A New Thing for the New Year

Jer 29 13

I thank God for you – the readers who are reading today.

I thank God for those who have written devotions for us for the past two and a half years – and for those who will commit to writing a week in the New Year ahead.

I thank God for what He has done and what He will do!  For me.  For my family.  For the Church of God.  For God’s World and for His Plan for the Ages.  He is always at work!

I thank God for revealing himself through His Word!  How incredible that He has chosen to share Himself with me – and you – there in each and every page, chapter and verse of His Inspired Word.

God can choose to reveal himself in an earthquake, fire or thunder from heaven.  And, sometimes He has and He does and He will.  But more often – each and every day – He is ready to reveal Himself – His love, His faithfulness, His majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His wisdom, His commands, His Son, His plan of salvation, His light, His life, His Coming Kingdom.  God reveals himself to those who seek Him in His Holy Word.

I am excited about a New Year starting this week and I would love to encourage you to join with us at grow16Biblereading.wordpress.com in reading through the New Testament (as well as Proverbs and various theme weeks).  We will be reading one chapter from the Bible every day and you can sign up to receive daily devotions based on the chapter assigned for that day.  Each week we will get to hear the thoughts of another Church of God writer to guide us in seeking Him in His Word.  If you wish to sign up for the daily emails visit https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/.  On your computer – click on the follow button in the right hand column.  On your phone – click Menu, About and then the follow button.

The rest of this week we will be looking at the importance and benefits of God’s Word, and then on Sunday, January 6 we will jump into Matthew chapter 1, reading one chapter each day.  We chose a Bible reading plan that would not be too challenging or daunting for any age or experience level, and could still be combined with another plan for those already committed to a different Bible reading plan.  So grab a friend or family member, youth group or small group to help motivate and build accountability to together spend 2019 seeking Him in His Word.

Praying for Your Faith Walk,

Marcia Railton

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Radiating Jesus

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Jesus > Angels.    Jesus > Moses.   Jesus > the Old Law.
Jesus > everything – except God, His Father.

Hebrews was written to convince its readers (mostly Jewish Christians) that there is none like Jesus.   Some Jewish Christians were being ridiculed and persecuted and rejected by Jews (perhaps family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates) who did not accept Jesus as the Son of God, mediator, Savior, Coming King.   In order to remain strong in their faith while surrounded by doubts and persecution and false doctrine they were in need of a refresher course on the superiority of Jesus, and why it matters.   And, God supplied to them – and to us – the Book of Hebrews.

There is none like Jesus!  No one can do the job he does.  No one else can be the sinless Son of God who died for our sins and rose again.  No one else can mediate between God and man.  No one else can come again to set up God’s Kingdom on Earth.  There is none like Jesus!

One verse in chapter one has grabbed my attention several times before.  It begins, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.” (1:3).  Remember when Moses asked to be allowed to see God’s glory. (Exodus 33:18)   And God allowed Moses to see God’s back – but not his face because no one can look on God’s face and live.  And then, years later – Jesus enters the scene.  He is not God Almighty, but he is God’s Son.  Heeradiates God’s glory and so when people see Jesus – they know what God is like.  They see God’s glory when they look at Jesus.

Sadly, there is a large chunk of the world today (as throughout history) who has never seen or acknowledged God’s glory.  They have missed seeing God, and they have not seen His Son.  It is time to get busy.  We have a job to do.  And I was reminded of that a few years ago when the public school principal commended our daughter for “Radiating Jesus”.   What beautiful words to speak of another.  What a goal to live for.

Jesus was radiating God – because frail humanity can’t look directly at the fullness of God’s goodness and majesty and live through it.  Thank God for Jesus – who shows us God – better than Moses and the prophets and the Old Testament law and even angels ever could.    We have seen Jesus through the pages of the gospel writers and now it is our job to radiate Jesus.  For when we help them see Jesus, they will see God’s glory, too.

Marcia Railton

On God’s Time Clock

Col 3 23 (1)

Yesterday I went to the funeral of a dear man of God.  Don Kizer, husband to one – for 70 years (WOW!), father to 3 – plus 2, grandpa to 7, great-grandpa to 15 – he was so proud of all his babies of all ages.  And, most importantly – servant of God.  He gave and he gave and he gave.  Never begrudgingly.

No one ever asked Don for anything – they didn’t have to – he beat them to it.  My father-in-law, Don’s pastor for many years, tells of a time when he told the church board he would need to take a week of vacation time to re-roof his house.  Early Monday morning, Don pulled up in front of his pastor’s house with his tools.  He was ready to work.  And work he did.  This retired workhorse came back every day until the job was done – drove an hour home and was back the next morning – all week long.  Not because he had been asked to help – only because he wanted to.

His granddaughter similarly tells of a time she was painting in the basement when she was scared by footsteps in her supposedly empty house.  Armed with a baseball bat, relief flooded over her when Grandpa rounded the corner.  He explained, “You said you were going to be painting, right?”

When we bought our first house it had some work to be done – including adding a shower to the bathroom.  Don to the rescue, again.

Don showed up for others – always serving, always giving, always working.  The church yard received his loving care for years and years.  He was even more dedicated to the people in his life – 70 years with his lovely wife Norma.  Life was not always easy for them.  But they remained dedicated to each other and the God they served.

The verses that come to mind when I think of Don are from Colossians 3.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (3:23,24).  Don didn’t need to check with his pastor about roofing his house, or with his granddaughter about painting, or any of the other people he just showed up for.  He was on God’s time clock, and he showed up for work, again and again.

Don is done working now.  He is awaiting his inheritance from the Lord which he will receive when the dead are raised and the Lord’s New Kingdom will begin (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

You might not be a roofer, or painter, or plumber, or lawn care specialist, or able to fix anything and everything with some wire and duct tape.   But, you ARE gifted by God to serve.  So, get out there and get to work.  Work as if you were working for the Lord (because you are when you serve others).  Work as if you were working alongside Don.  Keep at it!  Your reward may be closer than you know, or you may be given 89 (or more) years to serve.  Either way, do it with all your heart.

Thank you, God, for the gift of knowing Don.  May I work as he worked – on your time clock.

-Marcia Railton

What Rings Out from You?

1 Thess 1 8

I Thessalonians 1-3

Apprentice: Learning from the Master was the theme for Family Camp 2015.  Our son suggested the theme while coming home from Family Camp the previous year.   And it stuck.  “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” I Corinthians 11:1.  We have a responsibility to be following our Master Jesus (who was following God’s will and direction every step of the way) – not only for our benefit – but to lead and guide and instruct others how to also follow Christ and become more and more like Jesus.

I see Apprentice all over these first three chapters of I Thessalonians.   When Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus he entered training to be an Apprentice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t hide away with his new-found life – taking it out every Sunday to display at church.  It was his life and breath and joy and struggle – to be lived and fought for every day – to take people to Jesus that they might become apprentices as well – learning and teaching the craft of loving, serving, following, obeying Christ and His Father.  Listen again to some of these phrases:
“You became imitators of us and of our Lord: in spite of severe suffering” (1:6)
“And so you became a model to all the believers” (1:7)
“The Lord’s message rang out from you” (1:8)
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (2:19,20)
“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (3:8)

Do you want to be a better Apprentice?

First – check your walk – are you living what you’ve learned from Jesus the Master? Do you do the work that Jesus did?  How can you follow Jesus better?  More consistently?  Does the Lord’s message ring out from you?  Do you imitate the world or do you imitate Christ and Christian role-models?
How can you reach out to others as Jesus did?  And as Paul did?  Who do you pray earnestly for night and day – that their faith will be strong?
Who will be your hope, your joy or your crown in which you will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  (3:12-13).

Marcia Railton

Apprentice – Pass it On!

2 Tim 2 2 (1)

When Paul writes II Timothy he is in Rome.  In Prison.  Piecing together his life from Acts and his letters, it is believed that during his first trip to Rome he was under house arrest – and then released and able to take his final missionary journey.  But, back to Rome he goes, and this time he ends up in prison.  Real prison.  In chains.  And, he is now writing about having “fought the good fight and finished the race.”  (4:7).   The end is in sight.  And Paul has no regrets.  In fact, he still has hope for the future – “a crown of righteousness” (4:8).

I was blessed by the opportunity to go to Rome with Jason several years ago while he was on a business trip.  While he worked, I walked.  It was incredible to walk through the ruins and roads where Paul very well may have walked before his chains.  Courthouses, palaces, the temples of foreign gods, and in their midst, the Mamertine prison which according to tradition housed the apostle Paul, as well as Peter, before they each died for their faith.   Perhaps it was a different prison, hard to be certain.  But I do know that there was a real prison with real chains.  Real places.  Real people.  And a very real God who was at work then (and long before) and is still at work now – and for all eternity.

A God worthy of serving with our life and if necessary our death.  A God who does not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) – and I sure need that!  A God who breathed out the Scriptures for us so we would have his wisdom and words – so useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  (2 Timothy 3:16)  Without them we can not be thoroughly equipped for the work he has for us to do.  (2 Timothy 3:17).

A few years ago our theme at Family Camp was Apprentice.  How to pass along a craft – an art – from one master artisan to the next generation.   Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2)  How are you contributing to the cycle?

Paul has many powerful words to Timothy about his duties as a young preacher, and what he is to pass on to others.  And they become even more powerful when you pause to remember that they are being written by Paul, the mighty apostle and missionary, now chained and in prison, near the end of his life.  According to tradition, soon to be beheaded for his faith.  He writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)  Are you doing your best?  What can you do to improve how you present yourself to God?  Is it evident you are a workman for God?  Any areas of shame that need to be addressed?  How are you handling the word of truth?

I think it would be fascinating to see documented how the Word of God was passed down from Jesus to Paul, and on to Timothy and then to Timothy’s church, etc …. Through the ages … across the oceans … from generation to generation . . . to you.  Your spiritual genealogy.  What will you do with it?  How will you pass it on?  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”

In Christ,
Marcia

Acts – His Witnesses at Work

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The book of Acts is one of the most exciting reads you will ever come across: action adventure, good guys, bad guys, left for dead, miracles, jail breaks, courtroom drama, angry mob, shipwreck, dramatic monologues, and some of the most fascinating characters of the early church.  The author, Luke, was the same Gentile doctor who wrote what is now the 3rd gospel – an account of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Here, in the book of Acts, his story continues with the Acts of the Apostles – the story of the early Christian church age.

 

Luke opens his account in Acts with the crucified and resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples for 40 days, speaking about the kingdom of God (1:3) – obviously a topic near and dear to Jesus – so it should likewise be a topic we are passionate about.  Then, Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8). And as he ascends into the clouds, two men in white reassure the disciples that Jesus will return the same way that he rose.  And, throughout the rest of Acts, we see what happens when Jesus’ witnesses are faithful.

 

The promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they were able to do many miracles and wonders, even speaking in languages that men from all parts of the world would understand the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Most of the first half of Acts follows the disciples, particularly Peter, as they teach and preach and grow the early church.  Even amongst strong opposition the church grows, with many new believers being baptized and committing their lives, homes, finances, and families to following Jesus.  Some, like Stephen, even gave their life – as he was stoned to death for speaking the truth about Jesus, the Son of God.

 

Most of the second half of Acts tells the incredible – and true – stories of Paul.  It starts with the conversion of Saul who was persecuting Christians.  BUT – he changed and became the great apostle who went on 3 missionary journeys and wrote much of what would become the New Testament (but more on that tomorrow when we cover the 3rd Division of the NT – Paul’s Letters).

 

There are so many great passages in the book of Acts you just have to read it for yourself!  Not only are there amazing action stories, but you also get some wonderful sermon snippets and see what is most important to the early church.  You see their teachings, courage and priorities.

 

We are still waiting for that day when the clouds will part and our Lord and Savior will come down to greet his followers.  What a day that will be!  If you have read the gospels to see Jesus in action – then you are his witness.  If you have felt Jesus’ peace in the storm – then you are his witness.  May we be faithful witnesses ready for his return.

 

-Marcia Railton

IN HIS WORD – The Prophets

2 peter 1 19

This week we are working our way through the Old Testament Bible divisions in order to get a clearer picture of God’s whole story unfolding.  I apologize for not getting it sent out every day as planned.  It’s been a full week getting ready for FUEL 2018!!   I can’t wait to see some of you very shortly!  But, for now – we will finish up our overview of the Old Testament Bible divisions.  5, 12, 5, 5, 12 comes in handy to remember the number of books in each division.

5 books of LAW – Beginnings…leading up to the Exodus, and the law

12 books of HISTORY – Israel’s history – into the Promised Land, kings, exile, and return

5 books of POETRY – Praising & trusting God, wisdom explained and other deep thoughts

5 books of MAJOR PROPHETS –  Speaking for God, even in difficult times

12 books of MINOR PROPHETS – Still speaking – Still important — but not as much written down .   (these books are just shorter than the major prophets)

So in this devotion we will take a look at the 17 books of prophecy.  Sometimes prophecy is understood as just foretelling the future.  These books do indeed do that.  But the whole definition of Prophet is larger than that – it is the act of someone speaking for – in this case – God Almighty.

Sometimes it is exciting speaking for God – especially when exciting things are coming.  It is exciting telling people that God is love and He sent His Son for our salvation and Jesus will come again to set up a Kingdom on Earth.  But, sometimes when God would have his prophets speak, there are some pretty big storm clouds rolling in – often because of the sinful disobedience of his people.  In many of these books of prophecy the chosen prophet has the job of warning the backsliding nation of destruction and exile coming their way because they did not repent and turn from their ungodly ways.  The prophet tells them the price that will be paid for their selfish and worldly decision.  AND – the prophet also often gets to tell what is beyond the storm clouds – what will happen to those who remain faithful or those who go through the exile – what blessings come after the storm.

In the New Testament Peter does a great job explaining the role of the prophet:  “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.   For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

So many times we think we want God to speak to us in an audible voice – if only we could hear what He wants us to do, we think.  And yet, we ignore what He has spoken through the prophets.  If you are ready to listen to God – open your Bible!  Here’s just a little bit about what you will find from God in the books of Prophecy.

 

5 Books of MAJOR PROPHETS

ISAIAH – A Coming Messiah Will Save from Sins

Called the 5th Gospel because it includes so much about the Coming Messiah – Jesus

JEREMIAH – God is Just and Must Punish Sin

Jeremiah (along with King Josiah) urged people to repent – he was persecuted under King Jehoiakim, then he witnessed fall of Jerusalem with King Zedekiah

LAMENTATIONS – Jeremiah Cries over Jerusalem’s Fall

The weeping prophet, Jeremiah, writes this poem as he watches Jerusalem be destroyed by the Babylonians – exactly as he had prophesied for God

EZEKIEL – Visions and Symbolism of a Sovereign God

Ezekiel was called to be a watchman – to warn of coming judgments, and then consolation – visions of the valley of dry bones

DANIEL –  Dare to be a Follower of God

Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego remain loyal to God while exiled in a foreign land – Final 6 chapters include “End Times” prophesies

 

12 Books of MINOR PROPHETS

HOSEA – God’s Undying Love and Faithfulness -Hosea marries Gomer the prostitute

JOEL – Plague of Locusts Warn of God’s Coming Judgment

AMOS – God’s Judgment on Injustice

OBADIAH – Edom will be Judged (only 21 verses)

JONAH – God’s Prophet Speaks to Ninevah – Eventually, after the help of a storm and great fish

MICAH – Idolatry and Injustice Will Bring Suffering

NAHUM – Ninevah Revisited

HABAKKUK – It’s Not Fair – But Have Faith – God Answers Habakkuk’s questions

ZEPHANIAH – Warnings and a Future Hope

HAGGAI – Put God’s Work First

ZECHARIAH – Rebuild and Get Ready for the Messiah

MALACHI – My Messenger

Many of the prophecies in these books have already come true – and some we can see taking shape today – and some are still in the future.  There are many prophecies in the Old Testament of a savior for the world – and a Coming Kingdom.  We can be sure this book (The whole Bible) is reliable and true and oh so worthy of our time, respect, study and love.  It is God speaking to you – and to me.  To love Him is to love His Words.   If you are ready to love God – get IN HIS WORD!

 

Marcia Railton

(Thank you for reading this week as we discussed the Old Testament.  This coming week we have the pleasure of having devotions with Aaron Winner on the theme for FUEL 2018 – MISSION.  After that, we will discuss an overview of the New Testament.  Stay in His Word!)