Rest

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Hebrews 1-4

One of my favorite things to do on a dark stormy day is to curl up with a good book, relax, and ultimately take a nap.  It’s one of the best times for me to forget all the things to do that swirl around my mind and just rest. After that period of rest, I feel refreshed, renewed, and better able to work through what needs to be done.  Rest is not just something we enjoy but we are actually commanded to rest in both the Old and New Testament but since today’s reading is Hebrews 1-4 that is what we will stick with.

Hebrews 4:11 says, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” We NEED to rest.  It doesn’t say rest if you have the time or only rest when you are tired but instead it says to be “diligent.”  I am diligent to eat dinner every night and I am diligent to read my Bible each day but am I diligent to rest every day?

We are reminded in 4:13 that nothing that we do is hidden from our creator.  We might be able to hide our lack of rest from our friends and family but we cannot hide the truth from God. One day we will enter God’s rest in God’s Kingdom but until then let us rest from the turmoil of each day and focus on the one who promises us peace.

If you haven’t tried it already for the remainder of the time that you are reading through the Bible, before you jump into reading take a few minutes to rest.  Turn off your phone, go to a quiet place, breathe deep, and be still.  When you feel as though your mind is no longer racing then spend time in prayer and begin your study.

-Lacey Dunn

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Perseverance in Suffering

2 Thessalonians 1-3

What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.”  In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering.  They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.

Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution.  Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other.  If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.

Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe.  It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day.  The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.

-Lacey Dunn

Say No to Cheap Imitation

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1 Thess. 1-3
When I think of the word “imitation” my mind links the word to things that aren’t so great. Think “imitation cheese product” instead of cheese carved off the block or “pleather” compared to the feel and smell of real leather. We would do well to remember that imitation isn’t reserved only for things that aren’t so great but rather that imitation can be powerful and amazing. The imitation that is spoken of in this passage isn’t of the “imitation crab” variety but instead it paints a picture of faithful and unwavering believers spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God like wildfire.
In 1 Thessalonians 1-3 we are told of how the Thessalonians were being imitators of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy and yet ultimately imitators of God. 1 Thess 2:13 NASB says, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were not spreading their own words but God’s words. Had Paul decided to be a cheap imitation of God and not spread God’s truth the message would not have spread with such conviction yet because Paul poured his heart and life into being a true imitation of God the message did spread with that same conviction which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to hear the good news.
We live in a world where cheap imitations are the norm. If you can’t afford some designer luxury item a cheap imitation is usually available to replace it. It makes it appear like you have the real thing but you really don’t. Please understand I’m not saying go throw away your processed cheese and pleather shoes, those are just material things. What I’m asking you to do is to truly and passionately accept the love and grace given to you by your heavenly Father and to live in such a way that others can see His light in you. Don’t say you are a Christian yet live the same way everyone else does. Stand out! Be unique! Be that true imitation of God like Paul and the Thessalonians and let your light shine into the darkness all around you!

– Lacey Dunn

Greetings from Michigan! My name is Lacey Dunn and I am part of the Garden Park Church of God family in Grand Rapids, Michigan but I am originally from Missouri. I have an amazing husband, three adorable (most of the time) kiddos, an unofficially adopted 21 year old and a lazy dog. In my spare time I love to read, chill at the beach, and have dance parties with my kids.

In the Doghouse or in the Pasture?

Jeremiah 22-23

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Sunday, March 5

 

Wow.  There was some heavy material just in these two chapters.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that God is not messing around with this stuff… “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors.  I will bring on you everlasting disgrace- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”  (Jeremiah 23:39-40 NIV)  I mean, at one point He even came at your mother!  (Jeremiah 22:26 NIV)

Obviously these commands that He mentions in 22:4 are incredibly important.  This is that point where your brain should be flashing red lights to remind you to pay attention!

In chapter 23 there is a big emphasis on false prophets and the trouble they are getting themselves into.  The thing that struck me here is that the prophets getting lectured aren’t only the ones that prophesied Baal, but also the ones who simply didn’t tell someone that they were doing wrong.  It makes sense to me that someone who is worshiping idols would be in trouble, but someone who was saying “You will have peace.” was a little harder to swallow.  These prophets were in the doghouse because they were accepting and condoning sin… probably with the intention of not hurting anyone’s feelings!  How often do we let “little” things slide like following their own heart versus God’s plan without us saying anything because we don’t want to come across as rude? I know I’ve done it!  We try and twist God’s words like fire (vs. 29) into something that makes us and others feel good and comfortable… but one day that’s going to come back to bite us.

With all of these warnings and pretty intense messages it is easy to skip over one of my favorite parts of these passages, starting in 23:3 with “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.”  I love this because it shows that no matter who or what tries to get in the way, God has a plan and it’s going to happen my friends!  It doesn’t matter if we’ve been scattered across the world, the flock will eventually come home!  He has a part for everyone in His grand plan, but if you don’t step up He will get it done either way.  It’s up to you, but who wouldn’t want to take part in this?!?

-Sarah Blanchard

Sarah Blanchard is a senior in high school from Pine Grove Bible Church in Minnesota.  She recently got back from the Philippines with Moriah Railton where they were able to teach the book of Genesis to kids across the world!  FUEL is something Sarah looks forward to every year, and she is excited to come back again in 2017!

(Photo Credit: found at http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/07012015/)

Attacked

Jeremiah 12 – 14

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Thursday, March 2

Have you ever been attacked?  Jeremiah has been attacked by the enemy, his own people and his own family.  When that happens we often want to attack back or we want to change them, but God says only he can change someone (13:23).  But in chapter 14 God reminds us that we should recognize not only our own sin but the responsibility we have for it.  Too many times we try to change others but we don’t ask God to change us.
What responsibility do you take for the sin you have in your life?
Do you blame others? (14:13)
What do you think when God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the sparing of Judah? (14:10-12)
-Andy Cisneros
(Photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Jeremiah_14:20)

Keep Studying

Isaiah 29-31

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Monday, February 13

Isaiah prophesied about The Little Mermaid! Not really. I didn’t think Ariel’s voice was very ghostlike (29:4). Anyway…

We got a nice little reminder today of why it’s so important to do devotions like this and to study the meaning of the Bible rather than just read it. Isaiah 29:11 warns that “this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll.” Don’t let the Bible be just words sealed in a scroll. Dig deep into the word that God gave to us so that “the deaf will hear the words of the scroll (29:11).”

It can be easy to think that the passages we’ve been reading have been distinctly separated by chapter numbers and they don’t really connect, but yesterday we talked about the role that rules play in our lives. Again today, we see another warning of letting rules be our moving force (28:13). This verse is another that you would do well to keep close to your heart. Don’t let your worship be just the words you sing. Don’t let your worship just be the words you say. Have you ever been in church singing a song and thought to yourself, “Do I really mean this?” If you haven’t, you probably should. Just because it’s coming out of your mouth, doesn’t mean it’s coming out of your heart.

-Nathaniel Johnson

(photo credit by Bob Smerecki – https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapnpiks0304/9729996902)

Cease to do Evil – Learn to do Good

Isaiah 1-3

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Sunday, February 5

The Old Testament is split up into five major categories: (5) Law, (12) History, (5) Poetry, (5) Major Prophets, and (12) Minor Prophets. Isaiah is the first book of the Major Prophets.  The word “prophet” occurs 324 times in the Old Testament alone.  Therefore, it is no doubt that whatever a prophet is, it is important.  A prophet is simply someone who speaks on behalf of God.  Isaiah then is someone who spoke for God, so the word Isaiah spoke had authority.

Isaiah begins his writing by stating all the wickedness that is being done by the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  Verses 2-15 go into detail as to what they were doing.  However, I want to take note at verses 16 and 17 of the first chapter.  Verses 16 and 17 are Isaiah’s (really God’s) call to repentance.  There are two main steps to this call for repentance.  Step one found in verse 16: “cease to do evil.”  Step two found in verse 17: “learn to do good.”  These are the two fundamental steps to repentance that Isaiah pleads the Israelites pursue.  The Israelites need to rid themselves of all the wickedness they are doing as was stated in the first 15 verses.  However, this is just the first step to repentance.  After they rid themselves of evil, they must then learn to do good.  Once the evil is removed from one’s life, they must then fill it with something good.  If not, then they will fall into the same pattern of sin.  This is an oft neglected part of repentance.  This completely applies to us over 2,000 years later.  To repent, we must cease to do evil and learn to do good.  If we do this, then our sins, “shall be as white as snow,” (Isaiah 1:18).  What a beautiful reward.

Something that caught my eye in chapter two was the end of verse 9.  It clearly stated, “do not forgive them!”  What a bold statement that is from Isaiah (and again, really God), and a rather controversial one in modern Christianity.  Once again, Isaiah goes on about how the Israelites are sinning.  It appears as if they have not repented and continue in their wicked ways.  Isaiah then declares not to forgive them!  This is contrary to what many modern Christians think.  There is a nasty word floating around that is being connected to Christians nowadays with movements such as the LGBT.  That nasty word that people are throwing at Christians is “tolerate”.  Many believe that the duty of a Christian is to tolerate and “love”.  Nowhere in the Bible is this message of “toleration” found.  Rather, there are passages such as Isaiah 2:9 which state, “do not forgive them!”  These Israelites that Isaiah is describing are sinning without any signs of repentance.  Isaiah doesn’t go on to tell others to accept and tolerate them for who they are as idol worshippers.  Instead, he blatantly states to not forgive them.  It appears from this verse alone that we should not be tolerating other people who live a life of sin.  However, this is just one verse, and you should rely on the Bible as a whole to make decisions such as this.  Therefore, I encourage you to look more into this, and I just think you might be convinced that the message of “tolerate” is ridiculous.

I hope you all have a splendid week and I look forward to starting off the Major Prophets with you all!

-Kyle McClain