Accepting Adversity

Job Chapters 1-5

job 2 10

Job is considered a book of wisdom literature, and it speaks to us today as much as it did thousands of years ago, bringing us great wisdom in our hardest moments. Job was placed under a pressure test of faith, one which many of us can empathize with. In a test of faith, Job lost his home, his income, his children, and suffered from physical ailments. The only thing that Job had left was a wife who told him to “curse God and die” – hardly a blessing to him. Job goes through a roller-coaster of emotions after this, at some points blessing God for his predicament, and at others, challenging God’s goodness. Job’s “friends” try to assist him and give him an answer for why these things have happened to him, but are not helpful in the slightest.

 

Many of us can relate to Job’s predicament. If you have ever lost a loved one, it is very easy to blame God for “taking” them. Through times of severe illness, one wonders where God is and what He is doing to help me. When someone goes through a time of serious financial crisis, it is difficult to see God’s provision through the struggle. However, as we read through the story of Job, we become encouraged that God hasn’t gone anywhere; sometimes difficult situations are used to test our faith in God, making us stronger than ever.

 

You may be going through a difficult situation right now, for which there may be no answer. If you aren’t going through a situation like this currently, you will go through one eventually. It is important to remember that our situations and struggles do not define us, and they do not define God’s character. God is good all the time, even through the most difficult times of life. We are also still valuable in His sight, and have not gone unnoticed, through our struggles. Jesus encourages us that we are the most valuable creation that God has made, and that “every hair of our head is numbered.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

 

I wish to challenge you today to consider your challenges as a joy, since God is testing your faith in Him, making you stronger (see James 1:2-4). Through every struggle, you will eventually make it through to the other side. God has not abandoned you in your hurt and suffering, but is waiting on you to call out to Him. It is okay to be upset and not understand what is happening, but we must never lose our faith in the Creator. He is perfect, even when we cannot see it.

 

Talon Paul

 

You can read or listen to today’s passage at  – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1-5&version=NIV

Most scholars believe the book of Job was written in very early history – so we will pause with our reading of Genesis and spend the next 12 days in Job, and then return to Genesis. You can consult or print the yearly chronological Bible reading plan here 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

James 1 12

The Struggle with Sin Continues

January 3 – Genesis 8-11 

Genesis 9 20 NIV.png

Genesis 8-11 is a story of great hope and promise, and also a tragedy that reminds us all of our brokenness before God. After the great flood that God brought on the earth to remove all the sinful people, He is now ready to start over with Noah and his family. God gives them the same commands that He gave to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (9:1) The story appears to have taken care of humanity’s disobedience; unfortunately, that’s not the case. Noah apparently is just as sinful as everybody else, falling into a drunken stupor, and then something suspicious happens with his son, Ham. While we don’t know exactly what happened in this scene, we do know that it was sinful, as Ham’s son is cursed because of what took place.

 

This story should remind us all of just how broken we truly are. Although we have been redeemed by God through Jesus’ sacrifice and have escaped from the Final Destruction through his death, we still fall short and sin against our God. (Romans 3:23) The apostle Paul tells us his own struggle with sin, by stating that “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) He continues and says that, although his status is “in Christ”, his body still struggles to do the right things and falls into sin (Romans 7:18-25).

 

If you have accepted Christ, you are now experiencing a tension within yourself: the battle between the Spirit and the flesh (see Romans 8). Although you know that you have been saved by Jesus Christ, and desire to do the right thing, your “flesh” still struggles with sin. This is a constant struggle that we will face until Jesus comes back to finally deal with sin completely, in our hearts and in the world. This is a struggle that is painful and reminds us daily that “no one is righteous” before God (see Romans 3:9-12). However, it is a blessing, since God’s Spirit is working within us to clean up the areas where we are still dirty with sin.

 

Today, I challenge you to be aware of the decisions that you make. Is this something that is in line with God’s Spirit, or is it something that would be considered a “deed of the flesh”? (Galatians 5:16-25) Does the action I am about to take bring life or death? Does it build others up, or does it tear them down? Is it beneficial to my faith, or is it a barrier?

 

As you struggle along this journey of the Christian path, I want to encourage you that the hardship is absolutely worth it in the end! God loves you and is with you through this!

 

Talon Paul

 

 

Print your yearly reading plan here –  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read, or listen, to today’s passage here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8-11&version=NIV

Believing the Lies

January 1 – Genesis 1-3

Genesis 3 4 (NIV)

The opening chapters of Genesis play out like a graphic novel, presenting us with the dream scenario where the world is perfect, God is dwelling among His creation, and human beings are in perfect relationship with each other and their Creator. Unfortunately, the scene does not last very long, as the human beings forget their Creator and disobey, bringing an end to God’s perfect world. They start to blame each other, are ashamed of the way that they look, and are separated from God’s presence. It is a terrible tragedy, but one that we still experience today.

 

At the very core of this story, and the reason that the humans disobeyed God, is because they believed a lie rather than the truth of their Creator. The serpent in the garden promised the humans that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, that they would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” What is tragic about this story is that the humans are already like God, being made in His image (1:26-28)! They did not believe the words spoken by their Creator, and instead, let the lies spoken by the serpent define and destroy them.

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a story of the past, but a daily struggle that every human being faces today. The teenage boy is told that he isn’t worth anything because he failed to perform well at a sporting event. The young girl is told that she is ugly because she doesn’t match what the pictures show in the magazines. The elderly man is told that he is no longer useful since he can’t operate the same way as he could in his youth. The barren woman is told that she has no purpose because she struggles to bear children in this world. And the list continues to go on and on…

 

These are all lies that the serpent still tells God’s creation, in order to drive them into despair and death (see John 10:10). We see and feel this on a daily basis; we all buy into the lies of the serpent, forgetting the truths that God pronounces over each of us. Scripture tells us that God loves us (John 3:16), that He has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), that we are chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), that we are forgiven of our sins in Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that God made each and every one of us in a very special, personal way (Psalm 139:13-14).

 

Today, I want to encourage you to listen to the truths of your Father and forget the lies you’ve been told. You are valuable. You are precious. You are loved. You belong to Him. God cares deeply for you, and wants you to come into a real relationship with Him like our ancestors had in the Garden of Eden. Come before Him through the blood of Jesus and rest, knowing that your Creator tells you the truth.

 

Talon Paul

 

Day 1 of the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Here’s a link to BibleGateway.com where you can read, or listen to, today’s passage:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1-3&version=NIV

 

 

Love!

1 Peter 4 8 NLT

 

“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:7-10

 

We are told by Jesus that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God… [and] love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31) We are also told by Paul that if we don’t operate out of love, “it profits [us] nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love, without a doubt, is the defining characteristic of someone who has been saved by Jesus Christ (see John 13:35). However, what does this “love” look like? Is it merely something we say to each other, or is it something much greater?

 

This passage in 1 Peter 4 has been my crutch throughout my brief time in ministry. I am absolutely thankful to my mentor in ministry for showing me this passage, as it has helped me through years of hard times and heartbreak. For all of us, there will come times when we say or do the wrong thing and upset someone that is near to us. It is in love that those wounds can be mended and a relationship restored. As my mentor taught me, “You will mess up eventually. The difference is in whether or not they know you love them. If you show love for those people, they will forgive you. If they don’t know you love them, that relationship may never be restored.”

 

Love is an action; it is something that is shown to others through deed, not just word. Love is something that is felt and seen, not simply something that is heard. You need to show love to others in order for it to be real. Sometimes it is as simple as showing up to a graduation ceremony or taking someone out for a meal, or as difficult as forgiving an individual for a serious sin against you. Love can be shown in a variety of ways, but still needs to be shown, not just said.

 

How will you show love to others around you today? This week? This year? Is there someone who needs a phone call or a comforting shoulder to cry on? Is there someone who needs a roof over their head, or a meal in their stomach, that you can help provide? What are you willing to do to show love?

 

Talon Paul

 

We are preparing to Seek Grow and Love in 2020 with a chronological Bible reading plan.  Now is a great time to download and print your plan  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and subscribe to SeekGrowLove.com to receive daily devotions based on each day’s Bible reading.  Show your love for your Heavenly Father by reading His love letter to you.

Grow!

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“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instructions about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits.” – Hebrews 6:1-3

 

I have three younger siblings, and have had the privilege of seeing them all grow up into some of my favorite people to be around (although we have our issues like all siblings). It is an absolute blessing to see the transformation that a person goes through in life, from infancy to adulthood. A person goes from being completely dependent on another human being, to being the one whom others depend on. Everybody sees this progress at some point in life. What is amazing, though, is how this progress is similar to what we experience in our Christian life.

 

When you first accept Jesus as your Savior, you are technically an “infant”, learning life all over again (see John 3:3). You are dependent on another Christian, likely the one who led you to Christ in the first place. You are not expected to know very much, but are in the process of learning and developing your faith. Eventually, the expectation is that you would become mature and able to train another “baby Christian”, just like parents eventually train their own children.

 

I want you to consider where you are currently as 2019 is wrapping up. Are you just now starting your Christian walk? Have you had years of experience in the Christian life and are now able to train others? Or are you somewhere in between, still developing your faith? Wherever you find yourself, it is important to remember that we are all expected to “press on to maturity”, always growing in our faith. That may look different for each of us, but we are all expected to “grow up”.

 

This upcoming year, what do you need to do to develop your faith further? Do you need to learn more about Jesus and the Bible? Do you need to put yourself into service to the Church? Do you need to find another Christian to train? What do you need to do?

 

Many blessings as you seek to grow this year!

Talon Paul

 

We are preparing to grow in 2020 with a chronological Bible reading plan.  Now is a great time to dowload and print your plan  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and subscribe to SeekGrowLove.com to receive daily devotions based on each day’s Bible reading.  

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

With God or Against God

Revelation 13

Revelation 13 16 17 NIV

666! This number has been special in the minds of believers and nonbelievers alike for thousands of years. What exactly is this number meant to represent? What is the “mark of the beast”? Is the government going to try and put a microchip in my hand? What should I do?

 

There is much speculation about what the number 666 means, and it all comes from this chapter in Revelation; chapter thirteen. However, before we go wandering off to try and apply this number to our situation in 21st century America, it is important to try and understand what John is trying to communicate to his audience in 1st century Asia Minor. This is an important practice for reading any passage of the Bible, and I encourage you to do your research before applying it to yourself.

 

John sees a vision of a terrifying beast that has ten horns and seven heads, and was like a leopard, with feet like a bear, and a mouth of a lion. It is likely that John is drawing these images from the Old Testament prophet Daniel, specifically Daniel chapter 7, where the prophet describes four great empires with beast-like imagery. Since Daniel described empires/nations with this imagery, it is likely that John also has a specific empire in mind with his description of this beast. Since we’ve already been told that this beast is responsible for killing the two Witnesses (11:7), John likely has in mind the nation of Rome, who was ruling at the time of his writing and was notorious for killing Christians during the empire’s reign.

 

John then sees a second beast, which is responsible for making the people worship the first beast. In the first century Roman world that John is writing in, there was a religious movement called “the imperial cult”, that was the fastest growing religion of the time. This religious movement encouraged, and sometimes forced, people to worship the Roman emperors as “gods”. If you do a little historical study on the imperial cult, you may be surprised at how much the whole New Testament addresses this issue.

 

This second beast forces the people to put a “mark” on their hand or forehead, demanding their allegiance to the first beast. If you don’t have this “mark”, you will be unable to do many things. This number is the number of “a man”, which is 666. This is in stark contrast to the “mark” (or seal) that God had already placed on his own people in 7:3. In other words, you are either with God or against Him.

 

While I don’t believe we have to worry about microchips in our world today, since that wasn’t the point John was making, we do have a responsibility of giving our allegiance to God in every decision we make. Think about each decision you make today. Is this decision honoring to God, or is it bringing glory to something else? Have you “marked” yourself with God’s grace, or are you seeking something else?

 

Talon Paul

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

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If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

The Witnesses

Revelation 11

Revelation 11 3 NIV

Following our strange detail about John eating the Scroll that God gave to him, we are finally going to learn about what the Scroll says through what John tells us! Unfortunately, it is very detailed, also strange in some ways, and has been the cause of many interpretations over the past 2,000 years. However, we are going to do our best to humbly try and understand what John says in this passage, while focusing on his main point. I don’t assume that my interpretation is 100% correct, so I invite all of you to critique it by looking at the text itself and speaking with other Christian teachers that you trust.

 

We are introduced to two Witnesses, or two Martyrs, who are proclaiming to people “their testimony”. Now, throughout Revelation, we see that John testified to “the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2, 9) and that the Christian martyrs from chapter six also had a “testimony” that they proclaimed (6:9). We will learn later that Christians are able to overcome Satan using “their testimony” as well (12:11). Narratively speaking, it is likely that these two Witnesses have the same testimony as John and the Christians. That testimony is the gospel message about Jesus’ death, resurrection and eventual return to establish God’s kingdom, as can be seen throughout the whole letter. In other words, the two Witnesses are two individuals that are faithfully preaching the gospel to those around them.

 

There has been speculation as to whether these are literally two individual people that are to come in the future, or whether they represent what the churches are supposed to be doing, since they are described as lampstands like the churches (compare 1:20 and 11:4). I assume that these are representatives for what the churches, and us, are supposed to be doing, but also don’t believe that John’s main point is in their identity; John’s main point to this vision is what is produced by their faithful preaching of the gospel.

 

After the two Witnesses are killed, resurrected, and exalted to God’s space, the people actually repent of their evils! In 11:13, it states that people “gave glory to the God of heaven”, which is repentance language. As we saw in the previous seven seals and seven trumpets, and will see in the later seven bowls, God’s judgment actions are not enough to bring about repentance; but the faithful preaching of the gospel message is enough, even if Christians die for it!

 

My encouragement to you today is to behave like these two Witnesses; faithfully preach the gospel, even at the expense of your own life. Whatever the cost may be for you, the reward is going to be more than you ever imagined! And just like the story of Revelation states, that reward is coming soon, after the Church does her job of faithfully preaching to the nations. Are you ready for that day to come?

 

Talon Paul

Sweet & Sour

Revelation Ch. 10

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Every time that I go back and read through Revelation, I think about how awesome it would be to see it in a movie or comic book, since it is full of amazing imagery, suspense, and some humor. I see a little bit of dramatic humor coming out in chapter ten, as we are about to get the information that we have been desiring since chapter five… and then we don’t. I feel as if John wants to keep us on the suspense train as long as possible in order to make his point.

 

After the sixth trumpet sounds, we are introduced to an angel that is holding a “small” scroll in his hand. Now, this scroll is likely the same Scroll that we saw in God’s hand in chapter five, and the same Scroll that had the seven seals broken off through chapters six, seven, and eight. Narratively speaking, we have not learned the contents of that original Scroll yet, so it is unlikely that this is a brand-new scroll that is being introduced into the storyline. The size of the Scroll is not a major point; it is possible that the Scroll had to become smaller for John to later eat it. If the Scroll was the same size as it was in chapter five, being able to fit in God’s hand, John could be eating it for quite a while.

 

Coming back to the dramatics of the story, we are finally going to learn what the Scroll says! This is the moment when we find out what God’s message is to His people!… and then John eats it… and it is sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach… What in the world is going on here?

 

John is acting like one of the Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel, who also was told to eat a scroll from God and then to speak the message of its contents (see Ezekiel 3:1-3). In like manner, whatever John is going to speak next in the story is going to be the contents of this Scroll. Although it is a strange method to communicate to the seven churches, it gets the job done; it is probably better that we don’t question everything God chooses to do, because we could drive ourselves crazy trying to understand it all.

 

What we can learn practically today from this message is that sometimes God’s message can be sweet and bitter at the same time. The gospel is fantastic news that will bring us eternal, perfect life, but is also bitter as we are called to die to ourselves daily as we follow Jesus. Just like everything in life, there are good and difficult consequences to our decisions, and the decision to follow Jesus is no different. I encourage you to look at both sides of the coin before moving forward, because it can become difficult. Is the reward enough for you to go through the bitter consequences?

 

Talon Paul