Isaiah 35-36

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

The book of Isaiah holds many judgments against Israel, Judah, and all the nations surrounding them. Page after page contains descriptions of how God will deal with these people, because of the sin that they commit. In the midst of this, there are glimpses of a wondrous hope to come and worship God in his future kingdom. We see the beautiful future that God has prepared for all those who love him despite the brokenness of our current realities. 

Isaiah 35 describes this future in a continuation of the prophecy beginning in Isaiah 34. In Isaiah 34, Edom’s eventual punishment and destruction is described: “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her soil into sulfur” (v. 9). In this place, jackals, hyenas, goats, birds of prey, and snakes will gather – all symbols of destruction and brokenness (v. 14-15). The very land has turned bitter and worthless under the consequence of sin. In contrast to this, Isaiah 35 describes the land of the Israelites as a desert that blossoms like a rose (v. 1). In this place, “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool of water and the thirsty land springs of water” (v. 5-7). Unlike the land of Edom, in the redeemed land, “There will be no vicious beast, but the redeemed will walk on it” (v. 9). In fact, the places where the vicious beasts resided, like the lairs of jackals, will be turned into a meadow of grass, reeds, and papyrus (v. 7). A road will go through this land called the Holy Way; “the unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray” (v. 8). This path will lead up to the mountain of God where the people will come to worship God. 

We live in an incredibly broken world that seems like it is full of vicious beasts and people bent on destroying themselves and others. We can see the consequences of sin in the hurt that is being done so carelessly to everyone, including our most vulnerable. We can rest in the hope that this will not always be the way the world will be. Those that would be overlooked by society and viewed as less than are the very people that God includes in the description of his future kingdom: the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. These are the people who lead the way for praising God’s redemption of the land. We will not always live in these broken times. We can trust that one day streams of water will flow through the desert and the whole world will blossom like a rose. In fact, through the Holy Spirit, we can begin to redeem our time here for God and be his hands and feet in this broken world. How can you bring the living water to those around you? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 35-36.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 28-30

Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote

As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place. 

When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given. 

We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled. 

When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 31-34– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Hey everyone!

We are currently living in a very crazy time – am I right?! COVID-19 has taken over our daily lives, the political climate is VERY sticky and people are turning against one another (even within Godly communities) to prove their point and/or push their ideas of what they believe to be true. We are continually becoming more and more divided with each passing day. It is scary. Exhausting. Overwhelming. Frustrating. And those are only a few of the many adjectives I could throw out there right now to describe what is going on around us.

Let’s be honest here… all of this is A LOT to balance…. And I know, personally, as a flawed human being who continually makes mistakes and cannot seem to ever fully pull it all together, I constantly fall short when attempting to manage all of these changing circumstances and emotions. In times like this, I always find it helpful (and encouraging) to look back on examples set before me of Godly men and/or women who have managed to handle things a whole lot better than I am.

Our readings for today bring Hezekiah into focus. In 2 Kings 18:1-8 Hezekiah (son of Ahaz) comes to reign as the king of Judah. Hezekiah was a king who had a very close relationship with God and he is an example of how the faith of one man can change the course of an entire nation. During his reign Hezekiah pursued God with his whole heart. Hezekiah remained faithful and diligent throughout the highs and the lows of his time – he repaired the Jewish temple that had been previously impacted by wickedness, removed false Gods from the land, destroyed places where pagan worship was still in practice and restored the Passover as a national holiday.

Because King Hezekiah put God first in everything he did, God prospered him. Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses and therefore the Lord was with him and he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 King 18:6-7). In his time of need, Hezekiah came forth and prayed for relief, guidance and support from the Lord and the Lord was quick and gracious to give of these things and reward Hezekiah for his faithfulness.

The example that Hezekiah sets forth during his reign reminds us of the importance of remaining faithful and obedient to God and His word regardless of what is happening around us. I encourage all of us to follow the example of Hezekiah in the time we currently find ourselves in today. Pray. Remain faithful. Stay diligent. Honor God by doing the right thing…..

While things around us are ever changing and continually confusing, we can rest assured that God will remain faithful and reward our diligence just as He has promised.

Love and miss you all – stay safe and healthy. I absolutely cannot wait for the day where we are all reunited again and can honor God together.

~ Kass Sipka

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Hosea 1-7– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

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

 

Unexpected Callings – Amos 6-9

God Calls Us to the

Today’s reading contained similar prophecy to what we have seen over the last few days with a couple short narratives thrown in the mix. One was Amos 7:10-17, when Amos meets with Amaziah, the high priest at Bethel. In this story, we get a little bit of Amos’ background. Threatened by the prophecies of destruction, Amaziah demands Amos leave Israel. Amos responds, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophecy in Israel.’” (14-15 NLT) 

Sometimes, like Amos, God calls us to do the unexpected. He calls us to do tasks for which we were never trained or prepared. Time and time again, all throughout the Bible, there are stories like this. David was a shepherd but called to be King. Peter, James, and John were fishermen, but called to be disciples of Jesus and leaders of the early church. Esther was a mere girl but called to rescue the Jewish people. All these individuals relied on God to sustain and strengthen them. They were not expecting to become heroes and martyrs. It was not in their plans, but it was in Gods’. That is the key for today. Keep an open mind. 

What is God possibly calling you to do? The summer season is a season of transition. Even if you are no longer in school, much of our society is built around the school calendar. Summer is the space in between the last school year and the next. Let this be a time of reflection as you prepare for whatever is next. Ask God to guide you and be willing, like Amos, to do something different. Even the unexpected. 

~ Emilee Ross

 

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

Tomorrow, we move on with the history of Israel, reading 2 Chron. 27 and Isaiah 9-12 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

1 Timothy 6

Sat Devo

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the purpose of life? What really matters in life? These age-old questions have numerous answers, but Paul tries to point us to the true answer in 1 Timothy 6. In this chapter, we see two different kinds of people: those who love money and those who love God. In Paul’s words, those two things can’t exist together. Paul says, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Paul doesn’t necessarily call money evil in this passage, but he definitely states that loving money, or making it an idol in your life, will lead you down a dark path. In fact, Paul urges Timothy in the next verse (v. 11) to run from these things and to pursue, instead, “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” It would seem from these verses that the love of money and God are mutually exclusive. Jesus confirms this when he says in Matt. 6:24, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” 

Our culture today encourages us to make ourselves slaves of money. Our lives are dictated by pursuing jobs that will provide enough money to pay our bills and other living expenses until we can get the next paycheck. If we have the chance to work more to get money to buy some more nice things for ourselves, many of us will jump on the opportunity. And, that lifestyle is applauded by those around us. But, we have to always ask ourselves when get sucked into a cycle of living: is this godly or worldly? According to 1 Timothy 6, our purpose in life shouldn’t be to become rich and get all of the material goods that wealth entails. 

So what should our purpose be? Paul answers that in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: 

“Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of a life that is real.” 

When we set our hope on God, it changes what we think is important. Instead of pursuing a life of riches on earth, we begin to “collect for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart[s] will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 5

Fri Devo

“Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.” 1 Timothy 5:25

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul changes his focus to how those in the church should take care of those in need. In the early church, the church created a support system for widows who could not take care of themselves (because of cultural norms and their age). This support system was an important part of the church’s ministry and testimony. In fact, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). Paul does give requirements about which widows to serve in this chapter, but a central truth here is that we should be serving those who are in need now.

As we look at the modern-day church, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing for those in need now. We’ve talked this week about how our faith will be shown through our actions. When we are following Jesus, we should show gentleness as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). According to this passage, we should also be showing kindness and goodness through our generosity and hospitality. If you look at your life and find this is not the case, think of ways you can begin to serve those around you, whether in a church ministry or one you create yourself. This type of service should be an outpouring of your strong relationship with Jesus. 

Just like Jesus cautions in Matt. 6, when you serve, you need to ask yourself what you are doing this for. If you are serving to try to save yourself, you can stop and rest. God’s gift of grace is the only thing that saves us. If you are serving to gain glory from others, you should stop and ask for humility. As Jesus says over and over again, when you are applauded for your actions by man now, you’ve gotten the reward for your actions. We should serve, because we want to love our brothers and sisters in Christ just like Jesus loved us. And, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 2

Tues devo

“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul never shies away from hard teachings in his letters. In this chapter, there are some of the most pointed verses towards women in the Bible (1 Timothy 2:11-15). One of my roommates in college hated those verses. In fact, she had taken scissors and cut that passage literally out of her Bible. When we read this chapter though, we shouldn’t read with blinders on. Yes, there are some parts of this passage that we may be resistant to for whatever reason, but we have to lean into that resistance. We can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible we focus on; that was exactly what Paul was urging Timothy to teach against in 1 Timothy 1. 

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul begins by telling Timothy to let everyone know that prayers should be made for kings and everyone in authority (vv. 1-4). Then, in v. 8, Paul moves to instructing the men to continually pray without anger or argument. Finally, in vv. 9-15, Paul instructs the women to wear modest (not showy) clothes and learn in quietness and submission. When taken in the context of all three parts of this chapter, a common theme runs through these passages that is not just meant for women. 

Paul is instructing all of the church to practice submission to authority. Submission is “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” It’s the way that we posture our heart so that we are quick to learn and understand the way that God wants to work in our lives. We all need to be submissive to authority, but all too often, we are not. Instead, we are prideful, which is one of the very things that God hates (Prov. 6:16-17). When we have a pride problem, we may buck under the authority of the government, our work, our parents (or husband), and our church. In fact, when we have problems submitting to the earthly authority in our lives, we will have problems submitting to the heavenly authority in our lives. 

So what antidote does Paul give for pride in our hearts? He encourages us to pray. If our goals are (1) to create the best testimony with our lives that we can (v. 2) and (2) to bring everyone into the family of God (v. 3), we should lean on the power of prayer to do so. When we are praying for others, we recognize that we can’t do anything solely on our own power for them. Instead, we can only trust that the ultimate authority, God, will work in their hearts. When we pray, we also can be thankful. Gratitude is another way to curb the pride in our lives. When we are grateful, we recognize it’s not about us and what we deserve. It’s about the graciousness of the other person we are thankful for. 

“It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence – ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name be glory.'” ~ Charles Spurgeon

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 1

monday devo

“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:18-19

1 Timothy is jam-packed with rich truths that Paul wrote to Timothy, a mentee in the faith. 1 Timothy was written sometime between 62-67 A.D. while Paul was out of prison. He wrote to Timothy, a person who he had known since about 46 A.D. and who was currently ministering in Ephesus, a town in Asia Minor. A majority of this letter focuses on how to ‘do church,’ discussing a range of topics from  worship services to church leadership to interactions between church members. 

1 Timothy begins with an instruction to remind people to not teach different doctrines or pay attention to myths or genealogies (1 Tim. 1:3-4). In doing this, Paul said that the people were promoting “empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.” Wow! That’s a powerful statement. The discussions of the people of the church in Ephesus were not glorifying God. Instead, they were people just carelessly making a prediction about topics related to the concepts Paul taught. The discussions of the people were like junk food instead of a wholesome diet. They tasted good in the moment, but they ultimately produced nothing of value for the people. 

We need to ask ourselves what type of instruction we are filling ourselves with, as well as what types of instruction we are giving others. If are not taking in any instruction or teaching about God’s word, we will starve. God’s word is our daily bread, and we daily have to get into the word to get the nourishment that we need. Once we do, we have to look at the type of teaching we are getting. Are we taking in things that will build us up and draw us closer to God? Or does a majority of our Bible study focus on acquiring knowledge that we could use in a debate or class but ultimately leaves us spiritually unfulfilled? If we are teachers, we also need to ask ourselves these same questions. Is what we are teaching empty speculation, or are we teaching what Paul was teaching? Paul said that his ultimate goal for the instruction he gave was to produce a love that “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). If that is not our goal for what instruction we take in and give, then we need to reevaluate our purpose for that instruction. 

Paul recognized the importance of analyzing the purpose for what we do. When we reject producing pure love as our goal, we can lead ourselves and others down a path that leads to the shipwreck of their faith. In other terms, when we are not placing God’s plan first in our lives, we are choosing to not allow God to work in our lives. Let’s all strongly engage in the battle of our faith. This begins with the spiritual food that we take in. Make sure that you are taking in good things, not empty things.

~ Cayce Fletcher 

2 Thessalonians 3

“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” ~ 2 Thess. 3:13

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging believers to hold fast to the traditions that was taught to them by his message or letters (2 Thess. 2:15). His final directions to the believers in Thessalonica was to watch how they were living. Paul had first touched on this in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 where he says, “We encourage you to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” In the months that spanned in between the letters, those who were living irresponsibly had not yet changed how they were living. He says in his second letter, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Though at first this can seem harsh, Paul is not talking about someone who is physically not able to work. In the Thessalonian church, some able-bodied believers were not working for their own food. Instead, they were relying on the church for their food, thus taking away from those who may have actually needed the food because they couldn’t work. They were also using their free time to interfere with the work of others. 

So how does this passage relate to us today? We all have a responsibility to contribute to our community of believers. If you are not regularly meeting with church or body of believers, the first step is to find a church and get involved! Then, we have to evaluate our attitude, actions, and speech about the church. Unlike the irresponsible believers in Thessalonica, we should adopt the attitude in our church of givers not takers. Do we view the church as a place that we go to for a service once or twice a week? Or do we view the church as a community that we are currently building up? If we believe the church is meant to serve us, our attitude will be that of a taker, a selfish attitude that focuses on ‘What does this place do for me?’ A giving attitude focuses on what we can do to help to strengthen the church. Our attitude is directly related to our actions. A taker attitude will be critical, hands-off, and selfish, whereas a giving attitude will be encouraging, supportive, and selfless. A giving attitude will try to build up members of the church through encouraging words, financial support, and tithes of time and resources. When we are focused on giving to the church, our speech will also be focused on building up rather than tearing down. A taker attitude will lead to speech that criticizes without ever contributing solutions. A giver attitude will use wise words so that their speech helps to glorify God. 

The way that we work and contribute to the community of believers is a testimony to the world of our faith. We have to focus on how we can give to glorify God. And when it seems too much, we can remember Paul’s words, “Brothers, don’t grow weary in doing good.” 

Sunday Devo

~ Cayce Fletcher