Jeremiah 8-10; 2 Corinthians 11

They put their faith in man-made idols.

Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O Israel! This is what the Lord says:

“Do not act like the other nations,
    who try to read their future in the stars.
Do not be afraid of their predictions,
    even though other nations are terrified by them.
Their ways are futile and foolish.
    They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
    and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
    so it won’t fall over.
Their gods are like
    helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field!
They cannot speak,
    and they need to be carried because they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of such gods,
    for they can neither harm you nor do you any good.” Jeremiah 10:2-5, NLT.

They told each other lies and believed them.

“‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
    When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back?
Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?
    Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back?
They cling tightly to their lies
    and will not turn around.
I listen to their conversations
    and don’t hear a word of truth. Jeremiah 8:4-6, NLT

***

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 2 Corinthians 11:4, NLT

They missed the majesty of the one who created it all.

But the Lord made the earth by his power,
    and he preserves it by his wisdom.
With his own understanding
    he stretched out the heavens.
13 When he speaks in the thunder,
    the heavens roar with rain.
He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.
    He sends the lightning with the rain
    and releases the wind from his storehouses. Jeremiah 10:12-13, NLT

Their hearts were far from him.

“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

25 “A time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will punish all those who are circumcised in body but not in spirit— 26 the Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, the people who live in the desert in remote places, and yes, even the people of Judah. And like all these pagan nations, the people of Israel also have uncircumcised hearts.” Jeremiah 9:23-26, NLT.

Paul had understanding to see beyond the circumstances he faced. Oh, great faith.

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, NLT.

Old Testament. New Testament. Today. Living God, Father, Creator: You are sovereign in it all. For you are great, and your name is full of power. Lord, there is no one like you.

 Lord, there is no one like you!
    For you are great, and your name is full of power.
Who would not fear you, O King of nations?
    That title belongs to you alone!
Among all the wise people of the earth
    and in all the kingdoms of the world,
    there is no one like you. Jeremiah 10:6-7, NLT

Lord, I pray to hear your voice and seek your truth. When everything seems out of control, may I always remember you hold it in your hands.You always have, you always will.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 5-7; Psalm 75; 2 Corinthians 10

Reading the verses in Jeremiah this past week has been very disconcerting in light of all that is happening in our world today. God is angry with Israel over her unfaithfulness, the worshiping of idols, and people believing false prophets over Him.  He is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to His people.  Yet, they do not listen.  He has planned to let their enemies take them over.  As I read through this, I saw the parallel to our own time in history.  Are we not worshiping idols?  Have we not, as a nation, tuned out the Word of God—the foundation of our country?  I am sure not everyone was disobeying God.  Just as today there is a remnant of believers who cry out to God for His mercy.

1“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.”

Jeremiah is frustrated with the Israelites and says in Jer: 6:10–To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me?  Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.  The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.

How many people today find your Word offensive, Lord? They do not want to hear the truth; they do not want to follow your ways.  As the bible says of the Israelites, so it can be said of many in the world today:  they do what is right in their own eyes!  They believe the lies of the world instead of God.

Jeremiah tries to warn the people. He tells them to flee, that disaster is coming from the north (the Babylonians).  God tells him in Chapter 7:  16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.”  God is so angry He tells Jeremiah not to even bother to pray for them because He isn’t going to listen!  But our God is gracious.  Once more He tells the people to repent and change their ways, but they do not.  The LORD says: 23but I gave them this command:  Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. 

30 “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

So . . . what WILL we do in the end? As believers who want to walk with the Lord, who believe what He says in the Bible, and cling to Jesus for our very survival, what can we do?  Our world is changing but we do not have to sit idly by and be passive.  We have praise and prayer! Second Corinthians 10 tells us:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Psalm 75 tells us:

We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds. You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.  When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.[b

As for me, I will declare this forever; I will sing praise to the God of Jacob, 10 who says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”

How glad I am to be on the other side of the Cross, yet these are troubling times we live in today. It is like the storm you can see in the distance, the black clouds are foreboding and you know it is heading in your direction.  We hear the news:  there is rioting in the streets, looting,  police officers who are doing their duty are being shot by civilians, anger boils beneath the surface of people who feel hopeless to change their situation.  The way of life we knew growing up (those of us with some age on us) is drastically different.  But God is not—He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!  He tried over and over again to get His people to repent and come back to Him.  He is calling us to do the same. But what will you do in the end? The choice is ours.

Oh LORD, the bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun. We are a people in need of a Savior and have been since the beginning of creation. Thank you for providing a way to you.  Thank you that you are in control and all things are under your dominion.  As I think through my own life, I see how you have used what is evil to bring good; why would I think You would do anything less in all the world?  Our trust is in You, our Hope is in You, where else would we go?  In Jesus name.  Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Jeremiah 1-4; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 9

“Consider the costs of fear; I created you to rise above it.”

“Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them.” Jeremiah 1:17

One of the things I remember most about my Dad was his forthright approach to life… he was never afraid to say what needed to be said. I remember how much he was criticized for caring less about feelings and more about making sure we were on the right path and doing what was right. Looking back on how my Dad prepared his children for life has me realizing that he was unknowingly preparing us for how God desires for us to live the lives He’s given to us… fearless!

God isn’t known to mince words when it comes to speaking to His children about unhealthy patterns. His words are full of compassion and love, but they also get the job done when we need a swift kick to jolt us from a bad habit.

While it typically isn’t seen as such, fear can be seen as a bad habit. Research has shown that habits are created through repetition, and fears can be encouraged or destroyed through repeated reinforcement or consistent defeat.

Unfortunately, the effects of bad habits come at a cost. In the case of fear, we lose our sense of empowerment. We may also lose face in front of others, as was the case when God brought to the Israelites’ attention in the first chapter of Jeremiah. If the Israelites gave in to fear, God wouldn’t protect their image in front of their enemies. They would have to face the shame of looking foolish if they didn’t take courage from the strength God offered them. Tough love, but again, God doesn’t waste time getting to the point when He knows action is necessary.

God hates fear when we allow it to diminish our willingness to move forward with Him. We can’t overcome fears by sitting around waiting for those who don’t know God to get the best of us. God has told His people to get up, prepare, and go out. Sometimes, action involves nothing more than choosing to rest in faith; when that’s what God wants from us, that’s all we need to do.

Let us decide to not let fear cost us victory, honor, integrity, and deeper faith. Let us take action against the issues that make us afraid by heeding God’s commands and moving confidently with Him.

Father, as best I can, I understand why You hate fear since I, too, hate fear… it’s debilitating and keeps us from being the best You want for us. If fear has a place, let it be a fear from missing out on a deeper relationship with You that would result from giving in to other fears. Thank you, Father, for being our rock, our courage, our strength… Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Zephaniah; Psalm 74; II Corinthians 8

One of the most frequent arguments of man about God goes something like this, “If God rules over the day, the night, the light, and the sun; if He sets seasons and limits the oceans from covering all the land, how is it that He allows chaos and destruction in the world?” (Paraphrased, Psalm 74). A more personal, contemporary grudge with God begets questions like, “If God is a loving, caring God, then why did He allow this addiction, divorce, death of my loved one, bankruptcy, job loss, declined health… in my life?” Throughout history man has cried out to God, yet, I sense a subtle change in the way New Testament Christians are called to perceive the difficulties of life. I am reminded of Courtney’s September 22nd post quoting II Corinthians 6:3-5:

3We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord. 4 In fact, in everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and gone without food. 6 We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Do you see the shift? It isn’t as though we are to stop asking God to intervene. There are too many Scriptures that challenge or command us to pray for self and others. The wild, uncontrollable impulse to question God’s goodness, His intentions, and His desire to deliver His “turtledove” from destruction is the difference I see in Paul’s discourse. There need be no doubt in an anno Domini son’s or daughter’s heart that God’s will is being accomplished in the lives of His children.

This is not to say that the children of Israel before Christ were not chastised for unbelief. Zephaniah warns that God will “…punish men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil,” (v 12). Only the foolish believed that God was uninvolved with His people and inactive.

Yet, today many still question God’s interaction with man. (Of course, I am not talking about nonbelievers who use this same argument to try discrediting God.) Focusing on the inequality in the world leads many to think that God neither blesses nor curses, and neither comes to the aid of or punishes His own. But do our circumstances evidence God’s apathy, or does complacency expose hearts fallen prey to life’s circumstances?

Maybe I just want an end to the questions. Then I remember that Jesus Christ put to rest all arguments when on the cross, He said, “It is finished!” What a relief! Like the Apostle Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, we must push on in our Christian walk, “doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;” [a month ago, a decade ago] (my words); but now you also must complete the doing of it; that is there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion of what you have.” Whether in giving good gifts to the saints as is intended in this Scripture or in living a sacrificial life, I pray,

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to walk in victory over our circumstances. Help us demonstrate our belief in the personal intervention of a risen Savior who proved unequivocally that God is involved in our lives. Help us to focus on becoming “kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” so that others will see You in us. Thank You for hearts dependent on the grace and mercy You daily bestow!

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Habakkuk 2; 2 Corinthians 7

WE…the overwhelming pronoun used in 2 Corinthians is not “I”, it is “we.” 2 Corinthians is a letter written by a man who is in love with God and his community of fellow believers. This kind of love must have been a shock to the world. It’s the kind of love that one might expect from a close-knit family, but not from people who are unrelated. It would be reasonable to expect that the early Church would turn on each other and disband in the face of opposition and persecution.

Do I share this fierce love for my fellow believers or am I quick to pull away when things get difficult and avoid conflict? Paul leans in:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter… yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.”  2 Corinthians 7:8-9

Somethings are simply worth fighting for. Human conflict is risky, but truth wins. Paul modeled what he described in his previous letter to the church at Corinth:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

This is the very love God showers down on me everyday through the work of his son, Jesus. It’s more real than the breath in my lungs and the beat of my heart.

Holy Spirit, teach me to love like you do. Help me to lean in towards others and not pull away when difficulties arise. Help me to receive the truth as well as speak the truth in love. Give me a heart that is humble and willing to risk not being understood or loved in return. And relieve me of my  crazy need to be right. May your truth win in all my relationships. Amen

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of your the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

Klueh

 

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2 Chronicles 34-35; 2 Corinthians 6

Josiah became king at a young age.

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right. 2 Chronicles 34:1-2, NLT.

He began to seek the Lord in the eighth year of his reign. He was repentant. He wanted to honor God.

18 Never since the time of the prophet Samuel had there been such a Passover. None of the kings of Israel had ever kept a Passover as Josiah did, involving all the priests and Levites, all the people of Jerusalem, and people from all over Judah and Israel. 2 Chronicles 35:18, NLT.

In following scriptures, Josiah dismisses King Neco’s warning from the Lord and goes into a battle that leads to his death. Josiah is remembered for his devotion to the Lord.

In the New Testament reading, Paul addresses Corinthians as partners with God.

We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, NLT.

Live in such a way … endure …  these words, a reminder. Hardships and difficulties follow, from the world and from brothers and sisters in Christ, and I think of my own heart reaction–when the world or a brother/sister sticks out a foot to trip me, do I respond with understanding, patience, kindness and sincere love? Sometimes it’s a struggle. I know I want to serve God whether people show me honor or contempt. The longer the difficulty, the more it feels like making my way through thick mud.

Paul implores:

11 Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. 12 There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. 13 I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us! 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, NLT.

Lord, an enemy wants me to fail in my walk with you. An enemy wants me to harden my heart, withhold my love. But your word encourages me to live in such a way, to endure, to be a true minister–and it is born and empowered by your spirit living in me. Of course it feels like walking through mud in my own strength. God, I want you to be my focus. You are my strength. You desire unity in your family. Please reveal any way I might cause a brother or sister to stumble–I don’t want any part of tripping someone up. How can I proclaim my devotion to you if there is hardness in my heart? (Oh, how can light live with darkness?) Please heal the hurting places, Lord, so that they don’t grow hard. My joy is in you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 22-23; Psalm 73; 2 Corinthians 5

23But I am always with you.

You have held my hand.

24You guide me with your advice.

And later you will receive me in honor.

25I have no one in heaven but you.

I want nothing on earth besides you.

26My mind and my body may become weak.

But God is my strength.

He is mine forever.

27Those who are far from God will die.

You destroy those who are unfaithful.

28But I am close to God, and that is good.

The Lord God is my protection.

I will tell all that you have done. Psalm 73:23-28

I’m going to be completely honest. I’m really struggling right now. My life is in a tough spot and the situation is less than ideal for our family. The physical and emotional toll that having our family separated and strewn across the world is frustrating and difficult for all of us.

On the surface, to the ones looking into the window of our life, the answers seem simple and no brainer. Without understanding the nuances of our circumstances, judgements are made, advice is given. The pressure of so many expectations and the stress of not living up to any of them has got me second guessing almost everything.

Except for God.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t see God with my natural eyes, I trust that He is there guiding my steps, holding me by the hand in the journey, in the ups and downs, in the struggle. He’s the still small voice that leads me in my walk, encouraging me to keep up the good fight no matter how difficult it is.

My mind and body feel weak, exhausted from not sleeping well for way too many nights in a row, having too much on my shoulders that drains the life out of me, and not experiencing enough moments of joy.

But God is my strength. He protects me. He provides for me, He gives me rest and peace.

The key is remembering, in the hard moments, to crawl up on His lap, nestle into His arms, and stay close to His heart.

Yesappa, I need a hug today. I need You extra close today. I need Your strength. I need Your love. I need Your grace. And, I need an extra measure of peace today. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Blessings – Julie

 

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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