Heal Our Land

2 Chronicles 6-7 & Psalm 136

2 Chronicles 7 14 NIV sgl

Solomon addresses the people of Israel, reminding them of how they got to where they are in regards to the building of God’s temple.  Then he offers a prayer of dedication of the temple.

In his prayer, Solomon knows that as great as the temple is, it isn’t great enough for God.  Yet he asks God to hear what is brought before Him in this house.

40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

41 “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.
42 Lord God, do not reject your anointed one.
Remember the great love promised to David your servant.”

 

God doesn’t have to hear us.  He doesn’t have to love us.  Yet he established a covenant with David that continued through the generations, that when it came to Jesus, was opened to everyone.  We should be so thankful to God for that!

God responded to Solomon’s prayer with fire and His glory filling the house.  And later, He appeared to Solomon.  One of my favorite verses is in this next section –

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I know this was directed to the people of Israel, but I’d like to think it can apply to us too.  Our land is so broken today.  I live in Minnesota.  These past few weeks we have been dealing with a huge mess of brokenness.  A police officer killed a man during an arrest.  Peaceful protests gave opportunists the chance to start violent riots with buildings being burned down, stores looted, people being sexually assaulted, kids going without food because the services that normally provide them with food are unable to operate amidst this, and much more.  And all I can think is how much our land needs to be healed.  And that is just in my little state.  I know there are problems all across our country, and our world.  If all of God’s people turned to Him and prayed, could our land be healed?

My comfort in this time is knowing that our land will be ultimately healed.  Jesus will return and the earth will be made new.  But until then, I do believe it is the job of God’s people to pray and to turn to Him and away from wickedness.

We’ll end today and this week with Psalm 136.

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His love endures forever.

If I counted correctly, that phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times in this psalm.

Thanks Marcia for putting this reading plan together.  What a timely reminder.  Whatever is happening in the world today, God’s love endures forever.

Come lord Jesus come.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s beautiful and timely Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+6-7%2C+Psalm+136&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 134 and 146-150 as we continue seeking God, and growing our Christian faith while learning to love Him and others better and better on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.   Now is a great time to start following along. Print your own plan (red link above) and subscribe to the daily devotion emails at https://seekgrowlove.com/

 

God’s Glory & Forgiveness: Then & Now

1 Kings 8 & 2 Chronicles 5

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Once the temple was finished, they brought in the ark of the covenant.  It was brought into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the Holy of Holies.  When the priests (who had sanctified themselves) had come out, and the group praised the LORD, His glory filled the temple and the priests couldn’t perform their service because of His great glory.

That concept of how great the glory of the LORD is hard to comprehend for me.  On one of our Zoom calls for the youth group recently, we watched a video on holiness.  There were some interesting points in it, and a good analogy on how to better understand God’s holiness and why we can’t be too close (watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9vn5UvsHvM).  We cannot get too close to God because we are impure, and He is perfect.  People had to purify themselves to come into the temple.  And for the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, separated by a veil, the purified high priest could only enter once per year on the Day of Atonement when the whole nation asked God for forgiveness of their sins.

The good news for us is that we live in a time after Jesus interceded.  When he died, that veil was torn, and we can now come to God instead of the high priest, and we can come without having to go through those same purifying rituals.  I forget sometimes what a blessing that is.  Because of Jesus being our mediator, we can go to God and receive forgiveness from our sins by request, not through sacrificial offerings.  We have never had to live in a time where it was different, but can you imagine it?  Thinking of this helps to remind me of how amazing Jesus’ sacrifice was.

If you haven’t already, you can stop reading in 1 Kings 8 at verse 12 and pick up there tomorrow to read a similar account in 2 Chronicles.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+8%2C+2+Chronicles+5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Chronicles 6-7 and Psalm136 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Giving It Your All

When Working for Him

2 Chronicles 4 18 NIV

1 Kings 7 & 2 Chronicles 4

After the temple was built, Solomon built his palace.  When I read through this, my first thought was that he had his priorities right in building God’s house first, but why did he spend more time building his palace?  It doesn’t directly say, but I can guess from what is missing, that there wasn’t the eager readiness of someone to provide all the materials and laborers for this.  Another reason the commentaries say is because there wasn’t the same sense of urgency in completing the task.  The one for God – utmost importance, need to get this done!  The one for Solomon, they get it done, but the timing isn’t as important.  So that brought my thinking again to priorities as with Proverbs.  Do I put God’s work first?  Do I approach it with a great sense of urgency?  I wish I could say yes, but I don’t think that is often the case.  I need to make sure that how I am choosing to spend my time is lining up with what I say my priorities are.

Then we are back to temple (or if you are reading the 2 Chronicles account, you never left that).  It is talking about the furnishings – again, if it is hard for you to visualize, look up a picture!  It makes reading it easier.

This description is again so specific but speaks to the intricacies of what was being done to prepare the temple of God.  This had to take so much preparation, and then the work that went into all the details was intense too.  This wasn’t being done halfway.  They really were trying to build, to the best of their human abilities, something to truly glorify God.

When we do something for God, do we put our full effort into it?  Or do we just get it done?  When we aren’t excited about something, I think sometimes we just aim to get the task done.  And it may need to be done.  But I don’t think that brings joy to God the way it would if we gave it our all.  God may still be glorified through our work, but for me at least, I don’t feel the same.  If I didn’t put my full effort in, I can tell, even if others can’t.  I want to please God in what I do, and I think He is most pleased when I am putting in 100% effort.

So put your full effort into what you are doing today!  See what kind of difference it makes for you.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+7%2C+2+Chronicles+4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Still Can Not Contain Him

1 Kings 5-6 and 2 Chronicles 2-3

2 Chronicles 2 5b NIV sgl

I never much cared for reading the descriptions of the temple preparations or building. That is, until I had an open-ended project in school to study an ancient culture and create artifacts from that time.  My group picked the Hebrew culture, and one of the items we chose to create was a to-scale replica of Solomon’s temple.  That section of reading got a whole lot more interesting for me as I took notes on the dimensions, did the math to scale it down (probably the most fun part for me!), and found objects to use to build it.

I still struggle reading the descriptions, but when I stop and picture what our group made, it makes it easier!  So if you are a visual learner, go look up a drawing of Solomon’s temple.  I think it will help.

I don’t know why such an elaborate description of the temple is included for future generations to read, but if you can picture it, it really is an impressive work.  It took 7 years to build!  I know they didn’t have the technology we have today (and didn’t use iron tools at the site – take some time to look that up – some interesting theories), but that is still a long time to build something.  2 Chronicles 2:5-7 says:

5 “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him? 7 “Send me, therefore, a man skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving, to work in Judah and Jerusalem with my skilled workers, whom my father David provided.

Solomon, recognized that though this temple would be great, it couldn’t contain God.  But they would build it to offer sacrifices which was the best option at the time.

One thing that stood out to me in this section is the relationship between Hiram & Solomon – I found it interesting in the 1 Kings account, Hiram reached out first to establish the good relationship with Solomon that he had with David.  Even though God didn’t allow David to build the temple, He worked through him to provide the materials and skilled laborers that Solomon would need by way of a relationship.  Do you ever think about how the relationships you establish could affect the future generations?  I always enjoy hearing about connections.  How someone’s grandparent established a church which lead to another group of people coming into the faith, and their family, and now today I know their descendants because of that.  The connections we make today can have a lasting impact.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+5-6%2C+2+Chronicles+2-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 7 & 2 Chronicles 4 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Strong-Willed for God

Proverbs 22-24

Proverbs 22 6 NIV sgl

If you are just jumping in now, I have been pulling out a few lines in Proverbs that stand out to me, but I encourage you to do the same – you will likely find different ones!

22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

My mom always tells these horror stories from when I was a young child about how I was a nightmare to deal with (I’m sure she exaggerates…), but that didn’t mean that she just accepted it.  She tells me she prayed and asked that God would turn my stubborn, strong-willed self to be stubborn and strong-willed for God.  I can’t say that I have done a perfect job, but I know I am thankful for the prayers my mom said.  I don’t hit people in anger anymore (or throw whatever is in my hand across the room when I get mad).  Though I sometimes struggle to stay on fire for God, I am trying to do what I can to stay faithful through it.  The attribute of being strong-willed has been put to use in staying steadfast even when I go through times of struggle.   If you are the child who was raised in the faith and is still in it, thank your parents!  If you are someone who has children or plans to someday, keep this in mind.  It starts young.

23:4-5 Saying 8

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Finding a balance between providing for life and accumulating wealth can be difficult.  Most of us want to have nice things in life, but it can consume us.  That first line stands out to me – “Do not wear yourself out to get rich;” If I am so focused on work that I am worn out everyday, or don’t have time to spend with my family, I don’t think that is right.  Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of other places in the Bible that tell us we should be hard workers and not to be lazy (see next section), but overworking yourself just to gain wealth doesn’t feel right.  You might not be able to get everything you want, but learning to be content with what you have is for the better.  Contentedness is something I have been working on the last few months. What I have is enough.

24:30-34

30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

Being lazy leads to an inability to thrive.  We have to find that balance of hard work, but not letting it consume us to where gaining possessions becomes our sole focus.  How are your priorities?  Where is God on that list?

We are moving out of Proverbs tomorrow, so enjoy these little bits of wisdom!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+22-24&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow we jump from Proverbs (many of Solomon’s writings) to 1 Kings 5-6 and 2 Chronicles 2-3 to read some of the events of King Solomon’s life and reign.  We return to the rest of Proverbs next week on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

God’s Way Wins

Proverbs 19-21

Proverbs 21 30 NIV sgl

I encourage you to read these chapters focusing again on what stands out to you.  Depending on where you are at in life right now, different words of wisdom might stick.  Here are some that stuck out to me:

19:11 – A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

I’m someone who tends to hold grudges.  Especially if I wasn’t asked for forgiveness.  When someone asks, I am usually willing to offer it, but the thing is, people don’t always ask.  And sometimes I perceived I was wronged when the other person doesn’t see it that way.  This proverb reminds me that it is better to forgive and move past an offense than to let it sit and weigh me down.

19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Accepting correction isn’t easy.  I tend to bristle at it (especially when I know it is something I did wrong, or need to change).  It puts my defenses up, and I imagine many others feel the same.  But when we accept proper discipline, we come out better.  We learn and grow, and don’t continue to make the same mistakes.  It is an important part of life to heed Godly advice and discipline, even when we don’t like it.

21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

This one is an encouraging one to end today’s thoughts.  Sometimes it can feel like in this world, evil is winning.  That people have made their plans, and they are succeeding despite it being contrary to God’s ways.  So here is your reminder: they won’t win out in the end.  Nothing can succeed if it is against the LORD.  We might feel weighed down and defeated when we see evil prevail, but we know how it ends.  We know who wins.  And it isn’t evil.

I’m writing this while life is weird.  We are stuck at home, not going to church (I don’t think I have ever not been to church on Easter Sunday), many people not going to jobs, not having dinner with families, not enjoying a dinner out.  But we can have peace when we remember that no matter what is happening now, God has a plan, it will come to be, and we can look forward to eternal life.

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 22-24 as we continue seeking and growing in God’s way during our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Follow Your Heart – or Not?

Proverbs 16-18

Proverbs 16 3 4 NIV

For those of you that don’t know, I love Disney.  Like, a lot.  But one thing that often bothers me about many of the movies is the message to follow your heart.  It sounds nice, but I know if I always followed my heart, I would not be in a good place.  The beginning of Proverbs 16 reminds me of this.

If we just follow our hearts, we are likely to go the wrong way.  We need to seek the LORD, and He will establish our steps (16:9).  When we set our hearts on the LORD, then we become the wise.  When we are the wise, then we become the discerning (16:21), the ones who say what is right (16:23).  There are examples of many kinds of people in these chapters, but one thing is clear – all of the good things come from God.

A couple other of the lines of these proverbs stood out to me:

17:6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

I have a daughter, and I know how much she is loved by her grandparents.  I may have even heard them say something like grandkids are better than kids.  What really struck me in this one is that parents are the pride of their children.  Am I living a life that my child would be proud of?  I mean, she is almost 2 right now – she loves everything I do.  But give it a few years – are my actions worthy of her pride?  Maybe some of you reading are parents and can ask yourselves this.  Maybe some of you are younger – direct yourselves to that first part – are you living a life that makes you a crown to your grandparents?

18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

When we talk, do we think about this big of an impact in what we say?  The power of life and death.  Sometimes we (or at least I) say the first thing that comes to my mind, and it is not always the best thing.  If I could remember this proverb, would it make me take the time to think about what I am going to say before I say it?  I hope so.

As you read through these chapters, spend some time focusing on the lines that stand out to you.  Take time to examine the parts of your life that might be calling out as you read these Proverbs.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+16-18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 19-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Live Like New Creations!

Galatians 6

Galatians 6 9

In keeping in step with the Spirit, we can’t ignore sin.  But we don’t just condemn the person either.  We are supposed to restore that person.   And beyond that, Paul says:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Now, this seems a little contrary to what he says just three verses later that each person should carry their own load, but I think it is not. We are responsible for ourselves.  But as members of the body of Christ, we can help each other out to make things easier for our brothers and sisters.

The next paragraph is encouraging!  Don’t give up – something better is coming!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul wraps up this book by going back to the topic of circumcision that was causing divide.

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Do it or don’t do it – it doesn’t matter.  We are under a new law of freedom now.  This may not be an issue that causes divide amongst Christians today, but we can get trapped in other debates about things that don’t really matter.  If we are new creations in Christ, we should live like it, in the freedom his sacrifice has given us, giving honor to him and our Father.

Thanks for reading this week – I hope you gained something from these devotions!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

In Step with the Spirit

Galatians 5

Gal 5 7

Chapter 5 picks up right where 4 left off (if you haven’t already, you might just want to read the whole book straight through to get the most out of it – it’s only 6 chapters).

1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. […] You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

From chapter 4, we know that the Galatians were struggling, falling back to their old ways. Paul is still trying to get to the heart of the why and how.  He wants them to quit trying to be justified by the law – because by doing do, they miss out on Christ’s promise and are once again bound into slavery.

Do you ever get bogged down by doing things exactly by the letter and then realize that you have been missing the point?  Paul is specifically talking to the Galatians about circumcision, but I think the same idea could apply to many things.  This reminds me of Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were so focused on making sure no work was done, that they wanted to condemn Jesus for healing someone.  Jesus pointed out that if a sheep fell into a hole on the Sabbath, they would pull it out – and how much more valuable is a person!  So Paul’s point is to quit being so focused on the letter of the law – he says in verse 5 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

So rather than focusing on the law, focus on this:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It could be easy to say that if we are not bound by the law that we are free to do whatever we want, but I believe we are called to a standard higher than the law by this freedom.  If we look to Romans 6, Paul clarifies here that we are to offer ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness and to not let sin reign.

This chapter finishes with the fruit of the Spirit.  You are probably familiar with these, but I usually think about these alone, not in the context of this book.  If we are children of God through Christ, then we have the Spirit to guide us rather than the law.  This list isn’t easy.  They are high standards of living.  I am going to leave you today with these verses as a reminder – let’s try to live in step with the Spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Backs Turned to God, or Turning Back to God – Your Choice

Galatians 4

Galatians 4 9

Picking up from yesterday’s chapter, Paul continues to talk about heirs.   I think it is best to go back and read the end of Galatians 3 again (remember, the chapter breaks were added later – not by Paul when he was writing).  Everyone was a slave under the law.  But thankfully, God made a way that they (and we) could become His children.  By accepting Christ, one can become a child of God through adoption.

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

From slave to heir – what an amazing opportunity!  How often do we take that for granted?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, not only have we been freed from the bondage of slavery, but we have also become heirs of God – and our inheritance is eternal life in His Kingdom.

This next section speaks of the Galatians turning their backs to God.  Paul is feeling like he wasted his time and effort with them since they have reverted to how they were before they knew God.  Paul seems to not be able to understand how they could go back.  When he was with them to bring them the gospel the first time, they were a blessing to him, but now they are causing him great distress.  Paul even goes as far as to compare it to the pains of childbirth as he is waiting for Christ to be formed in them again.  As someone who went through that last year, my sarcastic side thinks “Really, Paul?  What do you know about that?”  But my somewhat more logical side can recognize that he is using that language to convey the seriousness of his concern – both in how much he cares for them as if they were his own children, and also how hurt he is by the turning of their backs on what he taught them.

I imagine that the Galatians were not intentionally turning away from God.  But by not being intentionally focused on God, that was the result.  I know I am guilty of this.  It takes work to keep your mind and life set on God.  You may not be actively doing things that would displease Him, but by not actively doing things that do please Him, you are still going to be drifting further and further from Him.

Going back to Abraham’s story again, Paul brings up his two sons.

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. […] 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f]31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

We want to be children of the promise – of the free woman.  And the only way for us to do this is through Christ, so if you haven’t made the decision to follow him yet, I encourage you to do so!

~Stephanie Fletcher