2020 Daily Devotionals

Vessie Kazachka, Jose Beltran, and others are preparing a series of reflections.

Daily Reflections While #StayHome 2020

For an archive of devotionals from the first half of 2020, click here.

December 3 – The Healing of Naaman

2 Kings 5:10-12

Elisha sent out a messenger who said, "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean." But Naaman went away in anger. He said, "I thought for sure that he'd come out, stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. Aren't the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel's waters? Couldn't I wash in them and get clean?" So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger. 


Naaman is looking for healing from a skin decease, and after a couple of incidents where he could have gotten off track, he’s finally arrived at the door of the prophet Elisha. He has certain ideas about what would happen next – the prophet would come down, perform a ceremony, say a prayer, and wave his arms for the healing to come. 


Yet nothing like this happens. The prophet doesn’t even come out to meet him; he sends his servant with very simple instructions – “Go to the river Jordan and dip seven times.” To the mighty warrior that’s an insult. He isn’t even greeted by the prophet after all the efforts he made to come and all the money and presents he’s bringing. Now Naaman is angry and offended, and he leaves.


If the story ended here, would Naaman be healed? No. I’m sure we all would say “I’d never do that.” But has it happened to you that when you’ve been sick a friend or church elder has suggested a book to you, or certain scriptures, or a particular way to pray and you dismissed it? I know many people often have suggestions based simply on their experiences and not on direct instructions from God. But God does give instruction, and very specific one at that. And it doesn’t always make sense. We see that in Jesus’s ministry. 


Naaman was committed to find the prophet for his healing, yet when he received instructions that didn’t match his expectations, he backed out. I think today this happens more often than we think. We must be humble to expect instructions without preconceived notions and do them. Then we will get more miracles.


--Vessie Kazachka


December 2 – The Healing of Naaman

2 Kings 5:7-9

When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, "What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me." When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel's king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: "Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he'll know that there's a prophet in Israel." Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 


I find this part very interesting. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what the letter from the king of Aram to the king of Israel said, but from what I see, it asked for a healing from the king – as if two powerful kings were talking to each other. There wasn’t respect for God and humility before Him; it was all a human transaction. The king of Israel got angry and upset; he knew he didn’t have the power to heal, yet he didn’t know his God as well as the servant girl – he didn’t believe the Lord would heal a foreigner or could heal him. The king thought only about his kingdom and a possible war.


Thankfully, it appears that there were people of faith who send message to Elisha the prophet. The Bible doesn’t say Elisha knew by his prophetic revelation that the king had ripped his clothes. So to me it seems that someone from the court conveyed the message to Elisha. This may seem insignificant, but it is faith that makes us call on God in any circumstances. When we just dwell of our problem and try to figure it out ourselves or keep repeating why we know there isn’t a solution for it, we show no faith. Faith humbles us and makes us seek the Lord for help.


Elisha sent a message to the king – “Let the man come to me.” Again, at this point we don’t know if the Lord spoke to Elisha about the healing of Naaman yet, but Elisha knew his God well enough to know what to do and he wasn’t afraid of people asking difficult things from the Lord. We must be this way with God. When impossible things face us, we must know that our God does miracles and not give up. And to his credit, Naaman didn’t get flustered by the king’s response, but took his party and went immediately to Elisha’s door. When we are offered a way to God – and in Jesus we have it, and in our elders and pastors we have it – we must not stop too early, we must not be shaken by people’s reactions. We must go to God.


--Vessie Kazachka

December 1 – The Healing of Naaman

2 Kings 5:4-6

So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said. Then Aram's king said, "Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel's king." So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. He brought the letter to Israel's king. It read, "Along with this letter I'm sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease." 


I think it would be a stretch so say that Naaman believed Yahweh, the God of Israel. He probably had heard about the Lord, because the nations around Israel knew their religion was different from most. He may have had some respect for Israel’s God because of things he had seen in battles, victories that could be attributed to supernatural help, but we can only speculate about that. But I think it is clear that when he heard he can be cured, he wasted no time to ask permission from his king to let him visit Israel’s prophet. I think Naaman sincerely wanted to be cured, and he believed that a true supernatural power could cure him. That’s the beginning of miracles.


Aram’s king, however, takes matter into his own hands by sending Naaman to Israel’s king with a letter and money and goods. This is one way a healing can go wrong. The Jewish servant girl said, “Go to Israel’s God’s prophet.” The king, being a king, sent Naaman to Israel’s king with money. What’s wrong with that?


I think there’s a lot wrong. God alone can heal. Even when we go to the doctors and use medicine, we know there are plenty of times medicine alone cannot help. We use medicine, but it is ultimately God’s power we need and must expect for our healing. Particularly if the Lord gives us certain instructions – do the surgery, or don’t do the surgery, go for a check-up now, don’t wait until next year. These small subtle instructions come from the Holy Spirit to our heart. If we don’t listen to the Lord in our prayer time for instructions, we can miss out on His help. In Naaman’s case, the king assumes because he is king and rules his nation, it is Israel’s king that rules their prophets and can distribute healing. The respect for God’s supernatural power and authority is missing and is attributed to the king. It is important that we don’t do that. How can we do this today? I mentioned one way is to trust only in medicine and science. But that can also be a healthy diet, or fitness routine, or many such things popular in our culture. Don’t get me wrong, it is paramount that we have a healthy diet and a fitness routine, and we do what we know to do to stay healthy. But we cannot rely on that alone. There are too many unknowns in our reality to account for, too many dangers. We must rely first and foremost on God’s protection by being quick to listen for His instructions and do them exactly. When the instructions are “Go to the prophet,” we must go to the prophet, not to the king.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 30 – The Healing of Naaman

2 Kings 5:1-3

Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease. Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman's wife. So she said to her mistress, "I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.”


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about healing and ended with the example of the healing of Naaman in the Old Testament. Rereading that story impressed me so much, I decided to dedicate time to think through it step by step.


The story begins by introducing us to a general from the tribe of Aram. He was a mighty warrior, but he was leprous. Then it tells us that his wife had a Hebrew servant girl who was captured from Israel by Aramean raiding parties and probably bought by Naaman’s wife, or by Naaman for his wife. We don’t have any details, and I don’t know the culture enough to speculate, whether the girl was content with her new life as a servant, but I can’t imagine being captured and taken away from your own family was a pleasant experience. (My own people have lived in an empire as a conquered tribe and I know from history lessons and folk songs the painful stories about women and children taken from their families).


And yet this girl sees the skin disease of her mistress’ husband and is confident enough to say, “Go before our Hebrew prophet and he will cure you.” What faith! And what goodness! Her mistress and her husband were her enemies. Even if they were not direct enemies, she was stolen from her family by their tribe. She could have been bitter and angry; she could have wanted the worst for them. She could have been mad at God for being stolen and sold. Yet, she not only felt compassion for the sick man, but she had generosity of spirit and was confident in the goodness of her God so much, that she plainly said – “The prophet of my God will cure him.” In other words – my God will heal him.


It is this kind of faith in goodness that produces miracles. We must not just ask for miracles because we want healing, but because we believe goodness is God's way. We must know our God; we must read His word and seek to know Him more and more, and out of that knowledge of His goodness, the confidence that produces miracles will overflow.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 29- Isaiah 12

In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.

    Although you were angry with me,

your anger has turned away

    and you have comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation;

    I will trust and not be afraid.

The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a];

    he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water

    from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;

    make known among the nations what he has done,

    and proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;

    let this be known to all the world.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,

    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

November 28- Psalm 28

To you, Lord, I call;

    you are my Rock,

    do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent,

    I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Hear my cry for mercy

    as I call to you for help,

as I lift up my hands

    toward your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,

    with those who do evil,

who speak cordially with their neighbors

    but harbor malice in their hearts.

Repay them for their deeds

    and for their evil work;

repay them for what their hands have done

    and bring back on them what they deserve.

Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord

    and what his hands have done,

he will tear them down

    and never build them up again.

Praise be to the Lord,

    for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

    and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,

    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance;

    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

November 27- Prayers Thanking God

“We thank you for your church, founded upon your Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon you. Help us to realize that humanity was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God's children -- Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow -- will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the reign of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.


“God, we thank you for the inspiration of Jesus. Grant that we will love you with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask you, God, in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going out and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and in our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawn. Amen.


- Martin Luther King Jr

November 26- Happy Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 8: 12-24

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.


Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.


May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.


Happy Thanksgiving! I think sometimes this day is portrayed as a magical day where everyone gives gratitude and thanks and the day is calming and fun. That may be the case for some people, but the problems of our lives do not go away today. Yesterday our city and county officially went back to a pseudo-state of lockdown which was the final nail for some businesses who were barely hanging on. Right before Thanksgiving, people heard the news of losing their jobs. There are still loved ones who are in pain or in sickness who were not healed yet to celebrate this day. For many, you made the sacrifice to not travel to see family in the name of safety and well-being, but now you are alone and away from your Thanksgiving tradition. For many people, what is there to be grateful and thankful for today? I understand completely your sentiments.


The Greek word used for thanks in the verse is “eucharisteo”. Looks familiar right, it is where we get the word eucharist from which is what the sacraments are referred to that Jesus asked us to do in remembrance of him (eat the bread and drink the wine). “Eucharisteo has a very specific definition which is literally “thankful for God’s grace”. This definition is not just a normal thanks and gratitude for good things in your life, no, it is meant specifically for God. In the Gospels, this specific word is only used in 2 different events: when Jesus breaks bread to perform the miracle of feeding the 4000 people and when he breaks bread with his disciples for the last supper. In these cases, it was Jesus who gave thanks to God.


Jesus gave thanks to God in the last supper even though he new his time was up on Earth and even while having dinner with the person who would eventually betray him. This is the sentiment that we may have during this time: how am I supposed to give thanks when I feel so betrayed? You may be thinking that your life is going in a downward trend and it is only getting worse and worse. “Why should I be grateful when there is no goodness left in my life?”. “Why should I give God thanks when I have not received anything good from God?”. Let me tell you that this passage is at the heart and meant for you specifically. This passage is not saying to give thanks FOR everything in life, it is saying to give thanks IN everything in life.


Giving thanks when things are going well is easy, but not many do it. They attribute things to luck or their own skills so they do not end up giving thanks to God. People usually give thanks once something has been completed. For example, they were searching for a job and then when they finally get it, then they give thanks. Giving thanks is usually a reactive measure that is done and not usually proactive. Even people who give thanks daily give thanks for the things that have already be done. For example, people will pray for the food that God has provided for them, the shelter of their homes, the people in their lives or even having life. This is why you have trouble giving thank when times are tough because you pray For things and not IN your life. Praying for things is not bad and I am not saying to do it, but I am asking you to shift your focus especially with “eucharisteo”. People take praying FOR things too literally and they give thanks to God for the bad things in their lives since it must be from God. You do not have to do this because it can actually put you in trap. Sin is not from God, so some people will give thanks to God for their suffering in sins. This is wrong! Do not give thanks for the sin, but give thanks that God will pull you out.


So how do we shift out focus to giving thanks in everything in life? The answer is faith, and it may not be an answer that you like. You need to have the faith, confidence and hope that God has intention of leading you to growth in your life. God knows everything about you and everything that is going to happen to you. He knows when you will feel the happiest, the saddest, when you will yell at him and when you will fall to your knees to worship him. There will always be mystery to the why and how of this, but you need to be confident that God is truly with you. God has provided the companion and helper that is the Holy Spirit to you. The Spirit is always present in our lives and provides the connection to God. The heart of giving thinks in all things in our lives is knowing that God is with you always. The second you lose sight of that is when your life starts to fall and break into pieces. At the heart of giving thanks is the idea that God works as a glue that is keeping your life together and that even through the good and the bad, that your life is in control of God. Giving thanks is not about reacting to the things that are occurring in your life, it is a confidence that God is still present in your life. In that case, it is always easy to give thanks, the issue is that you do not see God in your life due to your circumstances.


So today, despite the very wrong, danger, pain, sadness, etc that are in your life, give thanks to God. Do not even give thanks for the good things have occurred in your life. Give thanks because God is present and wants to see you grow and come closer to him. If you cannot give thanks because you do not feel the presence or have confidence in the presence of God then that is OK because you can pray for that. For those of you struggling today, take some time to find a quiet place, get into a posture of prayer and then reach out to God in however manner you feel. This may be in silence, it may be yelling or it may even be crying to God. Be honest and real with God and simply tell God that you need to feel his presence or want to gain the confidence of his presence. God is tangible and God works miracles. If you ask God for his presence then God can provide it. So today, do not focus your thanks and gratitude only on what God has done throughout the year, but give thank for who God is and what God is doing in your personally. Happy Thanksgiving again and let the peace of God be with you all today.


-Jose Beltran

November 25- Jesuit Prayers of Thanksgiving

God Bless the World


Mighty God, Father of all, Compassionate God, Mother of all, bless every person I have met, every face I have seen, every voice I have heard, especially those most dear; bless every city, town, and street that I have known, bless every sight I have seen, every sound I have heard, every object I have touched. In some mysterious way these have all fashioned my life; all that I am, I have received. Great God, bless the world.


A Province Prayer


O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. -Psalm 136:1


Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we praise you and give you glory: we bless you for calling us to be your holy people. Remain in our hearts, and guide us in our love and service. Help us during this season of thanksgiving to let our light shine before others. Holy Trinity of love, we praise you now and forever. Amen!


Thanksgiving Day Prayer


In a spirit of gratitude, we celebrate with family and friends. We give thanks for those who are good to us. We give thanks for those who were there to comfort during trying situations. And we give thanks for those who remind us of your presence. On this Thanksgiving Day, as we give thanks for the light of your love, help us to be mindful of those who will need us tomorrow. Amen.


Philippians 4:6-7


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

November 24- Give Thanks to God

Psalm 100

 

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

    Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    his faithfulness continues through all generations.


O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;

for the wide sky and the blessed sun,

for the salt sea and the running water,

for the everlasting hills

and the never-resting winds,

for trees and the common grass underfoot.

We thank you for our senses

by which we hear the songs of birds,

and see the splendor of the summer fields,

and taste of the autumn fruits,

and rejoice in the feel of the snow,

and smell the breath of the spring.

Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;

and save our souls from being so blind

that we pass unseeing

when even the common thornbush

is aflame with your glory,

O God our creator,

Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


—Walter Rauschenbusch

November 23- Gratitude and Thanksgiving

1 Peter 1: 3-9

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


“There is a cause for rejoicing here”, although “you may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials” (1 Pet 1:6). These words of the Apostle remind us of something essential. Our vocation is to be lived in joy.


I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people. In the hope of helping you to persevere on the path of fidelity to Jesus Christ, I would like to offer two brief reflections.


The first concerns the spirit of gratitude. The joy of men and women who love God attracts others to him; priests and religious are called to find and radiate lasting satisfaction in their vocation. Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received… and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way. Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts. To seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: are we good at counting our blessings? A second area is the spirit of hard work. A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love.


Gratitude and hard work: these are two pillars of the spiritual life which I have wanted to share with you this evening. I thank you for prayers and work, and the daily sacrifices you make in the various areas of your apostolate. Many of these are known only to God, but they bear rich fruit for the life of the Church. In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States. What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say “thank you”, a big thank you… and to tell you that I love you very much.


-Pope Francis (2015)

November 22- Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,

    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

    apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

    even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You make known to me the path of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence,

    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

November 21- Psalm 33

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;

    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Praise the Lord with the harp;

    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

Sing to him a new song;

    play skillfully, and shout for joy.

For the word of the Lord is right and true;

    he is faithful in all he does.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice;

    the earth is full of his unfailing love.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,

    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea into jars

    he puts the deep into storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;

    let all the people of the world revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be;

    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations;

    he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,

    the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

    the people he chose for his inheritance.

From heaven the Lord looks down

    and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches

    all who live on earth—

he who forms the hearts of all,

    who considers everything they do.

No king is saved by the size of his army;

    no warrior escapes by his great strength.

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

    despite all its great strength it cannot save.

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,

    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

to deliver them from death

    and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the Lord;

    he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

    for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,

    even as we put our hope in you.

November 20- Sharing the Hope

1 Peter 3: 8-16

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life

    and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

    and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

    they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

 

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


We have come to the conclusion of this week of hope, which ends simply with the fact that our hope is meant to be shared with others. The hope you have brings you joy, peace, and endurance to continue your walk, but it is better meant to help others. It is your hope and testimony that brings people closer to God. My story of faith began when I was young. I was forced to go to church with my aunt and uncle and one day I told my parents that I did not want to attend church anymore, and they respected my wishes. I remember every Sunday watching some of my friends and my sisters going to church and I felt so superior to them. I could not understand how they could believe what they were reading and I was so sure that I had made the best decision in my life. Though I was young, slowly over time I realized that my mindset and views had become darker and meeker. I had no clear direction or purpose in my life and I was starting to become depressed. I saw the joy my friends and sisters had in their lives and the adults that also attended church. That is when I started to question if I made the right decision and maybe there was something that I was missing. I remember the look on the faces of my friends when I had asked a year later if I could go to church with them. They were so happy and for the first time in a while, I felt true joy in my life. I went to church, had a great time, and I did not receive immediate healing to my mental situation, but I did have hope. I could not explain it, but I knew there was something at church and in the Bible that was real and that I needed to investigate more. It was the first time I had hope, and it motivated me to continue my faith journey.


All people need is a little sliver of hope in their lives to get them started and to keep going. That small hope motivates people to investigate more on God and they may try and open a Bible to read, or attend a church service or even pray for the first time in their lives. We see this same story countless times throughout the Bible, especially with healings in the New Testament. People who are so low in their lives and desperate that they come to Jesus just hoping that they may be healed. They push through crowds of people or make sacrifices just to get close to Jesus. There are people out there with little hope or no hope at all and they just need a little kick in their life. You could be that source of hope for people who are in need today. There are spiritual forces in play that we cannot see with our eyes, but that we can combat. The enemy will try and keep the hope of people low through nefarious means, and the hope you have directly fights against the schemes of the enemy, so share that hope! You never know who needs that hope.


We are going to hit a tough stretch again of this pandemic as we are starting to spike again at this moment. Lockdown orders will go into place and we will again see people losing more jobs and more importantly losing more lives. The news of the vaccines is great, but expect at least another couple of months of this if not a full year. We need to get ahead of this and spread that hope of Jesus to this world. People need to know that there is something worth fighting for through this pandemic and that whenever this ends (which it will have faith!) that there is greatness waiting for us. Measures will be taken to ensure that people do not gather in large groups during this holiday season which means people will become further isolated again. This is your opportunity to take action for the friends, family, coworkers, and other people you know. Reach out to these people in your life and ask them if they have hope during the pandemic and hope for the future. Whatever their answer is, you should tell them of the hope you have. You will be surprised how people will respond, especially dependent on their current state of hope and faith they have. You could be the ignition of hope in someone else, and you never know where that hope leads. It could push someone to eventually start writing devotionals for you just like me!


-Jose Beltran

November 19- Endurance Through Hope

1 Thessalonian 1: 2-3

 

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Today we learn about another benefit of hope in our life and that is the endurance we gain in our lives. When we hope, it is not a one-time thing that we do and then leave alone. No, instead hope is a continual action that we are constantly doing. In particular, this verse is speaking about the hope that we have in the Heaven and the second coming of Jesus. This hope that the Thessalonians had allowed them to endure and persevere in their lives and in their faiths. Their hope, and the hope that we can have as well, is the constant motivation for us to continue in our lives. We know there is a prize or a finish line where we will finally be with Jesus in Heaven. No matter how tough and morbid life gets, the finish line never changes.

 

This is true in the current pandemic environment where people have started to lose or have already lost hope. The only thing keeping me going through this pandemic is the hope that I have in Jesus and the faith that I have that God will find a way to redeem the world. When people get to a place where they have no hope, then they lose all motivation to continue. For example, when someone is in need of healing, there is an endurance needed to pray constantly. As more time passes and if the healing has not occurred, then people slowly start to lose hope since it was not immediate. At some point it can get to a place where all prayer stops because there is no hope. The extreme of this lost hope is when someone loses all hope in their lives, and they have no motivation to continue their lives.


We stated earlier in the week that having hope in God means having faith in God, but again, that faith is a continual journey. You do not just magically gain all the faith in the world and then keep it. There will be seasons where your faith and hope will be low and there will be seasons where it will be incredibly high. Getting out of the lows is difficult as well and you will most likely need the help of others to help increase your faith and hope. It takes work and endurance to maintain your hope, but the reward for the endurance is worth it. It is a sustained motivation to continue despite what is occurring in your life. Did you lose your job because of the pandemic? Then your hope will allow you to continue to apply for other jobs and not allow the pandemic to control your life. Have you lost someone close in your life? Then your hope will allow you to continue to live your life and have the confidence that you will see that person in heaven as well. Have you not received healing yet? Then your hope will motivate you to continue to pray and maintain your faith that God will still heal.


Romans 15:4: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.


This is a spiritual discipline which means this is something you can work on. Romans 15:4 shows us how we can increase our endurance of hope and that is through the scriptures. Yes, it seems so simple, but the truth is simple sometimes. You want to know where to get your daily motivation of faith and hope? It’s through reading the scriptures daily. Sometimes as humans, we seem to forget about the past, no matter how recent the event occurred. God can do something impactful in your life, and then a year later you seem to forget what God did for you. Look at the Israelites who God took out of captivity from Egypt where they were slaves. While on their journey to the promise land, some of them decided to worship a golden calf as they completely disregarded and forgot about what God did for them. You need to be in the scripture continuously so that you are constantly reminded on the glory of God. This will drive your continuous hope and this will increase the endurance in your life. Sign up for a daily bible reading or verses on your phone or commit to reading a certain amount of verses every day. Make a commitment to speak to someone to have spiritual conversations regularly each week. Do not let media distract you away from God and make the scripture the priority to your day.


- Jose Beltran

November 18- Peace and Joy from Hope

Romans 15:13

 

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.


So far this week we have talked about the source of Hope and who we hope to. Today we will discuss why you should hope and the benefits of having hope. Paul is saying to the Romans here that if you hope and trust in God, that God can fill you with joy and peace. Does that not sound so good? You should not have anxiety or fears in your hope, or else, what kind of hope is that? Also notice the wording here in that Paul prays that God may provide them ALL joy and peace. He is not saying they should receive a small amount, or just enough to get them through their day, but ALL the joy and peace that God can provide.


It is difficult, especially with this whole year, to have joy and peace for what is to come in the future. It seems like everyday the news about this virus only makes the future look so bad. People have their lives, their jobs and any normalcy during this rough year. Why should we expect it to get any better and how can we have any joy especially with the present suffering? If we based our logic on the nature of this world then I would agree, but when you know that God in control then your mindset changes. We know that ultimately God is good and God can and will make good things come out of bad situations. When you read the scriptures and you see the history of this world with God, we know that in the end God always prevails. This is the basis of the peace and joy that we receive from hope. It is the confidence that God is always in the midst of the pain and suffering and always there in the end.


There is more to this verse and it requires our action and our participation. Paul is saying that if you hope in God, and then are filled with peace and joy, that God will further provide overfilling hope. Imagine this action as an investment in that you invest your hope in God now only for your hope to increase in return. This is all done through the power of the Holy Spirit. This verse is another instance of needing to trust God and increase your faith in God to bring you hope, but now we see that it also brings you peace and joy. So, will you allow yourself to trust God in these times so that you may increase your hope, peace and reactive joy? Make a list of 3 important things that you are hoping for or want to hope for (these can also be things you are praying for as well). Declare and pray over this list and speak confidence that you will have faith and hope that God is in control and then work on loosening your control over this list. Slowly move your mindset to putting the list in God’s control and then pray that the Spirit may increase your hope, peace and joy. It is ok to continue to pray for the things that you hope for, but you need to keep the faith and confidence that God will do good with your list (no matter how small or how big your hope is). Like with many aspects of your walk with God, this is a process and not a one-time event. It will take you time to have develop and increase your hope and it will take you time to finally free up the things that you are hoping for out of your control. Remember, that when you trust the God of Hope, you will be abounded in hope in return.


- Jose Beltran

November 17- Hope Because God is in Control

Romans 13:1

 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.


Yesterday we began our week of Hope by stating that the source of hope is God and that we can always hope in God because we know what is true with God. From reading the verse above, we can see that God is the ultimate authority and that God is in clear control of everything. Yes, this does bring into question of why bad things still occur, but that is part of the mystery of God. Both things can be true in that bad things can happen and God can still be in control, we just cannot answer the reasons why, and you will have to wait till heaven to get that answer.


What this means for our hope is that we know that since God is in control, that our hope is ultimately with God. We are not placing our hoping in a lottery, an energy nor probability, but we are placing our hope in the power and might of God. We are placing our hope in something that we know is real and that we know can control and change things in this world. Our hope is not just something we throw up in the air that blows away with the wind, but it is solid and unwavering.


This ultimately means that having hope with God means having faith and trust in God. This is at the heart of those who have no hope or are losing hope in that they do not have the faith or need to increase their faith in God. Even when everything around you may be deteriorating and you are experiencing loss after loss, when you have faith in God then you still have something to hope to. Once you have lost the faith with God, then you lose your stability and the source of life and it is only a matter of time before you lose hope.


So how can you increase your faith? First, you need to surround yourself with other people of faith (though not face to face during this pandemic). Make contact with people from Union or other believers and develop a relationship with them. Faith is not something singular but it is collective. People grow in faith together, so if you are having trouble then find someone else to help you grow in faith. Second, you need to increase your prayers with God. Prayer is the basis of developing a relationship with God. When you develop a better relationship with god, then you learn more about the character of God and you see more the works of God and then your trust and faith with God will increase. How can you have faith and hope in something that you do not know about or have no experience with? If you work on growing your faith, then I can guarantee that you will see your hope increase!


- Jose Beltran

November 16- The Source of Hope

Zechariah 9: 9-13


Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

    righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,

    and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

    His rule will extend from sea to sea

    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

    I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;

    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

    and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, Zion,

    against your sons, Greece,

    and make you like a warrior’s sword.


This week we will be looking at Hope as we draw closer to the end of this year. I think I can say with confidence that 2020 has not been a good year for this world. This pandemic has taken its toll on people whether emotional, spiritual or financial. When it looks dark and bleak, it is really easy for us as humans to keep digging ourselves deeper into the darkness. Eventually, people can reach a point where they feel lost or hopeless.


It is important that if you ever feel like you are at a place where you have no hope then please contact someone else. When people are in a state of hopeless then they easily transition to a place where they cannot feel any pleasure or experience lack of emotions. When people reach that state, then there is no predicting what they may do to their selves. If you know you are in this state are moving closer to this state then please reach out to someone. You do not have to go through this alone. You can even contact the church via a prayer request on the website if you need someone to talk to.


The reason I used this verse from the Old Testament is so that you can see where the source of Hope is, which is from God. The Israelites are had finally returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, but they returned to a demolished city and they did not see progress for many years after their return. They had believed from all the prophets all the glory and greatness they were supposed to see upon their return, so many had begun to lose hope. In the verse above, God is again claiming to them that he has made a covenant with them and that he does not and will not break the covenant, thus, his promises are always fulfilled. This is the basis of the hope that we have in God in that we know God NEVER breaks a promise and that we know that God NEVER changes their character.


 We know that God is a God of Love, Justice, Mercy, Compassion, etc. Our hope is rooted in the idea that God will never change, thus our hope is always rooted and never shaken. God is not like the stock market, which you cannot place your hope in, because it always fluctuates. That stability and confidence in God is what gives us the ability and power to hope in God. We hope for the things that we know are true like healing. Though healing may not occur, we know that God does heal. We do not have to wonder if God CAN heal because we know he DOES heal. Your hope is never lost in God!


So, to begin this week I want you to ask yourself what you are hoping for? Next, I want you to do the research and verify if what you are hoping for is a truth or a characteristic of God, specifically looking for scriptures. I want you to verify for yourself and see that your hope in God is solid. When you confirm that truth then do not lose that hope. The truth is that hope cannot be taken away, it is just that we choose not to believe in it. Even if you think you have “lost” hope, you can always come back to that hope because it will never go way just as God will never go way!


- Jose Beltran

November 15 - The Healing of Naaman and the Sickness of Gehazi

2 Kings 5

Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease. Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman's wife. So she said to her mistress, "I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease."  So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said. Then Aram's king said, "Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel's king." So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. He brought the letter to Israel's king. It read, "Along with this letter I'm sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease." When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, "What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me." 


When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel's king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: "Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he'll know that there's a prophet in Israel."  Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha's house.  Elisha sent out a messenger who said, "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean." But Naaman went away in anger. He said, "I thought for sure that he'd come out, stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. Aren't the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel's waters? Couldn't I wash in them and get clean?" So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger. Naaman's servants came up to him and spoke to him: "Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn't you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.'" So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean.  He returned to the man of God with all his attendants. He came and stood before Elisha, saying, "Now I know for certain that there's no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant." But Elisha said, "I swear by the life of the LORD I serve that I won't accept anything." Naaman urged Elisha to accept something, but he still refused. Then Naaman said, "If not, then let me, your servant, have two mule loads of earth. Your servant will never again offer entirely burned offerings or sacrifices to any other gods except the LORD.  But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master comes into Rimmon's temple to bow down there and is leaning on my arm, I must also bow down in Rimmon's temple. When I bow down in Rimmon's temple, may the LORD forgive your servant for doing that."  Elisha said to him, "Go in peace."


But when Naaman had gone some distance from Elisha, Gehazi (who was the servant of Elisha the man of God) thought, My master let this Aramean Naaman off the hook by not accepting the gift he brought! As surely as the LORD lives, I'll go after him and accept something from him. So Gehazi pursued Naaman. Naaman saw him running after him, so he got down off his chariot to meet him. He said, "Is everything okay?" Gehazi answered, "Yes, but my master sent me to say, ‘Two young men who are members of a group of prophets have just now come to me from the hills of Ephraim. Give them a kikkar of silver and two changes of clothing.'" Naaman said, "By all means, take two kikkars!" He encouraged Gehazi to accept them. He tied two kikkars of silver up in two bags, along with two changes of clothes. Naaman gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them in front of Gehazi. When Gehazi arrived at the elevated fortress, he took the items from them and stored them in his house. Then he sent the servants away, and they left. Gehazi then went and stood before his master. Elisha said to Gehazi, "Where did you come from, Gehazi?" "Your servant didn't go anywhere," Gehazi replied. Elisha said to him, "Wasn't my heart going along with you when the man got off his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to accept silver, clothes, olive trees, vineyards, sheep, cattle, or male and female servants?  Naaman's skin disease will now cling to you and to your descendants forever!" And Gehazi left Elisha's presence, flaky like snow with skin disease.

November 14 - The Healing of King Hezekiah

2 Kings 20:1-7

Around that same time, Hezekiah became deathly ill. The prophet Isaiah, Amoz's son, came to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your affairs in order because you are about to die. You won't survive this." Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, "Please, LORD, remember how I have walked before you in truth and sincerity. I have done what is right in your eyes." Then Hezekiah cried and cried. 


Isaiah hadn't even left the middle courtyard of the palace when the LORD's word came to him:  Turn around. Say to Hezekiah, my people's leader: This is what the LORD, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and have seen your tears. So now I'm going to heal you. Three days from now you will be able to go up to the LORD's temple.  I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the power of the Assyian king. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.


Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a bandage made of figs." They did so and put it on the swelling, at which point Hezekiah started getting better. 

November 13 – Healing Comes by Spiritual Process

Mark 7:31-35

Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. They brought to Him one who was deaf and had difficulty speaking. And they pleaded with Him to put His hand on him.

He took him aside from the crowd, and put His fingers into his ears, and spat and touched his tongue. Looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha” that is, “Be opened.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosened, and he spoke correctly.


Today I’d like to talk about another thing necessary for healing, and that is spiritual process. Spirit is a materiality, a substance, which just like the physical world we live in, has properties and forces and processes that govern it. In medicine, we study the physical properties of human bodies and the viruses and cells that cause illnesses, and we devise medicine that has functions that can impair the illness and repair our bodies. It takes process for healing to happen. This is also true in the spiritual world.


Jesus healed many people while He was on the earth. On many occasions the Bible says all that touched Him were healed, or many that He laid hands on were healed. But in the individual cases that were recorded, not one was the same as the other. Circumstances were different, people’s reactions were different, and Jesus’s instructions were different.


The above scripture is one such example. In this case, the crowd brought a man to Jesus for healing, asking that He laid hands on him the way He had healed many other people. But Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears and spat and touched his tongue. Those are some very specific and strange actions. But the man was healed immediately.


Sickness comes to us in very specific ways. Even when we don’t know exactly how and why we got sick, medical science learns more and more about the different processes that control illnesses – it could be environment, chemicals, genetics, diet, stress, and combinations of those and others. They don’t happen randomly; it’s our knowledge that is limited. When we pray for healing, we must know that just like simple physical healing by medicine comes by process, so does spiritual healing. For us to know what steps to take to receive our healing spiritually, we must walk closely with the Lord and learn how to hear from Him. He alone knows the steps that will lead us to healing and living in health. 


Sometimes a simple “God please heal me” is enough. But many times it requires more than that. It requires knowledge of our authority over sickness and demons. It requires hearing God’s specific instructions – search for a specific doctor, or go to a specific church, or ask somebody for prayer. Maybe it is “Change your diet.” Maybe it is “Forgive.” I encourage you today, learn to hear from your Father and the Holy Spirit. Any prayer and need you have, He will tell you how to come out of it for His glory.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 12 – Healing Is Good

Mark 3:1-5

Again, He [Jesus] entered the synagogue, and there was a man who had a withered hand. They watched Him to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Stand up.”

Then He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent.

When He had looked around at the with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “stretch your hand forward.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.


Why does Jesus heal us? Because it is good. He is a good God who does good things, and healing is good. It really is this simple. But we live in a world that’s full of sickness, and this sinful reality constantly pushes on us to accept it as our lot in life. As long as we live in a mortal body, we will deal with illnesses. That’s just reality. But we must make up our mind and heart, that sickness is evil and does not come from God. That our God is a healer who will reach out to us and share His goodness by restoring us back to health. If we have any questions in our mind that a sickness could possibly have come from God, or that God is teaching us something by it, or that He is waiting to heal us for some Godly purpose, we cannot be healed because we do not truly believe and embrace His goodness and willingness to heal us.


Remember salvation again – we believed that God willingly offered us forgiveness and salvation, that He did it completely and we just have to ask and humbly receive it. We don’t work for it, we don’t have to wait for it. When we finally are willing to submit to God as our Lord, salvation is there. 


Healing is very much the same way – it’s already bought and paid for on the cross, but we must submit to God and reach out for it in faith. If we have questions about whether God will heal us or not, we are not ready to submit to His goodness. If we aren’t fully convinced that sickness is not from God, we are not ready to receive healing. If we aren’t as convinced that God will heal us of this particular sickness in the same way we are convinced that God will forgive us our sin, we aren’t ready to receive His healing. Yet He is just as ready to heal us today as Jesus was to do good in the above verses. I encourage you in the middle of a pandemic, and among all kinds of illnesses around us, don’t lose faith that God is good and that healing is good. Read over the gospels again and see how Jesus healed people – in all kinds of situations and from all kinds of illnesses, and find yourself in those healings. Jesus is same yesterday, today, and forever. Whatever He did in the gospels He will do for us today.


--Vessie Kazachka  

November 11 – Healing and Eternal Life

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


Jesus treated healing as part of the gospel. It is good news that we are healed. A few years ago, as I was learning about healing, I asked the Lord why He healed so many people wherever He went to preach. Even though He did many different miracles, healing seems to outweigh them all. In prayer, in my heart I heard the Lord answer me like this: “I’m asking people to believe that I’m offering them eternal life. How can they believe something they’ve never seen or heard and have no concept of? Because I can change their visible dying body into a healthy body again. It is the evidence that I have the power to give them eternal life.” I had to think about it.


We are so used to the resurrection as a fact, but before Christianity, no one had a concept of resurrection from death. People, especially wealthy people, were buried with their spouses, horses, servants, guard, and all necessary possessions because people believed that there was no return from that existence after death, whatever that was. People in Jesus’ time had no concept of resurrection unto eternal life. A whole major Jewish religious group did not believe in the resurrection and questioned Jesus about it.


Thinking in today’s terms, if you are hiring me to do a job, you are asking for my credentials. It is unreasonable to ask people to believe I can just do anything, unless I have either schooling or experience that shows I possess certain skills, or unless I can be put to the test and show I can perform. That’s why new cars and other products are tested – as evidence that they can perform what they promise.


In Luke chapter 7, the Bible says John the Baptist and his disciples became uncertain of who Jesus was and came asking if He is the one who is coming. In the same hour He cured many of their infirmities and afflictions and evil spirits. And to many who were blind He gave sight. So Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the gospel is preached to the poor. Blessed is he who does not fall away on account of Me.” (Luke 7:21-23)


The apostle John in his first epistle writes about that which he has seen and heard that he tells them about. God doesn’t just ask us to believe Him without any evidence or without us knowing His character. The Jews in Jesus’ times had the Old Testament experience with God, and from it they recognized the healings as their powerful good God expressing Himself in the power Jesus carried. Today it remains the same – healing is the evidence that a good God cares for people, which is why it is so important that we preach it and pray for it. It is the foretaste of the eternal life to come.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 10 – Healing Is Easy Because It Happened on the Cross

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


Let’s talk about this statement: “Healing is easy.” Do you agree? Because we live in a world broken by sin and see sickness and death all around us all the time, we would probably balk at this statement. Everyone has a story where we prayed for healing for someone or ourselves and it didn’t happen. And we conclude that God doesn’t always heal. But how about forgiveness of sin? We know that even though we are saved, we can still sin. Sometimes it is out of ignorance, sometimes out of stubbornness, sometimes out of fear, but we sin. To receive forgiveness, we go to God and ask for it based on what Jesus did on the cross. God doesn’t have to do some complicated procedure to forgive our sin, and we don’t have to do any complicated praying or other sacrificial deeds. We must genuinely repent in our heart and have the faith, the confidence, that Jesus took this particular sin on the cross and took the penalty for it. Once this is clear in our heart, we ask The Father for forgiveness and we have it. Why? Because Jesus bought forgiveness on the cross – it already happened.


Sickness is the same way. Sickness is the result of sin. When Jesus paid the price for sin, it covered sin and all the consequences of sin – sickness, sorrow, pain, mental anxiety, any emotional pains and conditions, financial and physical provision. He provided a way for us to live again as if we were in the garden of Even, except that we still have to deal with demons and evil forces while on the earth. 


We shouldn’t be surprised when we get sick. We live in a mortal body and sickness is all around us. But just like we can sin and then receive our forgiveness by faith and prayer, we can receive our healing by faith and prayer. When the Bible talks about the future work of Jesus on the cross by the prophet Isaiah, the Amplified translation says: Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. (Isaiah 53:4-5)


In Bulgarian we still use the word grief or sorrow to mean sickness. When someone is seriously ill, we literally say “A great sorrow she sorrows.”  And we mean that they are suffering a serious illness. This is the Hebrew meaning as well. Sickness brings grief and sorrow, not joy and peace. And Jesus provided for it on the cross.


The devil uses our reality to tell us – see, so-and-so didn’t get healed, or you still struggle with sickness, so God sometimes doesn’t heal. But do we say that about sin and forgiveness? Never! Why? Because it has been preached for several hundred years (yet in the late middle ages it wasn’t – there were many people who gave gifts and did deeds to be saved.) Healing works the same way – we must see and be convinced that it happened on the cross. That Jesus already did it. The Father doesn’t have to do a single thing for us to be healed. Healing is already taken care of and stored in heaven for us. We must take the Bible reality described here and look at it until we see it as our reality. We must become convinced that it is true for our sickness today, this one, just like it is true for our sin and eternal life. And then ask for it. God’s power will flow to us immediately, just like in Jesus’ ministry it flowed out of Him when people touched Him. 


--Vessie Kazachka

November 8 - Psalm 30

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou has lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

November 7 - Psalm 67

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

November 6 – As Many As Touched Him Were Healed

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


Today we know that salvation comes every time when we pray. You would never tell anyone – if you want to go to heaven, pray, and then see what happens – maybe God will save you, maybe He won’t. When I became a believer, there was a revival. Many people accepted Jesus as Lord. Most are still believers, but there are some that never stayed with the faith. After a while they got bored and simply stopped going to church. Some became atheists again. We never say, “Well, God forgave these people’s, but those He just didn’t really forgive and they don’t stayed with the faith.”


Yet sometimes people thing about healing that way. Sometimes we pray and we don’t get the healing we are praying for and people say, “Well, sometimes God heals and sometimes He doesn’t.” But when Jesus was on the earth, He never said that to anyone. The Bible says sometimes the people just didn’t believe He was a prophet. Sometimes Jesus gave special instructions. Is it possible that we missed His instructions? Is it possible that we didn’t have enough spiritual strength? Is it possible we didn’t have enough faith? (Not faith for our salvation, but faith for this particular sickness.)


When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored on the shore. When they had come out of the boat immediately the people recognized Him, and ran throughout the surrounding region, and began to carry the sick on beds to wherever they heard He was. And wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and pleaded with Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched Him were healed. (Mark 6:53-56)


As many as touched Him were healed! Let’s believe that. Even when someone doesn’t get healed, if they are a believer, they are with the Lord. We miss them, but we know they are in our future. Let’s not allow that to stop us from asking for healing the next time. Jesus is the same today. He is ready to heal just like in Gennesaret. Let us run to Him immediately, bring our sick and reach to touch Him. His power hasn’t changed.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 5 – How Do We Get Healed

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


Some of the best advice I ever received as a believer was that the way one gets saved is the same way one gets everything else in the Kingdom of God. I grew up as an atheist in a socialist country. I knew of religion only as history – something people did because they didn’t have science. In 1989 when the government changed and preaching was legal and allowed again, I heard the gospel for the first time. One of my high-school friends had become a believer over the summer break. When I started the school year, it was from her that I first heard that God is real, that Jesus is real, that sin exists, and God loves me and has provided a way out of sin for me. At first it was just curious information. But once I really thought about sin, I realized that the reality of sin was the most accurate description of the reality I lived every day. After some weeks of thinking and questioning and seeking, I saw that God’s sacrifice in Jesus came from a good God who cared for me. And this was someone I wanted to be my friend. After some weeks of thinking, I decided to submit my life to Jesus – because I didn’t want sin in my life, and because I truly saw that what God was offering me was freedom and care, love and friendship. So I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and become my Lord. 


What does that have to do with sickness and healing? The way we receive eternal life is the way we receive everything else in the Kingdom. First, I heard what sin was and that God offers me a way out. I had to think about it, consider, seek, question until I had it settled in my mind with certainty that God will do exactly what the Bible says. Once I made the decision to pray and ask for salvation, I wasn’t wondering what God would do; I knew once I said the words, I’d be saved and going to heaven. 


Receiving healing happens the same way. We must be confident that Jesus has provided the healing for us on the cross, that God is there to heal us every time. If we have questions in our heart, we submit them to God and keep asking Him to show us what we need to know and what we need to see for our particular situation. We must be certain what God will do – we must be certain He will heal us of this particular decease, in this particular situation. And that comes from knowing Him and knowing what happened on the cross.


In the scriptures above, the apostle Peter’s family knew God as the Old Testament God of miracles, provision and healing. Once they heard Jesus speak and saw Him cast out an unclean spirit, they realized that this is the same power that they know from the Old Testament stories. And they were confident to immediately tell Jesus they have a sick person in the house – because they knew their God.


If you are uncertain about healing, keep asking God to show you more. Seek truth and seek Him. Those that seek, they find.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 4 – Jesus Responds Quickly

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


We are talking about healing – healing is a central part of the gospel, and no sickness comes from God. When we stand against sickness, we enforce God’s kingdom of the earth. I love the above scripture, it says so much with so little. Today I’m focusing on how quickly Jesus responded to His friends’ request for healing: immediately they told Him of her. So he came. This is how simple it was. They asked, He came.


A couple of paragraphs later in the same chapter, as Jesus is preaching around Galilee, a leper comes to him pleading for healing. Then Jesus, moved with compassion, extended His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will. Be clean.” As soon as he had spoken, the leprosy immediately departed from him, and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:41-42)


I want us to remind ourselves that God heals instantly. It doesn’t always happen, many times healing comes progressively. Yet I remember a time when I just stopped expecting God’s power to heal me immediately, and the Bible tells us many times that that’s exactly what happened to many people in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is the same today. His power over unclean spirits and sickness is the same today. And His compassion for us is the same today.


When we are sick, sometimes we feel like we have failed. Sometimes we feel like it’s part of life, so we don’t reach out to God. Sometimes when it is a sickness of long duration, we just get used to it and stop asking. But Jesus responded immediately to the request for healing. He isn’t mad at us for being sick, He doesn’t begin instructing us on how to not get sick or lecture us on why we got sick. When we are sick, Jesus has compassion on us, He is ready to help us and heal us.


Be encouraged today to ask for healing. Ask for yourself and ask for your dear ones. Ask for your church family and neighbors. Observe your reaction – if you feel like it’s pointless to ask, don’t pretend, just share it with Jesus and tell Him you want to change and have confidence in His healing power. Reach to Him honestly. He is full of compassion, standing by ready to help us and heal us.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 3 – Sickness Does Not Come from God

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


We are talking about healing - and that in God’s kingdom there is not sickness. There was no sickness in the garden of Eden and there is no sickness in the new earth and heaven described in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. However, right now we live in a world that is dominated by Satan – a spirit being that’s the enemy of God.


Let’s look at the above verses again – there is so much about healing there. Jesus comes to his friend and disciple’s house after preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and immediately they tell Him there is a sick person in the house. Why? First, like we said yesterday, it was because of what He preached – the kingdom has come. Also, in the synagogue Jesus healed a man with an unclean spirit. For the Jews unclean was anything that was not of God. And the whole crowd was astonished at the power Jesus had.


In our scientific world today it is hard for many people to accept spirit as reality, but in science we constantly keep finding new and smaller particles invisible to the eye. Spirit is a material – it is a kind of substance made of light – God is light and in Him is no darkness as all. Satan is made of the same substance, but he turned himself into darkness by disobeying God. We, humans, are also spirits, and if we are born again, the light of God recreates our spirit from darkness into the light of God.


Just like a virus can come into our bodies and cause malfunction, an unclean spirit can come into our spirit and cause malfunction – mental, emotional, and physical. The people in Galilee, where Jesus preached, saw Him restore a man with an unclean spirit. As soon as He got home, they immediately told Him Simon’s wife’s mother was sick. Why? Because to them there was no difference between a physical sickness and an unclean spirit. They both come from the same source – not God. And if Jesus has to power to cast out the spirit, He has the power to stop the fever. Later, in Acts, the apostle Peter says it this way: The word which He [God] sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, the word which you know, that was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:36-38)


Sickness is not of God. It isn’t some kind of natural condition in the creation of God. Sickness came with sin and it will be removed with the removal of sin in the new earth. For now, we live in this earth and sickness is around us. We will encounter it, but let’s not be scared of it. Jesus holds all the power against it. Let us be quick to pray for healing when sickness comes.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 2 - Healing in the Gospel

Mark 1:29-34

When He came out of the synagogue with James and John, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew. The mother of Simon’s wife lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

In the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And He did not let the demons speak, because they knew Him.


In the next few days I’d like to talk about healing in the gospel. This year, 2020, we’ve had the pandemic of the Covid-19 virus hit the world, but even without it, this world is a place where sickness is just part of our reality. Seeing sickness on a daily basis, whether in us personally, or in friends, or on tv, I think we are tempted to accept that there isn’t much we can do about it. So I want to remind us that healing is part of the gospel and we can always confidently pray for healing.


In the above scripture, Jesus is at the very beginning of His ministry on earth. He has begun preaching in Galilee and in the beginning of the chapter, verse 15, the Bible sums up His message like this: Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.’’


After preaching one Sabbath and casting out a demon, Jesus retired to Simon Peter’s house with His disciples. And the Bible tells us: immediately they told Him of her. Why? Why did they immediately tell Him there was a sick person in the house? Because He preached the Kingdom of God, and when He did He told them that no sickness is part of the kingdom of God. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 tell us why: ‘He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death,’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev 21:4) On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:2)


Death, mourning, crying, pain, sickness are all part of the old order of things – the one where Satan rules on the earth. The new order is the kingdom Jesus got for us on the cross when He died and was raised – the Kingdom of God, where there is no death, no sin, no sickness, no crying, no pain, no sorrow.


Currently we live in the in-between – we who are saved are already translated into and part of the everlasting kingdom, but we still live in mortal bodies in a world ruled by Satan. But we can experience in the here and now the firstfruits of our salvation – and healing is part of that. When you encounter sickness, confidently pray about healing. It isn’t just some side blessing God bestows once in a while. It is in the core of the gospel; it is part of Jesus’ work on the cross and inseparable from our salvation.


--Vessie Kazachka

November 1- Psalm 77

I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

    at night I stretched out untiring hands,

    and I would not be comforted

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b

You kept my eyes from closing;

    I was too troubled to speak

I thought about the former days,

    the years of long ago

I remembered my songs in the night.

    My heart meditated and my spirit asked

“Will the Lord reject forever?

    Will he never show his favor again

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

    Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will consider all your works

    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;

    you display your power among the peoples.

With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,

    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

The waters saw you, God,

    the waters saw you and writhed;

    the very depths were convulsed.

The clouds poured down water,

    the heavens resounded with thunder;

    your arrows flashed back and forth.

Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,

    your lightning lit up the world;

    the earth trembled and quaked.

Your path led through the sea,

    your way through the mighty waters,

    though your footprints were not seen.

You led your people like a flock

    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me

October 31- John 16: 16-33

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”


At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”


Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.


“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”


“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.


“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.”

October 30- Devotion from Revered Ted Esaki

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  


My name is Ted Esaki and it is my privilege to partner with the Union Church of Los Angles as the Consulting Pastor. Let me share with you what the Lord has been teaching me of late. 


Recently I have been reading through and studying the book of Exodus. In this book we read that Moses went through times of disappointment, discouragement, and 40 years of endless delays as he waited upon God’s timing to enter into the Promised Land. 


For 40 years Moses had to put up with the complaints and grumblings of 2 million Israelites as he led them out of bondage from Egypt.  Just as Moses faced times of darkness, discouragement, disappointments, and endless delays as he waited upon the Lord, maybe you too are experiencing these things as we enter into the 8th and 9th months of the coronavirus pandemic.”  Reading and hearing about Covid-19 can be depressing and cause us to worry, fear, and be anxious.  Wondering about when Union Church will call a new full-time pastor may also be a source of concern. 


No one is immune from trials and tribulations. Life can be tough.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Even our Lord, the Son of God experienced these same feelings. He was sinless and yet he was despised, rejected, and suffered the agony of the crucifixion.  What kept the Lord going in the midst of his trials.  Mark 1:35 says that “A little before dawn, Jesus went out to a solitary place to pray.”  Day by day, Jesus was nurtured by his intimate relationship with His Father in Heaven.  Day by day Jesus was given the strength to face each day, each trial, each challenge by the strength he received from His Father.  


That reminds me of one of my favorite hymns: “Day By Day” by Oscar Ahnfelt.  The words are below but you can listen to it on Youtube.


Day by day, and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,

Gives unto each day what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.

 

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,

With a special mercy for each hour;

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,

He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself He laid;

“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”

This the pledge to me He made.


Help me then, in every tribulation,

So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,

Offered me within Thy holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,

E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till with Christ the Lord I stand.


Take time today to thoughtfully and slowly read and meditate on the words from this hymn. I pray that they would bless your soul as they do mine.


Today’s Prayer Focus:  Do you have a church directory? Take time to pray for the members of our church family. Pray for God’s presence and peace to be with those that He brings to mind. Pray that we would be growing in Christ through these times of trials and tribulation.  

October 29- Morning Postures with God

Psalm 5: 1-4

 

Listen to my words, Lord,

    consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help,

    my King and my God,

    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;

    in the morning I lay my requests before you

    and wait expectantly.

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;

    with you, evil people are not welcome.


For today’s physical exercise, we will pray in different positions/postures to get us moving. There will be 3 different postures: On your knees, in a seated position and then standing on your feet. You will start on your knees for a minute or two, then you move to a normal seated position for a minute or two, then you will stand up for a minute or two before returning back to your knees and repeating the process for however long you need. Each position has a different type of prayer that you should do. These positions do not make your prayers any better or more meaningful and God will not listen to your prayers more because of what you are doing, but these postures are meant to help orient your mind and spirit.


When you are on your knees, I want you to pray to God for forgiveness of any sins or to make your petitions or requests known. This is posture is meant to cry out to God.


When you are in the seated position, I want you to mediate and reflect on your life. You can also use this time to control your breathing as well. This posture is meant to help center yourself with God.


When you are in the standing position, I want you to praise God for the good things in your life or the good things that are occurring to the people around you or in the world. This posture is meant for you to raise your hands and truly praise God. 


Hopefully you could do these postures for a total of 20 minutes. Use this exercise as a time to help begin your day by prioritizing God as the first thing in your Day. These different postures will help you engage with God in different ways and will allow you to come before God with different prayers. 

October 28- Lifting Weights Building an Altar

Today’s exercise will involve some movement and just a little weight lifting. The basis of our exercises is the idea of building an altar to God. In the Old Testament, many people-built altars as a form of worship to God. The altars represented a place to ask for forgiveness and acted as a place to encounter the Lord. The altars also were a monument in the area declaring that the Lord reigned over the area around the alter.


Today, I want you to build an altar in the place that you call home. Ideally, you should build an altar by stacking books or things that are flat. It does not have to be very high and do not build an altar with something that will easily break or something that you do not want to fall. To incorporate the exercise, what I want you to do is designate the area that you want the altar to be placed, and then on the opposite side of the room I want you to place all the items that you will use to build your altar. Then, one by one, pick up one of the items and then do some kind of lifting exercise with the item (bicep curls, squats, etc). Even if your item weighs less than one pound, you are still engaging your muscles. Take your time with this exercise. You can maybe try lifting the item 20 times before walking over to and placing it on the altar. I also want you to reflect on the altar and what it represents.


As you stack items, declare that this altar represents that God reigns over this area. After you have built your altar then I want you to read Psalm 84. Keep your altar up for the rest of the week as reminder and use it as a place to meditate and pray for the rest of the week.


Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,

    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,

    for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out

    for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home,

    and the swallow a nest for herself,

    where she may have her young—

a place near your altar,

    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house;

    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,

    they make it a place of springs;

    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

They go from strength to strength,

    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;

    listen to me, God of Jacob.

Look on our shield, O God;

    look with favor on your anointed one.

Better is one day in your courts

    than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

    the Lord bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold

    from those whose walk is blameless.

Lord Almighty,

    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

October 27- Morning Walk with God

Today for our exercise we are going to go out for a walk. Ideally, I want you to do at least 20 minutes, but you can do longer if you like or if normally do a longer walk yourself. You will walk and read scripture at the same time. If that is difficult for you or something that you cannot do physically, then read the scriptures beforehand and meditate and pray as you walk. I have 3 different Psalms for you to read:


Psalm 5


Psalm 46


Psalm 118


What I want you to do is to read the Psalms while you walk (take your time in reading) and when you finish a Psalm, then take some time to reflect and then read another. You will most likely read these multiple times to do the minimum of 20 minutes. You can read another scripture or even read a whole book if you want instead. What is important is that you are out and active and combining that with the Word. God want you to be healthy in all aspects of your health, so let God into your exercises.  

October 26- Morning Stretch With God

This week’s devotions will be easy to read, but I will have you be a little more physically active. Not everyone exercises regularly and this week we will combine physical activity with scriptures/prayer/mediation. Regular exercise is healthy for everyone and even a walk for 20 minutes is better than not being active at all. Many loathe exercising and see it as a chore so why not use that time to connect with God to make your workouts better? Do not worry, you will not do anything difficult this week. These will just be a little boost to your days.


Today we will start out small, and is maybe a good routine you should adopt in the future. Here is a link for basic stretches you should do for each morning. Do 30 seconds of each stretch and each side if applicable.


https://darebee.com/workouts/morning-stretch-workout.html


Before you start, I want you to read this verse below.


Revelations 21: 1-6

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment


Yesterday we learned of the everlasting water that Jesus provides. One from which we will drink form and never thirst and Jesus offers this water to all. This water represents the eternal life that Jesus gives to those who believe and follow his commands. So, while you do your stretches today (which should take 6 minutes) meditate and think about this everlasting water and spring that Jesus has given to you. What does it mean for you to draw from this spring? The woman at the well yearned to drink from this spring when she learned of it, do you have the same feelings? Do you yearn to drink from this spring, or have you forgotten about this spring? Do your stretches now and meditate and think about these questions and the verse. When you are done, say a quick prayer and get your day started well!

October 25- Jonah 3

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:


“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”


When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

October 24- Jonah 2

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:


“In my distress I called to the Lord,

    and he answered me.

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,

    and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the depths,

    into the very heart of the seas,

    and the currents swirled about me;

all your waves and breakers

    swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished

    from your sight;

yet I will look again

    toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me,

    the deep surrounded me;

    seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;

    the earth beneath barred me in forever.

But you, Lord my God,

    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,

    I remembered you, Lord,

and my prayer rose to you,

    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols

    turn away from God’s love for them.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,

    will sacrifice to you.

What I have vowed I will make good.

    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

October 23- Love for People of Otehr Religions

John 15: 9-13


 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.


The last group of people that we choose to turn away from this week will be people of other religions. This one is a little tricky and it is a hard relationship at times to maintain. You want to be respectful of what the person believes in, but at the same time, you struggle with knowing that they do not have a relationship with the one true God. How do you tell that to someone in a respectful manner? For many of us, what we usually do with someone else of a different religion is that we set them aside in our minds. We say to ourselves that they have their views and practices so they will not listen to us nor will they ever convert. We convince ourselves that they are not worth sharing or not worth preaching to.


We give up on these people before ever even trying. There are whole countries who devote themselves to other religions and we just cast them off and assume they are just going straight to hell. There are amazing stories of Muslim people who are experiencing Jesus in their sleep and dreams or through visions. It is a recurring pattern and trend and God is doing amazing work in those areas to bring the Gospel to areas where Christians can be killed. It is not that people with other religious beliefs cannot be converted, it is merely that you do not believe that God is that powerful. You can even find videos of Wiccans being converted online. You have no say in who or who cannot accept Christ so do not fixate nor should you worry about that as that is up to God.


These people are not necessarily our enemies, but unfortunately, their beliefs go against what we know is true of God. If their experiences are good and positive in their religion, then imagine how much better it will be with Jesus in their lives? Now, this does not mean you need to scream to them that their beliefs are wrong, as that will not get you anywhere. What this means is that you first need to develop relationships with people of other religions. Most Christians choose to maintain only other Christian relationships and it is time that you try and expand that. Of course, with the pandemic, it may be difficult now, but at least start thinking now. Once you have developed that relationship then you need to share your beliefs and let them get a glimpse of Jesus. The hope is that you can get to a point where you can invite that person to church or some kind of event and allow them to see other Christians as well. Nothing you say will ever have these people change their beliefs or religions as it must be done through the transforming of a heart. Then let God do the rest.


All the people we have talked about this week are not easy to deal with. There are various people in our lives that we just plain do not want to speak to, and this week has been about changing that mindset. Jonah tried his best to run away from God and he was thrown into the sea and eaten by a giant fish. He spent three days in the dark belly of the fish realizing what he had done and remembering what God had asked him to do. Ultimately, God found a way to get him to Nineveh. God has placed people in your lives that he has called on you to speak to and you could try and run away, but I can guarantee that you will not get far. The kingdom of God is not just for you or me and Union Church, it is for all. It is even for those who you believe do not deserve it. Guess what? Jesus came to this Earth especially for those who deem are not “worthy”. We are not to keep this gift and relationship to ourselves and it is up to us now to remove the barriers we have for people and take that leap of faith with those who we choose not to speak to. Even if it is only one person, then it is worth it. Make it your mission to speak to one person in your life that you said you would never speak to before the year ends. You will grow so much from this experience and it could lead to one new person rejoicing in Heaven in the future.

October 22- Love for our Enemies

Luke 6: 27-36

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.


“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


Another group of people that we choose to run away from are our enemies and for good reasons. For the most part, we do not have people actively out there looking to do harm to us, but we do have people that have hurt us in our past. The hurt can be physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or other forms. It does not have to be from a personal relationship as well as it could be from a professional relationship or through a random encounter. Most of us have one person or a few people in our lives who we have already declared that we will never speak to them.


For me to ask you to reach out to this person or these people is not simple. When there is real pain involved, it is not as easy as just flipping a switch. This will require you to experience healing from God before you can even get to the state of reconciliation. This is also not something that can be accomplished overnight. For some extreme cases, what I am asking you to do is the last thing on Earth you would ever do, and for some, they are willing to go to the grave never making contact with these people. I am not telling you that your pain and hurt are not real, in fact, I am saying the opposite. It is very real and I may never experience the pain that you have experienced.


All I can say is that there is power and reconciliation through Jesus. It is clear in scripture what our relationship should be with our enemies. Jesus walked around for 3 years with the man he knew would kill him, and yet he still loved him. I am asking you to at least try and to at least come before God to begin the process. Ask God for healing in your situation and work through your pain. If you truly believe that you will not be able to get to a point in your life that you can speak to your enemies, then at least pray for them. Yes, pray for the people that have hurt you in your life. We need to be merciful, and God asks us to stand in front of our enemies and extend out an olive branch. Think about those people and take some time to process this verse. If you have confidence and faith in God, then your relationship can be mended and one day you can come before God in Heaven hand in hand with your enemies.

October 21- Love for our Coworkers

Mathew 22: 34-40


Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


We will continue in our look at people we are called to reach that we choose to run away form or ignore. There is a group of people that we interact with for most of the week who may not even know about your faith. This will not necessarily apply to everyone, but for the most part, most people keep their faith to themselves when it comes to work. For some, there actually may be some restrictions to outwardly or outright proclaim their faith at work. For most people though, they choose not disclose their faith mainly because they may be worried what their coworkers may say.


We are all called to serve and reach those that are around us which means our mission is to bring the good news to your coworker. You may have even prayed that God send someone to preach to your coworkers and I bet you that God is responding with “I sent you there to do that”. Do not run away from this mission! Is it difficult at times? Yes, but that does not mean it is impossible. Everyone needs Christ in their lives and they should hear about your experiences and what God can do in their lives. Do not make assumptions of people too. I can tell you that I worked with a person in a science lab who got their PhD and he was heavily involved with his church. He actually shared his testimony with me before I shared mine with him. You never know if any of your coworkers are dealing with any pain, loneliness or are seeking purpose in their lives.


What would it look like for you to deepen your relationship with your coworkers and what would it look like for you to take the next step in sharing our faith with coworkers who have not heard your story and you know do not have faith in God? Let me tell you that you are NOT asked to save anyone. That is not up to you, but you are called to spread the good news to people. Spread the seeds and then let God worry about transforming hearts. I know that with the pandemic that communication and people’s work have changed, but I still challenge you to reach out to ONE coworker and just let them know your story and what you believe. You can even ask to hear their story to build some trust and further develop a new relationship. If you want to take the challenge to a new level, then invite them to our Sunday service! Do not run away from these people and do not expect someone else to do it.

October 20- Loving Others Who Have Different Political Beliefs

1 Peter 4:8-11


Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


So, the first group of people that we are called to love that most people choose to ignore are people with different political beliefs. We have all done it at some point, we hear something that goes against our beliefs and we just want to turn away from those people. Or you may be driving and see a political sticker on a car, and you already start creating feelings towards the person without ever meeting them. This is even worse on social media where people choose to ignore or unfriend people when they post even a simple comment that goes against your political beliefs.


Jesus and God are beyond political parties and beliefs. In fact, God is the right belief to have. If you try hard enough, you can make an argument that Jesus’ political beliefs lie in any political party. Churches can make claims that Jesus is Republican or Democratic, and then they end up fighting with each other for no real reason. Many people will go to a church, and the second they hear a political comment that does not align with their values they will instantly leave the church.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those people who have different political views are your brothers and sisters, especially those in church. What would it mean for you to remove your feelings against people with different beliefs? What would it mean for you to hear a viewpoint and argument that goes against your own view and then tell that person that you love them? As humans, we surround ourselves with people with the same beliefs and interest as you usually and people end up creating this bubble of the “same type of people”. This is very prominent in Christian churches where people surround themselves only with other Christians. This is not necessarily bad, but where this becomes an issue is where you only end up serving people in the bubble and no one outside of it.


People especially create this bubble when it comes to political beliefs and they only watch videos, programs and only keep friends with the same beliefs as them. Eventually, you choose not to interact with people outside of your bubble and comfort. You may be neglecting a large amount of people who could use the love of God. For many, they see these people as "enemies" and again, I am here to to tell you that they are your brother and sister. What would it look like for you to stop running away form these people, and instead move towards these people and begin dialogue and to share the love of Christ to them? I challenge you to reach out to people in your life who you have distanced from because of political beliefs, or you hate to even have the idea of having a conversation with them. Do not neglect a brother or sister as you do not know their struggles and you should never withhold prayer from anyone. Make it an effort to not allow political beliefs to drive a wedge between you and others and start creating a spirit of invitation to others. I guarantee that you will be able to coexist.

October 19- Who are you running from?

1 Jonah 1-3


 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.


Yesterday we heard from our very own Inho on this verse. Here God is calling Jonah to go and preach to the city of Nineveh, and instead Jonah chooses to run away. One of the main things to learn from this book is that we CANNOT run away from God. You may think you are running away, and you may think you are doing a good job in ignoring God, but it will come back to you. An amazing quality of God is that even when are disobedient, that God can still use us and redeem us. In this story, we see that Jonah tries to literally go to the other side of the world from Nineveh but he ends up being thrown overboard and swallowed by a giant fish. God finds a way to get Jonah to Nineveh to complete what he has been told.


This week, we will look at different people that we we as people and perhaps even the church are choosing to ignore. We are called to preach the message to all people in the world, but there are certain peoples that we look at and we say internally "I do not want to preach to them" or "someone else can take care of that". It may not be intentional these thoughts and feelings, and they may actually be due to internal prejudices or pain. You may not know that you are not speaking to certain people, and you need revelation to see that. So, before we read about the different people we need to reach to, we first need to evaluate our own selves.


Who are the people in your lives that you for sure know that you are not preaching or talking to? Is there anyone that God has called you specifically to speak to and you have chosen to ignore that request? What are prejudices or biases that you have towards certain traits or certain people? Hopefully this week you can learn more about yourself and your deficiencies so that you can overcome them and finally do the work that God has called you to.

Psalm 66

1 Praise God with shouts of joy, all people! 2 Sing to the glory of his name; offer him glorious praise! 3 Say to God, "How wonderful are the things you do! Your power is so great that your enemies bow down in fear before you. 4Everyone on earth worships you; they sing praises to you, they sing praises to your name." 5 Come and see what God has done, his wonderful acts among people. 6 He changed the sea into dry land; our ancestors crossed the river on foot. There we rejoiced because of what he did. 7He rules forever by his might and keeps his eyes on the nations. Let no rebels rise against him. 8 Praise our God, all nations; let your praise be heard. 9 He has kept us alive and has not allowed us to fall. 


10 You have put us to the test, God; as silver is purified by fire, so you have tested us. 11 You let us fall into a trap and placed heavy burdens on our backs. 12 You let our enemies trample us; we went through fire and flood, but now you have brought us to a place of safety. 13 I will bring burnt offerings to your house; I will offer you what I promised. 14 I will give you what I said I would when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer sheep to be burned on the altar; I will sacrifice bulls and goats, and the smoke will go up to the sky. 


16 Come and listen, all who honor God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. 17 I cried to him for help; I praised him with songs. 18 If I had ignored my sins, the Lord would not have listened to me. 19 But God has indeed heard me; he has listened to my prayer. 20 I praise God, because he did not reject my prayer or keep back his constant love from me.

October 17 - Psalm 65

1 O God, it is right for us to praise you in Zion and keep our promises to you, 2 because you answer prayers. People everywhere will come to you 3 on account of their sins. Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them. 4 Happy are those whom you choose, whom you bring to live in your sanctuary. We shall be satisfied with the good things of your house, the blessings of your sacred Temple. 5 You answer us by giving us victory, and you do wonderful things to save us. People all over the world and across the distant seas trust in you. 6 You set the mountains in place by your strength, showing your mighty power. 7 You calm the roar of the seas and the noise of the waves; you calm the uproar of the peoples. 8 The whole world stands in awe of the great things that you have done. Your deeds bring shouts of joy from one end of the earth to the other. 


9 You show your care for the land by sending rain; you make it rich and fertile. You fill the streams with water; you provide the earth with crops. This is how you do it: 10 you send abundant rain on the plowed fields and soak them with water; you soften the soil with showers and cause the young plants to grow. 11What a rich harvest your goodness provides! Wherever you go there is plenty. 12 The pastures are filled with flocks; the hillsides are full of joy. 13 The fields are covered with sheep; the valleys are full of wheat. Everything shouts and sings for joy.

October 16 – Pray and Vote

Acts 17:26

From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.


Esther 4:14

For if you remain silent at this time, protection and deliverance for the Jews will be ordained from some other place, but you and your father’s house shall be destroyed. And who knows if you may have attained royal position for such a time as this?


For the last two weeks I’ve shared the best I can my thoughts on how to live in our turbulent society today, how to make sense of it in light of being a Christian and believing the Bible. It’s not easy. We live in a democracy, but in God we live in a kingdom, His kingdom. Here we strive to make our own laws, but in His kingdom, we must love and obey His law, or else we suffer consequences. It is our choice whether we enter His kingdom or not, but we can’t be blessed and saved either way; we are only saved when we commit ourselves to the goodness of His law.


It is my personal conviction that the first and best way we have to determine if an opinion, a policy, or a law are Godly is to ask and try to determine how it will affect the preaching of the gospel. I’ve shared how when socialism came to Bulgaria after WWII, many young people were enamored with its promises of equality, brotherhood, prosperity, free healthcare and other social care of the individual. The result was an improvement of the basics necessities of everybody while restricting the abilities of individuals to make decisions and advancements for themselves. And worst of all, it brought a pride in the human abilities to direct a society and a disdain for religion – any rule by a supernatural power who has authority over the conduct of man. The result was persecution of the church (churches either went underground or were controlled by government agents). The final result was that two generations lived and died without ever hearing the gospel, and even their descendants now (30 years later) are highly prejudiced against religion in general and particularly against the gospel and the Bible.


I mentioned before – I don’t subscribe to gloom and doom future predictions for the US, but I believe it is a sound Godly principle that we will only enjoy God’s blessings if we willingly participate in His plan. The scriptures talk about God’s plan for the world – God has a plan for salvation for all people, and a plan for all nations as well. God knows how to get His plan done. When the Israelites rebelled in the desert after the exodus from Egypt, God was ready to destroy them and re-create the nation from Moses alone. Moses’ prayer saved the nation, yet the disobedient generation still died in the dessert and only their children entered the good promised land. Why? Because it is up to us to participate in God’s plan. The same thought is expressed in the book of Esther as well. So what does that mean for us?


Today we have a society where we vote our laws and rulers. Democratic, Republican and other parties have platforms – documents that describe what society they strive to build and what laws they want to implement. Is it wise to vote for a personality when God looks inward at the heart, and not the outward appearance? My encouragement to you is this – have faith that God will perform His plan of salvation for our world and our nation, but take your part in it. Look for the best way to support the preaching of the gospel, the best way to ensure the church can live in peace and grow, the best way to openly display the goodness of God to a hurting and dying world. Because this is what we believe, isn’t it – that we have a God who loves people and comes to rescue them in their difficulties and death? Pray, research, and vote your conscience, then trust in the Lord to do His miracle works.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 15 – Do All Enter the Kingdom of God?

Matthew 21:43

Therefore I [Jesus] tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.


John 3:5

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.


1 Corinthian 12:13

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.


I’ve been writing about division, equality, and the kingdom of God. Does the Lord separate people into categories? Does Satan? Do we? The answer is yes to all three. However, by what criteria we differentiate people determines if we remain on God’s side or not. From my studies of the Bible, humans merely divide things and people into categories by external visible qualities. Satan divides people anyway he can in order to control them – by sowing strife and keeping nations oppressed, which most of the time stops the preaching and reception of the gospel.


The God of the Bible, the just King of this universe, has established His rules – He rules by the law of love, and those who enter His kingdom must choose, desire and obey His law. 


For ancient Israel the categories of people were Jews and gentiles – the people of God, who had the protection and covenant of the Creator, and those who were outside. The ancient Isrealites often forgot the law of love, and the nature of sin turned them into hating and self-righteous people. Among the nations without God, the ancient Greeks and Roman did the same – they were the civilized ones, and everyone else was Barbarian, slave, second-class, foreigner, enemy. Unfortunately, this keeps repeating to today. With the development of civilization in Western Europe, and their fascination and worship of Greek culture, similar notions became widely accepted – “We have developed a great civilization, therefore we are more important and of higher intellect than all these other peoples and tribes who don’t build buildings like us, don't govern themselves like us, and don’t have technologies like us. They are inferior.” It pleases the sinful nature of man to think this way. Unfortunately, many people have used to Bible to justify these thoughts. In the US there is this particular division of skin color – black vs white. It is a true and valid injustice that has persisted over the years.


However, in my view, today more often than not the church is blamed for or equated with this racism (“most white people are Christians, those who founded the US and its laws were Christians, therefore the Christian God and His religion are to blame”), and not a lot is said about how much true believers have contributed to the emancipation of or help to African slaves (the Quakers are a very good example). 


Let’s go back to God’s division of people – to inherit the kingdom of God, one must be a son of God – born of the Spirit, drinking of the Spirit, and producing the fruit of the Spirit. Those who hate God and His law will not inherit the kingdom. If we believe the Bible, if we have a relationship with Jesus – we must believe those words. And this distinction, I believe, must be our first criteria when we look at our social and political reality to determine where God stands on our issues. Like I said before, these are my personal thoughts and opinions, and they are not meant to convince you that I’m right. They are meant to hopefully give you some food for thought. 


The Bible has been used by all kinds of people all throughout history to justify their desires and their actions. As Christians, we must know our Father for ourselves and examine ourselves, lest we be found on the outside and the kingdom doors shut for us.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 14 – Outward vs Inward

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”


In last week’s Monday devotional, I started talking about the ethnic prejudices in Bulgaria. The Roma is an ethnic minority in Bulgaria and their treatment often labels Bulgarians as racist in the European press. I wrote how in the 45 years of social society we had laws that ensured everyone was equal, and most of us were very close to equal in opportunities and possessions. Yet, the prejudices between Bulgarians and Roma not only remained, they continued with each generation and are still part of society today. In other words, the correct law didn’t fix the internal problem of seeing someone as different. And when people turn it into a “race” issues – strictly in terms of skin color, it really doesn’t reflect the truth in my eyes. For example, Roma have darker skin, light brown, and they were often insulted by Bulgarians by using their skin color (interestingly enough, calling someone “black” was considered an insult in Bulgaria when I was growing up, so I found it difficult to use in English once I came here). But the Africans, who lived in Bulgaria (we had many university students from Northern and Western Africa – from Ethiopia and Sudan, to Libya, all the way to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria) were very much liked, they were respected, sought as friends, considered interesting in the positive sense.


So the issue wasn’t the color of one’s skin, but the difference in the values, i.e. the culture. In African students Bulgarians saw hard-working, education-loving people with unique history; in Roma they saw people who kept to their own, living day to day, enjoying the present moment of fun more than the work necessary to plan for tomorrow, without desire for higher education. It is hard for me to say to what extent these qualities remained because of the prejudices against the Roma or because of their own desires, but I’m sure it is a complex combination of both, since there are plenty of Roma people who live among the Bulgarians as equal. What I’m trying to say is that it is an issue of worldview and values rather than the physical difference of skin color.


And here’s something else to consider – the Balkan peninsula is a small area that historically has at least a dozen ethnicities fighting with each other over identity, freedoms, and rights. And if you were to line them up next to each other, we look so similar, an American would think we are cousins. Some years ago I worked with a Romanian woman and co-workers kept asking us if we were sisters! – same accent, same round face and wavy hair, same sensibilities. Yet in the Balkan countries so many prejudices and ethnic conflicts remain to this day. (If you have time to watch a 30-minute documentary, go to Kanopy, free with library card, and see the short film “Whose Is This Song?” https://www.kanopy.com/product/whose-song - it takes a folk song and follows the reactions of different ethnicities who all claim it is their song.)


I think it is important for us today to keep making the difference between outward and inward, external and internal, and ask the Lord to help us see with His eyes, see the way He sees things. No intellectual ability, knowledge or research can substitute for God’s revelation in the heart of man. While we must observe our world carefully, but we must submit all observations to the Holy Spirit for interpretation.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 13 – Let No One Deceive Himself

1 Corinthians 3:18-21

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness,” (Job 5:13) and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (Ps 94:11). Therefore let no one boast in men. 


With these words the apostle Paul continues the passage we read yesterday about how each one of us is responsible how we conduct our life and steward God’s gifts and assignments to us. Paul tells us “Let no one deceive himself.” If it was easy for us to stay in the truth and if few people got deceived, I don’t think he would be so clear and inclusive in this statement. He contrasts God’s wisdom with the world’s wisdom – with what is valued and proclaimed around us. Basically, he says that if we agree with and sound like the culture around us, we must very carefully examine ourselves that we are not deceived. 


My grandfather on my dad’s side was a teenager during WWII. The communist party, supported by the USSR, had a noticeable influence in Bulgaria, even if it wasn’t a majority yet. The ideas it preached sounded wonderful and wise – there will be equality, justice, prosperity for everyone. My grandfather believed these ideals and considered himself a communist, only to see how quickly these people changed after they took power. The rhetoric stayed the same, but instead of peace and equality for everyone, there was violence towards all who didn’t agree with their ideals and ideas. My grandfather was disillusioned quickly and later in his life wrote a book about his friends that died in the communist prison camps.


Recently I was reading a book on WWII, and it was shocking to see how many people believed that Hitler was for peace in the beginning of his political power and how disliked and ridiculed Churchill was both personally and in his warnings against Hitler.


All this makes me very careful and cautious when reading the news today, when choosing my opinions, when casting my vote. Can I be deceived? The Bible says I can, if I don’t pay attention to the Holy Spirit speaking inside me. (A few weeks ago I wrote about how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.) And I’m to pay particular attention when my opinions look and sound like the unbelieving world around me, because God’s wisdom is foolishness to this world. What I hear the Holy Spirit speaking on the inside of me is that the church is waking up and God’s plan will prevail. I don’t think gloom and doom are coming to the US, but I do find myself praying extra that I be found on the right side – on God’s side, not deceived, but holding on to His truth.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 12 - Equal or Free

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 


Luke 8:18

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”


Last week Monday I shared a little about free and equal, and how in the socialist society I grew up in, I was taught that everyone should be equal. It was wrong for some to have more than others. It was expressed predominantly in material and financial ways, but it touched every other area of life (access to education, ability to travel, etc.) Yet in reality, everybody was almost equal except for a small minority of people who were ruling in the government, and they always gave themselves special privilege, in the name of keeping the rest of us equal. So when I became a believer, I had an issue with Jesus’ words in Luke 8:18. How can you give more to those that have and take away from those who don’t have? That’s not just. How can a just God do that? 


It was some years before I understood the wisdom of the above verse. It is the ending of the parable of the sower. Jesus sowed the truth of His word into the hearts of men, but only part of them received it and kept it. Many refused it outright and many quit when it got difficult. The ones who stayed with God kept getting more truth and more results; they increased because they kept seeking after God and treasured His wisdom. The ones who didn’t do that had even the little that God gave them stolen from them – not by God, but by the devil, who seeks to destroy all knowledge of God.


Equal opportunity isn’t the same as equal result. God has given equal opportunity to all humanity – all have sinned and Jesus’ blood cleanses all sin for every person – for those who repent. However, the final result of one’s life really depends on what they do with God’s word and on their personal determination to follow God.


As a society, it is important that we defend equal opportunity as long as we don’t confuse it with equal results. Heaven isn’t some kind of utopia of communism, where everything belongs to God and we just float around on clouds. The verses above in 1 Corinthians and many others show that what we do on this earth with God’s assignment for us will translate directly in our position in heaven, and we will continue to have heavenly assignments and serve God there. God has given gifts to all, but to the extent that we pursue those gifts is the extent that we will have God’s blessing.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 11 - Psalm 122

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” 

Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the LORD— to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel. There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.

October 10 - Psalm 120

When I was in trouble, I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me. 

O LORD, rescue me from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue. 

You deceitful tongue, what can the LORD give you? What more can he do for you? 

He will give you a warrior's sharpened arrows and red-hot coals.

How horrible it is to live as a foreigner in Meshech or to stay in the tents of Kedar. 

I have lived too long with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I talk about it, they only talk about war.

October 9 – The Great Commission

Mark 16:15-16

[Jesus] said to [his disciples], “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel {the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand – Mk 1:15} to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.”


Acts 2:46

And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.


I think race is one of those issues today that Satan in using the divide the church. I began this week talking about the Kingdom of God. If you are a Christian, you live in God’s kingdom. As king, He expects us to do His will and law, and if we don’t there are consequences. The amazing thing about our king is that He doesn’t force us to obey Him, it is always our choice, but we cannot avoid the consequences. If we don’t believe, we will be condemned, if we don’t obey, we lose out on His blessing. 


Here is my disconnect with our present society – God commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to show grace, mercy, and justice as a way of being just like Him, teaching us who He is and how we are to operate in His Kingdom. But He charged us not with creating a perfect and just society here on earth, but with preaching the gospel – the good news that His Kingdom has come and those who believe can enter in. Correcting injustice is important and valuable as displaying the goodness of God in our world. However, taking a stand with unbelievers (uniting with people who are not part of the Kingdom of God) against fellow believers who we see as unjust or racist, can be very dangerous. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. 


Again, I’m sharing my personal opinion, not a Union Church position. I’m asking you to consider this – God hates sin, but He loves sinners, not because of their sin but despite of their sin. Shouldn’t we similarly hate racism, but strive to love racists, despite their racism, especially those who are fellow members of God’s family? It is acceptable to point out wrong behavior, but we must not blame the people. It is acceptable to enforce the law or strive to create a more just law, but we must not turn a bad law in the opposite direction – “they hate all black people, so we will hate all white people.” God is the judge of all. 


My greatest concern is this – that we as the church get our eyes off of the great commission of preaching the gospel and get stuck in blaming one another for past sin from generations ago. And the winner of this will be Satan, who will be able to push attitudes and laws against the church in general and restrict the preaching of the gospel. It is in unity and peace that the church can grow. I hope that as we navigate our turbulent social times today, the thing we most desire for people around us is to introduce them to the good Kingdom of our good God.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 8 – Envy and Strife

James 3:12 – 4:1

Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a vine, figs? So no spring can yield both salt water and fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works by his good life in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. Where do wars and fights among you come from? Do they not come from your lusts that war in your body?


Galatians 5:14-15

For the entire law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.


I’m glad our church is one where we can express our opinions and we are all open to hear and understand. As this week I’m sharing my personal experiences and memories, I want to emphasize that this isn’t official Union Church position. Because I’d like to share an opinion that may seem controversial. Again, the purpose of these devotionals isn’t to convince anyone of what I believe, but simply to share my thoughts and feelings and what I see in the Bible in connection with them, and let you decide if there’s any merit there. So, here’s my controversial opinion – I think the current social and political climate is designed by Satan, the enemy of God, to divide the church and stop a revival from happening. 


In the book of Ephesians, Paul writes that Jesus is coming back for a triumphant, glorious church without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5:27). I’ve read a number of prophecies and Bible studies from a variety of ministries that I trust, that before Jesus comes again, the church all over the world will be united and a great revival will bring many people to salvation. In Revelation it’s said how Satan has great wrath, because his time on the earth is short and coming to an end. Whether you believe Jesus is coming again in your lifetime or not, we are certainly closer to His coming than anyone else has ever been. Which is why I believe it is so important that we fight to stay in the unity of faith with other believers, not simply within our own congregations, but within the broader church in our city, state, and nation. And that unity is just that – of faith – not of political opinion, or social reform, or favorite ice cream flavor – unity of faith in Jesus as one Savior of mankind. We must hold that as our bond above all other differences.


I say this because from my friends and acquaintances who are most supportive of the so-called liberal or left views (and I dislike using those terms because I find them restrictive and inaccurate in many ways), most of them are extremely anti-God, anti-Bible, and anti-Jesus. Now, the church has historically been very conservative in guarding its truth, to the extent that it has resisted God’s revelation and truth – this is how the reformation was born, how the US was created to a large part (the fight for worshiping according to one’s conscience) and there are many more examples from Eastern European Christianity you won’t be familiar with. Satan has used this very successfully to divide the church, and he is still using it today.


I will be writing more about this in the next few days, but please reread the scriptures above and consider – are we using the law of love to love our neighbors or to tell them how they don’t love us as they should? Regardless of our convictions, let us stay in love with each other and particularly with those from the household of faith.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 7 – Our Enemy – Not Flesh and Blood

Ephesians 6:10-12

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.


Matthew 18:21-23, 35

Then Peter came and said to Him [Jesus], “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves… My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”


My country of birth, Bulgaria, was part of the Ottoman empire for about 500 years, from late 1300s to late 1800s. In the Ottoman empire different ethnicities had different status. Turks had the most freedom and rights to conduct their lives as they chose. Bulgarians were conquered by the Turks in the 1300s by war, lost their independent kingdom, and therefore were forced into a subservient status in the Ottoman empire. We had different language and different religion, which put us further down the list of freedoms and rights. The Bulgarian cultural centers and libraries were destroyed; we couldn’t have schools; churches had to be built underground or always much lower than the mosque minarets. There were many trade and economic opportunities that were forbidden to Bulgarians, and we paid heavier taxes than Muslims and Turks, including the tax of a male child from each family to become a soldier in the Sultan’s special forces. When Bulgarians organized several revolts for freedom in the 1800s, they were crushed by the Ottomans with much cruelty, whole villages burned down with the entire population burned alive while seeking refuge in the churches, and organizers and supporters of the uprising tortured and killed.


Growing up in socialist Bulgaria, there was an official policy that made a big deal of the horrible oppression of the Turks and of the position of slavery of the Bulgarians in the Ottoman empire. That policy extended to the point that Bulgarian Christians, Bulgarian Muslims and Turks had very volatile relationships, especially socially and politically. (Sadly many continue today supported by political parties and movements.) Yet I knew kids at school who were Bulgarian Turks and they were just like me, and we got along great. So, as I grew up, and especially when I became a Christian and got to understand the Bible, I had to make an adjustment in my thinking. I had to remember the horrible treatment my nation endured under the Ottoman rule as true and not make excuses for it, while forgiving those offences and not counting it against the present-day Turks and Muslims. I realized that I can’t keep stoking old injuries without it tainting my view of that group of people today. And I began seeing a very clear difference between people’s personal relations and how these get twisted once they become a policy of a certain group of people.


Sadly, what’s happening today in our society reminds me very much of those years in Bulgaria. 


As the church of God, I think it is important that we don’t accept social views without submitting them to God, going to Him with humility and being open to hearing from Him “You are wrong thinking like this.” I think we often forget how many times Jesus had to correct His disciples' thinking, several times clearly telling them what they thought was actually of the devil (Matthew 16:23, Luke 9:54-55) As Christians, we live in a kingdom – the dominion of God, where He rules. To remain in His kingdom – enjoy His blessing and forgiveness – we must choose His ways and always be mindful that we can be wrong, always be willing to change if The Lord tells us to. Let’s be mindful of that today, and think about forgiveness – if we have been hurt by racism, have we forgiven like the Lord has asked us to?


--Vessie Kazachka

October 6 – What is Race?

Genesis 10:1-4, 20, 31-32

Now these are the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah. And sons were born to them after the flood.


The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan wre Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites, and the Rodanites. From these the coastlands of the nations were divided into their lands, everyone according to his tongue, according to their families, by their nations.


…These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.


…These are the sons of Shem, by their families and their language, in their lands and their nations. These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations. From these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.


In the last year or so, I’ve searched the scriptures on the topic of race, and I couldn’t find any evidence that God divides people by race – meaning by their physical appearance. The Bible divides people into men and women, it talks about sons of light (who believe in Jesus as son of God and Lord) and sons of darkness (who don’t believe in Jesus and the Father God.) But in terms of natural origins, the Bible only talks about a person’s ancestry (who their parents and grandparents were), geography (the land where they were born or grew up), and language. These are concrete Biblical differences that determine one’s culture. However, there’s no mention that I could find of people divided by physical appearance – skin color, shape of head or body, hair, eye color or shape. (Song of Songs talks about skin color, but only in personal terms describing the beauty of the skin of a beloved one.)


Here is another distinction the Bible makes, even before the concept of nations appears: Lamech took two wives. The name of one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. Zillah gave birth to Tubal-Cain, a forger of every tool of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. (Genesis 4:19-22) God gave people gifts – talents and abilities to create – before He made any distinctions of nations and ethnicity.


What I, personally, see in those scriptures, is that race, as we currently know it, is a man-made (and I will add Satan-inspired) concept. It was first used as familial and ethnic difference, and gradually became used by developed societies like the ancient Greeks and the Chinese Empire (and all societies after them) to describe their own culture as highly advanced and everyone else as a lesser kind of people. The Greeks considered all non-Greeks as Barbarians; the Han dynasty in the 3rd century described blond-haired and green-eyed people as barbarian resembling monkeys from which they descended. Later, in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was considered scientific reality that some “races” were of higher intellectual abilities than others. In other words, a completely ungodly idea of division of people is being perpetuated today regardless of which side of the issue one supports. My personal view is that as long as we insist on identifying ourselves and others as a “race”, division will remain because Satan is behind this concept and one simply cannot make it right. And I see the way forward as distinguishing people by their talents and culture – abilities to contribute good things for the use of all of humanity. As Christians, I think it is extremely important that we shape our worldview by Biblical concepts and remain constantly aware that we have an enemy called Satan, who inspires unbelievers with false concepts and reality. It is up to us to be vigilant of catching his deceits and staying in the truth of God’s word.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 5 – The Kingdom of God

Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Coming up out of the water, He immediately saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, “You are My beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”


The Spirit immediately drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts. And the angels ministered to Him.


After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.”


This is how Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ works on the earth. And he summarizes His message like this: “the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.” Gospel means good newsKingdomcomes from king and dominion – the dominion, the areas, that belong to the king, where the king’s rule and will is being done. In other words – it is a good thing when God’s rules and laws are being done. God is coming to enforce His will on the earth, so repent and believe – accept His rule, or you will suffer the consequences.


Currently we talk about democracy a lot, about us ruling ourselves, about the vote of the majority. However, as Christians, we must not forget that we live in a kingdom under a just and loving King, our Father God, and we must follow His laws or else we will suffer consequences. The great thing about the rule of our God is that He allows us to choose whether we follow Him or not. His recruits His followers on a completely volunteer basis and then we follow Him to the extent of our clear conscience in willingness and understanding of His law. However, we can suffer severe consequences for stubbornness or ignorance of God’s will. (Hosea 4:6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.)


As Christians, we are looking to understand how God’s laws apply to our reality today. As I search the scriptures, I also want to offer my personal memories and experiences, and hopefully they can add another perspective to consider as we navigate our current society. 


Growing up in socialist Bulgaria in the 1980s, the US history we studied was the Revolution, the Civil War and Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. It was very clearly expressed how the American society was an unjust society because it tolerated racism. And our socialist society was contrasted as an expression of equality and justice. The only people with different skin color in Bulgaria were the Roma – a bit darker or brown color, even though Bulgarians have a wide range of skin color – from pale white to dark olive. The Roma had apartments built for them just like the Bulgarians, the children went to school, the adults had jobs. By the rules we were equally the same. Yet our society also had rules that set how much a national salary was and a person who wanted to work more to get a higher salary simply couldn’t – because it wasn’t equal. A family couldn’t own a second home, or a 4-bedroom home if they had 2 children – because they don’t need it and it wouldn’t be fair to others. In other words, the rules of equality, which seemed good on paper, set by a small number of people ruling the country, provided decent living necessities for all, and would not allow advancement by work or talent or invention, because it wasn’t equal. Equal became the opposite of free. And the beneficiaries were the small group of ruling people, who had access to government funds, residences and resorts. And in reality, the Roma still lived in neighborhoods with predominantly Roma and prejudices on both sides remain to this day – because our cultures were different. 


So tomorrow I will look at the Biblical perspective on race.


--Vessie Kazachka

October 4- Psalm 143

Lord, hear my prayer,

    listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

    come to my relief.

Do not bring your servant into judgment,

    for no one living is righteous before you.

The enemy pursues me,

    he crushes me to the ground;

he makes me dwell in the darkness

    like those long dead.

So my spirit grows faint within me;

    my heart within me is dismayed.

I remember the days of long ago;

    I meditate on all your works

    and consider what your hands have done.

I spread out my hands to you;

    I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;

    my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me

    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,

    for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

    for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,

    for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do your will,

    for you are my God;

may your good Spirit

    lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;

    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;

    destroy all my foes,

    for I am your servant.

October 3- Isaiah 43:1-3

But now, this is what the Lord says—

    he who created you, Jacob,

    he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

    I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

    they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

    you will not be burned;

    the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

October 2- 1 John 5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.


Concluding Affirmations

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.


You did it! You read a whole book in a week. In this last chapter, John pretty much summarizes all that he has said throughout this book. There are some new things he is saying here though that are important. First, that loving God is following his commands. When you really care for someone or respect someone then you will genuinely follow them because you want to. It is clear here and throughout the book that Love is not a feeling or an emotion, but an action. Love is something that is tangible and can be measured. It is also clear here that following his commands is not burdensome, it just seems burdensome from outsiders. When you have a true love for God, you follow his commands and do it what it takes, and there will always be a joy as a result. SO, I ask you, do you feel burden following God's commands? If you do, then take the time to meditate with God and reflect on it.


Second is verse 14 which is the confidence that we can come before God in prayer. A while back we talked about different attitudes and postures needed in prayer, and confidence was one of them. You cannot come into prayer with doubt, because then that means you have a belief that your prayer may not be answered, even if it is a small amount of doubt. When you come into prayer without confidence, then you will see that your prayers are ineffective. It is not that God cannot answer your prayers, but when you doubt you do not pray to God. Imagine going to a mechanic that you have doubts in. You will still take your car to the mechanic, but whatever they say that your car needs or what they will do, in the back of your head you will dismiss most likely. You maybe even a little abrasive tot he mechanic and you are less likely to take the input of the mechanic. This is how we are with God without confidence. You say the words, but you do not really mean them because you do not believe them. You need to increase your confidence in God! Take some baby steps if you need to. Devote yourself to confidently pray about one thing this week. Change your posture and even change your tone in your voice when you pray. Pray with some fervor and do not let doubt sit in. You can also pray against any doubt as well. Start your prayers telling God that you do not want to doubt and confidently confess that you KNOW that God will answer your prayer, of course making sure it is biblical. You will see your prayers change when you have confidence, and I guarantee you will continue to pray in confidence. 

October 1- 1 John 4

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.


God’s Love and Ours

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.


Here are some questions for you today:


1.) Do you test all that you read or hear concerning the Bible and God? It is important for you to not always take everything you hear or learn as truth. You must always verify that what you are learning or hearing is actually of God. You may think that this is not practical, but that may be because you have not accumulated as much knowledge yet. Over time you will gain knowledge of God and the characteristics of God and the truths of God. You will hear something from a speaker and immediately from your knowledge you will be able to determine if what they are speaking is truth. You need to start questioning everything you hear. Ask yourself "Does this agree with scripture?", ""Is this something Jesus said is true?", "Can I find any verses that go against what I just learned?". You also need to gain more knowledge of what the Bible says is true so that you will be quicker in discerning what is good.


2.) Is there someone in your life who you are purposely not giving love? We see again just how much we are to love others. The whole book of 1 John is trying to hammer this point. God is Love, and God gives us his Spirit, thus, there is Love in us and we are to share that love with others. We are not called to be nice to people, we are are called to something deeper. Just as God loved us, we are to love others. What are all the things that God has done for you? We do not even give a fraction of that love to others. You need to step your love game up! Be intentional today or this week and I want to you to show love to someone who you are for sure refraining from loving. If you need time to work to that point, then work on it, but do not skip this application. Whoever loves lives in God, by hating someone else, it is clear that God will not be in you. You are only lying to yourself and to God. There is a requirement to loving God, and that is loving others. There is no ambiguity here.


The writer keeps making this point in Love because it is at the heart of who God is. It was God who sacrificed their own son just so that we could be in relationship with both. God loves and sacrificed far more than we can truly comprehend. God wants all people to have that Love, and it is up to us to give it to them.

September 30- 1 John 3

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.


More on Love and Hatred

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.


16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.


19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.


Today I do not have multiple questions, but just one important thing I want you to meditate on. Verse 16 is very clear that we are to lay our lives to others. Read it again, we are to lay our lives down just as Jesus did for us to others. That is not something you just brush off and its a heavy statement. This whole chapter talks about light and darkness, good and evil, being with God and not being with God and finally loving others and hating others. There is a clear dichotomy and no indication that there is a grey area. You are either in the right, or you are in the wrong. No excuses. So let us look back at Verse 16. You are either laying down your life for others, or you are not. There is no half-way giving up your life. Jesus did not kind of lay down his life for our sins. No, he fully laid down his life for all to be drawn closer to God. So, ask your self. Where are you with this? Are you laying down your life for others? This is not an overnight item and something you can fix with a snap of your fingers. This will take deep mediation and reflection of yourself and serious time with God. You need to learn and understand what is being asked of us first and then move into action. Begin your process today and truly spend time in prayer. Let today be the beginning of your journey through this process and question. You want live just as Christ lived, and you need to sacrifice just as Christ sacrificed for us. You need to take this seriously because when you get to the point where you are in front of God you will be asked what you did for others. You will not be able to use excuses then, so make sure to get rid of your excuses now.

September 29- 1 John 2

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.


Love and Hatred for Fellow Believers

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.


Reasons for Writing

12 I am writing to you, dear children,

    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

13 I am writing to you, fathers,

    because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

    because you have overcome the evil one.

14 I write to you, dear children,

    because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,

    because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

    because you are strong,

    and the word of God lives in you,

    and you have overcome the evil one.


On Not Loving the World

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.


Warnings Against Denying the Son

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.


God’s Children and Sin

28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.



Here are some questions to ask yourself after reading this passage:


1.) Do you "know" God and also follow his commands? For some of you, you may feel like you have neither in your life, and that is ok. There is nothing wrong with you, it may just be a season in your life or the beginning of an incredible intentional journey with God. You need to spend time with God and you need to read more. How else will you follow his words if you do not know what they are? Make an intention to read a few passages of the New Testament Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) each day as well and just soak in what Jesus does and what he asks us to do. Accumulate knowledge of the scriptures and the commands of Jesus to draw yourself in the light with God.


2.) Is there any hatred in you for another person? Is there unforgiveness between you and another person? If the answer is yes, then you need to address these issues. It is clear from the passage that if you have real hatred for someone else, then you have hatred or God and you are in the darkness. Pray that God may guide you through the process of removing the hatred. It is not easy, especially for those who have been hurt, but true love is unconditional. It will not happen overnight, it will be a process, but do not let the hatred or unforgiveness settle in you because it will affect your relationship with God.


3.) Are there idols in this world that you put before God? Idols can include your job, money, status, relationships, entertainment, etc. An idol is essentially anything that you devote yourself too that is not of God and that you may even worship. The main idols in our culture are power and money and for many, they are unaware that they may worship those idols in their life. Take some time to reflect on your life and motives and truly ask yourself if you have idols in your life that keep you away from God. A simple way to find some idols in your life is to ask yourself what you choose to do instead of reading or praying. You may find that social media is an idol of yours. It may not seem like an idol when you discover it, but if you look intently you will see how much control these idols have on your life and how much they deter you away from God. These things are not bad in your life, but they become bad when you choose to worship these things instead of God. The only way to stop these worships is to identify your idols first. Pray to God to reveal into the light your idols and make the appropriate steps to either remove these idols from your life or to remove your worship of them.

September 28- 1 John 1

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.


Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.


This week we will do a more traditional devotional in which we will read from a specific book throughout the week. Luckily for us, 1 John has five chapters, which means by the end of the week you will have read one whole book in the bible! You will see a few different themes and languages throughout this book. As you continue to read throughout the week try and recall what you have previously read. Verses are not meant to be read on their own, but are meant to be read and referenced to previous verses as well. Do not treat each day as a blank slate or independent, but try and see what the overall point that is trying to be conveyed.


In the first chapter, there is one important theme and that is to know that God is light and is pure, and we need that light to to illuminate the darkness and sin that is in us. You cannot lie to yourself and not admit to your sin before God. So, today's application is pretty simple. Take some time to confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness from God, to which God WILL forgive you. There is no doubt in this. I am asking you to do this because we want to start this week strong, and in agreement with God. We will read in the following chapters about Love and you need to first experience that love to get better insight and revelation for the following chapters. Commit yourself to the Lord today so that the rest of the week is fruitful for you.

September 27- Psalm 57: 7-11

My heart is steadfast, O God,

    my heart is steadfast!

I will sing and make melody!

    Awake, my glory!

Awake, O harp and lyre!

    I will awake the dawn!

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;

    I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,

    your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!

    Let your glory be over all the earth!

September 26- Isaiah 25: 6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare

    a feast of rich food for all peoples,

a banquet of aged wine—

    the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy

    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,

the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears

    from all faces;

he will remove his people’s disgrace

    from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,


“Surely this is our God;

    we trusted in him, and he saved us.

This is the Lord, we trusted in him;

    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

September 25- Music Bath #5

Psalm 95: 1-7


Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,

    the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,

    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,

    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

for he is our God

    and we are the people of his pasture,

    the flock under his care.


This week, our music baths have been about worship, energy and relaxation. Today, we will get to the hear of worship, and that is praising God for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. As you listen to this song today, concentrate on what Jesus did on the cross and what that means for our relationship with God. Listen to the song multiple times if you want more time in reflection. Imagine the sacrifice of Jesus as you listen to this song. If you need to repent for any sins or actions then do so at this time. Do not skip this one today. Put the song in the background or play it just before you fall asleep. I guarantee you can make time for this music bath. Really meditate on the cross today so that you have continued assurance in your faith.

September 24- Music Bath #4

Isaiah 40: 28-31


Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.


So far this week, our music baths have been about relaxing and rest which are good, but today we will listen to music for a different music. In the same way that God can bring you peace, God can also provide you energy and motivation. So for today, when you listen to this video, ask God to give you energy for the day! Let this song be the kickstart to your day (even dance if you need to). The Lord is Good is all the time, all the time the Lord is Good!

September 23- Music Bath #3

Psalm 62:1-2:


Truly my soul finds rest in God;

    my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;

    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.


I do not know about you, but even in this pandemic I am just tired. I am mentally and physically tired because of all I have to do and I just need to rest. Though, sleeping is not enough for a full rest. I need a spiritual rest to truly bring me the rest I need. So for today's video, just relax with God. Pray if you want to, but do not force yourself to sing Just close your eyes and let go of everything. If you fall asleep, then let it happen (unless you have work or an important appointment, then make an alarm just in case). The lyrics to this song is in Hebrew and English, but really simple as well. It simply describes God as Holy. Just let the song help you get into a peaceful state with God and rest. Play it multiple times until you feel you ready to continue with your day.

September 22- Music Bath #2

Psalm 40:1-3


I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

    out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

    and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

    a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

    and put their trust in him.


For today's music bath you will bathe in just instrumental music and no lyrics. This video is 2 hours long, but you do not have to listen to all of it. You can start wherever you want in the video and just sit with it (I recommend at least 20 minutes). I would recommend you save this video just to have in the background in the future or to help you fall asleep. Just relax with this and meditate. Just like in the Psalm, allow God to put the song in your mouth. For some of these instrumentals you may actually know the lyrics, and that is fine. For the songs that you do not know, sing or speak your own lyrics and say what you feel. You can just think it if you do not want to sing out loud. What is important is that you allow the music to help guide you in your praise to God. Spend some time praising God today.

September 21- Music Bath #1

Colossians 3:15-17


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Yesterday we learned about the power of music with God and the true nature of worship. This week we will bathe ourselves with different music. There will be a variety of different thing we will hear so try and keep the same posture during this worship time. First, just listen to the different songs this week. Some of the songs you may not know the words or the language being spoken, but God can still move you through the songs. Second, listen to the songs multiple times. Imagine this is a bath at a spa and just sit and relax and listen to each song at least 3 times and meditate with the song. Third, this is about worshiping God so make sure that your posture is also in praising God. Worship is about praising and and giving back to God. These water baths will be relaxing and amazing for you. Do not fixate too much on the lyrics or the singers and forget that you are praising. This will happen and you will begin to analyze the songs instead of worshipping and soon you will make this exercise into a music theory class. Just bathe in these songs for the week. Today's song is a more famous song to start off. Just find a quiet place and listen to this song multiple times. Remove yourself from other distractions and just relax with God.

September 20 - Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.  I took an oath, and I will keep it. I took an oath to follow your regulations, which are based on your righteousness. I have suffered so much. Give me a new life, O LORD, as you promised. Please accept the praise I gladly give you, O LORD, and teach me your regulations.  I always take my life into my own hands, but I never forget your teachings.  Wicked people have set a trap for me, but I have never wandered away from your guiding principles.  Your written instructions are mine forever. They are the joy of my heart. I have decided to obey your laws. They offer a reward that never ends. 

September 19 - Psalm 119:97:104

I love your Instruction! I think about it constantly. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies because it is always with me. I have greater insight than all my teachers because I contemplate your laws. I have more understanding than the elders because I guard your precepts. I haven't set my feet on any evil path so I can make sure to keep your word.  I haven't deviated from any of your rules because you are the one who has taught me. Your word is so pleasing to my taste buds— it's sweeter than honey in my mouth!  I'm studying your precepts— that's why I hate every false path.

September 18 – Follow Peace

John 14:25-27

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 


When Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to His disciples, notice the very next sentence – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” The Holy Spirit will take from Jesus to give to us. So whatever we receive from Him will carry peace. Look at these verses:


Romans 14:7

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,


Romans 15:13

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.


Notice again the connection between the Holy Spirit and peace. As you learn how to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, remember that. If you have a thought and you’re not sure if it is God, listen quietly inside and pay attention to peace – do you have peace and calm, and conform, when you think that thought? Does something bother you about it and make you uneasy? If it’s the second – it’s not God. He doesn’t make you fearful or nervous even when He is stern with us. As long as we are honest with our true intentions and don’t just want to have our way, peace will be our help. Wait until you find the thought, the solution, the idea that brings you peace on the inside. When we follow peace, we follow God.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 17 – The Holy Spirit Said

I’ve been saying daily that the main way we, Christians, hear from God is by the inward voice of the Holy Spirit. So today we will look at the book of Acts. Chapter 2 describes the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was fire from heaven that didn’t burn and consume, and the sound of wind, and supernatural speaking in other languages. These were the outward visible signs, but the spiritual change was that the Holy Spirit, the third person of God, came on the inside of every believer. The book of Acts continues to tell us about how the apostles and the disciples lived, how the church increased, how God’s people functioned in their transformed life. I want to emphasize the many times we see the Holy Spirit act in and through Jesus’s disciples, how active His role was, and how real His voice was to the disciples. As you read the scriptures, allow these words into your mind and heart, imagine what it was like to be there and do those things. The same Holy Spirit is on the inside of you and is ready to speak to you.


Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.


Acts 5:31-32 “God exalted [Jesus] to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 


Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 


Acts 8:17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 


Acts 8:29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 


Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 


Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 


Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.


Acts 10:44-47 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 


Acts 13:2, 4 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.


Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.


Acts 15:28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 


Acts 16:7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 


Acts 19:6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 


Acts 20:23 "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me."


--Vessie Kazachka

September 16 – Angels and Prophets

Today I want to talk about receiving a word from the Lord from angels and from prophets.


The first could also fall under the category of visions, since angels are spiritual beings and are invisible to us with our physical eyes. The Lord teaches us in Hebrews: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Heb 1:14) Angels are here to minister to the church of God. In the Old Testament, God used angels to speak to people (the angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar in Genesis chapter 16). In the new testament, we are warned to judge messages from angels, because Satan himself will transform into an angel to deceive us. Like all other communication, we must judge everything by the Bible. And like other supernatural experiences, we are not to seek them, but to know and believe that they can happen and be open to them as the Holy Spirit on the inside leads us.


Prophets are human beings with the gift, the anointing, of hearing from God on a regular basis. In the Old Testament, it was the prophet, the priest and the king of Israel that had the Holy Spirit anointing and could receive communication from God for the people. But under the New covenant, the Holy Spirit is in every one of us. In yesterday’s scripture, we see that “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:14). Any believer, who listens to the Lord and is open to it, can be given a prophetic word. In addition, the apostle Paul teaches: And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12:28) The prophet is an office in the church of God, a gift given to guide the church into the plan of God.


Sometimes a prophet or a regular believer with a word of prophecy may have something to say to us that they believe is from the Lord. The same rule applies as before: we always compare everything with the Bible, then with the character of God. I remember a few years ago a bible teacher and preacher prayed for me and then gave me a word from the Lord – most of it were good things, but there was one part that was wrong and wasn’t from God. We are to judge all prophecy. We have the Holy Spirit on the inside of us and He is to lead us into all truth. If you are given a word of prophecy and it sounds unfamiliar to you, foreign – judge it very carefully. In most cases, God will speak to you first about anything He wants you to do before He tells anyone else to speak it to you. A prophecy from God should have the familiar feeling of the Holy Spirit on the inside of you. I know I keep saying the same thing over and over, but we are His sheep and we hear His voice, and a stranger we will not follow. We can train ourselves to hear God's voice so clearly on the inside, that we never miss anything He wants to tell us.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 15 – Dreams and Visions

Acts 2:14-18

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’ ”


From ancient times God has spoken to people through dreams and vision. When we dream, we see pictures and live experiences while we are asleep. We dream every night; it is part of the working of the spirit and the mind, because they never sleep. Visions refer to seeing pictures of objects and events while we are awake. We can also do that by our imagination at will. However, sometimes those dreams and visions can be from the Lord, who is seeking to inform us about His plan.


For us as believers, there should be nothing strange about believing dreams or visions that come from a trusted source – a minister, a pastor, a prophet with proven conduct and understanding of the Bible and the Lord. The first and most important thing for us to do when we hear of a dream or vision is to compare it with scripture. Scripture is our measure to know if a supernatural dream or vision is from God. No dream or vision from the Lord will say anything contrary to the Word of God and the character of God. That’s why we must read and study the scriptures regularly.


God can give you a dream or a vision as well, but the same rule applies as with the audible voice of God – we must not seek them. If you have a dream, as soon as you wake up if you aren’t completely sure it is from God, forget about it. Remember, we are His sheep and we know His voice. If you are ever wondering if something is from God, just pray “Lord, make it clear to me that it is you” and forget about it. If it is God today, it will be God tomorrow – He will make it clear to you.


My personal understanding of visions and dreams from Bible and from observing different ministries is that again, to have these supernatural experiences, one must be a mature believer who spends much time in prayer. We aren’t to seek them, but to simply be open to them as God chooses to present them. Again, the main way the Lord speaks to us is by the Holy Spirit on the inside of us. If the Lord wishes to bring a believer into supernatural experiences, it is the Holy Spirit on the inside that will prepare your heart to understand and believe in the visions, so that when they come you are ready.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 14 – God’s Audible Voice

Exodus 19:16-19

So on the third day, in the morning, there was thunder and lightning, and a think cloud on the mountain, and the sound of an exceedingly loud trumpet. All the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and the smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him with a voice.


It is hard for me to imagine exactly what this scene looked like, but it is clear that God spoke to Moses in an audible voice. It was interesting to me, when reading the book of Israel, how often the people were afraid of God, of the smoke and fire.


We are talking about hearing from God. God’s audible voice is definitely one way He has spoken and can speak to people. It is important, however, to know that this is extremely rare, and that it is easy to be confused and miss it so we as New Testament Christians should never expect this to be the primary was God speaks to us.


Years after Exodus, in I Samuel chapter 3, the Bible describes how God called the child Samuel in an audible voice. The young Samuel heard an audible voice and thought the priest Eli was calling him. He did not recognize the audible voice of God; he didn’t have enough teaching to hear from the Lord in this way and Eli had to teach him.


When Jesus came to the earth in human form, in the gospel of John chapter 12, Jesus was speaking to his disciples and the crowds about his soon-coming death on the cross, and the Father spoke from heaven in the audible voice. Yet the people thought it thundered. John 12:28-30 "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven:"I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered, others saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes." The voice came as a sign for the people, yet they did not understand it.


The conversion of the apostle Paul is another interesting instance of God’s audible voice, this time it was Jesus speaking. Paul, called Saul at that time, was highly educated in Jewish religion, and he knew enough to recognize the presence of the Father in the light, but he didn’t know Jesus even by His voice.


The apostle John has a tremendous encounter with God when he heard the audible voice of Jesus described in Revelation chapter one (see yesterday’s post). It is important to notice that at the time John was an experienced, mature believer and leader of the church, and God could speak on his in an audible voice and be understood. But it is hard to say that John had any other such encounters in his life after Jesus’s death.


As New Testament believers today, we must know that God can speak to us in an audible voice if He chooses to, but those are very rare cases with specific purpose for the church and the plan of God. He speaks to mature believers or prophets in the church. We should not seek and strive to hear the audible voice of God, because we can be easily deceived by Satan and false voices and spirits. God leads us in our daily lives by the inward voice of the Holy Spirit. We should practice hearing that voice, and if God chooses to speak to us another way, He will make it clear to us.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 13 - Revelation 1:9-19

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,  which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”


I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 


When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."

September 12 - Psalm 118:15-29

The sound of joyful singing and victory is heard in the tents of righteous people. The right hand of the LORD displays strength. The right hand of the LORD is held high. The right hand of the LORD displays strength.  I will not die, but I will live and tell what the LORD has done. The LORD disciplined me severely, but he did not allow me to be killed.  Open the gates of righteousness for me. I will go through them [and] give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which righteous people will enter.  I give thanks to you, because you have answered me. You are my savior. 

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The LORD is responsible for this, and it is amazing for us to see.  This is the day the LORD has made. Let's rejoice and be glad today!  We beg you, O LORD, save us! We beg you, O LORD, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the LORD's house.  The LORD is God, and he has given us light. March in a festival procession with branches to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to you. My God, I honor you highly. Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

September 11 – The Voice of God

John 10:1-5

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 


Let’s summarize what we’ve talked about this week. God speaks to us. He communicates with people through language – His written word (the Bible), spoken words, or thoughts on the inside of us. His words can reach us in many different ways. God can speak in an audible voice; He speaks through dreams and visions. He can use other people – prophets, teachers or preachers. But for us today as New Testament born-again believers, He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit inside our human spirit. 


Jesus is our door to the Father. When we believe his sacrifice and submit to Him as our Lord, He recreates our dead spirit into a living spirit just like God’s. And God Himself in the face of the Holy Spirit comes to live on the inside of us. We read yesterday how the Father has given everything to Jesus, and He speaks His directions to us through the Holy Spirit.


If I have to describe how I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit on the inside, I’d say it sounds like an extra timbre added to my own internal voice. We all know how our thoughts sound in our mind. To use a music example, let’s say I sound like a flute. When I think, I hear the sound of a flute. But when I think a thought that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me, it sounds like a flute and an oboe added to it playing in unison. The Spirit’s voice has a timbre that’s recognizable and once we get used to it, we can hear it clearly every time.


How do we get to a place where we can hear God’s voice to clearly? It takes practice. Keep in mind the promise in the verses above – “my sheep know my voice and a stranger they will not follow.” The first step to learning to hear from God is honesty. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. God knows everything about us and there’s no way we can play games with Him. To hear from Him we must be willing to be corrected if we are wrong, and we simply must love truth, we must love reality and value it about all else – above our ego, above being right, above impressing others or ourselves. Then we must read our Bible regularly – this is where we learn to tone of God’s voice. The Spirit will never guide us into anything contrary to the written word of God. Thirdly, start practicing by asking God simple things about your life. Don’t try to figure it out in your mind, just ask Him and go about your business. Your spirit will go to work and connect with the Holy Spirit on the inside to get the answer. And in a few days, in an instant you will be aware that you know the answer; you didn’t reason it out, no one told you. You just know something you didn’t know before. And you will have peace about it. Follow peace and you will always know the voice of God.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 10 – You Are a Spirit

Romans 8:16

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.


The Bible teaches that God is a spirit. (2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.) It teaches that there are evil spirits, the spirit of the world that is contrary to God, and we are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3, 1 Cor 2:12) The Bible also teaches us that we, humans, are a spirit. Christianity over the centuries has had big theological discussions about soul and spirit in a man, but please consider the following scriptures:


For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor 2:11)

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Cor 7:1)

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:23)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

The apostle Paul ends many of his letters by saying: May the grace of the Lord be with your spirit (Galatians, Philippians, 2 Timothy, Philemon). (The words for soul and spirit in both ancient Hebrew and Greek are very different - they make a great study into the nature of man.)


When Adam and Eve sinned, they, and all the humanity that they fathered, became dead spirits. They couldn’t communicate with God in the same way anymore. God is Spirit, and He communicates spiritual things. Jesus became a resurrected man for us not only to restore us from sin, but to give us God’s own nature – to make us spirits with God’s own Spirit living in us. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam (which is Jesus), a life-giving spirit. (I Cor 15:45)


When God speaks to us, His voice will come on the inside of us. The Holy Spirit hears it from Jesus and speaks it to our spirit. Jesus says: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:13,15) Just like a little child, when they are born, need to learn how to use their body – they learn they have a voice and how to speak, they learn they can control their arms and legs, they learn to walk and run, in the same way when we are born again we are babies in the spirit. We need to read the Bible and learn Godly teaching, and gradually we begin to learn how to use our spirit on the inside, how to perceive when God speaks, how to discern when an ungodly spirit is trying to influence us.


Read over the scriptures above today and decide “Do I believe I have a spirit and God speaks on the inside of me through His Spirit?” If you are not sure, stay humble before the Lord and commit to do the best you know, and ask Him to reveal to you His truth in a way that you can understand and be confident it is He that’s leading you. God is faithful to us to reveal Himself when we seek Him with our whole heart.



--Vessie Kazachka

September 9 – The Holy Spirit – Our Guide

John 14:15-17

If you love me, keep my commandments. I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever: the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.


John 14:25-26

I have spoken these things to you while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.


In the Old Testament, God spoke to people in an audible voice, in a dream, through the prophets, and through His written commandments given to Moses. (In the next few days, we will talk about this a bit more.) When Jesus/The Word came in this world in the flesh, He spoke to people face to face as a person. But today He is at the right hand of the Father in heaven interceding for us. Before He was crucified and left this earth, Jesus instructed His disciples about how He will be speaking to them under the New Covenant.


Previously, God’s words to us came from the outside, but today, He speaks to us from the inside. God’s Spirit lives inside us, in our spirit. Jesus specifically describes how we will be hearing from the Father – the Holy Spirit will be inside us, He will teach us everything AND REMIND us of what Jesus has told us. To be reminded of something means something we already know and are familiar with it will be brought to our attention again. Like thinking of an old memory again because of something you saw or heard. Jesus also said the Spirit will teach us.


How does that practically work for us today? As a believer, the most important thing is to read our Bible daily. That’s how we learn the tone of God’s voice and His character. Then we must learn to recognize our spirit on the inside of us – we are a born-again spirit – this is something Jesus did for us in the new covenant that didn’t exist before.


For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of slavery again to fear. But you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:14-16)


God’s voice today will most often come from the inside of us, like a thought that sounds similar to our thoughts – because as children of God we have His nature. And often it will remind us a scripture or teaching we know. Another indispensable part of this is listening to Godly, biblically sound preaching and teaching. Bible teachers and preachers are gifts of God to us. They carry a special anointing to explain and interpret the Bible, and we learn about God, His character, and His commandments by listening to Godly teaching on a regular basis.


If you are not sure if a teaching is Biblically sound, ask God to guide you. I’ve done that several times in my life and God has guided me to great ministries that have taught me how to live as a Christian.


Today, examine you daily and weekly time with God. Do you read your Bible every day? Do you expect God to reveal new truths to you while you read? Do you listen to Bible teaching on a weekly basis? If not, think and plan how to change your routine to include those in your life. If yes, thank God and ask Him to make this time even more fruitful. Hearing God’s voice brings joy and peace.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 8 – Jesus is The Word

John 1:1-4, 14, 18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth... No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.


Jesus Christ is the Word of God, who made God known to people as the Son of God. I know this is very basic knowledge for Christians, but I believe it is always good to review the basics. Words, the Words of God are one part of our triune God. When God communicates with us, He uses words. Words that create pictures and connections in our minds and hearts. 


God doesn’t communicate with us through sensations like goosebumps or physical sensation of warmth nor through emotions like excitement or fear (although these might be involved when we are in His presence). He communicates with us through words and thoughts. Emotions have their part in our lives, but God doesn’t give us emotions to communicate with us. He gives us thoughts and words, and these thoughts and words can prompt emotions in us to help guide us. Neither does God communicate with us through circumstances. What happens or doesn’t happen around us can confirm something God already communicated through words and thoughts, but the Bible, particularly the New Testament, doesn’t teach that circumstances in themselves are God speaking to us. (God willing I will speak more about that later.) God has a voice and He uses words to communicate with us.


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)


To build a solid life, we must hear God’s words first. The implication is that we can comprehend what these words mean. Like Jose spoke to us last week, reading the Bible – which is Jesus Himself - is one of the best ways to get to know the voice of God. It is like reading a personal letter from someone. You learn their tone, their style. Then when you speak to them on the phone or in person, you recognize that same voice.


Today think about how you expect to hear from God. Do you expect a thought, do you expect to recognize that thought as sounding just like your Bible? Do you expect an emotion or a circumstance? Why do you expect to hear from God this way? Use today as self-examination. Don’t think “Am I hearing rightly or wrongly?” Just note the different ways you think you have heard from God in the past. As we keep talking about it, check to see if you can find Biblical examples of that in the passages I talk about or in your own reading. God is a God who wants to be known by us – He sent His word – His son – to teach us about himself. Be confident that hearing from Him isn’t difficult, even if it takes practice.


--Vessie Kazachka

September 7 – God Speaks

Genesis 1:27-28

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


Our God is a God who speaks. He created the universe by speaking, then He created men and the first thing He did was speak to them. From his very creation, man was a being that could communicate intelligently with God – could hear God, understand what was said, answer back, and freely exchange ideas and feelings with Him.


Noah was a just man and blameless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God. … So God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence… Make an ark of cypress wood for yourself”… Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis chapter 6)


Several generations after Adam and Eve, we see God speaking to Noah. God told him something He would do and gave him instructions about something Noah should do. Noah understood Him and did it. The same thing happened to Abraham: 


Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your family, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you”… So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him. (Genesis chapter 12)


Today this often sounds to us like something that could only happen in the distant past, almost like a fairy tale. When was the last time you spoke to a Christian friend of yours and they told you “God instructed me to do this”? Not only is it extremely rare, but many Christians often laugh at people who claim to have heard God speak to them. Why? Don’t we believe God speaks? Now, I’m fully aware that many people claim God told them many silly and ridiculous things. Don’t forget that there is an enemy of God called Satan, who works very hard to deceive us. He intentionally creates situations where God’s words or His speaking is mocked just to have us pull away from the very reality of God speaking to us so that we don’t end up being laughed at. We don’t want to be deceived. But we don’t want to back away from truth just because this truth is uncomfortable either.


Please read the verses above again. Do you actually believe God spoke to these men and they heard and understood Him? Do you believe God wants to speak to you the same way? If you don’t, ask God to help your unbelief. Ask Him to open your heart and mind to believe His words just as He intended them. And then start getting knowledge and understanding. Read the first 5-6 or 10 chapters of Genesis and write down how many conversations God had with all the different people mentioned there. If we want to hear from God (another way of saying getting wisdom from God for our life) we must be convinced that God speaks to all people and that we are perfectly equipped and capable of hearing from Him.


On this devotional, I'd love to hear what you think about this topic. Any brave reader, please use the connect form on the website and let me know what you think about God speaking to you today. Thank you!


--Vessie Kazachka

September 6- Mathew 7: 24-27

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

September 5- Proverbs 1

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;

    for understanding words of insight;

for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,

    doing what is right and just and fair;

for giving prudence to those who are simple,

    knowledge and discretion to the young—

let the wise listen and add to their learning,

    and let the discerning get guidance—

for understanding proverbs and parables,

    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

September 4- Next Steps in Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom

Proverbs 2


My son, if you accept my words

    and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

    and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

    and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

    and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

    and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.


He holds success in store for the upright,

    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just

    and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just

    and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,

    and understanding will guard you.


Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,

    from men whose words are perverse,

who have left the straight paths

    to walk in dark ways,

who delight in doing wrong

    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

whose paths are crooked

    and who are devious in their ways.

Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,

    from the wayward woman with her seductive words,

who has left the partner of her youth

    and ignored the covenant she made before God.


Surely her house leads down to death

    and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

None who go to her return

    or attain the paths of life.

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good

    and keep to the paths of the righteous.

For the upright will live in the land,

    and the blameless will remain in it;

but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

    and the unfaithful will be torn from it.


This is the verse we started with int he week. Look at it now and see if the verse is different with the definitions of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Now that we have gone over knowledge, understanding and wisdom, how do we incorporate all 3 and what are the next steps (ironically, we are asking about wisdom on what to do with wisdom). Again, the key is that you need to be active in your faith. Unfortunately, without effort, you will not attain any of the three. If you sit around hoping to gain knowledge, then I can guarantee you will not gain it.


Commit yourself to read a specific book in the Bible (I will say that you should not try Revelations). Look up the background to the book: who is it written to, who is it written by, when was it written and how is book written? I am asking you to try an in-depth bible study on a book. Gather all the knowledge that you can before you read and then read one chapter a day or a couple verses. This does not have to be super structured, I just want you to be more intentional in your reading. Before you begin your reading, take some time to pray and ask God to help you with understanding and ask God for their wisdom on the verses. Do not read just to read, pay attention to the words and the structure and the people.


My goal for the week was to have you increase your intentionality in your growth in faith. We are all at home away from people during this pandemic, and the truth is that our faith and growth is on us for right now. Take this time to dive into scripture and really learn and grow. This is not about checking off reading on your to-do list, this is about letting scripture truly transform your life. When you engage with the scripture, then it will engage back. Read a book that you are not familiar with or read a Gospel more intently. What are the things from Jesus that you are not aware of or have missed? It is you and God right now, and maybe a limited amount of people around. Who else is better to learn from than God? Remember how in the Great Commission that Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations and teaching them in the ways of the Lord? Well, we need to teach ourselves first before we can teach others. It would be good to have formal training or classes, but that does not mean you cannot learn on your own. You will be surprised to see how much understanding and wisdom you can attain from just reading scripture. Challenge yourself!

September 3- Wisdom

James 1:5:


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you


Alright, we are finally at wisdom. After you have gathered all your knowledge, and then created an understanding, it is now time for you to take the next step. Wisdom is essentially gathering all your understanding and determining how to use it and what to do next in your life. You gain wisdom from reading and your experiences and helps you in figuring out what is wrong or right or helping you avoid mistakes or allow you to help others. It is something that is acquired.


How does one acquire wisdom? First, it is clearly written in the Bible that wisdom does come from God, so it is something you can ask God for. I am sure that most of your prayers are asking God for wisdom on what to do next. When you pray though, specifically ask for the wisdom from God. Be demanding and specific on what you need wisdom for. Ask that you do not just lean on your own understanding and wisdom, but that the greater wisdom of God would be revealed to you. Second, you have to get to know God better. That means reading a lot more and increasing your knowledge and understanding of God and Jesus. You need to see the wisdom of God and Jesus in action in the scriptures as a model. Want to gain wisdom on how to treat others? Read the Gospels and Jesus will show. You always want your wisdom to be in line with the scriptures and the character of God which means you need to get know God better. Third, you need to fear God.


Psalm 111:10 -“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”


Have you ever thought about fearing God? Most people do not fear God and see God more as a vending machine or a comforter. They seem to forget the power God has and the fact that he is the ultimate judge of our lives. If you cross God then you have an eternal punishment. When you truly fear God, you choose to live your life Holy, avoid sin and follow all of God's command. You have so much respect for God and their authority, that you want to do what pleases God. Learning and choosing to do what is right for God is wisdom.


To seek to do what is right is at the heart of wisdom. You may not always get it right, but if you are whole heartily trying to do good in your life, then you will learn what is right and wrong and what is sin. Your journey with goodness will never lead you to the wrong path in wisdom. Wisdom, along with most things with God, is not a destination but a journey. Until you reach Heaven, you will never get to state where you will accumulate all the wisdom in the world, but you will increase your wisdom over time. Lastly, you gain wisdom from other people. Obviously God's wisdom is above our wisdom, but the wisdom of other's is still valuable. Speak to the leaders at Union or leaders in your life that you trust and ask for their wisdom. Ultimately, the wisdom you accumulate is meant for others just as much as it is meant for yourself. Others will go through pain, suffering, hurt, joy and other situations so that they can impart their wisdom to you. Seek that wisdom, or share your wisdom with others. You should always seek to increase your wisdom at all times.


-Jose Beltran

September 2- Understanding

Proverbs 14- 29


Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.


Let us look today at what to do with all the knowledge you have accumulated, which is understanding. Imagine yourself as a scientist and you have you have collected all your samples and data and you ave finished running all your tests and experiments. Now it is time to draw your conclusions on all the data you collected. Understanding is where you begin your interpretation of the scripture or situations around you. Let us practice with a verse that most people do not have the proper understanding for, Jeremiah 29:11-13:


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 


First, let us gather some knowledge with this verse. Let us first look at the Biblical context on the pages of the bible. What that means is what comes before and what comes after. Let me show you what verse 10 says before this.


This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.


We can see that God is not speaking to one person, but a group of people and that is the Israelites. If we look at the Israelites during this time, then we would learn that they are in captivity now and they have been waiting for liberation from God. God here tells them that they will continue in captivity for another 70 years and then God will liberate them, and then follows with that verse that is quoted so often. So, when we put all the knowledge together, we can start the understanding process. The truth about this verse is that it is not mean to be used for a single person, and honestly, it is not really meant to be used in a way that God will take away suffering. This verse is meant for the Israelites specifically and not really meant to be extrapolated to us, but let us try anyways.


God says here, that he has plans for the Israelites, but they must continue to suffer before the right time for the liberation. In even the prior verses, God tells them in the midst of their suffering, they also needed to bless Babylon who is their captor. Only after they successfully bless their city and wait, will God reveal his plans. Is it bad to say this verse to others in need? Not necessarily, as long as the understanding is correct. God does have plans for us when times are rough, but we may have to suffer before those plans are revealed to us. Again, we are not the intended audience to this prophecy, but we can get an understanding of God's character. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that our walk with God will be easy, in fact this verse and what Jesus asks for us in the New Testament tell us that it will be a difficult journey but rewarding. This new understanding of this verse does change this verse for us, but it does not change who God is and what God has done.


This is why it is important that you properly gather all the knowledge that you can, because you want to get the proper understanding of verses and the true nature of God. We do not want to give others wrong interpretations and false beliefs about God. The best way to gain the skill of understanding is to actually read what others have said about the verses. There are Bible Commentaries which are interpretation, commentary and understandings of verses from scholarly people. You can google "Jeremiah 29:11 commentary" and you will find a vast amount of commentaries for this verse. These commentaries will interpret the verses based on their own knowledge collection and reading different commentaries will help you gain better understanding. Another way to increase understanding is to process the verses and knowledge with others. share what you have gathered and learned and how you understand the verse. It is good for processing internally in your mind, but perhaps the other person has their own understanding or knowledge that you do not have. The key is that understanding comes from being active in your reading and wanting to learn. You cannot simply gather the knowledge and repeat it.


Take some time today to read your favorite verse. I want you to gather all the knowledge you can for the verse and then use that knowledge to understand the verse. Does it change what you believe about that verse? It may or may not, but do this exercise to practice and tomorrow we will look at widsom.


-Jose Beltran

September 1- Knowledge

Proverbs 18:15


An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.


With knowledge, wisdom and understanding, there is definitely an ascending order. At the base is knowledge. Knowledge is quite simply the facts and the data that you gain from reading, research, experience, observations or from lessons. It is also the base at what most believers lack in the beginning of their faith. They have an experience with God and choose to enter a relationship with God, then they are exposed to the Bible and the church and they soon learn that they are missing a lot of facts. They simply just do not have the knowledge, and must accumulate the knowledge on their own.


A lot of believers skip over knowledge and jump straight to wisdom and understanding. The problem with this, is that their interpretation may be wrong because they are not aware of the actual facts. They just follow what others do or say without their own investigation. For example let us look at the Great Commission.


Mark 28: 18-19: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 


This is repeated a lot by people in the church and it is important, but no the whole story. Here is verse 20


and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


People seem to leave that part of the commission out for some reason, but if you did not actually know the verse yourself, your understanding and interpretation of the commission is altered. With the full verse, it is not just about going out and preaching the Gospel and having people accept Jesus, but there is an intentional aspect that we must provide to their growth as well.


You need to get the facts for yourself first and not rely on others. Others have great input and you should respect and listen, especially if it is from the pastor. There is a reason why scripture is read before the message, it is to show where the interpretation comes form. When you hear something from others, you need to go and do your own research and verify for yourself that it is correct. Even for these devotionals, we provide the verses and I challenge you to verify what we are saying is in line with scripture. How do you gain knowledge? You have to read and do your own research, it is that simple. You need to commit to read your Bible regularly and consistently. If you are having trouble then think about getting another devotion on the side or looking one on the internet that has your read the Bible or books in the bible for a certain period. You can look for a topical devotion as well that will give you verses to read each day based on a certain topic or idea.


The other facts you need to gather is context and language. We will discuss more later in the week, but you read and interpret scripture based on your current experience, language and culture. The bible has been translated for us today, but along the way words have lost their meanings because there is no direct translation to today's language. Let me provide you some resources that will help you gain more knowledge.


1.) Blue Letter Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/). This website is awesome and will take you some time to understand and use properly. Put in any verse and there are different tools to use to help you gain more facts and increase your knowledge. Specifically you can see the original Greek or Hebrew words from the verses to give you a better definition of the words.


2.) Bible Dictionaries (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/). Have you read the Bible and read about groups of people or certain things that you had no idea what they were and you just glossed over them? A bible dictionary will greatly help you. Literally anything in the Bible has a definition so you do not have to wonder anymore. Do not skip words because you do not know what they are, take the time to learn.


3.) Google it! This is more specifically for learning the historical or cultural context of a book or a verse. Simply type in Google "What is the context or background of the book of Mark". What you will learn is that the book of Mark was written primarily to a Roman audience so to gentile believers. The book is not meant to be a historical book but more of the story of Jesus and his rise as the Messiah. Having that in the back of your mind alters the facts you retrieve from reading.


There are countless different resources, but the all have one thing in common, and that is that you have to put in the work. If you want to gain the knowledge, then you will gain it


-Jose Beltran

August 31- Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding

Proverbs 2


My son, if you accept my words

    and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

    and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

    and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

    and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

    and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.


He holds success in store for the upright,

    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just

    and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just

    and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,

    and understanding will guard you.


Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,

    from men whose words are perverse,

who have left the straight paths

    to walk in dark ways,

who delight in doing wrong

    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

whose paths are crooked

    and who are devious in their ways.

Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,

    from the wayward woman with her seductive words,

who has left the partner of her youth

    and ignored the covenant she made before God.


Surely her house leads down to death

    and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

None who go to her return

    or attain the paths of life.

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good

    and keep to the paths of the righteous.

For the upright will live in the land,

    and the blameless will remain in it;

but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

    and the unfaithful will be torn from it.


For this week we will look at the difference between knowledge, wisdom and understanding. This will be important because there are all things you can pray for and receive from God. It is important to understand the difference because you need to know where specifically you are deficient. We will begin the definitions tomorrow, but I want you to review this verse and read it at least 3 different times (you can try morning, afternoon and night).


Today is simple, just try and soak in this passage today and meditate on it. See if you can make your own definitions on the difference between the 3 on your own. Also, pay attention to the words in this Proverb and see the results of these 3 different things. There is power to these 3 words, and gaining more information on these 3 will greatly impact how to handle studying in the future.


-Jose Beltran

August 30- Psalm 51: 1-6

Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

    blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

    and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

    and done what is evil in your sight;

so you are right in your verdict

    and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,

    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;

    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

August 29- Psalm 95: 1-7

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,

    the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,

    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,

    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

for he is our God

    and we are the people of his pasture,

    the flock under his care.

August 28- Reversing Inaction

Mathew 25: 31-46


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.


“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’


“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’


“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’


“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


This week we have talked about different attitudes and postures to have before God and in your prayer time. This verse clearly states that we are accountable for our actions, but also our inactions. Obviously we will not be held accountable to every single inaction in our lives, but what is important is that you cannot spend your life not doing anything. You may spend your whole life only reading scripture, praying and constantly bring yourself before God. Those are all good, but at the end of life, God will still call you a goat. It is clear here that we are called to spread the kingdom of God and to help all those in need. If you spend your whole life only focused on yourself then it will not end well for you in the end.


This verse is harsh but also simple. Jesus is saying that he is with those on the margins, and what you do for them you are also doing for Jesus. This is how he qualifies those who get to spend eternal life with Jesus. You need to orient yourself and your attitudes to be more outward focused. There are people in need in your lives that you want to help but you have not done simply because you have forgotten or simply because you have just not done it. Do it now! When you see someone on the streets in need, think about helping before you walk away.


You cannot ignore those in need. You cannot ignore Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We cannot ignore the resources that God has provided in our lives. God blesses you to be a blessing on others and if you focus on only blessing yourself, then you will have no excuse when Jesus calls you a goat. There is no excuse. You are either a sheep or a goat. To be a sheep means dedicating your life to others. Do not focus on doing more actions, instead focus on reversing your inactions.


-Jose Beltran

August 27- Desperation

Mark 5: 24-34


A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.


At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”


It is in our desperation that we seek out God the most. This woman suffered for twelve years with this condition. Twelve Years! For all those years people avoided her so that they would not become unclean. For those years, she probably went to different temples hoping to be healed. She scavenged through the crowd of people just to get close to Jesus. She thought, even if she just touched his clothes that she would be healed.


We need to have the same posture when it comes to our prayer life and interactions with God. We should think that even if we just got a little close to God that we can be healed or that our prayers will be answered. This woman saw her opportunity and she took it. She did not care what others thought about her in the moment and her goal was to have an encounter with Jesus. We need to have the same mentality as this woman and do whatever we need to get closer to Jesus. We need to depend on God and pray to God as if our lives were on the lines. We should come desperate to God with the belief that God is the only one who helps our situation.


It is really easy for us to say a prayer just to say a prayer, but can you remember the times where you were most desperate and fell on your knees to God? It could have been when you lost your job, when someone close to you died or when you were in serious danger. At that moment, life is out of your control and you may have even begged to God for help. Can you have that same posture in your prayers now? That feeling of desperation, of knowing you are not in control of the situation and begging for a miracle. This woman spent 12 years suffering and took her opportunity when she finally had the chance, and now, you have access to God through the Holy Spirit at any time and voluntarily choose not to be in a relationship with God. If this woman watched us during the 12 years she suffered, what do you think she would say to us? She would be mad and say something like "You have access to the Almighty One and you are not even using it".


Change your physical posture when you pray. God does not listen to you more, but you are more committed when you change your posture. Get on your knees or even go outside and yell out to the sky. Make God know how you really feel. Do not be polite with God and be real. Is your life going terribly, then let God know and then ask for help. Do you hate your job and it is hurting you, then yell that to God too. Open up your heart and realize that God is your only hope. Be like this woman and think that maybe if you just read something in the bible that you will gain some revelation, or if you are silent for long enough that God would speak to you, or if you keep committing to praying for something that it will be answered. This woman hoped that just a little of Jesus would heal her and you need to have the same hope. Be desperate for just a little bit of Jesus and I guarantee you that even amid the crowd, that Jesus will see you and free you of your suffering.


-Jose Beltran

August 27- Removing Judgement of Others

Luke 15: 1-10


Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”


Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.


“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


This verse shows just how much disconnect there was between the Pharisees and Jesus. Again, during this time, a lot of negative aspects of life were seen as unclean. In this case, sinners were seen as unclean. For most people, associating with unclean people made you unclean and they made efforts to avoid them. Pharisees took it to a whole different level though and did not want to even be in the same area as unclean people. To them, it was a death sentence to even be in the same breath as these people. They wonder among themselves how Jesus, who is supposed to be a teacher, even share a table with them. Jesus would be unclean in their eyes. Jesus challenges their thinking and tells them these 2 parables. He tells them that God is looking for the lost and rejoices when they are together again. These Pharisees find joy thinking that sinners are punished eternally. They do not care for their neighbor or brother and devote their whole lives to keep themselves clean.


There are 2 takeaways from these verses. First, you need to remove your judgment of others. Yes, it is OK to acknowledge the sin of others and it is good to tell them about so that they may repent, but you cannot make a judgment on them. Only God can. These Pharisees followed all the rules so precisely and absurdly. They believed that they were truly on a different level than others and that they were free of sin. Unfortunately, no one is free of sin and no one person is above another. Remember, you must remove the plank in your eye before you remove the speck from someone else's eye. When you have a judgment of others you will also develop resentment towards them. The goal is that everyone gets into Heaven, but when you have judgment and resentment, you may start to see that you want others to go to Hell because they deserve it. You should want to see all the people around you in Heaven with you.


Second, you need to be actively doing your part to help people come to Jesus. Let me be clear, you are NOT saving anybody as you do not have that power or authority. Only God can judge and save. Though, you can do your part to help people find God or get closer to God. There is a table waiting for those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior and our job is to tell people the good news. God rejoices for even just one person who repents and there are literally thousands of people around you. Tell people your story and what you believe. Give people scripture that intrigues them to look it up or continue to read. Leave behind a kind note on the door of your neighbors. I am not even telling you to go out and ask people to repent, I am just asking you to spread some seeds. Not everyone will respond to what you do, but as long as one person is transformed int heir lives or they begin a journey with Jesus, then there will be a party in Heaven. Do not keep this joy and message to yourself. Give it to others and let God do their part in bringing those people into the kingdom.


-Jose Beltran

August 25- Getting Others to Jesus

Mark 2: 1-12


A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”


Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”


Today's scripture challenges us to bring the needs of others to Jesus and taking risks for them. During this time, when Jesus preached in a home, it was not just Jesus preaching to a family in a living room. Every single space in the home and outside was packed and filled. Also remember, that during this time, someone with a disability was considered unclean and making contact with that person also made you unclean. Here we have 4 friends who are already taking the risk of becoming unclean in front of the public just to bring their friend to Jesus to be healed? They were not going to stop until they got their friend to Jesus. Their friend was also paralyzed, so he had no control of anything occurring. These men were so committed that they climbed the roof just to drop their friend in front of Jesus, and to their faith, Jesus healed the paralyzed man. It was their Collective Faith that healed their friend. The four men had faith that Jesus would heal, but the paralyzed also had the same faith as well and trusted his friends to take care of him.


We need to have the same attitudes and beliefs with those who are close to us. In the same way we learned about having urgency yesterday, we need to have the tenacity that these friends had. We need to do whatever it takes to get those close to us in front of Jesus just to have an opportunity for healing. What does this mean practically for us? You need to ask others for prayer and do your best to not take no for an answer in a respectful way. First of all, everyone needs prayer, so nobody should ever say that they do not prayer. Press further if they say no and ask if they want prayer for specific things (health, family finances, work, etc). If they are still reluctant then tell them about the power of Jesus and that prayer works. You are praying for them because you believe that Jesus can work miracles in their lives and you want them to experiences those miracles. You can even tell them about this verse for some perspective.


More importantly, this verse shows us what we should do for those in dire needs. We need to bring a collective group together and pray for them and bring them to Jesus. The key here is that the group is not doing the saving or curing or fixing the situation, they are bring the issue to Jesus and allowing Jesus to redeem. You need to have friends who are willing to take risks for you and pray for whatever needs you need and who are willing to lift you when you cannot move. What I am saying is that you need to develop a prayer network of friends who you trust and who you know will pray for you on the spot if asked. Or, you need to develop a network of people who want to get to that place. Faith is a journey and not a destination. You grow in faith and you learn to take risks and to pray bigger and with boldness as you develop in faith.


Obviously during this pandemic you should not see people in person, but that does not mean you cannot contact people. Make a phone call, email, text or whatever method you have to ask others to be your prayer partners. Check in on each other occasionally to see how each other is doing and continuously ask each other for prayer requests with the condition that no one can never say no to prayer. Even the smallest thing in your life means a lot to God, why hold that back from God? You also need to establish trust within the network. It is perfectly acceptable and customary to keep confidentiality of prayers which will only further build trust. Let these people be your first response in dire needs and pray in groups. Things can dramatically change in your life, and it is possible that situations can emotionally and spiritually drain you tot eh point where you may not have the motivation to prayer or the faith to pray. This is when you need your friends to carry you to Jesus.


If you do not have someone to contact or are having trouble finding someone to contact then click on this link https://unionchurchla.org/prayer-request. In the prayer request, say that you are looking for someone to pray for you. It is best to talk to people who already know you well, but do not let that be a deterrent for you if not possible. We will try our best to help you and even contacting with us a is already a big leap in faith and trust.


-Jose Beltran

August 24- Priority and Urgency

John 2: 1-10


On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”


“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”


For this week we will look at the posture and attitudes of different people towards Jesus and how that can help us in our daily lives and in our prayer lives. Today's verse is the first miracle that Jesus performs and it seems pre-mature. Jesus states to Mary that it is not yet his time to reveal himself as the Messiah, yet he still performs this miracle. Jesus is perfectly right to ask the question to Mary of why having no wine is his concern. During this time, not having enough wine for guests is a big issue and ruins the reputation of the party hosts. Why did Mary ask Jesus for help?


There is a problem and Mary immediately goes to Jesus knowing that he can help and also confident that he will help. We need to have the same priority and urgency when it comes to our own problems. How many times has something bad happened to us or there is something that we need prayer for.....and we choose to wait to pray? The way we pray seems so unproductive at times. We do this with people we know as well. They tell us something they need prayer for, and instead of praying for them on the spot, we assure them that we will pray for them later. Imagine your car beaks down in the middle of the freeway. You do not leave your car and come back to fix it later, no, we make the calls to get the car towed or for someone else to help us out.


I challenge you to increase the urgency in your prayers today and during this week for practice. Whenever you need to pray for something, just stop and take a minute to pray for it. Do not wait for later or even a designated prayer time you may have already established. Those times are not bad, and if anything, you should just pray again during that time. You need to have confidence in God and you need to show God that you acknowledge their authority. As you practice this posture and grow in this posture, I guarantee that you will see a change in your prayer life and even a growth in boldness. When you practice being urgent and prioritizing God, that will overflow when you pray for others. You will speak to someone and they may lose their job, and immediately you will stop the conversation and ask to pray for them. Pay attention and you will see yourself spontaneously pray more if you practice this posture.


-Jose Beltran

August 23 - Psalm 147

 Praise the Lord! It is good to sing praise to our God; it is pleasant and right to praise him. The Lord is restoring Jerusalem; he is bringing back the exiles. He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. He has decided the number of the stars and calls each one by name. Great and mighty is our Lord; his wisdom cannot be measured. e raises the humble, but crushes the wicked to the ground. 


Sing hymns of praise to the Lord; play music on the harp to our God. He spreads clouds over the sky; he provides rain for the earth and makes grass grow on the hills.  He gives animals their food and feeds the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in strong horses, nor his delight in brave soldiers; but he takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love. 


Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!  He keeps your gates strong; he blesses your people. He keeps your borders safe and satisfies you with the finest wheat. He gives a command to the earth, and what he says is quickly done.  He spreads snow like a blanket and scatters frost like dust. He sends hail like gravel; no one can endure the cold he sends!  Then he gives a command, and the ice melts; he sends the wind, and the water flows. 


 He gives his message to his people, his instructions and laws to Israel. He has not done this for other nations; they do not know his laws. Praise the Lord!

August 22 - Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 


It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 


It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

August 21 – Love and Forgiveness

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.


1 John 3:23

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He commanded us.


Mark 11:22-25

Jesus responded to them, "Have faith in God! I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea'—and doesn't waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen. Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings."


Believing in the name of Jesus – who He is and what He did for us on the cross – gets us into the New Covenant of God. Loving each other keeps us in the covenant.


Our culture today emphasizes that all men are brothers, and that we all have to love and tolerate everyone around us. However, here Jesus specifically talks about loving other disciples – other believers in Him. God loves all people; He is good and has no ill will towards anyone and doesn’t harm anyone. But He is in covenant with those who believe in Jesus and love Him, and God protects us and helps us because of this. He is not obligated to just any person on earth, He is obligated to His body.


The same is true for us. We must not hate or harm anyone around us, whether Christian or not. Yet we are in covenant with Jesus and His body. It is extremely important that we treat other believers with love and watch out to protect each other. Jesus takes that very seriously. 


Unforgiveness is one of the first things to look for when our prayers aren’t working. Unforgiveness is the opposite of love, and it can sneak up on us easily. It isn’t always an intense hatred or even a strong feeling. It can be as simple as avoiding people who’ve hurt you. Or if you know you’ve hurt someone, not being willing to make amends.


I encourage you today to make it a daily practice to start your prayers with examining yourself – do I practice love towards my fellow believers, is there any unforgiveness in my heart? Love towards our brothers and sisters keeps us in our covenant with God and allows Him to enter our lives and bless us so that we can do the good works He has ordained for us to do.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 20 – Jesus’s Body – The Church

I Corinthians 11:27-33

It follows that if one of you eats the Lord's bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord's body and blood. So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord's body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God's judgment. But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. So then, my friends, when you gather together to eat the Lord's Supper, wait for one another. 


This scripture talks about the Lord’s supper – the bread and wine which are the body and blood of Jesus that sealed the New Covenant. It also talks about dishonoring and not recognizing His body, which Paul explains caused many Corinthian Christians to be sick and even die. 


I’ve been writing about God’s covenant with us – how we relate to Him and He to us, and how our prayers are our way of receiving our covenant benefits. Earlier when talking about righteousness, I said that there is no curse in the New Covenant like in the Law given to Moses – we don’t get punished if we don’t perform certain actions correctly. We are in covenant because we believe in Jesus. However, in the above passage the Lord tells us that not discerning Jesus’s body we are at risk to the curse that is still in the world – we can lose our covenant benefits and get sick or die. Why is that?


I’m sure there are many layers of meanings that I don’t understand about this scripture, but the last sentence is a big key. The Corinthians were gathering for the Lord’s supper – to them that was a full dinner, not just a piece of bread and a sip of wine. Some of them were starting early, getting full and drunk, while others with less means were going hungry and ignored by the rest of the church. Paul is saying, “Wait for one another, be aware of the whole church, all your brothers and sisters. Do they need something and you didn’t notice? Are they without and you are partying?” We must be conscious of the whole church – this is the true body of Jesus. Not just our little group, but the rest of the believers in Christ in our neighborhood, city and nation. We are to treat them well, help them and honor them.


Jesus is very specific about how well we must love and treat our fellow believers. If we partake of the covenant – if we call ourselves Jesus’ followers - and mistreat His church, we are in danger of losing our covenant rights and benefits.


Today, think honestly – examine ourselves first – about how we treat our fellow believers outside of our congregation. Do we seek their best? Are we connected and how? Ask the Lord if there is something we need to correct. If we examine ourselves, we will remain in our covenant and will be kept from evil.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 19 – Led by the Spirit and Watchful

Romans 8:14

All who are led by God's Spirit are God's sons and daughters. 


1 Peter 4:7

The end of all things is near. You must be self-controlled and alert, to be able to pray.


1 Peter 5:8-9

Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings.


Today I’m writing about two things that help us as believers to live in the benefits of God’s good covenant toward us, because they are connected.


Right after the attacks on 9/11 in the US I heard people, believers and non-believers, asking the question: “Why didn’t God warn the people who were in the towers about the disaster? Why didn’t He tell them?” That’s the wrong question. This question implies that God doesn’t always speak, when the Bible clearly tells us that He is the one who initiates our salvation – He spoke to Abraham, He spoke to Moses, He spoke to the apostle Paul, He seeks laborers for the ripe fields. The questions also implies that people will always hear and obey God. But that is not true either, because the gospels tell us that when the Father spoke from heaven at Jesus’s water baptism, the people said, “It thundered.” And let’s not count how many times people flat out disobeyed God’s instructions when they clearly knew them. So the question isn’t “Why didn’t God warn them?”; the question is “When God spoke to them, why didn’t they hear, and why didn’t they obey?”


The Biblical solution and help for us in these situations is the leading of the Spirit and our watchfulness – our awareness to Him. To be sons and daughters of God means to think and act like Him. We learn that by reading and studying the Bible, but in the specifics of our daily lives – need of a job, which house to choose, which car to buy, which university or church to attend – in these decisions we must be led by the Spirit of God. It is our responsibility to learn how to hear His voice and to always make the time to ask Him for guidance and wait for His answer. (There is plenty of teaching available on how to be led by the Spirit.)


A second part to this is being watchful, alert (sober in the King James Bible language) to the fact that there is an enemy who is trying to deceive us. We must intentionally seek God’s advice and read our Bible every day, because through it the Spirit reminds us of God’s character and instructions. When we perceive that the Spirit is guiding us in a direction or warning us about something, then we must pray about it to God according to the leading of the Spirit. Just hearing a warning isn’t enough. We must ask the Father the protect us from the threat and guide us into safety.


Make time in your daily prayers to ask God to hear His Spirit, His guidance and His warnings, and be quick to follow His instructions. If you make it a daily habit to pray, you will be surprised how soon you will see changes in that area in your life.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 18 – Renew Your Mind

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


The second part of receiving the good, pleasing and perfect will of God in the above verse is our transformation by the renewing of our minds. That simply means to start thinking in a different way. Years ago, when I wasn’t sure if God will help me in my needs, when I needed knowledge of His will and confidence in my prayers, I had to search for good biblical teaching that emphasized a number of scriptures in the New Testament. The above verse was one, others were:


Ephesians 1:15-19

I [Paul], too, have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people. For this reason I never stop thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers. I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. Then you will have deeper insight. You will know the confidence that he calls you to have and the glorious wealth that God's people will inherit.  You will also know the unlimited greatness of his power as it works with might and strength for us, the believers. 


Philippians 1:9-11

I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. Jesus Christ will fill your lives with everything that God's approval produces. Your lives will then bring glory and praise to God. 


Colossians 1:9-10

For this reason we have not stopped praying for you since the day we heard about you. We ask [God] to fill you with the knowledge of his will through every kind of spiritual wisdom and insight. We ask this so that you will live the kind of lives that prove you belong to the Lord. Then you will want to please him in every way as you grow in producing every kind of good work by this knowledge about God. 


I Peter 1:13-14

Therefore guard your minds, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children do not conduct yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.


These and many more scriptures taught me how to gain and keep my knowledge of God. It is our responsibility to seek to know our Father and His will. It is our responsibility to guard that knowledge against false teachers and the un-Christian world. Think about your relationship with God – have you learned something new about Him and the inheritance you have in Him this year? If not, pray Paul’s prayers for yourself on a regular basis. To live safely, successfully and for the glory of God, we must increase in our knowledge of God continually.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 17 – Do Not Conform to the Pattern of This World

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


We, as Christians, are in covenant with God. His part of the covenant is giving us eternal life, His own nature, His own spirit, erasing our sin, giving us Jesus’ own rightness with the Father, healing us, protecting us from evil, providing for our every spiritual, emotional, and material need (His good, pleasing and perfect will).


Our part of the covenant is to receive all He gives us by faith in Jesus, which means such confidence in Him, that we are completely surrendered to Him, seeking Him only about the direction of our lives, following His instructions in everything, and enduring the persecution that comes with that faith and obedience.


So why so many times do we find ourselves in places where we are not provided for, we lack, we are sick, in pain, we don’t succeed in our desires and plans? I hope after the recent devotionals you are confident that God isn’t the problem and that His covenant love is always present. So what is the problem? 


While we live on this earth, there will be challenges (the giants from our last Sunday’s sermon) because we live on earth whose god is Satan, the enemy of our Lord. We must know how to enforce our covenant and get the help we need. This week I will write about several things we can always be on the lookout for to correct in our lives. There’s no particular order to them, and this is not an exclusive list, but it is a good starting point.


To stay in fellowship with God, we must offer our bodies as a sacrifice by not conforming to this world. The world around us lies in the power of the wicked one and his desire is to separate us from God. But he can’t openly say that, we just won’t follow. So he tries to present seeming good things for us to follow, to join with the world around us, so that we can slowly shift our focus away from God and His plan. We must be vigilant to examine the culture around us, remembering that Satan is a skillful liar. We must look not only at the substance but also at the intent and manner of events and culture around us. God is good, kind, not self-seeking, generous - we must look for those attributes in everything we see and hear. We must compare everything we face with the scriptures – and not assume we know the answer, or that the answer is the obvious one. We can be easily deceived. Abraham sinned, Moses sinned, David sinned, Peter sinned – yet they were some of the most trusted and used of God men. How much more must we examine ourselves in the turbulent times that we live in.


Do not be conformed to this world! This is one of the keys in receiving the benefits of the covenant.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 16 - Psalm 25

To you, O Lord, I offer my prayer; in you, my God, I trust. Save me from the shame of defeat; don't let my enemies gloat over me! Defeat does not come to those who trust in you, but to those who are quick to rebel against you. Teach me your ways, O Lord; make them known to me.  Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love which you have shown from long ago. Forgive the sins and errors of my youth. In your constant love and goodness, remember me, Lord! 


Because the Lord is righteous and good, he teaches sinners the path they should follow. He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them his will. With faithfulness and love he leads all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.  Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins, for they are many. Those who have reverence for the Lord will learn from him the path they should follow. They will always be prosperous, and their children will possess the land.  The Lord is the friend of those who obey him and he affirms his covenant with them. 


I look to the Lord for help at all times, and he rescues me from danger.  Turn to me, Lord, and be merciful to me, because I am lonely and weak.  Relieve me of my worries and save me from all my troubles.  Consider my distress and suffering and forgive all my sins.  See how many enemies I have; see how much they hate me. Protect me and save me; keep me from defeat. I come to you for safety. 


 May my goodness and honesty preserve me, because I trust in you.  From all their troubles, O God, save your people Israel!

August 15 - Psalm 89:1-8, 15-37

O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever. I know that your love will last for all time, that your faithfulness is as permanent as the sky. You said, "I have made a covenant with the man I chose; I have promised my servant David,  "A descendant of yours will always be king; I will preserve your dynasty forever.' "  The heavens sing of the wonderful things you do; the holy ones sing of your faithfulness, Lord. No one in heaven is like you, Lord; none of the heavenly beings is your equal. You are feared in the council of the holy ones; they all stand in awe of you. Lord God Almighty, none is as mighty as you; in all things you are faithful, O Lord.


How happy are the people who worship you with songs, who live in the light of your kindness!  Because of you they rejoice all day long, and they praise you for your goodness. You give us great victories; in your love you make us triumphant. You, O Lord, chose our protector; you, the Holy God of Israel, gave us our king. In a vision long ago you said to your faithful servants, "I have given help to a famous soldier; I have given the throne to one I chose from the people.  I have made my servant David king by anointing him with holy oil. My strength will always be with him, my power will make him strong.  His enemies will never succeed against him; the wicked will not defeat him.  I will crush his foes and kill everyone who hates him.  I will love him and be loyal to him; I will make him always victorious. I will extend his kingdom from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates River. He will say to me, "You are my father and my God; you are my protector and savior.' I will make him my first-born son, the greatest of all kings. 


I will always keep my promise to him, and my covenant with him will last forever.  His dynasty will be as permanent as the sky; a descendant of his will always be king.  "But if his descendants disobey my law and do not live according to my commands, if they disregard my instructions and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish them for their sins; I will make them suffer for their wrongs.  But I will not stop loving David or fail to keep my promise to him.  I will not break my covenant with him or take back even one promise I made him. "Once and for all I have promised by my holy name: I will never lie to David. He will always have descendants, and I will watch over his kingdom as long as the sun shines.  It will be as permanent as the moon, that faithful witness in the sky."

August 14 – Know the Love

Ephesians 3:14-19

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would give you, according to the riches of His glory, power to be strengthened by His Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


The New Covenant word for hesed is agape. This is the word used in the verses above and all throughout the letter to the Ephesians; it is the word used in the Gospel of John chapters 13-15; it is the same word translated charity in 1 Corinthians 13.


God’s love toward us (as ours toward Him should be) is more than a feeling or a state of being. It is a conduct, a specific behavior, demanded by our mutual relationship. God Himself initiated this behavior and confirmed it by an oath to Abraham. He promised Abraham descendent, land, and the blessing.


All throughout the New Testament, the believer is encouraged to know God’s love, God’s truth, God’s word. We don’t receive anything from God based on our merit or actions. We receive because we are in covenant, because we believe Jesus is the Son of God.


Today and over the weekend, pray this prayer personally, substituting for you. I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would give ME, according to the riches of His glory, power to be strengthened by His Spirit in MY inner man, and that Christ may dwell in MY heart through faith; that I, being rooted and grounded in love…


To live successfully as Christians, and to be effective for the Gospel, we have to know our covenant. There’s an enemy of God in the world, who works day and night to destroy us. Our covenant – God’s conduct of good will and kindness toward us - is our protection. Determine to learn your covenant.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 13 – Love and Promise

Jeremiah 31:1-5

At the time [the return of Israel as exiles from Babylon], says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness, when I went to give Israel rest.

The Lord has appeared to him from afar, saying: Indeed, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you and you will be built, o virgin of Israel. You will again be adorned with your tambourines and shall go forth in the dances of those who make merry. You will yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy them.


The word lovingkindness in the above text is the Hebrew word hesed. In the book “Hesed in the Bible” by Nelson Glueck, it says: “In ancient Israel, as well as in ancient Arabia, a mutual relationship of rights and duties existed among the members of a family or among those who believed themselves to be of similar tribal ancestry. The family and tribal bonds were of primary importance. The members of a family or a clan were totally dependent upon one another. … In ancient Israel it appears that conduct based on relationships involving rights and duties of a family or a tribal community was called hesed.


The Strong’s Bible concordance give the definition of hesed as kindness, favor, good deed.


In our western culture, when we say God loves us, our idea of love is simply a strong emotion of desire and attraction, a feeling of pleasure. Yet our human love in selfish by nature, and it often means “I love you, so you have to please me and do what I want.” And often we have translated that to God – when we pray and are in need, God loves us, but we just don’t know if He will answer our prayers. 


In many Eastern cultures, (ancient Israel was an eastern culture), family and marriage relationships were, and still are (did you watch “Indian Matchmaking” on Netflix? ) a lot more about duty, a bond of families rather than individuals, an expectation of certain behavior rather than just strong emotions. That can also be taken to the extreme with removal of all pleasant emotions and turned into strict obedience.


The Lord’s love is the perfect combination of those. He loves us – “Indeed I have loved you with an everlasting love”, but He doesn’t stop there. Out of that love comes the conduct of kindness, favor, and good deeds toward the subject of that love – “therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you…” God has obligated Himself to us to care and protect us. He is in covenant with us and we can be assured that we won’t change His behavior toward us. If He provided for our financial needs once, He will provide every time. If He healed even one person, His will is to heal everyone. I understand that is not our reality, but the reason isn’t God’s lack of willingness or mysterious will, but the sin and darkness of the world we live in. 


--Vessie Kazachka

August 12 – The Promise

Ephesians 3:1-6

For this reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. You may have heard of the administration of the grace of God which was given me for you, how by revelation He made known to me the mystery, as I have written briefly already, by which, when you read it, you may understand my knowledge of the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel.


Like I mentioned a few days ago, a number of years ago I lost my faith in God – not in the fact that He exists (I still went to church), but that He is willing to help me, that He will answer my prayers. Things had happened in my life that I didn’t expect, that I had prayed against, yet they didn’t change, and I believed that God just didn’t want to help me. Well-meaning pastor and Christians around me also didn’t help by telling me that God’s will is mysterious, that many times we just don’t know why things happen and why He doesn’t answer our prayers, but we just have to keep believing.


I was confused. Believing simply means to have confidence, to be assured. How can I be assured that God will help me, if there is no way to know if it is His will to actually help me? I wasn’t confused that He existed, that I will be in heaven when I die, and that Jesus died for my sins. I just didn’t know how to make it until that time; how to live here on earth while everything in and around me was so difficult and I saw no way out. I remember one day just falling on my knees and simply crying to Him: “Lord, I know you are real, and I followed You because I realized You are good. I don’t know how to live my life here on earth. Please teach me and show me what I’m missing.”


So slowly over the next few years (and I’m still learning), the Lord brought teaching into my life that really solidified my faith in God – who He is, how He treats me, what I can expect when I pray and how to pray effectively. And a big part of that is understanding God’s love and God’s covenant.


I, as a believer, am an heir of God, a member of His family, and a recipient of the promise of Christ according to the above verses. What does that mean? A lot. But first, what it meant to me was the God’s will isn’t something mysterious, but that actually what was hidden in the past – Jesus coming as a man – is now revealed and that knowledge is available to me. There’s a saying in some Christian circles: Faith begins where the will of God is known. We can’t be confident (have faith) in something we don’t know. 


I encourage you today – make up your mind to desire to learn more about God’s promise to us in Christ. It will revolutionize your prayers and answers you get from them, because you will be praying in faith, knowing God is willing and able to answer your prayers.


--Vessie Kazachka

August 11 – God’s Goodness

Luke 18:18-19

A certain ruler asked him [Jesus], “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”


I find that in our culture today our concept of good is completely reversed from what the Bible says. Today we think – all people are good, we are all good, we just make mistakes that cause bad things. And when we consider all the bad things in our reality, we go: How can there be a good God, if all those bad things are happening? Look at Jesus’s answer above: No one is good, except God alone. Do we really believe that? We should. God alone is good in this world, all people and spirits that don’t come from God are not good.


Let’s look at another passage from the Bible – the letter of James to the church:

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. (James 1:13-18)


To be tempted means to have a desire to do something, usually something you know you shouldn’t do – like wanting to eat every cupcake in the bakery you walked into, knowing you shouldn’t. Well, James tells us God is not tempted to do wrong. Never is God in a situation, where a person does something – to God or to another person, and God goes: “Man, I’m so angry I really want to punch this guy, but I must be good, so I will restrain myself.” God never has a desire to do wrong; and He never changes – that is His constant nature.


And we are good only because He recreated us in His image (I talked about that when I wrote on righteousness a few weeks ago), only to the extent that we are led by His spirit and not by our sinful nature.


So I ask you today – when you go about your daily business and see some unpleasant or evil reality, and you think – why is God allowing this to happen? – remember these scriptures – God alone is good, and He is never tempted to do evil. I challenge you to change your thoughts and not blame God, but ask yourself – how can I be more like God in this situation.


--Vessie Kazachka 

August 10 – Covenant

Psalm 89:34

My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.


Recently I came across a book called “Hesed in the Bible.” Hesed is the English spelling of the Hebrew word most often translated as mercy or lovingkindness. In Psalm 25:9, Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old, the word lovingkindness is hesed.


In this book, the author writes: “hesed in the conduct required in the mutual relationship between allies. The obligations and rights acquired through a covenant are translated into corresponding actions through hesed. Hesed is the real essence of b’rith [covenant] and it can be said that it is its very content.”


Why do I talk about all these seemingly abstract things? Because I have often felt that I can’t reconcile the difficulties of my reality with this phrase that Christians use so often “God loves you, we have hope in Him.” But when I have a need and pray, and I don’t see an answer, Christians often use another phrase: “Sometimes God says yes, sometimes no, sometimes not yet.” Is that a scripture? If He loves me, why would He say No to helping me? Can I have hope if God’s answer to my prayer is No? I had to dig deep into scripture to figure out how I can keep having faith in God and get answers on how God treats me and humanity as a whole. In the next two weeks I will be sharing how I reestablished and reaffirmed my faith in God and what I learned.


A few weeks ago in our Thurday night zoom fellowship group we talked about race and ethnicity and God’s attitude towards it. One of the scriptures we read was I Corinthians 10:31-33 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, not to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things. 


In these verses Paul sums up all men as either Jews, Gentiles, or the church. The difference in these categories is their covenant with God – or their relationship with God. The Lord treats us according to a covenant - a solemn promise He made to humanity. I hope that in the next few days, as I share about God’s covenant and His covenant love to us, you will learn something new or simply renew your confidence and expectations from God. 


--Vessie Kazachka

August 9- Mathew 6: 5-14

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray:


“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’


For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

August 8- Psalm 86: 1-13

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

    for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

    save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,

    for I call to you all day long.

Bring joy to your servant, Lord,

    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,

    abounding in love to all who call to you.

Hear my prayer, Lord;

    listen to my cry for mercy.

When I am in distress, I call to you,

    because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;

    no deeds can compare with yours.

All the nations you have made

    will come and worship before you, Lord;

    they will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds;

    you alone are God.

Teach me your way, Lord,

    that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,

    that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;

    I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your love toward me;

    you have delivered me from the depths,

    from the realm of the dead.

August 7- Praying with Persistence

Luke 18: 1-8

 

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

 

“For some time, he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

 

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you; he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”


It is hard to tell someone not to give up when their prayers are not being answered. All I can tell you is that you cannot give up. I cannot tell you why your prayer is not answered yet, but I know that giving up should not be the option taken. This parable shows exactly how we should pray. Jesus is telling us that we have to be persistent and borderline annoying to God. Do know though, that God is not reluctant to answer our prayers and that there are reasons beyond our understandings for why our prayers are not answered yet. In this parable the judge is not God. The judge is just a character in the story. What Jesus is saying is if this judge will grant mercy and justice to this persistent widow, how much more will God grant to us?


There is growth in the persistence of prayer and the reality is that God is not changed with persistent prayer, but it is us who change. Again, sometimes the answers to your prayers is simply “Not yet or not now”. The other question I would ask is if you give up praying for something then what does that mean for that prayer? I am not saying that prayer is not important to you or something that is not serious, but if you are willing to give up on it then I want you to really evaluate that prayer and ask yourself why you are not persistent about it.


Here is the challenge for you. Find a note=card, or sticky note or some kind of paper and make a list (do not make it too long) of prayers that you have given up on or prayers you have now. Mark the date somewhere and place it next to your door. It needs to be secured so that it will not move (you can use a thumbtack or tape). The goal is that I want you to see this list every day and I want you to pray these things out but also physically knock on your door as you do it. I want you to pray as if you were this persistent woman and I want you to do this for at least 6 months. Knocking on the door will not do anything magical with your prayer, but the act of knocking on the door will engage you more in the prayer. Your prayers may not be answered in that time period, but I guarantee that you will change during that time.


-Jose Beltran


 

August 6- Praying in Length

Luke 6: 12


One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.


Today's devotional is very simple. We are used to getting things so quick and easily and it is being seen that people are starting to lose attention and retention time. We do the same with prayer as well. We make prayers quick because we have places to be or things to do and we choose not to devote so much time to prayer. When you read the Gospels and see different times that Jesus prays, he prays for significant amounts of time. We are talking about hours to pray.


This is today's challenge: Can you spend at least 1 hour in prayer today? You do not have to be speaking all the time during that hour as you can just be in silence, but can you keep yourself from looking at your phone. If you cannot make time for this or are making excuses on why not to do it, then ask yourself why it is that you do not want to do it. 1 hour is a lot to ask for, I know, but you need to devote significant time to be with God. It can even be at the end of your day and before you go to bed. Do not make prayer something to check off on your to-do list. See it as hanging out with God. Many of you would spend an hour to catch up with a friend over coffee, why can't you do the same for God?


-Jose Beltran

August 5- Prayer of Unbelief

Mark 9: 14-29


When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.


A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”


“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”


“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”


When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently, and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.


This father shows us a powerful prayer and petition that we can make to God that will make our prayers more effective. We need to have faith in our prayers and have the belief that God can and will answer our prayers….but what if God does not answer our prayers? This is a question that will come up constantly when we pray which will alter our faith in the prayer. Yet, this man comes before Jesus with his unbelief and asks Jesus to help him believe and you can do the same!


Here are some ways to alter your prayers that make a big difference. First, do not make your prayers ambiguous and do not ask God to maybe do things. You need to be affirmative with your prayers. You may not know it, but you may be using passive language in your prayers which may be leading to subconscious disbelief in your prayers. Do not pray to God asking if they can do it, or if they are willing to do it, pray that God will do it. For example, never pray “God, if it is possible, could you please heal my leg?” Of course, God could do it and that kind of language already brings in doubt in your prayer. Instead pray “God, please heal my leg” which has a completely different language.


Second, if you are having issues in believing that God will answer your prayer then be real with God and ask for help. Right now, if I ask you to pray for this pandemic you would have trouble believing that God can make COVID disappear overnight. The truth is that God can easily do this, but we need help to believe this. So, if you need healing but are having trouble believing then tell that to God. Now your prayer can be “God, I want you to heal my leg, but I do not have the faith to believe it, please help me believe. I want to know that you will heal me.” Letting God know that you want help believing is one small step in increasing your faith. It is difficult to silence the voice in our heads that lays down doubt in our prayers, but you can be more attentive to your prayers. I recommend that you type out your prayers or journal them and then I want you to read back your prayer. Look at the language and ask yourself if that is a prayer filled with confidence. “Anything is possible for one who believes”. It is time you start speaking like someone who believes.


-Jose Beltran

August 4- Make Your Prayer Specific

Luke 18-35-42

 

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

 

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

 

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

 

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.


During this time, someone who was blind could only beg to gain any money. They were outside of the city or placed in areas that were away from people. During that time, if someone had a disability then it must have been the result of some kind of sin. As Jesus walked towards Jericho, crowds of people were moving towards him. The blind man could not physically see, but he knew something was happening. When he found out it was Jesus who was near him, he defied all social norms and yelled for Jesus. The crowd rebuked and yelled at him because as a blind person he had no status. He was still persistent and yelled at Jesus.


Then comes one of the strangest questions from Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” This man is blind, what else could he want? It is a stupid question to ask the man as Jesus knew exactly what to do and what the man wanted, but he wanted the blind person to say exactly what he wants. Once the words came out of his mouth that he wanted to see, then Jesus healed him.


When you pray, you need to pray just as this man did. First, you need to acknowledge the power and glory of Jesus. He is so great and this world is filled with sin, that anything from Jesus is mercy. Do not pray just to pray or in vain, know that you are praying to the Almighty One who could do anything. Only Jesus can do this. Second, you need to need to tell Jesus EXACTLY what it is that you want. Sometimes there are things in our lives that we hope Jesus will fix or change or help us, yet, we never actually ask Jesus for help. In your prayers imagine Jesus in front of you and just imagine Jesus asking you “What do you want me to do for you?” Make your prayers specific, clear and direct. For example, if you are in need of finances, then do not just pray for more finances (“What do you want me to do for you?”) Instead, pray that you gain more hours, receive a raise, that another job presents itself, that your bills lower or that your expenses drop. This is the power of Jesus. When your prayers as so specific, when they come to fruition it can only be that God answered your prayer.


The crowd trued to shut this man, but he knew that there was power in Jesus. He knew that Jesus could heal him and he just needed a little nudge to know that Jesus will heal him. Even in the midst of the crowd, Jesus asked for the blind man to be brought to him. Just know, you may think that God is not listening, but even in the midst of all the people in the world, as long as you cry out to God then he will find you. Praying just like this blind man will help you in your journey to make your prayers more effective.


- Jose Beltran

August 3- True Fasting

Isaiah 58: 3-7


‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

    ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?


Read this passage more than once and really focus on the end of the passage on fasting. There are 2 main things taught with fasting today that need to be addressed. First, fasting is taught as an action taken to get a reward. Do you need a new job? Well then fast and God will provide a new job. This is NOT true. The physical act of fasting does nothing to earn you a reward. Second, fasting is taught only in the context of food. Fasting from food is the way it is seen in the Bible and the main way people fast, but you can fast from other things that is not food.


So, what is fasting and why fast? Fasting is an action and a period in which a person willingly denies themselves of something that is important to them. Most people fast just to do it and do not have a clear direction. The true intention of fasting is that as you remove something from your life that you replace that with God. Fasting does not mean that God will listen to you more or that God will provide a gift. Fasting provides more time in your life to pray and is a constant motivation for you to be in prayer.


For example, if you are in need of a job and direction in your life then you may choose to fast from eating sweets for a month (let us pretend that you really love sweets). Each time you see a sweat or are reminded that you are not eating sweats, then that is your reminder to pray and a reminder that you are fasting for a new job. It is a dedication that you want to hear from God and that you want God to lead you to your next steps. This verse shows that there is a true fast in the eyes of God. Fasting for discipline and drawing closer to God is good, but not the true fast. A true fast is denying yourself for others. We are to fast for justice and those in need. During this time, the Israelites fasted to show others that they were fasting and they fasted for selfish reasons and God is saying that their fast is useless.


Here is a challenge for the week and hopefully longer; I want you to fast this week. I want you to fast something that is important to you or something that brings great joy to you. This could be food or a specific meal, social media, sports, streaming TV and movies, video games, coffee and much more. If you are making excuses of why you cannot fast a specific thing, then that means you should most likely fast from that. I want you to fast for a specific group of people or multiple groups of people. It can be for the current racial climate, the pandemic, your family or any other group of people that are important to you. Make an effort to increase your prayer time and length for that group of people. Remember, you are denying yourself to pray for others. This should be difficult this week and when you have the urge to break your fast, remember who you are praying for and do not give up.


My hope is to increase your arsenal of prayers and to help make your prayers more effective and with meaning. While you fast this week, also be in reminder that you want to grow in prayer this week too. Use some of the prayers from last week or just be in silence. God hears your prayers! Stay strong this week.


-Jose Beltran

August 2- Isaiah 25

Lord, you are my God;

    I will exalt you and praise your name,

for in perfect faithfulness

    you have done wonderful things,

    things planned long ago.

You have made the city a heap of rubble,

    the fortified town a ruin,

the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more;

    it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will honor you;

    cities of ruthless nations will revere you.

You have been a refuge for the poor,

    a refuge for the needy in their distress,

a shelter from the storm

    and a shade from the heat.

For the breath of the ruthless

    is like a storm driving against a wall

    and like the heat of the desert.

You silence the uproar of foreigners;

    as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,

    so the song of the ruthless is stilled.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare

    a feast of rich food for all peoples,

a banquet of aged wine—

    the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy

    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,

the sheet that covers all nations;

    he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears

    from all faces;

he will remove his people’s disgrace

    from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;

    we trusted in him, and he saved us.

This is the Lord, we trusted in him;

    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain;

    but Moab will be trampled in their land

    as straw is trampled down in the manure.

They will stretch out their hands in it,

    as swimmers stretch out their hands to swim.

God will bring down their pride

    despite the cleverness of their hands.

He will bring down your high fortified walls

    and lay them low;

he will bring them down to the ground,

    to the very dust.

August 1- Isaiah 64

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

You come to the help of those who gladly do right,

    who remember your ways.

But when we continued to sin against them,

    you were angry.

    How then can we be saved?

All of us have become like one who is unclean,

    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,

    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

No one calls on your name

    or strives to lay hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us

    and have given us over to our sins.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.

    We are the clay, you are the potter;

    we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;

    do not remember our sins forever.

Oh, look on us, we pray,

    for we are all your people.

Your sacred cities have become a wasteland;

    even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation.

Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you,

    has been burned with fire,

    and all that we treasured lies in ruins.

After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back?

    Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?

July 31- Prayer Walk

The last type of prayer to try this week is a prayer walk. This type of prayer is great for those who do not want to be still or in the same position for a long period of time. Before you do this, make sure to be safe first. Wear your mask as you walk outside now and make sure to know your path that you will walk. It is hot during this time so you may not want to walk so far if there is no shade. You can try this early in the morning or later in the day.


In a prayer walk, your intention is to pray for specific spots in your walk. You can pray for your place of residence, the neighborhood, the city, a specific building, etc. You will walk and when you find a something of significance you stop and pray for it. For example, imagine you are doing a prayer walk around Union Church. First you would pray for the actual building of Union, then you would walk towards the Little Tokyo towers and stop in front of that building and pray for the residents. You may also pray for Skid Row in the same direction. Then you would walk towards the JACC Plaza and stop there to pray.


As you are walking, be observant of your surroundings and a do small prayers of things that get your attention. You can also use this time to pray for yourself. You do not have to pray out loud if you are not comfortable. You do want to have some kind of gesture or posture to engage with the prayer though. Extend your hand out to what you are praying for or even lay your hand on a building if possible. You want to be active and engaged throughout this experience. You want to pray with purpose and not just to say words. Pray for what is on your heart. Do you want to see the community changed? Do you want something to be cleaned up? Do you want to see a business succeed or grow? Just stop and pray for what is on your heart. I would recommend you bring a bible with you for inspiration and make sure to pray before you begin your walk. Pray that god may reveal certain things to you and pray that God may give you the boldness and courage to even pray out loud. Make this consistent in your prayer life and perhaps you can continue to do this walk once a week or hopefully at least once a month.


-Jose Beltran

July 30- The Examen Prayer

The Examen prayer is a type of prayer made famous by St. Ignatius Loyola who co-founded the Jesuit order. This prayer is very simple and is meant to reflect on the day. It is meant for you to see how God is working in your daily life. Sometimes our days as so packed with different things that we forget to stop and reflect on what God is doing in our lives. Do this at the end of the day. Find a place to be free from distraction and find a comfortable position or posture to pray. The prayer has 5 portions.


1.) Gratitude- What are you thankful for today? What are the the great things that God provided for you today?


2.) Petition- Ask God to give you discernment, wisdom and understanding for the day that passed. What are things that you missed? Was their something specific that God wanted to speak to you or teach you?


3.) Review - Where did you feel joy or sadness today? Was there something challenging or troubling today? Did you notice God's presence today? Did you forget about God? What feelings or emotions did you have throughout the day? Were there significant moments today?


4.) Forgiveness- Pray to God for forgiveness for the times throughout the day that you ignored or forgot about God. Pray for forgiveness and repent on the sins that you committed that were significant in your review of the day.


5.) Renewal- Look forward to tomorrow. What are the things that you can change from today and how can you apply what God has taught you or is teaching you.


I would recommend that you make notes throughout the day and then use the notes when you do this prayer at night. Be intentional in what is occurring in your life and also be real with yourself. Be honest with what you did or did not do during the day and be honest about your feelings. You will be surprised by what God is doing in your life, but I think you will also be surprised on how often you may ignore God. Use this prayer and time to grow and increase your awareness of God.


-Jose Beltran

July 29- Lecto Divina

Lecto Divina literally means "divine reading" and is a type of prayer based on a scripture reading. The basic premise is that you will read a verse and you will meditate and focus on a specific word or phrase that you are being drawn to. Then you will read the verse again with that phrase in mind and then you will read the verse a third time contemplating what God is trying to speak to you. As with all these prayer types, it is very easy to do (all prayer is easy to do!). Lecto Divina has been practiced for many centuries and is a good way to keep yourself engaged in the scriptures as well. Here are the steps:


1.) Find a passage in the bible to use for this prayer. It is important that there are multiple verses so do not pick a single verse. If you have a favorite verse, then read a couple verses before and after from that verse. If you have nothing in mind, then use Psalm 23 as your verse.


2.) Find a comfortable place to relax and control your breathing. Once you are in a relaxed state, then pray that God may speak to you through this prayer.


3.) Read your passage once. As you read through the passage, keep note of any words that attract you. Do not force the words to attract you, just relax. If you feel like none of the words attracted you, then relax and read the verse again. Imagine as if God is reading the passage to you. Then see if there is a word or words that stick out. Once you have that word, then spend some time repeating that word out loud.


4.) Read the passage again, but this team keep that word in the back of your mind. Frame the passage now in the context of that word and see if the meaning of the verse changes or if something else becomes highlighted because of that word. Why has the word attracted to you? What does this word mean for you and your life? After you have read the verse spend some time in mediation and prayer.


5.) Finally, you will read the passage one last time. What is God calling to you to do or learn? Remember, this prayer is about gaining insight from God through scripture. What does that word and that passage mean to you and is there action for you to take? I recommend writing this down and reflecting on it for the rest of the week.


6.) Take 5 minutes to be in silence. Try no to think during this time, just be silent in the presence of God.


It is important not to overthink during this prayer. Just allow God to work through you and the scripture. It is also OK if you do not receive a super-amazing, life-altering revelation from this prayer. Even the smallest of words and results from this prayer go a long way. Just be open to this and it is ok if you have to do it more than once.


-Jose Beltran

July 28- Centering Prayer

The next type of prayer we will go over is similar to the breathing prayer. Centering prayer is intended for us to be in focus on the presence of God and to remain in the silence with God. In this type of prayer, when you feel like you are being distracted, you can always go back to the focus of God. Here are the steps:


1.) Find a quiet place to sit. It can be a chair or something soft, you do not need to sit on the floor. Keep an upright posture and relax first. Control your breathing and come to a state of relaxation.


2.) Choose a word to be open to God's presence, do not make it more than 3 syllables. The word does not have to be a name of God, it can be another word that shows your intention to be one with God. For example, mercy, patience, love, etc. It can be a name of God if you choose. The word will be the word that you will be repeating and using to focus yourself. Make it a word that means a lot to you or something that you wish God will provide for you. Once you have the word, then after you have become relaxed then repeat that word with your eyes closed. Keep repeating until you feel you are at a point where you can let go and be in full silence. It may be difficult for you to determine when you are ready and that is OK. The goal, in the beginning, is to at least get to a place where you have fewer distractions in your mind.


3.) When you get to a point where you are in the silence then that is when you can spend time with God. Do not overthink at this moment, just rest in the silence. In the same way, you love to be around family, or friends, or specific people in your life, this prayer is about spending time with God. This is not a prayer about revelation or petition, though it could turn into it. The goal is to be still with God. If you start to become distracted or your mind starts to move to other things then repeat your word again and get yourself back in a place of silence.


This is very simple and is a good way to de-stress yourself in the presence of God. There is no wrong way to do this prayer, but there are plenty of ways that you can be distracted. Try this for 10 minutes at least today. If you are having a good experience then go for 20 or 25 minutes. Imagine God being in front of you, and take advantage of the time that you will spend with God. At the end of your prayer, keep your eyes closed for a minute and I recommend you do a normal prayer to God. You can start off with centering prayer first thing in the day for 10 minutes and then transition to your normal prayers. Use the centering prayer to get you in a good mindset to truly speak to God. I would also say that you should not have high expectations with this prayer. Afterward, you may feel like nothing happened, but as long as you made the commitment to be with God then I can guarantee you that you did do something.


-Jose Beltran

July 27- Breathing Prayer

For the next 2 weeks These devotions will be based around prayer. There will be different types of prayers and verses on the power of prayer. The goal is to help make you a better prayer warrior. Today we begin with a new type of prayer that most people have not heard of, let alone ever done. It is the breathing prayer and it is actually an old way of praying from Eastern Orthodox churches. It is very simple to do. You breathe in and call to God, and then you breathe out and make your prayer. The prayer is a quick prayer and does not have a lot of words. For example "Oh Lord (Breath in), Show me the way (Breath out)".


Let me help you set yourself up and give you some instructions.


1.) Find a place where you can be away from distractions and find a comfortable posture for prayer.


2.) Be still and calm. Get yourself in a place of peace. Repeat Psalm 46:10 if you must.


Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am Lord.


3.) Identify what it is you want to pray about or for. What people usually do is imagine Jesus in front of them asking you

"What is it that you want from me". You can write these things down to make it easier for you. You will be doing multiple prayers most likely. Remember that your answers need to be short though as you will be saying these as you breath out.


4.) Identify how you want to call on God: Lord, God, Almighty, Jesus, Father, Mother, Jehovah, etc. When you do these prayers you can even choose to use different names.


5.) Breathe in and say that name of God, then breathe out your prayer You do not have to actually speak it if you do not want to. It can be something in your head, or you could even sing it if you choose. Control your breathing and continue to repeat your prayer or say different prayers. Do this for at least 5 minutes today. Then each day gradually increase the time you spend doing this prayer. If you average seconds with your breathing, then that means at 5 minutes you should hopefully pray 100 prayers! Make this your beginning of each day. This is a great way to meditate and begin your day off well.'


Example Prayers: "Oh Lord, Grant me Peach", "Jesus, Bring me healing", "Almighty one, show me mercy"


-Jose Beltran

July 26 - Psalm 119:57-72

LORD, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful as you promised. I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws.  I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands.  Evil people try to drag me into sin, but I am firmly anchored to your instructions. I rise at midnight to thank you for your just regulations.  I am a friend to anyone who fears you— anyone who obeys your commandments. O LORD, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees. 

You have done many good things for me, LORD, just as you promised.  I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.  I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word. You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees. Arrogant people smear me with lies, but in truth I obey your commandments with all my heart. Their hearts are dull and stupid, but I delight in your instructions.  My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver. 

July 25 - Psalm 119:25-40

I lie in the dust; revive me by your word. I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me your decrees. Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds. I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word. Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.  I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations. I cling to your laws. LORD, don’t let me be put to shame!  I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding. 


Teach me your decrees, O LORD ; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.  Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.  Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!  Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.  Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you.  Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness. 

July 24 – Ambassadors of Christ

I Corinthians 5:15-21

He [Jesus] died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 


And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.


I hope after reading the Bible verses of these last two weeks of devotionals, you have a clearer picture of your innocence before God. When we accept the sacrifice of Jesus, we become new creations – a new spirit is put on the inside of us. We are no longer sinners, we are no longer guilty, we should carry no sin-consciousness. We are innocent by faith in Jesus. We are the perfect image of Christ in God’s eyes.


This gives us the confidence to come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain mercy in a time of need. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers. We can trust Him to confide in Him everything that happens to us and He will be there to help us.


And, finally, our righteousness makes us ambassadors of God. It was His idea to invite us into His kingdom, and He extends that invitation to the whole world. Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom while He was on earth. Today, we are those that proclaim it. But it’s hard to convince people of something you are not convinced yourself.


Today in my work and among friends who are not Christian, very few people want to hear anything about God or Jesus. It seems completely irrelevant to them, meaningless. I think that for God’s message to make an impact, our lives have to show the benefits of being in covenant with Him. God promised to set the nation of Israel above all other nations – not for their benefit, but to show that it is beneficial to be a servant of the most high God.


Our lives today must show the same – we must be the most joyful, peaceful, confident, prosperous people. Not to brag on ourselves, but the display the goodness of God to the world, to show that being in covenant with Jesus is good, meaningful, and satisfying in every way. We are ambassadors of heaven, we must live ‘days of heaven upon the earth’ (Deut. 11:21)


--Vessie Kazachka

July 23 – Confidence Before God

I John 3:7-9

Little children, let no one deceive you. The one who does righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. Whoever practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not practice sin, for His seed remains in him. And he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.


So, what is the point of righteousness? To feel good and go to heaven one day? If that was it, I think that is marvelous. Yet, in his first epistle, the apostle John connects righteousness and being free from sin with overcoming the devil. Jesus came to the earth as a man, that He might destroy the works of the devil.


In the Old Testament, Israel was repeatedly told that if they remain righteous (obey the law of love for God), they will be blessed. Rightness and blessings went together, and sin and curse went together. Today this hasn’t changed. Read the whole First epistle of John in light of what we have been talking about – righteousness, and notice phrases like: You are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the spirits that don’t confess Jesus), as He is, so are we in this world, for whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith, whoever is born of God guards himself, and the wicked one cannot touch him.


Our innocence before God is inseparable from our protection from the devil – from his deceits, his lies, his stealing and killing. From the curse. We are not immune to it, and we know trials and difficulties will come, but we can rest safely and without fear, because we rest on the work of Jesus and not on our ability. The requirement for us is our faith. 


The most wonderful and astounding for me is this promise: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then we have confidence before God. And whatever we ask, we will receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:21-22). This is an amazing statement! It says that if I maintain my clear conscience and am led by the Spirit (i.e. my heart does not condemn me), I will have all my prayers answered by God. Could this be true? Well, were Jesus’ prayers answered? Did He begin to do something (everything He did was led by the Spirit according to God’s plan) and it failed? Never.


The same is true for us. I know it is a big statement, but read 1 John again. We must practice living in the light – keeping a clear conscience, seeking God about how to live in His love. But once we are set on this course, we should have no doubt that the Father will be there for us in every circumstance; He will bring us out of any difficulty, and answer every prayer.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 22 – In Hope of the Glory of God

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.


How did it feel, to walk all day yesterday saying, ‘I’m right with God, I’m as innocent as Jesus.’? There is closeness in a relationship when we know everything is alright, and there’s no fault and hurt there. This is what Jesus did for us. Righteousness, or innocence, is much more than being forgiven from our sins and going to heaven. This is all wonderful. But we received something way beyond that – we received the Holy Spirit inside us – God’s very self and nature.


Does that mean that we will never sin again? No, because of something the apostle Paul calls ‘the flesh’. Even though our spirit (our heart, our inner man) was made same as Jesus’s, our body, or our flesh, remains the same, and sin can still create evil desires – through our bodies, through what we see and hear around us. We are not immune to selfishness. But we have a new internal nature that we have to let come through our minds (this is where the fruit of the spirit comes in). As the apostle Paul writes, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit… You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you… And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is alive because of righteousness… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.


Being let by the Spirit of God is the key to living in the peace of God. Don’t let people or depressing thoughts (which are always of the devil) convince you that you are guilty, or unloved by God, or not enough, or not perfect. Jesus perfectly pleased the Father in everything. It is His performance that the Father sees in us, when we believe. Our part is to examine ourselves and walk with a clear conscience. If we know or realize we did something wrong, let’s repent immediately. And then seek the leading of the Holy Spirit again. Look inside for the love of God and how His love would act in every situation. His Spirit and His love will keep us in perfect peace.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 21 – Unbreakable Covenant

Romans 10:4-11

Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness for every one who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is based on the law: “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness which is based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), “or, ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ “ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the word of faith that we preach: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed.”


The law of Moses gave the nation of Israel rules that described God’s character. They were to act them out to be like Him. Yet because of the nature of sin, they weren’t able to do it, and God gave them the sacrificial animal practices to cover the sins committed every year. The people were made innocent of any wrongdoing against God by the blood of animals. That, however, was only a temporary solution. No human being could truly be and act like God, because sin had made their heart desire evil, it had made them selfish.


The death that Adam brought into the world demanded a real substitution – for humanity to be reunited with God, His nature and His life, someone else had to be separated from God and go into the deep (hell, the place without God’s presence). The Lord provided Himself – He sent part of Him – the Word – on the earth as a human being in the face of Jesus, to act exactly like God and fulfill the demands of the law of love. And when Satan, the god of this world, decided to kill Him and take Him into the deep, it was the Lord himself separating Jesus from Himself – punishing Him for the offense of Adam. The Father Himself sent Jesus from heaven to the earth and into the deep to repay Adam’s wrongdoing, and the Father Himself brought Jesus back to life – on earth again and back into heaven, repairing any wrongdoing against Himself.


Today we have an unbreakable covenant – between God the Father and the Man Jesus Christ. Humanity’s life, prosperity and blessing from God no longer depend on our actions. If any human realizes and accepts that sin exists inside them and that God Himself took responsibility for the sin in the face of Jesus, they can claim perfect innocence of all sin by confessing Jesus as their Savior from sin.


We have believed on Jesus, many of us have been Christians most of our lives. But do we believe we are completely innocent of wrongdoing in the eyes of God? Do we believe He sees us exactly the same as He sees Jesus? How could He not? – it is Jesus’ own rightness, His own innocence, that we have accepted. Think on this today: “I am right with God. I am as innocent as Jesus.”


--Vessie Kazachka

July 20 – The Righteousness of God

Romans 3:21-25

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. 


This is the New Living Translation of these very famous Bible verses. I use them because it’s easy for us to slip into “I know all this” and I hope that by using this different wording we can see more into the text. In last week’s Monday devotional, I write that righteousness means equity – to be fair, just, tolerant, impartial. And we as Christians believe that God is just and fair. Why? 

God is love. His law expresses this love. When harm – or injustice – is done, the law demands a correction – a reciprocal action that recovers the harm/loss done. When Adam and Eve sinned, they did an injustice, they disregarded God and harmed themselves. They were tempted, they were guilty of indulging the temptation, and they were now criminals. And being under the control of sin, they were incapable of making any action to repair the harm – to themselves and to God. The penalty left for them – the result of sin – was death, living eternally separated from God. 

And here comes God’s rightness – His fairness and tolerance – the expression of His love. He had already made a provision in the law for substitution. Someone else could provide that action. And if Adam and Eve (and their children) would accept it by acknowledging their crime, they were restored back to being innocent. The Lord didn’t rush to judge them guilty, He didn’t blame them, He held judgement until He Himself could provide the payment, the reciprocal action that covers the crime. 

As I read media stories today, it seems to me that God, Christianity in general, and the Bible get blamed for many evils. Many people are angry at God; many people see Him as someone who just imposes rules, or someone who just doesn’t care. In light of our discussion today, let’s think whether we blame God for anything. Based on these verses – is God unfair to us in any ways? I know times when I blamed Him for bad things that happened to me, but today I think differently. Let’s practice seeing God as He is – fair, just, and tolerant.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 19 - Psalm 119:17-24

Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. 

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. 

I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me! 

I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations. 

You rebuke the arrogant; those who wander from your commands are cursed. 

Don’t let them scorn and insult me, for I have obeyed your laws. 

Even princes sit and speak against me, but I will meditate on your decrees. 

Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.

July 18 - Psalm 119:1-16

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 

Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways. 

You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 

Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 

Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. 

I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. 

I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 

Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees. 

With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. 

July 17 – A Slave to Sin

Romans 7:21-25

It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.


The epistle to the Romans is the foundation of Protestant Christianity. By studying this epistle, Martin Luther realized that forgiveness of sin (i.e. freedom from wrongdoing) comes by confidence (another word for faith) in the crucifixion of Jesus – not only the physical deeds, but the spiritual activities behind them. 


I spoke earlier about God imparting His own nature into the law. In Romans 13:9-10, Paul writes: For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not give false testimony, You shall not covet, and if there are any other commandments, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love works no evil to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. The apostle John writes it specifically in his 1st epistle: God is love. (I John 4:7-8)


Adam had to be taught about good and evil. He was like a baby, a young child – they are fully human, fully capable, yet they have to learn how to walk, how to talk, how and what to eat, who’s a friend and who’s not. When Adam ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil without God, evil entered into him – it poisoned him and his nature changed – instead of obeying and following love, he came a law-breaker, a criminal. His desire for evil and his selfishness now controlled him - and he became a subject to the law of sin and death. Even though I don’t know exactly what transpired in the spiritual realm, I can understand that. Like entering another country – you become subject to its laws. 


Since a seed produces after its kind, all of humanity inherited the same condition. Man was now a slave of sin – he couldn’t control his desires, he desired evil and consequently his actions broke the law of love. Today we often think – I don’t have a criminal record, I haven’t broken any law, I have good intentions – therefore I’m a good (correctly-behaving – or righteous) person. But how often do we have to suppress the desire to respond sharply when someone cuts us off or says something we don’t agree with? How often are we irritated when we have to accommodate someone's wish that different from ours? We’ve internalized a lot of that process through good upbringing and practice, but the truth is we have the same nature that makes a 2-year-old throw a tantrum because they can’t get their way. We pride ourselves as a society so skilled in fighting for the right cause, but I think we forget that sin is real and is in every single one of us. Let’s observe ourselves the next few days – how often do we think what to do or say first so that we don’t hurt someone? And how often we hurt someone despite our best efforts not to. To truly understand righteousness, we must understand how sin works in us.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 16 – Sin

Genesis 4:6-7

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it.


Several years ago I wondered what exactly is sin. My Strong’s Bible concordance showed over 400 references to the word sin (not including derivatives). The word itself in the original Hebrew means an offense. It comes from a root word meaning to miss, forfeit, make up for [something done], bear the blame, harm, loss, offend. My favorite way to comprehend the meaning of a word, from way back when I was learning English, is to read it in as many contexts as possible and put all those pictures together into one. So, I started reading every single Bible reference to sin from Genesis onward, and only after about 20 I got it. It simply means breaking the law and offending (or hurting) someone.


Today these two things are often considered independent and unrelated, but I ask you to look into them more carefully. Drunk driving is breaking the law, but not because someone arbitrarily decided that should be law, but because it causes car accidents that leave people killed, hurt, and their families deprived of loved ones. Manipulating circumstances so that you get chosen instead of your coworker may not break any law, but if it leaves them hurt financially or emotionally, it is an offense against them, similar to removing your neighbor’s landmark (the boundary of one’s field – Deut. 27:17). Even when we are convinced we are fighting for the right cause or following a successful course, if we have to push people out of the way or disregard them, we have done an offense. I know people can often get offended over nothing, but we still have to examine ourselves and not shy away from our responsibility. 


Going back to Genesis, how did sin come? Adam ate the fruit of knowing good and evil without God. I’m sure that in time God would have explained to him how this fruit was to be used (plenty of fruit is available to us in the last two chapters of Revelation.) Yet Eve was deceived about it, and Adam chose to do what his wife asked instead of what God asked. He offended God – He slighted His wish and desire. With disastrous consequences for himself and all his children – this offense changed his insides, and now he had a taste for evil – he desired and longed for things that are harmful.


But God had a plan – a plan of redemption.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 15 – Choose Life

Deuteronomy 30:15-19

See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, and death and disaster. What I am commanding you today is to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgements, so that you may live and multiply. Then the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.

But if your heart turns away, so that you do not obey, but are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, then I declare to you today that you will surely perish and that you will not prolong your days in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to go in and possess.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.


In Christianity, the Mosaic law is associated with dry regulations and strict obedience of external actions. Yet the law explicitly asks that the people love the Lord. That’s not an external action, but an internal one, in one’s heart. A motivation, a mindset and an emotion. These are very familiar verses to many Christians and we tend to think we know what they mean, but I ask you to read them again carefully. 


Fulfilling the law was simply being good like God, acting in thought and deed just like Him – with love for your neighbor, with honesty and fairness (see Deuteronomy 27:15-26). In other words, it wasn’t enough just to know what is good and what is harmful, but you also had to love it – to want to do it. Therefore, choose life – choose – I must actively want, seek, desire to do what is right, life – the exact action the nurtures life according to God’s nature in creation.


If you have read the rest of the Old Testament, you know that Israel did not keep their part of the covenant, but their heart was enticed by the nations around them and drawn away from practicing the law of the Lord. Why couldn’t they resist the practices they saw in other nations? Why did they desire to do things they knew were harmful and will bring disaster? Because of something called sin.


I know this may seem very theoretical and nerdy, but I hope you can see better the two sides of our relationship with God – our intentions must be sincere and with love, but even a sincere person can be sincerely wrong. We must compare both our actions and our intentions with God’s instructions. Let us be willing to examine ourselves and to be corrected if needed. It can be uncomfortable, but the result – living in the love and blessing of the Father – is well worth it.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 14 – The Law of God

Deuteronomy 30:15-19

See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, and death and disaster. What I am commanding you today is to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgements, so that you may live and multiply. Then the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.

But if your heart turns away, so that you do not obey, but are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, then I declare to you today that you will surely perish and that you will not prolong your days in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to go in and possess.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.


With these words the Lord announces His law to the nation of Israel, the descendants He created by His promise to Abraham. Before this time the Lord had only engaged individually with people, and humanity lived by rules they made themselves. Most often these were created by warrior-kings, who subdued people in obedience or attracted people by charisma, like Nimrod (Genesis chapter 10). 


To make Himself known to humanity, the Lord made a promise to Abraham and entered into a covenant with Him. God’s part was to increase Abraham into a nation and bless it, Abraham’s part was to teach his children that God was truly their father – the one who supernaturally brought them into being.


Four hundred years later, the nation of Israel was into the millions and their leader, Moses, received the first comprehensive and objective description of God – the law. Moses was to present the law to the people, and they were to enter into a covenant with the Lord. God’s part was to bless them: give them freedom, land, provision, health, protection, all things necessary for a healthy and fulfilled life. Israel’s part was to learn the law and act it daily with all their heart and strength. 


So why the Law? Couldn’t the Lord just say, ‘Hey, come hang out with me, let’s have a party, and you will get to know me’? Because our reality has a very specific nature – it has properties that can be very helpful, but they come with a user manual. Water is a wonderful thing – to drink, to swim in, but it can also drown a person. See, I have set before you life and prosperity, and death and disaster. All things in life, physical, chemical, mental, emotional, spiritual, have to be used according to their nature, or else their nature becomes harmful to us – life and death. God’s nature is life, He is all-good, all-nurturing, all-fair, all-tolerant. But for those who misuse His character, that nature turns into death and curse. The Lord instituted the law to teach them to recognize what is harmful and what is helpful, not according to what feels good to them (and us) at the moment, but according to the very nature of reality, His character.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 13, 2020 – Righteousness

2 Cor 5:21

God made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


Righteousness stands at the center of Christianity, yet it is often one of its most misunderstood and misused principles. What does righteousness or righteous mean? It is an old King James English way of saying right. In the Greek righteousness – dikaiosune – means equity, and righteous – dikaios – is defined as equitable, just, or simply innocent. Both words are derived from dike – right, self-evident, justice. These same words in the Greek are also translated in the epistle to the Romans as just and justification (Romans 1:17, 2:13, 4:25, 5:16, 5:18).  


So, what does righteousness [diakiosune] or equity mean? The Oxford dictionary defines equity as fairness. Synonyms include: fairmindedness, objectivity, neutrality, impartiality, open-mindedness, tolerance. The Webster dictionary defines it as the impartial distribution of justice. 

In its adjective form, righteous, it simply means innocent.


Currently our society grapples with these topics – how can we be impartial to all people? Are we objective? When accused of a crime are all people presumed innocent or are some presumed guilty/;;;? And how does God fit in this picture?


If you are a Christian and believe the Bible, you must believe that God is just. That implies that there is a law that has to be understood and abided by. God’s law. Righteousness – or innocence, makes no sense if there’s no law. The law God placed in our reality, by virtue of creating it, is the essence of His own character, His very self. God is fair, He is impartial, open-minded and tolerant. His own character is the law. And it places a demand on us – to be law-abiding citizens of this reality, we must act like Him. It also makes us a target – if we break the law, we become criminals and there arises a need for correction.


In his first epistle, the apostle John writes: Whoever says he is in the light but hates his brother is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling [1 John 2:9-10]. Basically, he is saying that if we understand and truly embrace God’s law in our hearts, we will fulfill the law – there will be no stumbling. Make it your prayer today to have an open heart and mind where God can impart His law and transform us, so that we do not stumble. And pray for me, as I write these words, that God will enlighten my mind and heart and truly give us a fresh understanding of His law – for ourselves and for our brothers.


--Vessie Kazachka

July 12- Psalm 139:7-18

Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you.

July 11- Psalm 19: 7-14

The law of the Lord is perfect,

    refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,

    making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,

    giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,

    giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure,

    enduring forever.

The decrees of the Lord are firm,

    and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,

    than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey,

    than honey from the honeycomb.

By them your servant is warned;

    in keeping them there is great reward.

But who can discern their own errors?

    Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;

    may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless,

    innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart

    be pleasing in your sight,

    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

July 10- The Law [nomos]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


You may be asking how are we continuing this verse today if we have gone over all the fruits. Today we will focus on the sentence that follows all the fruits of the spirit which is “Against such things there is no law”. The definition of nomos is what we normally consider as law; anything that is established and decreed in society. It can also be used when talking about the Mosaic Laws given to the Israelite from God. The wording is kind of clunky from the translation, but what it is saying is that there is no law that provides these fruits or goes against these fruits from God.


The Jewish people would follow the laws very strictly and how well you followed these rules were the sign of how holy you were. It led to a culture of legalism in that their spirituality was based on what they did rather than their relationship with God. It was also used as a measurement with others. If someone gave less than you or did less prayers then they were not as holy as you. In today's world, our churches still suffer from this in their own way. People are convinced that they are rewarded by how much they may do at a church or how often they may do something instead of focusing on their relationship with God.


Paul is saying here definitively, that these fruits of the Spirit cannot be earned by being legalistic and doing things to look like you are Holy. It is only through a relationship with God that you can attain these fruits. You cannot simply work to gain these fruits, you must be in the Spirit, and then the labor while in the Spirit will produce these fruits. Being in the Spirit does not mean going around and doing good things. Paul says here also that those in the Spirit have crucified their flesh from their passions and desires. To be in the Spirit, you must completely kill your desires from this world, and from their you can truly attain these fruits.


This is where we began with this study. These fruits take serious work and effort to receive. It takes a dedication and commitment with Jesus and the Spirit that may be painful and long, but the benefits are amazing and cannot be received anywhere else. These fruits are what we should be striving for each week, not just as a reward, but as a sign that our relationship with God is moving into a positive direction. When you accept Christ, your life literally changes and it is hard to describe at times. You start to think differently, your desires change and how you interact with others change. What you receive in life are these fruits that change who you are to become more like the person who gives us these fruits, which is Jesus. That is ultimately what these fruits are, they are the traits of Jesus and we are to share them with others. My challenge for you is to pick a different fruit each week and make an effort to grow in that fruit for the week. Pray that God make it challenging and pray that God may show you how to grow in that fruit. More importantly, pray that God may help you share or show you how to share these fruits with others. 


-Jose Beltran

July 9- Self-control [Egkrateia]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [egkrateia]. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


The definition of this word is the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially their sensual appetites. Self-control is at the heart of the rest of the fruits of the spirit as self-control is needed for all the other fruits as well. Having self-control means not reacting so quickly or at all when a situation arises. It is more than just not eating that food that is bad for you, it is keeping yourself away from potential danger and sin. It is easy for someone to think they have self-control because they are not quick to spend their money, and yet you do not have true self-control from greed.


True self-control is keeping your spirit in line with God and keeping yourself away from sin and the ways of this world. It takes self-control to love instead of lust, forgive instead of hate, to suffer in times of trouble or to have faith even when it looks hopeless. We are in a continuous motion of self-control, though when we are truly aligned with the Spirit, then it becomes more of a nature for us.


How can we practice self-control? You need to find someone or talk to someone you trust for accountability. If there are specific things that you need to learn self-control in then explain to that person what the issue is and ask that they keep tabs on you. Have them frequently check in and on you and ask if you have been successful in self-control. Obviously, it also requires you to be truthful and trustworthy as well. When your friend frequently asks you for updates it will force you to be in constant reminder as well. That person can also pray for you which is always a good thing for you.


The purpose of all these fruits is that they are the labor of the work of the Spirit. Again, self-control is the base of all these fruits as the first step with all these fruits is to abide in the Spirit. It takes self-control to choose to be in the Spirit and move yourself away from all the things that are against God. Pray today that God may lead you to a person to help you with accountability but also pray to be drawn closer to God. Pray that you can receive the Spirit of discernment so that you have a better understanding of what is Godly and that your eyes may be more open on the things that you need to move away from. The first step in self-control is seeing the need and wanting self-control. You have to be intentional and put the work into this one, as will all the fruits, to really the results.


-Jose Beltran

July 8- Gentleness [Prautes]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [Prautes] and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


In other translations the word meekness is used instead. The definition of prautes is mildness to disposition, humility and a gentle spirit. Having gentleness means being mild, calm and not being so hasty to actions constantly. It is a way that you live your life and is also something that can be portrayed to others as well. You know someone in your life who you would consider gentle in nature. Not very animated and vocal, just calm and mild most of their time.


Gentleness is important because it means you are less likely to be affected by different situations in your life. You do not want your emotions and feelings to be altered easily by your present situations. You want to be more grounded in gentleness so that you are constantly moved by the storms in your life. When Jesus and his disciples were on the boat and the storm came in, the disciples were panicking and yet Jesus was calm and gentle with the situation. When Jesus was betrayed, Peter was so quick to attack one of the officers and cut-off his ear and yet Jesus was calm and mild about the situation. There is a psychological benefit to being gentle in spirit as it allows you to better assess your situations and allow you to make better decisions and responses.


So, how can we practice gentleness? It is not easy, but I challenge you today and then for however long you want to practice to be slower to action and response. Attempt to be humbler and more submissive to God. It is hard to practice gentleness at will, you need situations or events to occur for you to practice gentleness. Though, there is a way to make your demeaner and spirit gentler by taking some time also to be in prayer and in meditation with God. Calm your mind and spirit and try and reduce the anxiety, distractions or anger in your life.


-Jose Beltran

July 7- Faithfulness [Pistis]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness [pistis], gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


Faithfulness is an unwavering and complete trust with God. That means no matter the situation and whatever may be occurring in your life, you have 100% trust in God. Having faithfulness does not mean that you believe that everything will be safe or easy. It means that you trust that God is in complete control and that even when things are bad, you have confidence that God will do something good with the situation (though you may still suffer). Faith in God is not easy and is in complete opposition of our human nature of wanting to control the situation or take actions in our own hand. Of course, we are not just to sit around and do nothing and wait for God for make things to happen, there is effort that we have to put in, but we would rather put matter in our own hands rather than God’s.


We are told to have the same faith that Abraham had with his Son. God told Abraham to take his son Isaac up a mountain to be sacrificed to God. Isaac was not a boy, he was a man at this point in his life, so Abraham was taking a full-grown man to be sacrificed. Just as Abraham was going to actually do this, God told him to stop and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead. When I read this passage, I understand the faith needed and that God has a plan ultimately for everything. To be honest, if I were in Abraham shoes, I would not even have brought up Isaac to the mountain. It is almost trivialized the idea of having the same faith as Abraham, but what he almost did is unthinkable. Perhaps Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac or that God would ultimately change something in the situation, still, he was willing to do it.


This is the pinnacle of faithfulness, a complete obedience to God. God asks you to do something and you go with it and you believe that God has complete control of the situation. We want our faith to reach this point, just like Abraham, but the truth is that we do not even have faith at times for the small things in our lives. We do not trust God in our finances or our jobs or our health or other aspects of our lives. We may not even trust God that they are in control of this pandemic. Now, where do you think your level of faithfulness is. Actually look at your life and make a list of the most important things in your life and I want to you honestly look at these items and ask yourself if you have full faith in God with these things. Be real with yourself. You may think you have faith in these items, but look back at your actions with these items and do your actions actually show that you trust God or that you trust yourself more? This is very important because it is very easy to say that you have faith but you really need to inspect your motives. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning that we receive it from God as we continue to walk in the Spirit. We grow in faith, and ultimately, I hope to be at the same place that Abraham was.


My challenge for you is to take small steps in faith with the top three items of your list of most important things in your life. Each person’s list is different and the small steps are different for each person as well. Find ways to give up control of something with each item and allow God to be in control. You will be surprised what God can do. Personally, in my life there have been times where money was an issue, and in those times, I would continue to tithe or even tithe a little more. In the times where I needed money most, I would instead give that money back to God as an act of faith having full trust that God will make things work out. Each time, money has come into my life in miraculous ways. Faith can be preached and taught, but it is through action and experience where we will truly grow. 


-Jose Beltran

July 6- Goodness [Agathosyne]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness [agathosyne], faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


Before we begin the devotion on goodness, I must first lay out 2 other verses.


[Mark 10: 17-18] 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.


[Ephesians 5:8-10] For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 


The definition of “good” has been at the center of morality and philosophy since the beginning of time. In today’s world, people make their own definitions and justification of what is “good”. From the two verses above we must first be clear that God is good and that goodness comes from God. We are all inherently sinners by nature, and it is only through the Spirit that we can achieve “goodness”.


The Greek word agathosyne is defined as uprightness of heart and life. This means having an unwavering and stable posture of heart and life. I would argue that truly living means having goodness in one’s life. So, what is goodness? Another argument that I would make is that goodness is the very nature of God. Goodness is mercy, righteousness, justice and much more. It is all characteristics of God that we normally think is “good” (kind of confusing now, right?).


The manner in which God treats us and the same way that Jesus treated others is the essence of goodness. Because of their goodness, both God and Jesus have healed, forgiven, brought mercy and justice, provided and sacrificed. If you have the Spirit of Goodness, then these things are inside of you too and overflow to others. So, here comes the main question for today. Do you feel compelled to treat others in the same way that God treats us? Do you even feel like you have the goodness in you and that there is something missing in your life? It is ok if you do not feel like you have that goodness. Again, with all these fruits, it is a journey and takes some work to receive the some of these fruits of the Spirit. Do not think that there is something wrong or that your relationship with God is void. It just means you may be at the beginning of this journey, or that maybe you need to get back to that journey after taking a detour.


This fruit is very easy to pass off. People may think their lives are “good” and be satisfied, but as we have seen with all these fruits, there is a much deeper meaning and experience from these fruits. Do not minimize this fruit in particular because your definition of “good” is not even close to what it really is. Pray today that you may experience that goodness and pray that God gives you the opportunities for others to experience true goodness from you. Do the research and find the verses. When God created you, he said it was good. Learn what goodness truly is and I guarantee it will alter your definitions and thoughts.


-Jose Beltran

July 5- Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times;

    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;

    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;

    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;

    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;

    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

    for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,

    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Whoever of you loves life

    and desires to see many good days,

keep your tongue from evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

Turn from evil and do good;

    seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

    to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,

    not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;

    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

July 4- Psalm 92

It is good to praise the Lord

    and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning

    and your faithfulness at night,

to the music of the ten-stringed lyre

    and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;

    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

How great are your works, Lord,

    how profound your thoughts!

Senseless people do not know,

    fools do not understand,

that though the wicked spring up like grass

    and all evildoers flourish,

    they will be destroyed forever.

But you, Lord, are forever exalted.

For surely your enemies, Lord,

    surely your enemies will perish;

    all evildoers will be scattered.

You have exalted my horn[b] like that of a wild ox;

    fine oils have been poured on me.

My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;

    my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,

    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

planted in the house of the Lord,

    they will flourish in the courts of our God.

They will still bear fruit in old age,

    they will stay fresh and green,

proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

July 3- Kindness [Chrestotes]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness [Chrestotes], goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


To have true chrestotes is more than just doing something nice for other people. It is a continued action or state of mind. To do something good is kind or makes you kind, but it differs from having kindness in your heart. A recurring theme with the fruits of the Spirit is that they are not temporary or fluctuate with the events of your life. If things are going well then you are more like likely to do something kind for someone else. If you like someone then you are more likely to do something kind for them as well. In the same way, if you are having a bad day, then you will be less inclined to do something kind.


If you are one with the spirit of God, then you will have kindness in you all the time and you will exude that kindness to those around you. Kindness is something that others can easily feel and see and it makes people more approachable and trustworthy. When you have the spirit of kindness, you do not do good things for others for selfish reasons, you do it because you are compelled by your heart to do it. This means even for those you do not like or those who you do not want to be kind to. Kindness shows no favor.


Imagine getting a knock on your door and when you open the door, there is a Jehovah’s witness or a Mormon person or even a Muslim person. Could you be kind to them? Would you be kind to an ex-convict or a current gang member? How about that person in your life who has hurt you the most, could you be kind to them? I will be honest; I do not want to be kind to some of these people. That means I have more work to do and more growing to do. What about you? Do you believe that you truly have the fruit of chrestotes in you? Pray today that you may grow in kindness and even ask that God provide you the opportunities to practice kindness. Pray that God make it challenging though, and ask for God to provide the tough people to be kind to. True kindness is not easy and often involves sacrifice.


-Jose Beltran

July 2- Forbearance [makrothymia]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [makrothymia], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


Forbearance is also translated as patience here and more specifically; it is translated as long-suffering. When most people define patience, they would most likely say that patience is the willingness to be able to wait for something. For example, there is a new movie that you cannot wait to see and you have to have patience till it is released. Instead, this type of patience is about having endurance and the strength needed to be able to wait.


Paul is telling us here that the fruit of makrothymia is an increased in endurance for us. If you have this specific fruit of the spirit then you are able to wait longer and you are able to take in more suffering. You are a stronger person who is less hasty in actions, more stable and more grounded. This is a key characteristic of Jesus specifically. Jesus could have easily had angels save him or he could have basically stopped his crucifixion, but he allowed it and had the ultimate endurance and long-suffering to actually go through it. It is key for you to understand again that this patience is more than just waiting, it takes a lot more toll on you and makes you stronger.


When we pray to God and we seek answers, sometimes the answer is “not now”. We may go through a period of suffering and pain before we even get the answer as well. If you are one with the Spirit of God, then you can take all these things thrown to you in life and you can continue to stand even when everything looks terrible. God provides and the strength and endurance to live strong and continue to do the work that has been called upon you. So, do you feel like you have this makrothymia? Do you feel like you are always falling under pressure or do you feel like the negative things in your life constantly bring you down? Do you need that supernatural endurance and strength to be able to push through these things? Think of this like physical exercise. You need to build up your patience by constantly doing it. Pray to God today and pray for an increase forbearance. Pray that God may give you the opportunities to grow and practice this forbearance or pray that God may show you how to begin to have this forbearance. 


-Jose Beltran

July 1- Peace [Eirene]

Galatians 5: 22-26

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace [eirene], forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


This definition of peace is the same definition of the Hebrew word “Shalom” which is a complete inward sense of wholeness and completeness. This is not about the absence of war or danger; it is about what is occurring inside of you. We know from the Old Testament that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the source of peace which makes sense why it would be a fruit of the Spirit.


There are certain barriers or things in our lives that prevent us from having or achieving peace. These may be worries, anxiety, conflict, idols or fixations. The thing about peace is that we all know what we need to be removed from our lives to achieve peace. If I asked you “What are the things in your life that keep you from having peace?”, I am certain that you have an answer. It might be because of your professional, emotional, financial or physical status. It may be a relationship or it can even a sin in your life. The fact is, we know what hold us back from peace and yet we choose not to give those things to God or allow those things to keep us away from peace.


Are you willing to give those things to God? Are you willing to give up control in the pursuit of peace? It is only when you give full control to God that you can truly be in the same spirit as God. Today take some time and make a list of all the things that keep you from having peace. Make a list of all your worries or anxieties and ask yourself if you can give those up to God and have the full trust that God is in control. If you can, then give those things up to God in prayer and pray for the Spirit of Peace. If you cannot, then ask yourself “why?”. Ask God to give you discernment and wisdom on what you need to get to a place where you can give these things up to God and move yourself closer to peace. 


-Jose Beltran

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