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December 26, 2017 - Michele Carson

Scripture:

Several verses derived from Psalm 119 "Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end."

 

Observation:

King David, a man chosen by God to lead his people (1 Samuel 13: 14) sings out his prayers to the Lord. The life of King David is one that shows a life of someone who is chosen by God to lead his people and although he loves God very much and has Godly wisdom, he still falls into sin despite his zeal! He is quick to repent and God still continues to work through him and bless his life and his lineage. His life is one that followers of Jesus Christ can see as one they can quickly relate to because even when you have God on your side, you will have troubles and temptations to overcome!

John 16: 33 (Jesus speaking) " I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Coupled with, Romans 3: 23 " For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

David's life is truly one of great highs and lows living in this world while following after God. I love how his songs glorify God's sovereignty, cries out for wisdom in his pain, and resolves that he knows God is in control and will take care of him. 

 

Application:

Psalms always has a way of breaking me down to build me up in Jesus. I am so thankful for them, it reminds me that I am not the first person to feel the way I do during various points in my walk with Him. Hallelujah! My heart rejoices at the encouragement it brings to me. Thank you Elevate Church, for allowing me to serve you, bride of Christ! It brings me great joy to serve my brothers and sisters, the body, in every way I can! I know others look to me as an example and I am constantly asking God to conform me to His image and seeking his wisdom that I may serve you the best I can. It is an honor and a privilege (Acts 20: 28 and 1 Peter 5:2).

I look to David as an example of someone who just like me loves God zealously and does great good for the Kingdom, but at times fall short of what God has asked of me! " My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end"!  " Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law"! Amen brother David! For this reason I repent daily and am quick to be aligned with the Lord and not let sin separate us. His mercy is new each day and he washes us white as snow! I want to walk fully in everything he has for me and called me to be. May I decrease, and you increase oh Lord, have your will done on earth as it is in heaven! 

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December 17, 2017 - Jason Stonecipher

Scripture:

2 Peter 1:12-15 “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.”

 

Observation:

The second letter of Peter addresses believers of like faith, instructing them to remember who they are in Christ, to not let their eyes divert from their calling and gives a reminder of the authority with which the letter is written.

 

Application:

As I read 2 Peter, verses 12-15 stood out, reminding me of what one of my Pastor friends has said for years: “Every time I sit down to hear another preacher, I purpose in my heart to hear the Word as if it were my first time, even though I may have heard it hundreds of times and preached it myself. That way I can never fall for the ‘been there, heard that’ trap.”

There is an incredible amount of value in repetition, especially where learning and the Bible are concerned. I’m truly never going to reach the place of knowing it all, or even a place where I’ve mined fully any given Scripture. If I’m going to remain teachable and open to what God wants to do in me, then I always need reminding of His truth, of who I am in Him, of who He is through me. No matter how many times I’ve heard something, I always want it to be fresh, never stale. And that’s a matter of how I receive it, as the Word can never BE stale. Only my attitude can.

I will keep my heart open to God, open to His Word and His teachers, and purpose in my heart to stay hungry and open to everything about Him and from Him. I will be open to learning what I don’t know and learning again what I do know, so that I might be closer to Him and have His heart and mind in mine, always.

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December 16, 2017 - Cathy Stonecipher

Scripture:

1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

 

Observation:

In this scripture, Peter proclaims the identity of a believer and follower of Christ, and the identity of the One who purchased this identity for us. 

 

Application:

Excellencies. That word just hit me. God is not just excellent, He has excellencies - plural. The apostle John writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”

For me, it is so important to remember that no matter what is going on in life, good or bad, God is good beyond my comprehension. He has “excellencies” in ways and areas that I haven’t fathomed. He will never fail me, never leave me. He has entered into a covenant with me that provides, well, everything. As Paul writes in Romans 8, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Sometimes I don’t understand how to access what I know He has promised, but I know the fault is never His.  He is worth trusting with everything - He is the One with “excellencies”!

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December 9, 2017 - Jesse Carson

Scripture:

Titus 3:2 "To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people."

 

Observation:

Paul is speaking to the church about maturity in the heart of believers, that having an angry heart brings nothing but destruction to ourselves and the situation. We must submit to rulers and not speak evil of anyone, for we ourselves we once foolish and we must treat others with love always.

 

Application:

There have been many times in my life where I have felt wronged by someone else and my first instinct was to act in anger and speak against them. But understanding God's character helped me put aside the bickering and the bitter feelings. My patience has grown dramatically in these past few seasons of life and I'm glad it has. Recently I was moved to another position at work and I remember the anger growing in my heart toward my supervisor and others, but God's Word rang in my heart to set it aside and submit, just as I would submit to Jesus. It was easy to slander and stir controversy over what had happened and it took actual work to fight against it. Putting my pride aside and pressing forward for what God had next in store for me.

Different seasons of life will come and I always have the choice to be submitted to God's plan, or be defiant and give into foolish anger. As I grow in my walk I always look forward to learning more about God's character and praying that he refines my own character! Through the good and the bad!

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November 27, 2017 - Mike Atchison

Scripture:

Matthew 27: 37-44 “Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

 

Observations:

This is truly the most remarkable, selfless act in our history - for God to send down to Earth His only son to live among men and ultimately sacrifice himself so we could be forgiven of our sins is hard to comprehend. This part of scripture was never about Jesus “proving” that He was (is) the son of God, and therefore saving Himself from crucifixion. It is about spilling the blood of His mortal body, going through excruciating pain so that all men would have the chance to go to Heaven. This transaction of trading His blood and life in exchange for forgiveness of sin was required, and for the doubters and naysayers, just read on to Matthew 28, Jesus Has Risen!

 

Application:

No matter what challenges or obstacles I face in life, nothing comes close to what Jesus did for me on that cross. I haven’t always been in agreement with the Lord, nor have I followed all of His rules.

But He has blessed me more than I ever thought I deserved. At a time in my life when nothing more could go wrong, he sent me my own personal angel. This angel was custom made for me, perfect in every way.  Anna, my wife, has shown me what it is like to be truly loved, just as Jesus always has. In some ways I feel as if I have also risen. It was a long and dark path that I was traveling. Wandering aimlessly, just waiting to be saved. I just didn’t realize that I already had. 

Even when my father was taken from me at a young age, and I blamed Him, He always loved me. And those sins I committed were washed away long before I had even committed them. Jesus is only asking that we believe, have faith and He will provide, just like when rolled that stone away; HE IS RISEN! 

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Matthew 28:20. 

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November 19, 2017 - Willow Chait

Scripture:

Matthew 2:6; “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers
of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

 

Observations:

Through the doubt that is being cast upon Jesus the prophet cannot lie, he writes that Jesus is a
true leader and that he will lead the believers of Israel to the true path, the path that God had
chosen for them.

 

Application:

Even though the prophet could have been exiled or killed for speaking the truth, he did not lie. The truth he told was that Jesus will lead us to God's path. And although we may be stubborn and refuse to believe that the path He is taking us to is the right one, He is a good leader who knows the way. Accepting the way that God has chosen for us will lead to us living a much more fulfilled, happy life than the one we might have chosen for ourselves; even though at the time we thought it would give us the happiness we wanted, for we cannot see the outcome of our actions as God can.

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November 12, 2017 - Terri Voltz

Scripture:

1  Corinthians 12: 12, 14-22, 26 “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body-so also is Christ. So the body is not one part, but many. If the foot should say ‘because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body’, in spite of this it still belongs to the body. And if the ear should say ‘because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body’, in spite of this it still belongs to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, but one body. So the eye can’t say to the hand ‘I don’t need you!’ Or again, the head can’t say to the feet ‘I don’t need you!’ But even more, those parts of the body that seem weaker are necessary. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

 

Observation:

Through the entire letter to the Corinthians, Paul is addressing some of the issues that have come up in regard to the behavior of church members - morality issues, some failures that needed correction. From these verses above we can gather that the issue being addressed is the way the church members were regarding one another. Some were self-deprecating, others were condescending. Bottom line? Not acting in love to one another, superiority, and an incorrect view of themselves.

 

Application:

The first word that comes to mind as I consider how the Corinthian church was behaving, as well as some in the modern day church is behaving, is regard. The second word that comes to mind is unity. God’s intention for us is to be vitally connected to the church, often referred to as a family. In this scripture, the church is referred to as a body, with each part of that body being equally important, and being mutually loved and cared for. How can we sometimes regard others in this body in an unhealthy way? How can we sometimes regard ourselves in an equally unhealthy way?  It’s not that difficult to recognize in oneself when pride, smugness, and self-importance rears its head. It’s a little trickier when it comes to self-deprecation. That can look a little like “humility”.  But is it really? To not take one’s place in the church body, to feel that one is insignificant isn’t humility-it’s actually another form of pride. If God places value on us, if He declares that we are necessary for the health of the body, then to say otherwise isn’t humility, it's arrogance.

There come times in each of our lives when we need support, prayer, and encouragement when we are the “weaker members” for a time. Tim (my husband) and I have been so incredibly blessed these past few weeks with that exact thing that we needed, and all because we are in a body that understands its purpose, its God-given calling. As awesomely comforting and uplifting as this has been for Tim and me, I want to make sure that I am watchful to be in that place to “suffer when another suffers” and “rejoice when another is honored”. This body we are in is God’s design for us to thrive. To grow in health. It's a mutual lifeline for the good times and the trying times. It is truly one of God's abundant blessings.

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October 31, 2017 - Koren Meyer

Scripture:

Mark 8:27-37 "Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

"And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

"When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"

 

Observation:

Early on in the scripture I can see the disciples having one on one time with Jesus. He is making it clear to them that they might mean well in trying to say that Jesus should not die, but He is correcting this earthly perception. The enemy will even try to deceive us in biblical matters. Jesus then begins to show them that the things of this world are not supposed to be easy but often necessary for the kingdom of God.

 

Application:

The teachings in these scriptures show us how He has made it possible for us to follow Him while in this world. If I can deny myself, then I can allow Him the control that I I might otherwise muck up if I relied on my own understanding and choices. It is critical for us to stay focused on Him in this time here on earth. Though not easy, He has made a way where there SEEMS to be no way!

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October 23, 2017 - Alison Welter

Scripture:

Job 11:13-19 “If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help. But the wicked will be blinded. They will have no escape. Their only hope is death.”

 

Observations:

Job was a wealthy man and landowner who lived in a land called Uz. He had a wonderful family with many children. He owned many animals and was one of the good guys. He did everything by the book and was a model citizen. One day though Satan shows up and challenges God saying that the only reason Job is so great is because God has blessed him abundantly. Satan then challenges God stating that if Job loses what he values he will turn and curse God. Satan torments Job and DESPITE these drastic afflictions and loss, Job praises and expresses gratitude to God.

 

Application:

The last few weeks for me have been crazy busy. Working, school activities, sports, yardwork, housework - LIFE. There was a day when I knew Satan was testing me - I had a migraine, my dad had just had surgery, I had not been sleeping well due to our sick dog Henry. That day I went to check on my parents and sure enough, rushing to pick up and drop off my son Joe to his cross country meet in Portland, the low tire light comes on. I mean HELLO, ARE YOU KIDDING ME. I sat in the car and wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. I took my car to the tire shop, where they fixed it for free. I thanked God for my circumstances and expressed gratitude that my headache was gone, for the surgeon able to help my dad, medicine to help my dog’s cough, an opportunity to take Joe to his race and watch him run, and the nice lady at the tire shop who was kind to me despite how busy they were.

Instead of asking where God is in the midst of pain and difficulties, Job affirms God’s control and asks us, where are we in our pain and difficulties? Am I trusting my God, even though I cannot understand my circumstances? God will carry me through this, He never fails! Even though I know this, sometimes despite all that I get caught up. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I think it makes me just a normal fleshly human. When this happens I have learned to simply refocus and reengage, turn toward God and keeping moving forward.

Pain and suffering will afflict all of us in our lifetime at some point. It doesn’t have to be life shattering like Job, it can just be a whole bunch of stuff that gets in the way of my relationship with God. I ask myself will I trust God through my pain and suffering, will I keep putting him first despite all the little things that keep getting in the way. This seems like a no-brainer and before it happens the answer is “of course I will”. The true test is when life gets hard and I am neck deep. That is when I have a choice. I know that my relationship with God is enough when things happen and I can and will lean into God and He will carry me through despite how horrible or tedious it may seem.

 

 

 

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October 18, 2017 - Tim Voltz

Scripture:

Job 1:6-8 NLT "6One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the accuser, Satan, came with them. 7“Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” 8Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

 

Observation:

As I see the dialogue between Satan and God develop, I can’t help but see God’s amazing view of Job; “Have you seen my servant Job?”, and then He begins to recite Job’s resume, “He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless - a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil”.

 

Application:

As I see this exchange between the accuser and God, I love that there is no need for someone to talk God into recognizing who Job is; God is intimately knowledgeable about Job. I don’t know how Job did it, keeping his sanity. As the story goes bad from this point on, I can only imagine not knowing all that was going on in the background what Job could be thinking.

I have struggled with sleep for quite a few years.  As sleeplessness accumulates, it is easy to develop a distorted view of myself. I can’t tell you how many times I have begun to go down that road where I put a bull’s-eye on myself, certain that there must be something wrong with me, God must be unhappy with me, and all of this just because I don’t feel good. Poor Job, he didn’t have the word of God to clarify how God saw him, with the daily washing of the word of God (Ephesians 5:26).

I can view myself the way God see’s me, that I am the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Living in this fallen world where things don’t always go right, the accuser is trying to corner me and make me believe in a distorted view of how God sees me. I believe that when the accuser comes before the Father, the Father say’s “Have you noticed my servant Tim? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless because of my Son, a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” There are a lot of things that can go wrong in this broken fallen world, but knowing how God views me will make all the difference.

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October 9, 2017 - Marcus Burnham

Scripture:

Nehemiah 1:4: ”When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the Lord.”

Nehemiah 2:8 : “and because the gracious hand of my God was upon me the king granted my requests.”

Observation:

The thing that really stood out to me was Nehemiah’s response to the bad news about Jerusalem.  He didn’t respond in anger and curse those people who destroyed his ancestors city. Instead, he reached out to God and laid out his heart bare. He created an intimate space with the Lord for a few days. When I read his prayers, it’s as if I’m reading his personal diary, these are the desperate words of a man who has a personal relationship with the living God. It was in this place that the heart of God was infused into Nehemiah. Heavenly plans were downloaded into his spirit. God gave him a vision. Nehemiah responded to that vision by faith which resulted in supernatural favor and provision. As I meditate on this I am totally overwhelmed by how amazing our God is.  When I leave my religiosity at the door and come into his presence with my real honest raw heart, He connects His heart to mine and shares His plans, visions and dreams with me. 

Application:

This is a perfect example of what a real Christian looks like.  Jesus did the same thing. He would regularly spend intimate time with the Father in the heavenly realms, and then bring Heaven to earth, and only did and said what He heard and saw the Father saying and doing. I believe that if we aren’t doing the same thing in our walks with God than we need to ask God for a spiritual renovation and revelation of what this looks like. When I come before the Lord I want to continue to have the expectation that I will meet with Him and that He will speak to me and that He will reveal His heart to me. 

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October 4, 2017 - Marina Chait

Scriptures:

Luke 17:7-10 "Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

Esther 1 – the demise of Queen Vashti begins when, during 180 days of celebration, King Xerxes calls for her but she refuses to appear.

 

Observations:

Doesn’t it ever seem to you, that in times of plenty and “enough”, we forget that life is also filled with trials? We forget the sacrifice, the discipline and the struggle that leads us to the time of celebration and peace of mind. A pastor told me once, “Life is a series of hills, and valleys; of victories and trials…” We tend to focus on our comfort, on the plenty, on the fullness of our bellies, when our spirits are high… During those times of plenty, we sometimes forget our duty…  The parable in Luke 17:10, the servant still serves his master first, even after a long day of work. Do we?

 

Application: 

18 months during 2015-2016 were horrible for our family, but you know what I took away from it?  Faith, and no matter how hard we were/are hit with turmoil or struggle or even death, keeping God at our focus means we will be victorious, always.  Not just Faith, but utter submission to Him, to simply let go of questioning, reasoning, and live to serve Him in all ways. Doesn’t it seem that when we lose our focus from Him, the questions arise? Questions of doubt, of worth, of “confusion”? 

2017 brought light and blessings, but also a renewed sense of focus, a renewed sense of faith, of worth and prayers; but most importantly a renewed sense of who He is in my life, in my everyday life.  I know trials will always be there, and so will God.  I am and always will be His servant, putting Him first above all else, walking the path He designed for my life.  He is Great, He is Good, He is Glorious, good times and bad, especially the bad… My prayers are now focused on Him, and praising Him, instead of my own issues, my own “questions”.  Struggle and turmoil happen, that is being human, but I know, every day, every moment, He is my Lord, and I relish in my duty as His servant... 

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September 24, 2017 - Miriam Whiting

Scripture:

Psalm 84:5-7, 11-12 "How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion. They go from strength to strength, Every one of them appears before God in Zion. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!"

 

Observations:

Psalms 84 is about longing to be in God's presence, standing at the door of his temple is better than dwelling in the tents with the wicked. The psalmist is speaking of God's goodness and glory and the sheer honor of having the ability to be in His presence and worship. The psalmist states, "Even the birds were seeking shelter in the presence of God, building their nests in the temple." God and his presence equals complete awe. 

What really caught my attention were verses 5 -7, it states, "How blessed is the man whose strentgh is in You, whose hearts are the highways to Zion (the heavenly kingdoms)." Those who put their stength in God have direct access to HIM! 

Verse 6 stands out the most, "Passing through the valley of Baca (a place of grief and tears) they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessing." There are some key words here, passing through the valley and they make it a spring. My posture with God determines the outcome to the valley of grief & tears. God only ever intends for us to pass through these valleys, not to get caught up in the feelings or despair. Not that we will not encounter those feelings of pain, loss and grief. It's the enemy's intention to get us to believe that there is no hope and that the valley is God's best. The valley is the reality of this world and it's troubles.  Our alignment in Him will cause us to experience springs (refreshingl) and God's provision while in the valley. His comfort, love and blessng can be experienced in the midst of discomfort and pain. Verse 7 states, "they go from strenght to strength," (experiencing God's renewal and depth) Every one of them appears before God in Zion." Continued growth occurs with this posture in Him. 

It only gets better, verse 11 - 12 talks about how God is our guide and our shield, our protector. "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." This is so exciting, no good thing is withheld from us! God only wants us to experience His best. Verse 12 finishes by saying, "How blessed is the man who trusts in You!" Now that's the truth. 

 

Application:

Thank you Lord for showing me how I can better handle my valley experience; that my posture with Him determines what I get from the valley. God will provide me with refreshing, renewal and provision while feeling the reality of the valley. The valley in my life doesn't have to win my focus or praise. I can't glorify the circumstance more than my God. To encounter all God's best I must put my strenght and trust in Him. God will withhold no good thing from me when I align myself with His word and His promise. Thank you Lord for your revelation! 

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September 20, 2017 - Kel Burnham

Scripture:

Daniel 6: 3-4, 10 "Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel… “we will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God”. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home … he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

 

Observation:

Daniel had a relationship with God that was just so real and unwavering. Despite the challenges he faced, he positioned himself to give thanks with a heart of worship to God just as he had been doing before. Daniel didn't follow what everyone else was doing, and he probably was the odd one out, but he chose to only worship God. God honored Daniel's diligence and faithfulness and exponentially increased his favor. The supernatural power of God was evident in him and in all of his circumstances, even when he was thrown into the lion’s den. This supernatural encounter influenced King Darius so much that the King issued a decree that all must worship the living God of Daniel.

 

Application:

When I am faced with challenges, I want to learn to respond in the same way Daniel did, as he chose to worship and give thanks to God even when he came to a place where the consequence of his prayer and devotion to God resulted in him being tossed in the Lions den to be eaten alive. Many times when I face challenges, I tend to make things over complicated, I question God, I complain, or I request God to bring the best thing possible to me, but I often forget to just quiet myself and worship God with thanksgiving. No matter what difficult circumstances I might go through, I can rely on the fact that who God is never changes.

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September 12, 2017 - Leslie Parrish

Scripture:

Daniel 4:34-37 "After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

 

Observations:

Daniel 4 is a story about a man whose pride eclipsed God's power and glory, how he was "cut down" from a place of prosperity, purified himself of his pride, and how he become aware of the Lord's exclusive sovereignty and power.

Nebuchadnezzar was a king of Babylon. He was the leader of a successful army that captured many cities and furthered the expansion of his own kingdom and glory. One day, Nebuchadnezzar had a vision about a tree. This tree was tall and mighty, reached to the heavens, and gave food and safety to the entire world. A messenger from Heaven ordered this tree cut down, but insisted that its stump and roots remain. The tree (which is referenced in the Bible as a "he") was to retreat into the wilderness for a period of time so that everyone would be reminded that all kingdoms are under the reign of the Most High, and that He hands over authority to whomever He chooses. Daniel, who had already advised the king on his dreams once before, explained to the king that this vision was actually the king's own story and what would happen if he didn't turn from his sin and from his pride.

King Nebuchadnezzar failed to head the warning and carried on in his same ways. One day he looked out over his city, basking in its magnificence. He accredited its glory to his own mighty power and greatness. A voice called down from Heaven and Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of his city and into the wilderness. After some time in his exile, the king turned to God, praising and honoring Him. Nebuchadnezzar returned to his city and was restored as the ruler of his kingdom, and "was given greater honor than before."

 

Application:

This story has encouraged me to step back and reflect on my own life. Looking at all that I have, the things that I've done, all that I'm responsible for, and the goals I've set out to accomplish, who is at the center - me, or God? Who am I giving credit for my achievements and success? Have I surrendered absolute power and control to God, or am I attempting to make things happen by my own means? Am I acting in a way that could jeopardize what God has given me? 

God, cleanse me of any pride. Everything I've been given - every possession, success, responsibility - has come from you. Help me to live and lead out of humility. And all that I say and do, let it lead back to you. Amen!

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September 8, 2017 - Joe Cody

Scripture:

Psalm 48:1-3, 14 “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress... that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”

Revelation 13:1, 6-8, 13-14 “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads... It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain... It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.”

 

Observations:

Immediately after reading both chapters, I came to an obvious understanding that this was a comparison between God and the devil. In Psalms, I believe it's all about praise be to the Lord, my soul to take. We worship our mighty God, he will always love and take care of us. Then in Revelations, the beast is a version of Satan that is meant to run the land in a "dictatorship" kind of way. The beast strikes fear into all. Not the fear we feel towards God, but more of a terror, scared for our lives kind of ordeal. The beast has no mercy, and to be able to purchase or sell, one must be marked by the mark of the beast the name or the number: 666. In reading both sections back and forth, I see an obvious pleasure in going on the side of the Lord, where He loves all, versus the side of the beast, who forces all to live by a standard. However, the beast can also deceive those who dwell on earth, make them believe that God is the enemy. In the Bible I have read that Satan once tried to deceive God's only son Jesus into believing that earth could be his kingdom, if he followed Satan. Jesus of course turned him down, but Jesus was perfect. We as humans are far from perfect. We live in breath in Satan's favorite thing: Sin, leaving us extremely vulnerable to being pushed away from the lord and led down Satan's deceivingly better path into nothingness. 

 

Application:

I apply this to my life in a major way. I understand that I will sin and that is a part of me, but I also understand that I need to live in spite of sin and not let it control me or find pleasure in it in any way, shape, or form. Satan is always gonna be tapping on my shoulder, whispering the pleasures of sin over and over again. Making sure the pleasures of the flesh are always trying to turn me down and unending path that might seem sweet on earth, but at the end will lead to an eternal torment not worth any pleasure felt on earth. I will always be looked down upon by those who carelessly live in their own appeasing actions and feelings. And the road may be narrow and the gate even narrower, but once I am through the gate, I will live an eternal life in a place indefinitely more pleasurable than anything on earth.
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August 27, 2017 - Jordan Wisdom

Scripture:

Psalm 143:5 "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands."

 

Observation:

Like many of the Psalms, David is calling out to the Lord during a time of trial. “Hear my prayer O Lord… For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground.” The poetry of the Psalm is written alternating between the starkness of David’s situation and declarations of the Lord’s character. “In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!”

 

Application:

The voice presented in this passage is richly authentic; I can feel the desperation in David’s cries. It makes me reflect on numerous times in my life - both past and present - when circumstances have felt unsurmountable. Loss. Guilt. Anxiety. Fear of the unknown. Loneliness. Life's real moments and life's very real problems.

It is often easy to disassociate with raw, vulnerable passages like these in the Bible, dismissing the authenticity of the words as a mere story from long ago. But strength can be found in this authenticity. 

Tucked into the middle of this passage is an appeal to look to the past during times of overwhelming circumstance and rest solid on a foundation of all that the Lord has done. David’s words don’t convey longing for a bygone era. They focus on the blessing and provision that has been experienced in the past. An anchoring of his belief and expectation for what will be done on what has been done.

"And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, you will destroy the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.”

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August 21, 2017 - Nathan Willett

Scripture:

1 John 2:15-17
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

Observations:

Any love and desire for worldly things can be attributed to a weakness of our love and desire for God and what He offers us as followers of Christ.

We can default to living lives with no purpose if we take what the world gives us as a poor but easy substitute to God and all the good that comes with following him or we can choose to focus our desire on loving Him more that the world so that we can have and share His love.

 

Application:

I am still constantly learning to have a stronger love and desire for God and what He offers and this verse is an excellent reminder that helps me to keep on track.

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August 17, 2017 - Israel Whiting

Scripture:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Observation:
Jesus died on the cross and saved me from my sin.

Application:
I remind myself how much Jesus loves me. Its crazy how powerful He is. He was willing to die on the cross to save me from my sin.

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August 12, 2017 - Andrea Stayberg

Scripture:

Jeremiah 10:12 “Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.  The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them.”

 

Observation:

Jeremiah lived during a time very different from ours.  The distractions they faced during their time were very real like ours are.  Workmen became skilled to create carvings and art and they would hang jewels on them and they became their Gods.  They admired these creations that had no breath and were lifeless and put them above God.  They were false images that they worshipped and offered prayers to them to help others.

 

Application:

Life today is obviously very different than Jeremiah’s life.  I know I have to be very careful to not allow idols to consume my time.  The Bible is very clear on putting God first and to have a daily relationship with him where we take time to read His Word and talk to Him.

I have to set aside specific times to read and talk with Him or it just doesn’t happen.  I have so many distractions around me every day all the time that I have to have willpower over.  To name a few are my spouse and family, iPhone, computer, music, hobbies, and friends.

 

God, help me to strive every day to keep You first in my life and not allow things of this world to be my idols.  Help me stay strong in You, so that I can be your disciple.  

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