A New Week – A New Chance to be Courageous

Sunday, October 8

 

Joshua 1-9

Numbers 13-14

Greetings!  This week we are going to be looking at the life of Joshua and the often-repeated refrain in his life – BE STRONG & COURAGEOUS!  Just as strength and courage was needed in the days of Joshua as he led the Israelites into the Promised (but Occupied) Land; so too,  Christians today are living in a land occupied by evil and Godlessness and a large dose of strength and courage is needed to effectively stand against Satan’s schemes.

Our memory verse this week comes from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  It is easy to become terrified or discouraged when we see evil and lawlessness alive and well.  But the world doesn’t need any more terrified or discouraged Christians whose God is too small.  It is our opportunity – just as it was Joshua’s – to step out in courage to show our world a great big God who can do more than we could ever hope or imagine.

Before jumping into the book that bears Joshua’s name – we need to begin this week in Numbers 13 & 14.  Here we find the Israelites who had recently been miraculously delivered from Egypt on the front steps of the Promised Land.  Go ahead and read these quick chapters.  They provide such a great parallel of terrified and discouraged versus strong and courageous.

In Numbers 13 (as in life today, perhaps), the large majority is definitely panicked and defeated.  They have seen a scary reality and they quickly forget what God has already done for them.  Rather than concentrating on their great big God and the blessings he has in store for them just over the next hill; they crumble.  They “spread … a bad report about the land” (Numbers 13:32), they weep and grumble (Numbers 14:1&2), they blame others and they blame God (14:2-4) and they are even on the verge of great violence towards God’s faithful people (14:10).  They allow fear, discouragement, self-pity and negativity to overflow and it quickly becomes evident that their view of God was much too small.

Meanwhile, the faithful two – Joshua and Caleb – who had seen the same scary looking giants and large fortified cities – ALSO saw the land flowing with milk and honey and a great big God who could deliver His people.  They plead with their terrified and discouraged countrymen: “If the Lord is PLEASED with us, he WILL lead us into that land …Only do NOT rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land.” (Numbers 14:8,9).  If only the people would have listened.  They could have saved themselves from 40 years of wandering and early death.  They could have reaped the blessing instead of the punishment but they allowed their fears to reign.

Where are you right now?  What is your view of God?  Are you remembering all the good things He has already done for you or are you actively blaming Him instead?  Are you too busy spreading a bad report and grumbling to pursue a courageous act of following God?  Are you allowing a scary reality to shrink your view of God?  How can you spend time today magnifying your view of God to remember His greatness and the power He makes available to those courageous enough to put their full trust in Him.  Pray for eyes and a heart like Joshua and Caleb’s that will see not only the giants and fortified cities ahead, but also the exciting direction that God would have us go – the plan that requires that we be Strong and Courageous with a great big view of God.

-Marcia Railton

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Say Yes

Revelation 20-22Revelation_22-12

Saturday, July 22

The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face.  The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God.  They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame.  The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.

Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15.  One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil.  In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).

The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore  and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God.  In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.

Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized.  The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end.   Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ.  Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done.  Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem.  Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death.  (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation).  Death has to be destroyed.  Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon.  God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it.  Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.

For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction.  Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life.  The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3.  God will again make his presence here upon the earth.  The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth.  This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger.  The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.

For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope.  Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity.  Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life.  The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition.  Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed.  But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth.  We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed.  Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.

If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings.  Say yes to God, you can do it right now.  And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism.  And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.

-Jeff Fletcher

(https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-22-12_Inspirational_Image/)

 

Victorious God

Revelation 8-12

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Wednesday July 19

Seven is the number of completion, of fulfillment.  The number seven appears repeatedly in Revelation:  seven Churches, seven seals…. and now seven trumpets.  A trumpet is blown to get people’s attention- something important is about to be announced.  The seven trumpets here announce the judgment of God upon the earth.  God is about to bring this evil age to a close to make way for the age to come, when the Kingdom of God replaces fully the kingdoms of this world.
Each of the seven trumpets are blown by an angel of God followed by some great disaster.  There is hail, fire, blood, large burning rocks falling from heaven (a meteor or asteroid).  Then stars fall from heaven, the sky becomes filled with darkness, more heavenly bodies fall to earth opening deep pits in the earth which release demonic creatures.  There are plagues and wars and all manner of destruction heaped upon the earth.  Here it’s important to remember that much of this is symbolic language.  The point is that there will be calamities which bring about destruction on the earth, some are ecological, some are interstellar, and some are man made.  This Summer there’s a t.v. show on called Salvation.  The premise of the show is that NEO object is heading toward earth and is likely to cause massive death or even total extinction.  In real life, under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming there is a super volcano, which, if it erupts, would place nearly all of the continental US under a cloud of darkness that would result in massive famine.  Of course, we hear regularly dire predictions about global warming, rising sea levels, the melting of the Arctic permafrost etc…  And don’t forget the expanding nuclear arsenals of places like North Korea and Iran.  There are any number of ways that global destruction could occur.  This is a part of our human consciousness… and it was a part of human consciousness in the first century as well.  There has always been the understanding that there is much that is outside the limits of human control: drought and famine, earthquakes and fire from heaven.  These events were usually linked to belief that whatever gods that community worshipped were angry.  Destruction was linked to judgment, which was linked to human sin.  The normal response was to bring sacrifices to the gods and a promise to stop doing bad things.
In this section of Revelation, we see that the one true God is behind these disasters, but there is no willingness of the people to repent. In Rev. 9:20-21 the people refuse to repent of their idolatry, of their murder, of their sexual immorality.  The people will not link the calamities that befall them and the earth with their own bad actions that violate God’s word.
Revelation 12 gives another picture. It’s an overview of the history of the earth and it shows the cosmic dimension of the battle that’s taking place.  There is a spiritual warfare. Behind it all is this picture of evil described as the dragon, or the ancient serpent, or the devil or Satan.  Evil is making war on God’s people.  Yet, evil will be brought down and God’s people who refuse to submit to evil will be victorious.  Even though they may be killed by evil, yet will they ultimately be victorious.
Remember, when John received this vision, Christians were suffering at the hands of the powerful evil empire of Rome.  It seemed like a powerful or insurmountable monster that was able to impose his will on God’s people.  Imagine how hard it would have been to stay faithful to Jesus Christ during such a difficult time.  Yet here is a message of hope, a message of victory.  Evil and the human faces of evil will not win.  God has far more power available to him than evil does.  Those whose hearts are turned against God and refuse to repent will not be swayed by these displays of judgment and power, but those who are faithful to Jesus Christ and remain faithful, even to the point of death, will emerge victorious.
There are always events that happen in our lives that tempt us to doubt God or to turn away from Him.  These apocalyptic texts in Revelation serve as a vivid reminder that, no matter how bad things may get in the world, even for believers in God, God will be victorious.  Let us stay faithful and keep trusting God and our faith will not be disappointed.

-Jeff Fletcher

The Opportunity We’ve All Wanted to Have

Habakkuk

Hab2

Thursday, April 20

There are some things that are guaranteed to happen in life: taxes, death, and suffering and evil. Haven’t you ever wanted to just have the opportunity to talk to God face to face? To have a conversation with him as we do with other humans? Each minor prophet has a characteristic about it that makes it unique from among the others. Habakkuk’s is this: he is the only prophet that dialogues back and forth to God as we do with each other, and the topic they discuss is suffering and evil. Specifically, how can God being just allow evil and suffering to continue?

The problem of evil is something all humans question, especially in light of God. Habakkuk and his context is no different. In the first four verses of chapter one, Habakkuk laments over the injustice that he witnesses, the wicked prospering over the righteous ones and the seemingly indifference that God exhibits in the present situation. Yet behold, God says in verse five, he will lead a foreign nation to punish the wickedness of his people in Judah. A common thread among all the prophets in the Bible: major, minor, Moses, John the Baptist, and others is that God ensures the prophet that justice is coming. Evil and wickedness will not triumph. Injustice and corruption will not be victorious. When we look back in the Old Testament we see again and again God takes action and rectifies the hopeless situation. But it’s important to remember that God does not act on our time, but on his.

Take for example, the enslavement of his people in Egypt. From the time they became slaves to when they were liberated was over four hundred years. How many Israelites cried out to their God during that time longing for liberation and freedom? Many. How many actually saw it come to fruition? Few. Yet God acted, and gave the Egyptians time to repent and let his people go. They refused, and God took his people out of slavery with a mighty hand.

The evil and suffering we witness God is not ignorant of. He is giving people time and opportunity to repent and reconcile with him through Jesus. But trust me, no, trust Exodus 34.6-7, that evil and injustice will not reign forever. He assured Habakkuk of this and he assures you and me today:

“Yahweh, Yahweh God is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives

iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means

leave the guilty unpunished.”

Exodus 34.6-7

 

-Jacob Rohrer

Lessons from the Kings

2 Chronicles 26-29

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Thursday, December 1

In today’s passage, three out of four kings are more good than bad for a change, however one intriguing thing happens during the time of a bad king, while two good kings have different experiences in the Temple of God.

 

During the time of evil King Ahaz, Israel wins victories over Judah, but when they intend to treat people from Judah as slaves. a prophet of God who lives in Israel, then leaders of Ephraim also defend the captives (2 Chronicles 28:8-18). This shows that there can be people who fear God amongst those who do not. Think about how difficult it was for them to live amongst a rebellious people.

 

Two kings have different experiences in the Temple. Uzziah begins to reign at the age of 16 and starts out great, but becomes arrogant as he became more powerful. He decides that he will offer incense in the Temple, even though only the priests are supposed to do so. He ends up being afflicted by leprosy. In the end of today’s reading we read about Hezekiah’s great effort to purify the Temple. We might read both and wonder why God places so much emphasis upon ritual. I think it is good to take time to think about this. When we get to our readings in Hebrews we will read much more about this, but for now, just take time to think about why God gives such specific teaching about how the Temple is to be maintained.

-Greg Demmitt

The Valley of Jehoshaphat

2 Chronicles 20-22

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Tuesday, November 29

Our reading today goes from Jehoshaphat’s greatest victory to the terrible things that his children and their wives did after he died. Let’s look at his great victory and the possibility of it happening again.

 

Numerous countries are aligned against Judah and Jehoshaphat knows that he cannot defeat them. He calls upon God and is told that his prayers will be answered. Instead of fighting Judah watched as its enemies destroyed each other.

 

Might that happen again? One of our older ministers, Don Ward from Missouri, wrote about the current situation in the middle east, where ISIS is directing most of its evil towards Islamic states. He said this could be a fulfillment of Joel 3:

 

1 For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations.

 

Pastor Don pointed out that there is no valley in Israel named after Jehoshaphat, and instead suggested that it refers to 2 Chronicles 20 and the way Israel’s enemies destroyed each other, which could be what is happening now. I think that is fascinating to think about.

-Greg Demmitt

2-chron-20-15

God’s Grace Brings Release (2 Kings 24-25)

Sunday, November 13

jehoiachin

Chapter 23 ended with Jehoiakim becoming king and doing evil in the eyes of the Lord just as his fathers had.  Then moving into chapter 24, Nebuchadnezzar comes onto the scene.  He invaded Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim his servant, to carry out his orders over Judah.  After 3 years Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.  The Lord sent armies against him for the evil he had done and he is killed.  His son Jehoiachin became king and continued doing evil in the eyes of the Lord as his fathers did.  The cycle is continuing.

After Jehoiachin had ruled only 3 months, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem.  Jehoiachin surrendered and is taken prisoner.  All the treasures of the temple were taken, along with treasures from the king’s house.  All but the poorest people were exiled to Babylon.  Things were as low as they had ever been for Judah.  However, they kept getting worse, and Jerusalem was eventually destroyed.

This seems to just be a story of kings doing evil, and suffering consequences for it.  Fast forward 37 years and Nebuchadnezzar dies and Evil-Merodach becomes king of Babylon.  He releases Jehoiachin from prison and gave him a place of honor.  What a transformation overnight to go from prison to a place of honor with the king.

Have you ever felt that because of some mistake you made or some circumstances, that you can never get past it?  Have you felt that things are just going from bad to worse and you will never get past the problems you have?  I am guessing Jehoiachin felt that he was condemned to being in prison the rest of his life, and lacked hope at times.  However, his life turned around.  Doesn’t this sound like the grace of God?  There is nothing that shows Jehoiachin deserved this improved position, however he was granted it anyways.

Whether our problems are caused by our own mistakes or just circumstances we are in, we can have the hope of God’s grace, and have everything turned around.  We just need to accept God’s gift, along with repentance for our sins.

We can always have hope.

Andrew Hamilton