Submit Your Ways to God

Faithfulness-Instagram copy

Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it?”  It’s easy to slip into the mindset of doubt. We live in a broken world, and we may have gone through painful experiences that cause us to lose our trust in others.  For this reason, faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit, can be a challenging trait to possess. Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him. When we are truly faithful to God, this shapes the way we live. Faithfulness requires us to submit our ways to God.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We are to be faithful to God, because He is faithful to us.  In the Bible, the story of Abraham demonstrates the importance of faithfulness. Abraham and his wife Sarah struggled to trust God, but learned the value of faithfulness when they submitted to Him.  For example, Abraham and Sarah waited many years for God to fulfill His promise of giving them a son. Because of her lack of faith, Sarah insisted upon Hagar, her maid, giving birth to her son. This resulted in pain and conflict. However, when Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God, Sarah was able to give birth to Isaac despite being past childbearing age.  Ultimately, the story of Abraham shows how God blesses those who are faithful and trust in His plans.

So, how do we grow in our faithfulness?  We can grow in our faithfulness by having a personal relationship with God. If we are truly faithful to Him and obey His commands, this will be evident in our lives.  My challenge to you is this: Think about the ways you show your faithfulness to God. Are there things that are getting in the way of your faithfulness? What areas of your life have you not given over to Him? Through spending time in prayer, ask God to make these things clear to you, so that He can grow you in your faithfulness.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

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Sinking in Our Circumstances

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Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

After sending his disciples into the boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and after dismissing the crowds, Jesus goes up onto the mountain alone to pray (vv. 22-23). The disciples were attempting to sail across the sea but were having trouble because they were facing a head wind and waves (v. 24). In the “fourth” watch, which corresponds to our 3-6am, Jesus came walking to the disciples on the water (v. 25). This is Roman reckoning of time as they divided the night (6pm-6am) into four watches while the Jews divided it into only three. As the scene is set, it is the middle of the night and the disciples are in the middle of the sea, and Jesus comes walking on water in the middle of the storm.

The terror of the disciples is immediately noted as they thought Jesus was a “ghost,” meaning an “apparition” (v. 26) The Master speaks calmly to them and reassures them that it is indeed he who they are seeing (v. 27). Peter, wanting to know if it truly was the Lord, requests that he be allowed to join Jesus upon the water (v. 28). Jesus’ simple response indicates the simplicity of the request: “Come” (v. 29). However, once outside the boat, Peter’s perception of the wind and the waves caused him to falter in his confidence and desperately cried out for the Lord to help him (v. 30). Jesus reached out his hand and picked Peter up, entered the boat, and calmed the storm (vv. 31-32).

What is surprising is that Jesus reached out his hand to help his sinking disciple rather than giving him verbal exhortation or encouragement. Jesus’ address to Peter comes in the form: “O you of little faith” (v. 31). What we see in this record is Peter allowing the surrounding circumstances to affect him and his focus upon the Lord. Peter exited the boat and began to walk toward Jesus. But when he looked around and saw the wind and the waves, his progress was impeded, for he began to sink.

I think that this illustration is quite comparable to what we encounter in our lives. We have our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and are serving him in the kingdom, but at times we look around and become more focused on what is happening around us and allow that to affect our perception of ourselves so that we begin to sink. We lack that confidence and assurance that we once had as we were walking toward the Lord. But the good news is that the Lord has not left us helpless and is not far from us. He will reach down and help us if we will but call out to him. Jesus isn’t looking for perfect disciples, but faithful followers. And faithfulness means a continued reliance and trust in the one who we call our Master.

-Jerry Weirwille

Imbedded Wisdom – Proverbs 6

The Memory verse for this week is Proverbs 9:10:

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

The book of Proverbs is a genre of literature known as wisdom literature.  Along with Job and Ecclesiastes, Proverbs looks at the world in a slightly different way than the historical books of the Bible or the prophetic books.  In the wisdom books, the sages find information about God throughout the world of nature.  Where God reveals himself directly to Moses and Israel in Exodus and he reveals himself in visions to the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, to the sages who write in Proverbs God often reveals himself in the created world and by observation of human behavior.

Ant Image

In Proverbs 6:6 he writes: “go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”  An ant is a comparatively small and very weak creature when set alongside a human being, and yet, ants are industrious and hard working.  They plan and prepare for the winter by working hard and gathering up their provisions in the summer time.  There is wisdom in hard work and preparation.  The wisdom writer uses this as a way to admonish the person who is lazy and refuses to do the hard work of preparing for winter.  So the wisdom lesson here is “don’t be lazy, work hard to prepare in advance and you will be much less likely to suffer adversity.”

We could then apply this to other areas of life.  For students this means, don’t wait until the night before your test to begin “cramming” for the test.  Work hard at your studies each day in your preparation.  Read your assignments, do your research.  Then, when the harvest comes (the test) you will be successful because you worked hard and prepared.  That’s wisdom applied to life and that’s the value of Proverbs.

Later in Proverbs 6 wisdom is applied to relationships and to marital faithfulness.  He gives a stern warning against the sin of adultery.  He compares adultery to scooping a fire into your lap and expecting not to get burned or trying to walk across hot coals without burning your feet.  As Forrest Gump would say “sometimes things just don’t make no sense.”  Thinking that you can play around with fire and not get burned is foolish… and thinking that you can cheat on your spouse or with someone else’s spouse and not get burned is just plain foolish.  “A man who commits adultery has no sense.”  Instead of the ant, the author uses the jealous husband as the example from nature “he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.”

One doesn’t have to look far to find wisdom.  God has imbedded it in all of his creation and we just need to pay attention- whether it’s the wisdom of the ant in working hard to prepare for Winter, or the wisdom of not fooling around with someone else’s wife or husband, we need to pay attention to God’s wisdom that’s revealed all around us.

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~ Jeff Fletcher

The Way of Wisdom – Prov. 1-5


Good morning everyone! First I want to start off today, by saying that I am so glad you decided to read along with us this week, and I hope you have gained something from it. Today, I am going to give you a quick summary of the week, and a challenge for you, as you go forward. 

Monday, we read through Proverbs chapter 1, and I talked about where wisdom comes from and why we NEED wisdom. Wisdom comes from knowledge, and knowledge comes from the fear of the LORD. We are also given wisdom by our parents and our elders, those that have lived before us. 

On Tuesday we read through Proverbs 2, and I again talked about where wisdom comes from, and why it is beneficial to us. Wisdom is a two way street, and requires work on our part. God will give wisdom to those who ask for it, but they have to ask for insight. If you hold wisdom in the highest regard, like hidden treasure, and ask for it, crying aloud for God, he will give it to you, that you may live. The benefits of having wisdom in our lives and in our hearts, is that are guarded and protected, and we listen to those who have gone before us. 

Wednesday we read through Proverbs 3, and I talked about quite a few different pieces of advice written in this chapter. My favorite verse from this chapter is verse 3, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”. We are called to love, love the LORD, love our neighbors, love our enemies, love. Besides the memory verse this week, which also comes from this chapter, (Proverbs 3:5-6) I encourage you to remember; let love and faithfulness be your guide, and your comfort. Keep them close to you, and wear them proudly.

Thursday we read through Proverbs 4 and I talked about a few specific pieces of advice that Chapter 3 gives us. There were quite a few, but in this summary I want to remind you of that last verses in Chapter 4, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” We need to be careful of what we say, and we need to guard our hearts, because everything that we are comes from it.

Finally, on Friday we read Proverbs 5, which was a warning about adultery, but I want you all to realize that this chapter applies to all temptations. We need not focus on what other people have, because we need to be open to seeing and noticing the great things that God has already given to us, or that he is in the process of blessing us with. Our God is amazing, and he knows all that we need and want, and he will take care of us in whatever way follows his will. 

Today I want to leave you with a challenge. Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6, but also ask your grandparent, or great-aunt/great-uncle for some advice this week, about almost anything. Try to recognize the wisdom they are trying to give you. I am certain that you will make their day a little brighter, and you just might learn something new and important. 

Thank you for reading with me this week. Have a great weekend, and God Bless 

~Jana

The Way of Wisdom: Love and Trust – Prov. 3

Proverbs-33

Good Morning!

Yesterday I talked a little bit more about what wisdom is and what it can do for us. I also talked somewhat about how it is important for the Christian life.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 3, and this happens to have the memory verse in it this week. As a reminder the memory verse this week is Proverbs 3:5-6.

Chapter 3 has a lot of different little pieces of advice for us to keep, and to remember as we walk through our lives. I strongly encourage you to read through all of Proverbs 3 and to really take to heart all the things that it says.

Today, I just want to talk about a couple of my favorite ones from the chapter. Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” I love this because part of the Christian faith is that we are called to Love. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is our calling as Christians! Let love and faithfulness never leave you. That is just beautiful and very important to remember, especially when we live in a world that is full of injustice and turmoil.

Another that I think is very important for each of us to remember is this; verses 25-26, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”  God is telling us not to fear, especially natural disasters or anything else that is truly outside of our control, because God will be with us, and take care of us. We may find hardship and difficulty, but God will protect us, and take care of us. This also may not be in the ways that we expect or desire, but it will be in the ways that God sees fit, or that is in God’s will.

Finally, verse 30,” Do not accuse anyone for no reason- when they have done you no harm.” This is something I need to work on too. I have three younger sisters, and sometimes I will automatically blame one of them if something of mine “goes missing”. Sometimes they really did use or take whatever it was, but sometimes, I just misplace them. Here’s the thing, when I accuse them of something they didn’t do, it hurts their feelings and it makes them more upset with me, and defensive. We need to be more careful with the words that we say, and the tones in which we say them because our words can cause a lot of harm.

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I want to close with three more verses. First I want you to read verses 5-6 again, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” & verse 35, “The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” Again, wisdom takes care of us. We will inherit honor. Take this to heart, and pay attention to the rest of Proverbs 3.

Thank you for joining us today! Have a great day, and I hope you check in with us tomorrow!

God Bless,

– Jana Swanson

Some Hope for Your Hopelessness

Lamentations 2-3

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Friday, March 17

 

Lamentations 2 is recounting God’s anger, and in chapter 3 Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God is not listening to him. However, in spite of complaining, he does acknowledge that God gave the people grace in not dishing out as harsh a punishment as they deserved.

 

Despite the melancholy nature of the book, this portion of Jeremiah contains one of my favorite passages in all of scripture (ch. 3, v. 21-24):

 

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

This verse is displayed in our living room, scripted on a photo that we captured of a radiant sunset over Alaska’s Kenai Fjord during our honeymoon. I appreciate the daily visual reminder that God is always faithful, and that each day is a new start complete with His fresh mercies!

 

With all that Jeremiah was facing, I am encouraged that he still dared to hope. Have you ever dared to hope? Right now I am facing a difficult situation with an ailing loved one. For many months, I’ve experienced an exhausting cycle – hopelessness followed by a rush of hope (that has instead usually turned out to be a false alarm), followed by hopelessness, and then another chance to hope. And just when I tell myself that I am not going to hope again, I am presented with another opportunity to hope that I just cannot deny because life without hope, is, well, hopeless. Sometimes hope is all that keeps us going. Hope helps us cope with the difficulties in life. So will you “dare to hope”?

 

Ultimately, our hope as believers is in Jesus Christ and our future in the Kingdom with God. The meaning of my daughter’s name inspires my soul every time I think of it. Her first name is Maranatha, which means, “Come, Lord Jesus” (but most people know her as Mara), and her middle name is “Hope”, which we chose because the coming of Jesus our Lord is our hope as believers. Jesus knows that we will have trouble in this world, but he reminds us to “take heart! I have overcome the world!” Now THAT is something worth our hope!

 

Pray about what it is that God may be calling you to “hope” for. (Think about the injustices that came to your mind during yesterday’s devotion and how you hope the situation could be different). What actions do you need to take to allow yourself to hope? How can hope drive you to make a difference?

 

-Rachel Cain

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/lamentations/3/22-23)

Enduring Faithfulness

Job 27-30

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Tuesday, December 20

Yesterday, we tackled Bildad’s question to Job about the righteousness of man before a Holy God.   With a new frame of mind, we can answer and confidently place these words of Job in our heart:

“I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;  my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” – Job 27:6

Our conscience, our friends, and our family are not our judge, only the Lord God Almighty.  If he has made us new through repentance, then that we are indeed.  Do we continue in sin? NO! (Rom 6:1).  Do we walk around saying, “You are not my judge!” NO! (Heb 10:24) We become part of the church, pray, study, do good works, give cheerfully, share His good news, not to earn merit badges for the Kingdom of God but as loving and faithful acts of a pardoned people.  No matter our past or present circumstance we must not conceal what God is/can do in us.  Today, you can move forward declare and renew your innocence through Him.

“I will teach you about the power of God;   the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal” – Job 27:11

Along the same vein, another reflection for today comes from the second half of today’s reading (Job 29 – 30).  Job essentially is contemplating the “good ole days”, before his fortunes turned south.  The power, the respect, the friends, and the wealth he once enjoyed all are gone.  While our fall might not equal Job’s, far too often when things take a turn for the worse, we quickly forget about the faithfulness of God.  We become as the children of Israel, longing to return to slavery so our belly can be momentarily filled. (Ex 14:20) We cry out, “God, why have you taken this from me?” yet we forget who gave it to us in the first place.

Your present life may not include the finite features of your past.  Death, debt, despair, and destruction may have become more commonplace; however, there is one infinite feature that is constant: the love and faithfulness of an unchanging God.  Look upon the past not to remind you of the “good ole days,” but of his enduring faithfulness; use the lamp unto your feet to know that your future is secure, no matter what life’s storms may bring.

-Aaron Winner