First Things First

psalm 100 3

What are your three most thankful things? Go ahead – name them.

At the top of that thankful list — even before family, food and friends  (some of God’s best gifts, indeed) — should sit the giver of all good gifts – God himself.

As a parent, when I give one of my children a gift I definitely want them to enjoy it!  I love seeing the joy on their faces as they receive a gift they will enjoy.  And I am happy I could give them that joy.  But it is never my intent that the item I give would replace the joy I want them to receive with me.  And perhaps that has happened far too many times for our generous Heavenly Father.   His children appreciate and remember the gifts given – but forget the giver.

If He has slipped from the tippy top of our thankful list (or was never there), perhaps it is because we have neglected getting to know Him as we ought to.   Who is Our Gift Giver? Do you know Him well enough to truly give Him the thanks due to Him?  Isn’t it easiest to be thankful for those we hold most dear and know the best.

Verse 3 in Psalm 100 (the Psalm we suggested you post in your home this week and read often and work on memorizing) says, “Know that the Lord is God.”  What makes Him God?  And a God like no other?  What characteristics does He have which makes Him so deserving of our thanks and praise?

What are some of the best ways to get to know God more and more?  Sometimes a great church service, Sunday School or youth group meeting will leave you feeling like you know God better than you did the day before.  And that is a great start.  When there is a person we want to get to know more – we spend more time with them.  A relationship with God can not be a healthy, growing relationship if it is built on just one or two hours a week.  But He gave His Word – a most precious gift – so we can get to know Him, what He likes, what He doesn’t like, His past, His plans for the future, and His family.

He gives us so much.  Don’t forget Him.  Keep Him first on your thankful list.  Spend time getting to know Him more and more.  Dig into His Word.

-Marcia Railton

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Thankful Thinking

Sunday

psalm 100 1

Have you ever been disappointed or irritated by someone you perceived as being ungrateful towards you?  Perhaps someone didn’t seem to truly appreciate a gift you gave – or the gift of time and talents that you sacrificed on behalf of others.  Of course you didn’t do the act purely for the thanks you would receive.  But, never-the-less, it feels good when the thanks comes . . . and something is missing when it isn’t there.

I wonder if God sometimes feels like something is missing in my relationship with Him.  Is He ever disappointed that I failed to acknowledge a gift He gave – or several.

This week we are going to be preparing our hearts and thoughts – not just for a holiday – but for living a grateful life.   And one of the best ways to do that is through Scripture.  Psalm 100 is one great example of a passage that “shouts” thankful heart!

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
 Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

 

It’s short enough to read several times a day.  Post it where you can read it often, and see if you can have it memorized before the end of the week.

And then be watching for His goodness and gifts.  When you spot them, give Him thanks.

-Marcia Railton

Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer

What to Do with Doubt

Mark 9:14-32 (Monday)

Mark 9 24

None of Scripture was intended to be read.  Although that may seem strange to us today, the ability to read was incredibly rare.  For today, it’d be like having a doctorate.  There are a number of professor’s out there, but you don’t run into them every day.  Reading just wasn’t something most people needed to be able to do to get through their day.  The agricultural and craftsman lifestyles didn’t need to keep many notes themselves.  As a result, the writings, when they were used, were usually read aloud in a collective setting – and this is key.  Because Scripture is meant to be heard – not read!  All those with EARS, let them HEAR.

Because of this, there weren’t any of the nifty little headings that we find in our Bibles today.  It was just one long story without breaks or chapters.  So, the nice breaks that we often get around stories didn’t exist except for the past few hundred years.  For today’s reading, both of these things are really important.

These two vignettes in Mark 9:14-32 (the healing of the child and the misunderstanding of the disciples) come back to back and would have been heard that way by Mark’s original audience.  So, what I’d like you to do is try it.  Take just a second to read these verses out loud. If you’re somewhere public, just try whispering if you want.  But read it out loud and see what sticks out to you.  I’ll wait here and I’ll do it too…

[waiting]

So, how was it?  Awkward? Weird?  Probably a little.  But when I did it something new really stood out to me about this passage.  In the first story, a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus responds ‘oh you faithless people…how much longer do I have to put up with you.  Bring me the boy.’  The father, distraught over Jesus’ seemingly kinda cruel response, cries out – ‘I want to believe! Please help my unbelief!’  He wants to save his son and will do whatever it takes to save him.

The next story is between Jesus and his disciples.  He’s teaching them about what’s going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem.  But they don’t get it.  They don’t have belief/faith, just like the dad in the previous story.  However, instead of putting aside their pride and asking for Jesus to help their unbelief (lack of understanding), they stay silent.

Here, in these few verses, a man from “this faithless generation” reaches out, pleads, and finds Jesus meeting him in his unbelief while the ones who are part of Jesus’ own inner-circle remain unmoved in their faithlessness.  And this at a time when Jesus’s time with them was literally drawing short.

The problem with this is never unbelief.  The problem is how we respond to it.  We won’t have all the answers.  We will doubt and question.  Jesus doesn’t lament our struggle – it is one that he himself walked through (for he shared in all things but without sin).  Embrace the places where you are unsure.  Lean into the spots where the struggle is the most real and you are shaken like the son in the story.  Push forward and call out for a help, a grace that will fill us in our uncertainty and bring healing.

-Graysen Pack

Starting A New Week!

Thank you to Rebecca Dauksas, the youth leader at Guthrie Grove Church of God, for writing devotions for this coming week.  We look forward to continuing our study in the book of Proverbs.  Our memory verse for the week will be Proverbs 17:24 — “A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”

Enjoy listening in with Rebecca today and reading her thoughts this week.

Video from Rebecca

Thank you!