Godly Listening

1 John 4

Can YouHearHimNow_

I listen to the radio when I drive. I have three stations that I rotate between, depending on when there are commercials. In an attempt to avoid commercials, I flip between those stations in search of music. If there is music on one of those stations, I’ll listen to it instead.

 

Some of you may gravitate towards talk show hosts or only listen to news and traffic alerts on the radio. You may skip the radio altogether and instead plug your phone in for a completely customized driving playlist. Perhaps, you listen to your GPS, because it tells you where to go.  

 

Needless to say, we all choose what we listen to in the car. In fact, I can make that sentence even simpler:

 

We all choose what we listen to.

 

You see, we have a choice to make.

 

You can choose to listen to the world – to it’s lies and it’s deceptions. Or, you can choose to listen to God – to His truths.

 

1 John 4:4-6 says, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.”

 

You have a choice to make. Will you listen to the words of men or the words of God? The choice is yours.

 

– Madison Cisler

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Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler

Love God First

1 John 2

1 John 2 15

I love cats, ice cream, and succulents. I love big, comfy sweatshirts and the smell of old books. I love a lot of things.

You’re probably thinking, “Ok, that’s nice I guess… But what do old books and weird plants have to do with anything?”

We all have things that we love. Maybe you love coffee, sports, or your phone. Fill in the blank! Loving those things is not a bad thing. In fact, many of those things can be extremely helpful in our day to day lives – until they become worldly distractions and priorities.

When repotting my succulent becomes higher on my priority list than homework, there’s a problem. When I am engulfed in a book and lose sleep to read “one more chapter,” there’s a problem. When I eat massive amounts of ice cream every day, there’s a problem.

God should be the priority – not your facebook status, not repotting your succulent, not watching a football game. Those things are nice, and it’s great that you like them, but we find that when they are higher on our list of priorities than God, there is a MAJOR issue.

I mean, God can give us immortality. He, through Jesus, forgave us despite all of our imperfections, shortcomings, and sins. He loves us, and we, as Christians, love Him. But then we go and kill two days of our life on the couch binge watching a season on Netflix instead of using that time to pray, read the Bible, or glorify Him in general.

Catch my drift?

We need to strive to make God a priority in our lives and to love Him first. Because our stuff will break, get old, wear out, be replaced – but God will never break, get old, wear out, or be replaced. When we put God as our number one priority, everything else falls into place. So love Him first.

– Madison Cisler

1 John 2 17

An Extraordinary Testimony

1 John 1

1 John 1 3

The day Jesus called, John was likely living a day just like any other day. John, his father and his brother went to work just like any other day. They started completing their job just like any other day. And they threw their fishing nets into the sea just like any other day.

Then Jesus called.

In a moment’s notice, John left everything he had and followed Jesus simply because Jesus called John and his brother on just another day.

Jesus said come, so they went. That’s it. No flashing lights, no miraculous signs, nothing out of the ordinary. With just one simple sentence, they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. I don’t know about you but just by reading that, I’d say his testimony in Matthew 4:21-22 seems pretty boring.

John’s testimony seemed boring until I realized John’s life changed completely. He was offered immortality in paradise. Who could pass that up? All John had to do was believe to gain immortality.

This brings us to 1 John 1. The first three verses are simply saying that John was there with Jesus. He heard Jesus speak. He saw Jesus perform miracles. He experienced the power of Jesus Christ. John was there. That is no ordinary testimony.

Sometimes in life, I convince myself that my testimony is pretty boring. If you’re like me, you sometimes think that your testimony is typical. Whether that is because you grew up in the church or were engulfed in the easily entangling sin, our individual testimonies don’t seem exciting enough or even Christian enough in our own minds.

The thing is our testimonies showcase the reason we believe: the reason why Jesus is real to us. Our testimonies provide proof that our lives were changed. Our testimonies are never ordinary testimonies. Our unique experiences, stories, and lives show how great of an impact Jesus still has today on this beautifully ordinary day.

When someone asks you how you can believe in someone who died over 2,000 years ago, recount your testimony, tell that Jesus is alive and continuing to work in miraculous ways. Because Jesus is there with you, changing your individual life every step of the way. Yours is no ordinary testimony.          
– Madison Cisler                      

 

(Thank you to Madison Cisler for writing this week. Madison is a student at Atlanta Bible College.  She will be writing on the books of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John.  Look for great devotions this week!)

The Earth is the Lord’s

Psalm 24

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I absolutely love to see God’s creation. I love the snow falling on the bare, winter trees, covering them perfectly. I love to see the sun beams shining through a forest. I love the ocean and beaches with the seemingly never-ending water and countless (for me, not God) grains of sand. I also love rocks and mountains and caves. It’s amazing how different each nature scene can be, yet, each created by God.

Not only did God make these beautiful landscapes for us to see, but He also made YOU! Psalm 24 is one of my favorite chapters because of the first verse.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”

 I love how this verse is a great reminder of how God made the earth and breath-taking landscapes along with all the people in it. In fact, we’re created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Each of us are created in the image of God, which shows how we should treat others with kindness and love, because they too are made in the image of God, just like yourself.

Going back to the 24th Psalm, verse one, helps me realize that sometimes, I just need to step back and remind myself that this beautiful earth is God’s and the people that live on it, are made by God, too. Next time you get to experience new parts of the world you’ve never seen before or even the next time you look outside your window or step outside your house – see the nature you pass by every day and remember who made it. Remember who the earth belongs to. Remember that you belong to God, too, and that’s pretty special!

-Moriah Railton

GOOD!

Psalm 100

psalm 100 5 (1)

I chose to write about Psalm 100 because of how much we can learn from it despite its shortness. This is a great chapter to read, and it only takes a minute of your whole day. The first thing I would like to point out is that in verse four it says, “Bless his name.” This verse is talking about God and how we should give thanks to him and bless his name. Now if you’re like me you might be thinking, why should we bless God’s name? Well, God blessing us and us blessing God are not the same thing at all. God does not profit from us blessing him. It’s not like he gets stronger or better anytime someone blesses him. On the other hand, when God blesses us, we benefit from it. In this verse, it is talking more about how we should praise him.

 

Throughout the whole Psalm, it talks about how we should praise God. As a church, I believe we should be more joyful, and excited. This Psalm is a great example of how we should praise God. It tells us we should serve God with gladness, shout joyfully, enter his gates with thanksgiving, and give thanks to God.

 

Usually when we think of ‘good’ we use it to mean something between ok and great. But in this passage, it is saying that he is righteous and about how great God is. This reminds me of the popular song below:

 

God is good, all the time

And all the time, God is good.

 

This Psalm is a great one to meditate on. Here are some points from Psalm 100 that you can meditate on.

God made us

We are the sheep in his pasture

The Lord himself is God

His lovingkindness is everlasting

The Lord is good

His faithfulness continues to all generations

Throughout the whole book of Psalms, it says, “His lovingkindness is everlasting”. In fact, it says it 34 times. Of those 34 times, 26 of them are all in Psalm 136. It even says it in every single verse.

Even in this short Psalm we can take so much from it.

-Makayla Railton

What Do the Stars Tell You?

Psalm 19

 

I have always been amazed at God’s creation here on earth.  The beauty.  The creativity.  The grandeur. In fact, I have always wondered a little bit about the the new heaven and new earth that Revelation 21 records will herald the new Kingdom of God.  Could God really create something more majestic than what we have already seen?  Is there a chance that the new heaven and earth will be a little bit of a let-down?  I am after all a tad attached to what we have here and now.

And then, I saw pictures of Jupiter!  They are breathtaking!  NASA’s space probe Juno has been on a carefully routed 5 year trip to reach Jupiter – and in August 2017 Juno sent back to Earth stunning pictures of the planet it is now orbiting.  Here are just two pictures … many more can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/images/index.html

jupiter swirling south pole            jupiter south pole from Juno

 

 

 

 

 

And all of a sudden, I am again in awe of Him and His creations.  And I know I can trust Him.  I can trust Him to create a spectacular new heaven and earth and I can trust Him today with my life.   There is so much He knows that I do not.  There is so much power that He has that I do not.  He is a great Big God and sometimes I forget how much I need Him because I think for just a few minutes that I have this world figured out.  And then my mind is once again blown away by how many stars there are and the new-found beauty of a planet we are just beginning to really discover.

David says it well in Psalm 19.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4).  God’s masterpiece speaks for Him.  His works of art tell us about the artist.

In the New Testament Paul writes similar words to the believers in Rome.  This city was proud of what they considered their superior culture, amazing architecture and roadways (some of which can still be seen today), and numerous temples to foreign gods (amongst them, Jupiter and Juno).   In many ways it was not too unlike our society today.  Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).  His artwork proves the power and majesty of the artist.

And yet, as we well know there are those who prefer to be blind and create their own explanations for the intricate and beautiful creation.  Interestingly, not one but two psalms begin with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1).   You get to decide which camp you will set your tent in, but there will be a day when everyone will acknowledge God (Romans 14:10-12).

This brings us back to the rest of Psalm 19 which you can read or listen to here –  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=NIV).

The first six verses of Psalm 19 speaks of God’s magnificent creation and how it points to God.  The next 5 verses give us a little foretaste of Psalm 119 which we talked about yesterday: the superiority and importance of God’s Word and commands.  “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11).  And the final three verses emphasize watching my own actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts to see that they are in line with God’s laws and desires for his children – and seeking forgiveness and change when they are not.  I love the final verse of the Psalm as much as the opening verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

We serve an awesome Creator God who has provided a detailed guidebook for our lives and a brilliant plan for the future  – which will include everyone acknowledging him.  May we always strive to be pleasing in his sight.

Marcia Railton

(Stars photographed by Chris Mattison – thanks for sharing!)