing so, we are making these things an idol. The last area is money and wealth. The rich young ruler had so much wealth that he went away grieving. We don’t know if he made the choice to act with obedience to what Jesus commanded him to do, or if he decided that his wealth was too important to him to follow Jesus and ‘enter life.’ What we do know is that he mourned for his wealth. The disciples were amazed that Jesus spoke so harshly of wealthy people. In a culture that values money and possessions (like our own), the pursuit of wealth always seems like a good thing. However, like we’ve read this past week in the book of Luke, money can become an idol in our life, and the Bible says plainly that we cannot serve two masters: God and money (Matt. 6:24). 

When it’s so easy to fall into idolatry, who then can be saved? Jesus reassures us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If you find yourself in a place of idolatry – putting good things in the place of the ultimate thing, turn back to God. He is the one with whom all things are possible. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 19 & Mark 10.

Tomorrow, we will read Matthew 20-21.

Luke 17:11-18:14

In today’s reading, we read four different stories: (1) the healing of the ten lepers, (2) the teachings on the coming of the Kingdom, (3) a parable on persistence in prayer, and (4) a parable on the dangers of self-righteousness. Throughout all of these passages, Jesus clearly teaches the importance of humility and the dangers of pride in ourselves. 

In Luke 18:9-14 it says: 

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee in this story believed that he had done everything right. Because of this, he boasted in his own righteousness and looked down on others. When we look at the Pharisee’s actions, we may question why the Pharisee was not the better person in the parable. The Pharisee has been following the law and doing a much better job than the people he was looking down on. Whereas tax collectors were notorious for stealing money when they came to collect taxes for the government of the foreign military occupying their lands. Even though that was the case, the tax collector was the one who was justified before God! 

Why would this be the case? Why would the person whose life did not follow the law be the person who was justified before God? It’s all about the way that we view ourselves in relation to God. As Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” None of us are truly righteous. We all fall short. So, none of us have a right to boast in the few things that we do – none of those things make us righteous when you compare our righteousness to God’s. 

Knowing this, how should we lead our lives? We should still strive for righteousness, but we need to recognize that our actions are an outpouring of our relationship with God. Those actions – going to church, tithing, mentoring, having a ministry, evangelizing, or writing a devotion – those actions are not the things that save us. What saves us is the love that God has for us and the faith we have in him. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 17:11-18:14.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 19 & Mark 10.

Seek!

Jer 29 13

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Most Christians, myself included, are eager for God’s blessings, assistance, and attentiveness to our needs. We crave to know our Creator in an intimate way and desire that He listens to our prayers. However, we often forget that there needs to be effort on our part as well. In the same way that a relationship with a spouse is a 2-way street, requiring effort from both members of the relationship, so we are expected to put some effort into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are told, clear as day, that we will only achieve that intimate relationship with God when we “seek after Him with all of our heart”.

 

When I was growing up, I often went to church services and programs, but never put any effort into developing my faith. I assumed that, because Jesus died for my sins, that I wasn’t expected to do anything else. I told myself, “God knows I’m just young and dumb. He will forgive me”, without ever considering how much I personally needed to change and seek after Him. It took a dramatic act of God to get my attention and drive me to look deeper into my relationship with Him. Fortunately, God led me to Atlanta Bible College, where I was able to pursue Him intentionally and with great vigor. It was during this time that I truly felt that my relationship with Him had really  begun.

 

While not everybody’s story is the same as mine, the same command from God applies to all of us: “Seek me”. We need to be intentionally developing our relationship further with our Father if we expect Him to do the same for us. So, as we begin a new year and a new decade, I want you to consider the following questions:

 

  1. How is my relationship with God and Jesus currently?
  2. How much effort am I putting into that relationship?
  3. What can I do to develop that relationship further this year?

 

May you be blessed as you seek after your Heavenly Father in 2020!

-Talon Paul

 

One way to be Seeking God in 2020 is to commit to daily being in His Word – a most wonderful place to find Him!  Come join us on a chronological Bible reading plan!  Print out the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and start reading on January 1.  Subscribe to be a follower at the SeekGrowLove.com site and you will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s reading.  Come Seek Him!  You won’t be disappointed when He shows Himself to you.  It’s well worth the effort!   And, change a life by inviting a friend to seek with you.                                         – Marcia Railton, Editor

Seek Grow Love

(We had a name change last night!   What was formerly FUEL Bible Reading Blog – Grow16BibleReading has changed to a simpler SeekGrowLove.com.  Here you will still find daily devotions from various writers, all based upon God’s unchanging Word, encouraging and instructing us on how to Seek His Kingdom, Grow in Our Faith, and Love God & Others.  SeekGrowLove.  In the New Year we will begin a Chronological Bible Reading Plan – but more on that tomorrow.  Now for today’s devotion from Bethany!)  

Hebrews 4_14

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate and unexplained kinship with them? The connection between you and your new friend provides the opportunity to relate in unique ways. 


About a decade ago, I was attending a fairly large church and looking for a small group Bible study to become involved with. The church had an online catalog of all the small groups that met and I chose to visit one that coincided with my demographics – single and thirty-something. 


Within minutes of meeting the existing members of the Bible study group, it felt as if we had known each other for years. We talked about ourselves and eventually our conversation turned to where we had grown up and gone to school. We discovered that two of us had attended the same high school – I was just a few years younger. While we didn’t know each other back in the day, we realized that we had a few mutual friends. Our instant familiarity now made sense. 


There’s something special about the people that you grow up with – even if you don’t know them at the time. You share common experiences, mutual friends, and a general understanding of the community that helped shaped you as an individual. 


For my friends and I, we were able to share more deeply, quickly and our friendships are still some of the most important more than 10 years later. 


Hebrews 4:16 starts off with “Let us THEN approach the throne of grace with confidence…” What allows us to do this? What’s the THEN there for? We need to back up and read verses 14 and 15 to be clued in. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, because the one who sits on the throne is able to sympathize with weaknesses because He had been tempted in every way, as we are, yet was without sin. 


Jesus is familiar with what it’s like to live on this earth with all of its guts and glory because He’s done it Himself. Jesus is not a high priest who is oblivious to our situations. Our confidence comes from knowing that He can relate to us. The mercy and grace that we are offered is because Jesus first walked in our shoes. He knows what we need, when we need it, how we need it and why it’s needed. 


What an incredible gift this is to us! To know that our Savior is approachable because He can relate to our needs is such a comfort. 


So let this be your reminder that there is nothing too big or too small for you to bring before the Son of God. You will find all that you need to sustain you. Have confidence in this Good News.

 

Bethany Ligon