Jeremiah 40, 41; James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. James 3 ESV

I recently had exposure to some Christian homeschooling culture on YouTube that took me by surprise. And when I read this passage- it leaps right to mind. Especially because the speaker was declaring her intention to write and create Bible studies for the homeschool community(i.e. a teacher of the Word). She was very vehemently proclaiming how she was going to be held to a higher standard because she had so many followers. She caused what I think was a pretty large flurry with strong words about a decision she made that had a lot of consequence for a homeschool curriculum company that she was leaving in the name of her influence. I can’t help but think how often/how easily we can distort the Word of God in the name of our own passion and self-interest. And she was clearly self-interested, proclaiming her new role as a bible study writer for another well-known Christian homeschool company and selling curriculum on her site that was almost a replica of the company she abandoned so vocally. It left me with distaste. So much of this passage of Scripture- seems to be about just that. How incredibly easy it is to stumble with the words of the mouth, with the tongue. Every man does what is right in his own eyes. How important that we seek meekness, humility, and the desire to do what is right in God’s eyes.

Sometimes, we must be meek like Christ- where the Father is our defense- and our mouths are silent.

Sometimes, being silent is what is actually the most Christ-like choice in a situation. I have pondered my experience with my brief immersion in this culture, and in the end, I decided that it is most important to desire to make much of the Lord rather than self. In some ways, I feel like this person had the meaning of Scriptures twisted all around. We will be held to account for our words. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things” (v 5). She imagined herself on the judgment day being held accountable for leading others astray by using a certain curriculum. But I wonder if the judgment is more to be feared in the very words we say and the posture of the heart which is evidenced in the way we live and what we choose to promote {e.g. Christ or Self (not curriculum a or curriculum b)}. In addition, in the way we treat others- especially those not of the faith- is an important, vital consideration before the eye of the Lord.

Wisdom is meek. It is humble. It is pure. It is peaceable. It is not arrogant.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3 ESV

In the end, I am left with a strong desire to shield myself. To keep my eyes straight ahead. My hand to the plow. My heart – for the prize. It is good for me to remember—  the prize is Christ. He is the prize. It takes self-discipline, self-control, courage, and meekness to bind the tongue. To silence the self.

Lord, how I love You for treasuring sincerity- for your impartial, pure goodness. Help me stay focused. Create in me the heart that is true to You. Keep me from all evil; keep my life. And Lord, I pray for all the believers who have platforms on social media- may they use them for Your glory and may You be magnified. Amen

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36

A siege that lasts two years. A famine. A city succumbs. Its king (Zedekiah) tries to escape at night past enemy (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon’s) troops. Zedekiah is caught. The last he sees before his sight is taken is the slaughter of his sons. A city is dismantled as an enemy carries off bronze, silver and gold that had been used by Solomon to adorn and uphold the temple of the Lord. That is one side of the story in Second Kings.

Second Chronicles tells another perspective–of a lineage that repeatedly did evil in the sight of the Lord. It tells of prophets who came to warn and a leadership that mocked, scoffed and refused to listen.

11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.

14 Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. (2 Chronicles 36:11-17a, NLT)

While this may not be the birth of the saying, “Pride comes before the fall,” it certainly is another example of deceitful pride’s consequences. I wonder if one examines hardship or catastrophe, what would be the root? Even here, a list of heart attitudes that set a man, his entourage and an entire population against the Lord: refusal to humble; deceit; hard and stubborn; unfaithful; mocking and scoffing; disdain and contempt for/of truth. These thoughts are the birth of catastrophe–strong enough to not only bring down a man but an entire city, leaving behind ruin.

Lord, may I always be mindful of my heart attitudes, open to your direction and truth, and discerning of influences in my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 31-32; James 2

James 2:14-24 (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

 

Faith requires action.

It’s easy to say I believe something. But it’s not always easy to prove it.

I once heard someone say that a faith that costs you nothing is not faith at all.

Here in James 2 we read of the importance of putting action into our faith. As an illustration, we are reminded of Abraham’s faith, when he carried his son to the altar to sacrifice to God. While he did not physically sacrifice him, Abraham proved his faith in God by surrendering his son to God’s will, whatever that may look like, believing that God was good, God loved him, and that God would keep His promise to Abraham. But this was not an easy journey for Abraham – it took him decades to learn this kind of faith.

But what about me? What does my faith look like? Do my actions match my speech?

It’s easy to say I believe God loves me. But am I living as though I am confident of His acceptance?

It’s easy to say I believe God is good. But when bad things happen, am I choosing to “trust and obey” until I see that goodness?

It’s easy to say God answers prayer. But is prayer my first response when I am in need?

It’s easy to say I love my neighbor. But am I actually encouraging, strengthening, and providing for them as opportunities arise?

It’s easy to say I care about the lost. But when was the last time I shared God’s hope with someone who does not know Him?

My dad used to say, “Your walk talks and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

What does my walk say? Does it say I have faith in me, in my own abilities, and in what I feel to be true? Or does my walk show that I have put my trust in God and I believe Him to be who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do?

Faith in myself leads me to be self-centered. If I’m not noticing those around me, if I’m not praying for those I know, if I’m not offering encouragement to those who are hopeless, if I’m not providing for those in need, it is a sign that I’m paying more attention to me than to God.

But when my faith in God is secure, I can trust Him to provide for me. This leads me to be a giver. I can be generous with everyone I encounter and give of them what I have received from God, whether spiritual, emotional, or physical.

 

Father, forgive me for becoming self-consumed and unaware of those around me. Forgive me for not trusting You to provide for me and for becoming overly concerned with my own needs instead of letting you provide for them. Help me to see those around me. Help me to meet the needs of those you place in my path each and every day. Help me to prove my faith by my actions of love and generosity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Ezekiel 27-30; James 1

James 1:9 tells us to “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation,…”

Some may interpret this Scripture as a political sentiment leaning to the left – saying something like this: the poor will be given the wealth that the rich will have to give up.  However, James does not indicate in this passage that this is so. In fact, the profit of the lowly (poor) brother is one of perseverance through experiencing difficult circumstances which has the effect of perfecting his character and faith (thus, exaltation). The same effect is wrought for the rich brother who can glory (count it all joy) when he learns through experience that his pursuits for money and his wealth will fade away, thus teaching him he should always trust in the Lord, not himself or his money.

To be sure, if you are poor you are looking for a way to get what you need and want. Then again, if you are rich you are looking for ways to get more of what you need and want. What is different for each of them, then? The difference is not between the desires of the rich and the poor but between the man who trusts in the Lord and the one who does not. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

There are many other such passages of Scripture that assure us that God cares for us and is with us in our time of need or plenty (Matthew 6:33, for example). There are just as many that speak about learning contentment in all circumstances (I Timothy 6:6-10 outlines godliness with contentment). So how does a Christian gain contentment at all times? The first rule of thumb is to remember in whose hands we are held. Jeremiah was given the task to remind God’s chosen people of this truth. In Jeremiah 18:1-6, [The Lord told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house.]  “The potter was making something at the wheel, and the vessel that he made was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the Lord said, “

‘…can I not do with you as this potter?’”

Now, I’ve never made pottery, but I am fascinated watching the potter work with clay and water, using his hands to build a base and shape an object, making adjustments or even starting over when the product collapses or tilts to the wrong side.  As long as the clay is wet and pliable, the potter continues to form and smooth the vessel until satisfied with the finished design. What an illustration of how God with expertise, patience, and purpose fashions us from the elements of this world into His chosen vessels capable of holding His Spirit to pour out His blessings.

Yes, it is hard to declare that there is purpose in going through trials when one is poor, and it even harder to say that a rich man should lose everything in order to learn godly contentment. (Hey, I’m just the messenger!) As Jeremiah lamented, “O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed,” Jeremiah 20:7 Yet, I, too am persuaded by this message that we all, rich or poor, should not trust in man but must trust only in the Lord our God.

Janet

From the archives. Originally published October 5, 2015.

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Ezekiel 24-26; Hebrews 13

then you will know that I am the Lord God (Ez 24:24 ESV)

they will know that I am the Lord (Ez 24:27 ESV)

Then you will know that I am the Lord. (Ez 25:5b ESV)

Then you will know that I am the Lord. (Ez 25:7 ESV)

(and on, and on)

God makes His commands clear, along with judgements for disobedience and blessings for obedience.

Israel, and other nations, live however they please.

God judges.

Then, they know that He is the Lord.

He has standards. He defines truth, goodness, justice, right and wrong. And, He holds us to those expectations.

As the New Testament roles along and we now have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the expectations are higher and more complete:

Love continually

show hospitality

Remember prisoners

honor marriage

don’t love money

be content  (Hebrews 13:1-5 ESV)

Jesus is the same, then and now. And, His expectation of us to live out our faith and trust in Him remains as it did for the people of Israel, although some of the commands are slightly adapted for a personal religion on a church community as opposed to the nation of Israel.

It is not for me to live as I please. Each day I am to take up my cross and follow Him. Gather people around you to pray for one another that we all may “have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18).

Dear God, thank you for communicating with love and clarity for thousands of years. Thank you for forgiving when I come to You, repentant of my failings. Help me again, today and every day to live with a clear conscience, acting honorably as You have instructed. May my life be pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Erin (6intow)

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Ezekiel 21-23; Hebrews 12; Psalms 111

My children all participated in races as fundraisers for their schools this week.  I have been watching them do this every year since kindergarten, with such determination and persistence.  Reminds me of “running the good race” of our faith as a daily challenge.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, ,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

When a person puts their trust in Christ, they become a new creation and begin their race in this life.  They begin to learn who He is and why they need Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who practice it have a good understanding.  His praise endures forever!” (Psalms 111:10 ESV)

Lord,

Help us all to run a good race with our focus on You.  We have a long way to go until the finish line when we see You face to face.  Until then, let us endure with persistence.

Amen,

Kellie

 

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Ezekiel 17-20; Hebrews 11

Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. (Hebrews 11:4b, NLT)

Old Testament and New Testament, I read of choice and the repercussions of choice. Choices reveal where faith is rooted.

I read verses of reminders from the Lord, of who he is. He speaks so plainly (fervently, urgently):

30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! (Ezekiel 18:30-32, NLT)

Sin is death and always has been.

He is Truth and Love and Life. Forever.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation … 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. (Hebrews 11:1-2, 39-40, NLT)

I sit with these scriptures today, all the examples of where faith is placed, Old Testament and New Testament. When I examine my heartache and frustrations, will they not also reveal where my faith is placed? Would the pain have been so much if I had seen the Lord’s hand in the circumstances? I can trust him for a better end.

Lord, thank you for not leaving me where I was but wanting life for me–a new heart and spirit. You are a good Father. I’m thankful for your faithfulness. You are trustworthy.

Courtney (66books365)

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