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2 Chronicles 29-31; Ephesians 4

Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:8-9 ESV)

God is so often misunderstood and misrepresented.

Some want to throw out the Old Testament seeing only His judgment and sternness. Others misunderstand the need for the cross. And, yet others put God in a box based on the flaws they see in Christians around them.

What we often fail to understand is just how much God hates sin.

He hates that it has ripped apart our relationship with Him,
that it deceives into thinking we don’t need Him,
that it ruins relationships and trust,
that it clouds over love,
that it destroyed His perfect world,
that it kills and brings shame,
that it leads to a life in an eternal hell.

He sees it for what it is, and He will not tolerate it unaddressed in His children.

20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV)

But, when we want the same thing He wants. When we crave Him. When we seek love. When we repent and turn to Him, He comes running. He wants to bless us, to see us prosper (not necessarily measured in material wealth), to teach us to walk in the unity of love with Him and other believers.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)

Love is what should set us apart from the world. And, the only way we can possess and reflect true love is to be in Christ.

We have the purest example of how to love. Now, I just need to step out and do it.

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

Father God, You are loving and compassionate. Help me show those same attributes consistently to those around me that You may be glorified. With my whole heart. Yielding to you, just as Hezekiah determined to do. May Your loving, merciful image flow through me as freely as I breathe. In Jesus Name, Amen

Erin (6intow)

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2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 28; Ephesians 3; Psalms 46

In the Old Testament passages today we see mistakes.  A king rules, he chooses a form of idolatry over God and is taken off the throne.

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign in Samaria over Israel, and he reigned nine years.  And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him.  Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria.  And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute.  But the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.  Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Assyria, and for three years he besieged it.” (2 Kings 17;1-5 ESV)

Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus.  He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force. ” (2 Chronicles 28:5 ESV)

Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we can pray for spiritual strength and therefore not give into temptation.  I need that reminder daily.  When I look back on things I have done in the past I realize that if I had only prayed for spiritual strength, I might not have made the poor choices I did.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

This strength is repeated in today’s Psalm.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains may be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalms 46:1-3 ESV)

 

Lord,

Help us to always remember and take advantage of the fact that “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalms 46:11 ESV)

Kellie

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Isaiah 30-33; Ephesians 1

I love reading the perspective of Old Testament prophets when it comes to understanding God and what He is doing and making it relevant to the day. I pick up today that hope remains as I participate and stay with my community of believers. It is where God wants me to serve and not be tempted to go where I think there may be more…more of anything.

 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures,  and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. – Isaiah 30:23-24  ESV

The reason I have hope is because it is God who teaches and disciplines when it comes to judgments.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. – Isaiah 32:1,16  ESV

I am still learning that there is security when I am under a just and righteous God. As long as I understand that He is reconstructing me. With that comes some times of mourning for sure. Sorrow is not the ultimate purpose God is looking for in my life, but is only the breaking of ground in my heart to be receptive to the Holy Spirit.

Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
    and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
    and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. – Isaiah 32:15  ESV

 

At the same time, I need to understand that the period of mourning is followed by blessing.

Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
    who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free. – Isaiah 32:20  ESV

This is where I come in with thanksgiving and prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life making all of this happen.

Who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory.  For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints. Ephesians 1:14-15  ESV

How else can I love those who follow Jesus? My fruit needs to be real so that others can see that I am authentic and a genuine follower of Jesus myself. Then that love we have together is a powerful witness to the world. So while I strive on my own, it is so much better to be followers of Jesus together.

Thank You for walking with me in this journey!

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

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Isaiah 23-25; Romans 15

Sunrise – Photo by Mandy Baldwin

I have always struggled to understand Romans. I always felt it was a mix of law and grace. How do those two go together? I do the right things and feel good because I did it! Then I mess up and struggle with guilt and shame. The grace of God is comforting in those times when I wonder what to do. So I double down and try and work harder. Is there a balance?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

I have always found this verse encouraging. Our God is a God of hope. Our God IS our hope… not the law, not Holiness, not marriage, not the new job, not money. So much of the time I have found myself hoping in those things that are up to me. Up to me to figure out how to do or how not to do. Instead, I am learning what it looks like to Hope in God. Hope in who He is. Hope in His character.

I have not found the balance between the law and grace. I doubt I ever will. While I wait, however, I have hope. So…what do I do?

  • I continue reading. I read Romans again. I read the old testament. I read the new testament. Time with God will never be wasted.
  • I work at having the grace for others that I desire from God.
  • I work through my own unmet desires with the help of God as a way of keeping Him as my hope and not the meeting of those desires.
  • I keep moving in the direction that I believe God is calling me.

What can you do today to place God as your hope?

Dear God, thank you that you have not left us alone to figure out life, but you have given us direction and you have given yourself. Forgive us for the ways we get it wrong. Help us to give the same grace to others that you give to us. Thank you for the way you move in our lives. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Isaiah 19-22; Romans 14

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him but not to quarrel over opinions. Romans 14:1 ESV

Romans 14 is a reminder for me not to pass judgement on others. Paul wrote this part of Romans to warn the Christians in Rome that arguing over opinions with the weak in faith will quickly tear them down rather than build them up. While God lays out laws we are to obey clearly, there are some areas of life where Christians act out of personal convictions rather then explicitly stated commands.

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Romans 14:2-3 ESV

Paul brings up an example of conviction. The weak believer believes he should only eat vegetables while the other believes all food is lawful. Instead of taking sides or getting into an argument, Paul states that all are welcomed by God and should be treated as family in Christ.

The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. Romans 14: 6b-7 ESV

All things should be done in honor of the Lord, whether it be acting in freedom under Christ, or acting in conviction under Christ. God seems to care more about whether I love Him and my neighbor than whether I eat meat or not. I should not judge or despise a brother or sister in Christ over a conviction because God has welcomed them, and I am called to love them as myself.

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. Romans 14:14-15 ESV

While I am not bound to the convictions of others, it is important that I do not belittle them for theirs or force my own upon them. Walking in love with others includes thinking of them over yourself and doing what will strengthen their faith. I should be careful not to cause another to stumble by what I do, but instead seek to build them up in their faith.

Dear God, help me to love others as You have called me to. Please keep me from despising or judging others for their convictions but to instead welcome them as You have welcomed me. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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Isaiah 8-11; Romans 11

Driving to work this morning I was thinking of the thread between the verses in Isaiah and the one in Romans. Isaiah writes of the prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Paul writes after the fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ. We live in the age waiting on the fulfillment of the new testament prophecy—His second coming.  God’s only son, Jesus, has always been and always will be our saving grace.  Like Paul, we have every reason to praise!

God is telling the Jews through the prophet Isaiah that there are some bad things coming their way because of their penchant for seeking to find fulfillment in things, not God. They have turned their attention away from him and are worshiping the idols made by man, believing the false prophets of the world, and not obeying or seeking him first.

13 For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent.
They will not seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
14 Therefore, in a single day the Lord will destroy both the head and the tail,
the noble palm branch and the lowly reed.
15 The leaders of Israel are the head,
and the lying prophets are the tail.
16 For the leaders of the people have misled them.
They have led them down the path of destruction. (Isaiah 9:13-16) NLT

Yet even in his anger, he gives them the hope that he would again pull the remnant of believers back to him.

20 In that day the remnant left in Israel,
the survivors in the house of Jacob,
will no longer depend on allies
who seek to destroy them.
But they will faithfully trust the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return;
yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.
22 But though the people of Israel are as numerous
as the sand of the seashore,
only a remnant of them will return.
The Lord has rightly decided to destroy his people.
23 Yes, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
has already decided to destroy the entire land. (Isaiah 10:20-23) NLT

There is One who is coming to make all things right.

In that day the heir to David’s throne[b]
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.[c]
11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,[d] and Elam;
in Babylonia,[e] Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
12 He will raise a flag among the nations
and assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
from the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 11:10-12) NLT

All this was prophesized hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

Then, we have Paul who has come to understand these scriptures and how they pointed to Jesus. Having encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul now has been given the mission of persuading both Jews and Gentiles that this was always part of God’s plan to save us. He uses the scriptures that the Jews are well acquainted with to prove his point. However, we know not all the Jews accepted his words and so Paul turned to the Gentiles. Paul ends this chapter with praise to God for His great plan for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?[l]
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?[m]

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Lord, thank you for the plan of salvation that has been prophesied since the beginning. I am so blessed to be on the other side to see your glorious plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I pray to be as bold as Paul and spread this good news to others by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Your word is as alive and applicable today as it was when Paul taught the early believers. All glory to You forever. In Jesus name. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Micah 5-7; Romans 10

To obey is better than sacrifice. Offerings, sacrifice, mountains of money, even giving my firstborn does not compare to a heart surrendered to Him.Obedience. Daily. Faithful.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 – ESV)

It is simple, but not easy.

Thankfully, God hears our prayers for help, but how often do we neglect to request it? How often do I think I’m doin’ jes’ fine on my own?

Still He is there. He already paid the penalty for every one of my sins and delights in loving me without wavering.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
    I will wait for the God of my salvation;
    my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7 – ESV)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over transgression
    for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
    because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
    he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19 – ESV)

This beautiful, timeless truth has held true from the beginning of time and has reached its fullness now. We messed up (individually and all of mankind), and He made a plan to fix it when we could not.

Now, in accepting that truth and setting Jesus in charge of my life I savor a priceless treasure.

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11 – ESV)

Dear God, thank you for taking the first step when I could not. For paying a price I could not afford. For loving even when I daily rejected You. I daily surrender my will to yours. Help me to walk in Your way, to obey completely. Forgive me for the times I lapse into old habits and ignore sin as it creeps back in control. Only Your strength can bring me back in step. I love you, always and forever! Amen

Erin (6intow)

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