Return to Me and I Will Return to You

 

Zechariah 1-6

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Sunday, April 23

 

Zechariah 1-6 is comprised of a series of 9 visions which can be difficult to understand, but if you read them from start to finish you begin to understand the big picture message.

 

The book starts us off with post exiled Israelites who are called to return to God and rebuild the temple!

 

Side note: I found it especially cool that these first 6 chapters, which are mostly about rebuilding the temple begin by encouraging the people to first rebuild their relationship with God. Zechariah 1:3  Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Think about that in your life…Where’s your relationship with God? Do you have one? Do you need to return to Him?

 

Dream 1: This dream talks about four horsemen on patrol for God. They report that the land is at peace. God is upset the land is at peace because his people were hurt and he wants justice.

Application: God can’t stand when evil people are at rest while those he loves are being persecuted.

 

Dream 2: This dream displays 4 horns that crushed the Israelites. Then it switches to 4 horns that will crush those who crushed the Jews.

Application: God provides due justice to those who do evil against his people! If you chose to follow Jesus, God will provide you a haven in the Kingdom.

 

Dream 3: This dream depicts a man measuring  Jerusalem to make sure it will hold all the people. God promises to be Jerusalem’s walls. He promises to protect them against attack.  

Application: We are called to build the Kingdom by believing in Jesus Christ and sharing that good news with others! Are you afraid to share your faith? Your belief in Jesus? Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Don’t let your fear get in the way of living a devoted life for God.

 

Dream 4: Joshua the high priest (a major leader) is standing before God with dirty clothes. God replaces his clothes with new CLEAN ones.

Application: We have salvation through Christ!  Our sins can be made new through belief in him! 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

Dream 5:  A lamp with 7 flames is fed oil by a spigot attached to two olive trees. One olive tree is Zerubbabel the current king of Jerusalem and the other is Joshua the high priest. These two leaders will unite to rebuild the temple and all of Jerusalem. God makes a special note that Zerubbabel will use his spirit to rebuild the temple.

Application: God sends people to help us do what seems like impossible feats, he also sends his Spirit, the power of God. This allows us to accomplish his will in ways we wouldn’t otherwise think possible. The Spirit allows us to rely on God versus our own strength.  

Dream 6: This dream has a flying scroll that is going throughout a newly rebuilt Jerusalem cleansing it of the liars and thieves. The scroll is purifying Jerusalem of those not obeying the covenant.

Application: God will purify those within the church that are not truly devoted to God and living according to his way. How you live today affects how you live later…the Kingdom of God.

 

Dream 7: A women in a basket, representing all wickedness, is being flown back to Babylon where it first came from. God does a final purification.

Application: God will do a final purification of wickedness in our lives and the church. One day we will all stand before the Lord

 

Dream 8: Four horsemen go out to survey the land. They find it is at peace. God’s Spirit is at rest knowing the temple will be rebuilt, the enemies are punished and Jerusalem is purified and ready for the temple.

Application: One day God will welcome us into his kingdom. We have to choose now to live that way! 🙂

 

Dream 9: God anoints Joshua with a crown as if for a king. He promises that one day a King-Priest will rise up and rule Jerusalem.

Application: This king-Priest is Jesus who lived, died and rose again. Jesus brings us salvation, hope, faith, peace and a place in God’s Kingdom!  

 

All of the above dreams are providing us with the big picture. First, rebuilding the temple, second the return of Jesus and third the Kingdom of God. After reading these passages I realized that God really does have a plan and he wants us to faithfully do his will, using his Spirit as our strength.

 

Just as the Israelites were called to return to God and rebuild his temple, we are called to return to God, accept Jesus as our savior, and prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So I encourage you today to take that first step and Return your life to God.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

Elleigh is an energetic, lively person who is married to a really cool guy, she hopes that after three years of marriage some of his coolness has rubbed off on her! Together they enjoy spending time with the youth, teaching, discipling and encouraging them as they grow their faith. She says her energy comes from eating too much chocolate and the joy she found in accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

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Responding to the Glory of God

 

Ezekiel 43-44

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Sunday, April 2

How should we respond to God’s glory?

To be able to answer this question, we should know what God’s glory is. A simple definition is His character, holiness, and excellence revealed. It is the essence of God on display.

In today’s passage, we read about Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory in a vision. He hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh), which sounds like “the roar of rushing waters,” sees the land “radiant with his glory,” and witnesses the glory of Yahweh filling the temple (Ezek. 43:1-6).

You and I will likely never get the opportunity to receive a vision from the Almighty in which we can see His glory in such an amazing fashion. But God has revealed aspects of His character, holiness, and excellence to us in several ways. In these we can experience the glory of God and respond to it.

God has revealed Himself through His creation. This idea is called Natural Revelation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When one looks at nature it is difficult, at least for me, to believe that everything seen came about by chance and was not designed by an intelligent being. While Natural Revelation doesn’t tell us much about who God is, it does show a great deal about what He is capable of and how great He is.

God has also revealed Himself through the scriptures. What Natural Revelation leaves out about who God is, the Bible fills in much more. The writers of each book in the Bible were inspired by God through His holy spirit. They rely stories of the wonderful things He has done and inform readers of what He can do, and some even reveal what He will do in the future. The Bible offers a large portrait of the greatness and goodness of God, but doesn’t give a complete picture. Not until we dwell with Him in His kingdom will we experience the full weight of His glory.

God has revealed Himself through His son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an expression often used to illustrate how a son is very much like his father, this could be said of Jesus. But more accurately it would be said that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, it is essentially still part of the tree. Jesus is the exact representation of His father. If we want to get a better picture or understanding of God, the best thing we can do is to simply read the Gospels that tell of Jesus. The character of Christ is the character of God. The attributes Jesus exhibits are the same of his father. The glory of God is seen in His son.

The question still remains, how are we to respond to God’s glory?

I think our response should be twofold.

(1) We should be reverent. God is not like us. He is perfect. He is holy. He has great power. He created the world in which we live and, when we messed it us, had a way to make it right again. So, he deserves to be praised. He is entitled (it is his right) to be worshiped. This reverence we have for God should lead to not just passive adoration, but active glorification. We can stand in church and say God is great, but if we think this to be a great truth, it should move us to give our lives to him and serve him everyday of our lives.

(2) We should be repentant. When I say God is holy this means two things: he is set apart and he is pure. We, as human being who engage in sin, are not pure and we tend to act the same as everyone else, making us not set apart. That being said, we are called to be holy as God is holy. The first step towards holiness is repentance. We must forsake our sin and choose Jesus instead. He is the only one who can make us holy.

As you read our passage for today, as you go outdoors and see the beauty that is nature, and when you read about Jesus in the gospels, think about how you should respond. After all, you’re experiencing God’s glory.

-Joel Fletcher

Joel Fletcher is a former student of ABC. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wonderful wife Stephanie. He likes to read boring non-fiction books, watch boring baseball, and hang out with his NON-BORING wife in his free time. He is planning on teaching a class at FUEL this year (its topic will not be boring).

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

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Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

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Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

GOOD News!

Isaiah 26-28

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Sunday, February 12

 

Amidst the talk of incense altars and Ashera Poles (what even are those?), there is good advice and great news to be gleaned from today’s reading! I know it can be kind of hard to get through these prophecies that are written in a different time for a different people, but the cool thing about our God is that he can fulfill the same prophecies over and over again, throughout the ages.

 

The first advice that we see is in 26:13. It would do you well to keep this verse close to your heart. We all have different lords ruling over us in these days: our president, money, school and maybe even friends. This is okay! A problem only rises when you start to honor these other lords in your life. God alone is worthy of your honor.

“O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,

but your name alone do we honor.”

Isaiah 26:13

Second, be careful how you view rules in your life. Do you believe that by following the rules that you’ll be saved? In 28:13, it says “a rule for this, a rule for that… so that as they go they will fall backward.” All rules can do for you is make you fall. You will only ever be able to break rules if that is what you hold as your moral reference point. Jesus is our moral role model and we should be looking to him to see what is right and what is wrong, not the rulebook.

 

Now let’s finish off with some good news: the dead will live, they will wake up and shout for joy! The Lord’s dead, those we have loved and lost, will rise! (26:19)

“But  your dead will live;

their bodies will rise.

You who dwell in the dust,

wake up and shout for joy.

Your dew is like the dew of the morning;

the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Isaiah 26:19

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

The Intercession of a Friend

Job 39 – 42

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Friday, December 23

In today’s reading we have the conclusion of God’s rebuttal to Job.  He enumerates the detail of creation, throwing multiple examples at Job about its forethought, workings, and power.  Then, the mic is dropped.


“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3b-6

 

God gives Job a sobering reminder of who God is.  Through this God does not simply restore Job, but he also uses him to intercede for his friends.  When our prayer lives are focused on others, especially those who have wronged us, we are drawing closer to God.  We love like Him.  We forgive like Him.  We are faithful like Him.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had to offer their own sacrifice, they had to pray for themselves, they had to change their ways, they had to make their own decision, but the devotion of a faithful friend saved them from their deserved punishment.

 

You too, have a friend who is interceding for you (Rom 8:34).  Jesus Christ is pleading your case before God.  You deserve not only death, but destruction, but God has listened to our Savior’s appeal.  You still have great responsibility, but he is making it easier (Matt 11:30).

My challenge for you is to find your own three friends (like Job) to pray for.  When we pray for our friends (and our enemies), acting like Job and Jesus, how much lighter can it make their burden?  What consequence might we save them from?  What healing or saving opportunity will God present them? (James 5:14-16).  Conversely, if we do not, what are we condemning them to?

-Aaron Winner

(photo credit: https://dailybiblememe.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/job-422/)

The King is Coming (II Samuel 4-7)

Wednesday, October 19th

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Nathaniel Johnson

What is going on? Why was a man struck down for trying to keep the ark from falling? It may seem odd to us that the God of Mercy gave Uzzah only one chance here. I’m sure he had the best of intentions but we know that God’s judgement is just (1 Thessalonians 1:5). I think there’s good reason that’s about to be revealed in chapter 7. Even though Uzzah died, we need to remember that we serve a God who has power over death and that death is not the end. One chapter after Uzzah was struck down, God makes an interesting promise to David. He promises that David’s offspring will be the son of God, he will be punished by the rod of men and that his kingdom will endure forever. Does that sound like any one we know? God is telling David about the coming of Jesus. The same man who came and broke the power of death. He died and lived again. Just as Jesus did, so will we and Uzzah because all will stand before the Judge (2 Corinthians 5:10). David sums this all up perfectly in verse 28: “O Sovereign Lord, You are God! Your words are trustworthy.” Rejoice, for God’s words are trustworthy! Jesus came once and he will come again!