Allow Me to Introduce You to Luke…

Luke 1_4

 

 “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”    Luke 1:3-4

If you have grown up in the church like myself, you were probably taught basic theology at a young age. I sang the songs, made the crafts, remembered my memory verses, and before I realized it, I had formed beliefs. Everything seemed so simple.

As we grow older, everything becomes complicated. We look at all the denominations around us, with many differing perspectives, and that child-like belief starts to become muddled by all of the confusion. This is the point where we ask ourselves, “What do I really believe?”

This is why I love Luke. His in-depth account of the Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his resurrection not only gives us insight into the Son of God in an intimate way, it gives us backing to the beliefs that we hold dear.

Regardless of any creed, doctrine, or ideal, I know, without a doubt, that I can sit down and read Luke’s account of the story of Jesus and know that it is true. That validity is such a faith builder and invigorates me to dive deeper into the gospel.

This week, we are going back to our roots. Let’s start from the beginning together shall we? Because, sometimes, in order to jump forward, we have to get back to the basics.

 

-Leslie Jones

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David

man after my own heart

Acts 13:22, 2 Sam 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 12:7-14

If you grew up in church your Sunday school classes were probably full of the stories of David’s triumphs. He was the shepherd boy who killed lions, bears, Goliath and eventually became King. His triumphs were nothing short of amazing. David was even called a “Man after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:22. Yet just like the other characters we have discussed, David was flawed.

In arguably the most famous story of his flaws David ultimately caused catastrophe to befall his entire Kingdom. First off, in 2 Samuel 11:1 it says that David stayed home in his cozy palace instead of going off to war as he was supposed to. Next, since he wasn’t where he was supposed to be he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Even though she was married to a man who was serving in David’s army David decided to send messengers to bring her to him. We find out in verse 5 that she became pregnant.

In an attempt to cover up what he had done David asks for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home from battle but Uriah is honorable and refuses to sleep in the comfort of his home knowing the other men in his army are not able to do the same. Frustrated David sends a note with Uriah as he goes back to the battle front. The note carries Uriah’s death sentence as it commands the commander of the army to send Uriah to the front line of the fiercest battle. With Uriah out of the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son who later died because of David’s sin. Not only that but David was later driven out of his own Kingdom because of the sin he committed. Everyone suffered because of the flaw that David allowed himself to be entitled to do as he pleased.

David suffered for his actions and repented for it. Despite his flaws through grace God used David to establish the throne of Israel even making Jesus a decedent of David. No matter what you have done God sees your potential and can use you in amazing ways.

-Lacey Dunn

Hupernikao!

Friday –

Romans 8-37

Confession time.  I hate running more than almost anything in the world. (Excel spreadsheets are also on that list)  That didn’t stop me, however, from trying to do a ‘couch to 5k’ running program a few years ago.  To motivate myself, I’d listen to inspiring music.

One afternoon, as I was trudging along, Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” came on.

As she sang to me, “You’re an overcomer!” I’d argue back, “No, Mandisa, I’m not.  I’m a quitter. A big quitting quitter.”

So I get feeling like giving up!  But here’s the thing, God doesn’t accept our lame excuses.  He keeps reminding us that we are indeed overcomers.

We read Romans 8:28 yesterday that said,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

That verse comes in the middle of a passage about hardships and weakness and yet somehow strength and victory.  In all of the crap that we struggle with, there’s an amazing truth to take hold of today, found in verse 37.  Let’s look at a couple of different translations.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (NASB)

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.  (HCB)

There is a word in Greek that means “to win, to be victorious”.  That word is “nikao”. That is NOT the word that Paul chose to use in this passage.

The word he chose to use is “hupernikao”.  Hupernikao means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to conquer exceedingly, a decisive victory.”

Do you want to stand up and cheer a little at that definition?  Just me?

With God, you are able to vanquish beyond recognition anything that stands in your way!

You are able to claim a decisive victory over sin in your life (not a just-squeaked-by victory).  A decisive victory.

What would that kind of overcoming look like in your life today?  I’m praying for you to agree with God on a little hupernikao in your life.  No quitters here.

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  As we start to see who we are in God’s eyes, it enables us to live boldly.

-Susan Landry

 

Courageously, Humbly Compliant

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 14 (1)

Friday, October 13

There are a lot of great tidbits in today’s reading of Joshua 5.  Go ahead and read it and see what you find.

I love the part about the foreign kings’ hearts melting as they lost courage to fight against the Israelites and their powerful God.   (vs 1).

I love the part about the men following through to show they were committed to a new start in following God with their whole mind, body and strength – being set apart as God’s unique and chosen people (vs 2-9).

I love the part about the Israelites eating food grown in Canaan for the first time – and the manna from the sky – which God had provided for 40 years – stopping on the very next day  (vs 10-12).

But my favorite part is when Joshua is approaching Jericho and meets an armed man – but he can’t tell if he is friend or foe.  So he courageously approaches him and asks.  The man, with drawn sword replies, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (vs 14).   I am impressed with Joshua – not only brave and courageous, but humble as well.  Joshua, and all of the Israelites likely, considered Joshua to be the commander of the army of the Lord – until meeting this man/being with drawn sword.  But rather than arrogantly questioning this – he falls at his feet and instead asks what message the Lord has for Joshua.  I pray that I would be as courageous as Joshua – along with as humbly compliant.  Not standing up to God, or his commander, not proudly speaking of my battle plan or claiming titles – but at his feet – asking for directions – and then courageously stepping out to do them.

-Marcia Railton

The Key to COURAGE!

Joshua 1

Joshua 1-8

Monday, October 9

40 years of wandering have passed since yesterday’s devotion and the Israelites stand at the doorway to the Promised Land once more.  But, this time their leader Moses is dead and Joshua and Caleb – the two who courageously trusted God to lead them into the land of giants – are the only ones of their generation to have survived the wandering.  A new generation is at the door – this time with Joshua as their leader.  Is there any hope that this new generation, which did not personally see how God provided miracle after miracle in saving His people out of Egypt, will have the courage to do what their fathers did not?

Just before his death, Moses – at 120 years of wisdom – had rallied together the younger generation for some final words.  He knew the power of fear and discouragement and he remembered all too well the events of 40 years ago.  To the gathered Israelites he said, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Then he called forward Joshua and spoke to him: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land…The Lord himself goes with you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

What more could be done to inspire them to action with a courageous heart and not crumble again in fear?  God knew they would need a strong connection to Him, reminders of His faithfulness as well as His requirements.  So He directed Moses to write it all down and make sure it was shared with the people – and thus the first five books of the Bible were created – with direction to listen to it, learn it, and teach it to the children – so that they would fear the Lord their God – rather than fearing the circumstances around them.  What a gift!  What a treasure!

And so, in Joshua 1 God himself speaks to Joshua – giving him his orders and how to lead His people.  In one short paragraph (Joshua 1:6-9), God tells Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous!”  This is important!!  Fear and discouragement must not be allowed to reign in Joshua’s heart.  And what is sandwiched in between that repeated refrain – the answer of HOW to build up Joshua’s courage and give him daily doses of Godly direction.  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  (1:8).

There it is: the answer to living a courageous life of action following God’s direction (as well as being successful) —  daily – meditating – on – His – Words.   Are you ready to exchange fear and discouragement for a good dose of strength and courage?  Get in His Word!  How many times can you read Joshua chapter 1 today?  What new directions, warnings, details will you find each time?  God’s Word is loaded with what we need.  It is our connection to the God of the Universe.  Use it boldly and courageously!

Go With God Today – Marcia Railton

 

Don’t Lose Heart

Revelation 13-16

beast_sea

Thursday,  July 20

Revelation 13-16 gives a continuation of God’s judgments and wrath which are poured out upon the earth.  We are introduced here to two beasts.  For those who are familiar with the Old Testament book of Daniel with it’s four beasts, this material will be familiar.  These beasts are ferocious looking images that represent some of the great oppressive empires of the ancient world.  The land which we today know as the nation of Israel has always been a strategically important piece of geography.  It is a point of convergence for three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.  It has been hotly contested for thousands of years.  All of the major world empires up to that time took turns occupying the land.  It was occupied by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans.  I’m sure that if you were a peasant trying to eek out your life living in a small village in Israel, you would look at these various invading armies as  monstrous beasts.  Suddenly, you were forced to follow a new set of laws and customs, and learn to speak new languages in order to understand your captors.  You would have to get used to new kinds of money in order to be able to negotiate your way in the new culture.  I imagine it would have been scary and overwhelming.
John foresees a time when these beastly powerful world empires who control all of life, will be brought to an end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom.  Even though, for a while, it seems that they are all powerful and all controlling, this will not last forever.  Patience is required to live as a believer in this current world system, but one day, our patience will be rewarded.  Don’t lose heart.  While the mark of the beast would seem to protect you from temporary suffering by the powers of this word system, it is the mark of God, which we are given when we follow Jesus Christ, that will protect us from God’s wrath.  Which mark would you rather have?

-Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.org/revelation13A.php)

How Daniel Sustained His Devotion (And How You Can Too)

Daniel 7-9

The same word has beep popping up each day in our last few devotions: devotion.  The reason for this is simple. Daniel was a man devoted to God. Each story we’ve read this week has clearly demonstrated this. 

In yesterday’s devotion I said that our devotion to God must remain constant despite the ever-changing world in which we live—just as Daniel’s did. Today I want to tell you how Daniel was able to sustain his devotion and how you can, too.

The word pray (and its derivatives) is found twelve times in the first nine chapters of Daniel. He prayed three times everyday. He was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den because he continued praying even though it was declared illegal. One of the most powerful prayers in all of scripture is recorded in Daniel Chapter 9—Daniel is its author. It is obvious that prayer was central in the life of this godly man. This is what enabled him to stay devoted to his God in midst of constant trials and changes. And a prayerful life is the key for us to maintain a devoted life today.

There are several reasons why prayer helps sustain devotion. The first reason is that it keeps us connected to God. The more you talk to someone (especially if you like them), the better the connection. On the other hand, if you don’t communicate, there will be little to no connection. This is case with God as well. Prayer—heartfelt prayer—creates connection, which leads to greater devotion.

A second reason is that prayer helps us understand the will of God. Prayer allows us (as much as possible) to get our minds aligned with God’s. The more we pray, the better we understand what God wants. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. So when we understand God’s will (in all its goodness) it generates more devotion in us. In other words, we get a greater sense of how great God truly is and He becomes more alluring to us.

The last reason I’ll mention for why prayer helps us stay devoted is that it keeps us focused on what really matters. Our minds are truly amazing things, but they tend to get overcrowded—especially in the Information Age. We all carry smart phones, have personal computers, and own TVs. We are constantly taking in information—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I believe there has never been a harder time for individuals to stay focused than today. It is difficult to remain devoted when there are so many distractions. This is where prayer can help. When we put away our computers and smart phones and take time to talk to God, it clears the fog in our minds that prevents us from focusing on the one to whom we should be devoted.

Being devoted is not an easy thing. That is what makes Daniel so impressive. Only because of his prayer life was he able sustain such devotion to God. If we want to resemble Daniel in his devotion, we must strive to have a life filled with prayer. So go ahead, say a prayer.

– Joel Fletcher

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