Monthly Archives: September 2019

Jeremiah 47-49

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Attack…flee…plunder…disgraced…capture…silenced…destruction….destroy…broken…

““Yet I will restore the fortunes of Elam in days to come,”” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 49:39 NIV

I am sitting on my front porch in the cool of the morning. The sun is filtering through the trees and I hear the steady traffic on the main road. There is a slight breeze and leaves are gently falling to the ground. It’s a slow morning with nothing that HAS to be done right now. I feel relaxed. And then I read the words of God recorded by Jeremiah and it’s like a shock through my system.

How can the God who loved the world so much that He died for her, call for such violence and destruction? That is not the God I know…but…that is a part of the God that I choose to love and follow.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

What became a little clearer to me today is the importance of obedience. I know…we hate that word! Especially as adults who have found their independence. But God knows! He created us! He knows what we need, how we will find what our hearts ultimately long for, and how to live in such an angry and sad world. He knows! Not me! I don’t know. I struggle every day with what seems to be insurmountable in my life and in the world.

What do I do? What do we do?

We practice obedience. Not for others but because we believe that God truly knows. That’s what Jeremiah did. He couldn’t have been the first choice on anyone’s party list. The words he recorded from God were not going to make him popular. But he was obedient. And it was hard.

What is God calling me to be obedient about today? What is he calling you? What is one step we can make today? Remember that it’s because of our relationship with God that we obey. We don’t obey to gain it.

Dear God, obedience is hard! You know that, you have lived that, and you call us to obey not in order to be in relationship with you but because you are GOD and you know! You know best what we need and how to walk this hard path of life. God help us in our disobedience. Turn our hearts away from the false peace and towards your fulfilling love. Amen

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Jeremiah 35,36; Jeremiah 45,46; Jude

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for[a] Jesus Christ:

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.  Jude ESV

What does it mean to know myself beloved in God and kept for Christ? Do I see myself held for Him? Kept is such an entrancing word to me. What is the keeping of a body, soul, mind, heart, life for Christ? He is the precious prize; He is the worthy One who loves and He is coming in the clouds- Victorious Savior- am I kept and do I keep myself for Him? Vaguely (as if in a fog, dimly) , I have reflected on how easy it is to lose the precious things- the things of great price that should be treasured and protected. Highly valued. Do I value what He does?  And then the gracious blessing: Mercy, peace, and love in abundance. O beloved one, treasured of Christ, may you, may your life overflow in mercy, peace, and love. May you have more than enough.  The mercy, peace, and love are like a lavish fountain to me- available in Christ, fully refreshing.  Abundance is such a healing word.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude ESV

I must be careful not to follow my own instinct or the way of my natural understanding. Following Christ is an abandonment to Him not to the world (the way of Cain), the flesh, idolatry (all that raises up higher than the Lord.) The Lord has been speaking to me about the importance of works. Not to earn salvation; not to prove my goodness or worthiness- but as a witness of His life. Also, as something that is important and pleases God. Godly deeds matter.

A Call to Persevere

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They[f] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment[g] stained by the flesh.  Jude ESV

Keep yourselves in the love of God. I am captivated. There is a nuance of protection in the word keep; there is a sense of tucking in close, there is choice and there is choosing; we are kept (verse 1) and we keep (verse 21). My focus must be on building up the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping myself in the love God, waiting for Christ’s mercy: this is a large endeavor; it is a full-time focus. Help me to treasure You, Lord- with my life.

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  Jude ESV

To him who is able to keep….

Lest we/I become to fearful, discouraged, or dismayed- God is able to keep. All  praise belongs to Him. All worship is for Him. Keep me in Your love! The beautiful jubilance of being presented without fault and with great joy! Years ago, we often sang a worship song based entirely on this verse of this beautiful Doxology. I found it here.

Lord, press upon my heart to be kept, to keep for you, in you, by Your love. May I know what it is to hide in the secret place of Your Presence under the wings of  Your profound love. Help me take my days, my obedience, my life seriously and may You sanctify these and create something worthy.  Lord, may I know the utter safety of being kept in Your love, waiting for Your mercy. Amen.

Rebecca( offeringsbecca)

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Jeremiah 23, 25, 26; Titus 3

I have lived in this home for eight years. While I couldn’t tell you the exact reason or date that I forgot to get the trash cans to the curb, I can say that a neighbor noticed the break in my routine one week and called to check on me.

My kids and I have delivered goodies and cards on Christmas and Valentine’s Day to our nearest neighbors for many years. The year my dad died, his funeral was in early February, and I couldn’t get my head around baking cookies for our neighbors for Valentine’s Day–so much in my world was changing. I went to the mailbox one day to find a (gluten-free!) baking mix from a neighbor and a card that spoke love to me. She acknowledged how I cared for others and wanted to care for me. (She didn’t even know my dad had died. I guess she had just noticed my absence that season.)

These are just two gestures from my community that have gently comforted me and reminded me that the things (we) say and do really matter. People notice. They notice our habits. They notice our hearts. Every one of us has influence–in a neighborhood, in a family, in a friendship, in a work place, on a sports team, in a classroom, online, or even randomly out and about in the world.

As I read in Jeremiah, I reflect on stewardship.

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:1, NLT).

And:

“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
    filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
    They do not speak for the Lord!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
    ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
    they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ (Jeremiah 23:16b-17, NLT)

Jeremiah’s stance on obedience and truth made him a target in his community. An angry mob demanded his life.

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to the officials and the people in his own defense. “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The Lord gave me every word that I have spoken. 13 But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands—do with me as you think best. 15 But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard (Jeremiah 26:12-15, NLT).”

(Uriah also prophesied the same things as Jeremiah, and he was hunted down, captured and killed.)

Jeremiah (and Uriah) served the Lord. Jeremiah’s task intimidates me–the non-confrontational me. What will I do and who will I be when it comes to speaking truth and upholding values? I think long on the things that I value–when I am under pressure, do I trust God with the outcome? Even if I stand alone? (Below, Ahikam stands up for Jeremiah, and I am encouraged. And I remember the most unexpected times that the Lord has sent someone to stand with me in difficulties.)

24 Nevertheless, Ahikam son of Shaphan stood up for Jeremiah and persuaded the court not to turn him over to the mob to be killed (Jeremiah 26:24, NLT).

Lord, you have given me areas of influence and I want to honor you with my life, my words and my actions. Dear Lord, strengthen me in my weakness. Help me to speak truth over my fears.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jer. 21-22; 2 Kings 24; Titus 2; Ps. 112

It’s not always easy to define success and find security. The world defines those things by what they possess: wealth, popularity, beautiful treasures. Our culture promotes a very self-centered approach to life, teaching that the key to happiness and fulfillment is found in having more. More money. More friends. More things.

Scripture says quite a different thing.

Psalm 112 reminds me of how God defines success.

This scripture says the key to success and security in life is the fear of God that leads to obedience. When I live in reverence of God, I can rest in the power of God to provide for me as I follow His will for my life.

And what is that will for my life?

Psalm 112:4-5, 9 NIV

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn will be lifted high in honor.

God’s will for my life is that I am gracious.
Do I bless those around me with undeserved kindness and understanding?

God’s will for my life is that I am compassionate.
Do I go the extra mile to care for those who are suffering?

God’s will for my life is that I am righteous.
Am I striving to honor God in the daily choices I’m faced with?  

God’s will for my life is that I am generous.
Do I give freely, or even sacrificially, for the sake of furthering the Kingdom of God?

God’s will for my life is that I am fair.
Do I make truth and honesty a part of every interaction with others?  

God’s will for my life is that I am merciful.
Am I patient with those around me? Am I forgiving those who have hurt me?  

Success in this life will be found when I love God and love others.

While the world defines success by what they take and store for themselves, God defines it by what I give away.

It’s a scary thing to be generous. It’s a scary thing to give of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. But when I trust God to provide for my needs, I can look for ways to meet the needs of those around me.

Instead of being fearful and worrying about what I have and if I’ll have enough, I must choose to fear God, live in reverence to Him, and look for ways to be generous in the lives of those around me.

When I am gracious, compassionate, righteous, generous, fair, and merciful, God blesses me richly. He provides for my needs. He brings joy into my life. He honors me for honoring Him. And what I receive from Him is so much better than anything I could take for myself.

Psalm 112 (NIV)

1 Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,

who find great delight in his commands.

2 Their children will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,

and their righteousness endures forever.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;

they will be remembered forever.

7 They will have no fear of bad news;

their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,

they will gnash their teeth and waste away;

the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Father, forgive me for being caught up in the world around me and believing that I need to provide for myself, take for myself, and protect myself to be safe and secure. I know that You are willing and able to provide for my every need. Help me to step out in faith to be generous to those around me. Help me to see the needs you want to use me to meet and help me to glorify you as I choose giving over taking and keeping. Thank you for all the ways you provide for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

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Jeremiah 19-20; Titus 1; Psalm 93

Lord, your laws will stand forever.
Your Temple will be holy forevermore. (Psalm 93:5)

God had established his covenant with the Jews. As long as they worshiped him as the one true God and followed his decrees, his protection was upon them. However, they chose to do otherwise.

Say, ‘Kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem, listen to this message from the Lord. This is what the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: I will soon bring a disaster on this place that will amaze and frighten everyone who hears about it. 4 The people of Judah have quit following me. They have made this a place for foreign gods. They have burned sacrifices to other gods that neither they, nor their ancestors, nor the kings of Judah had ever known before. They filled this place with the blood of innocent people. They have built places on hilltops to worship Baal, where they burn their children in the fire to Baal. That is something I did not command or speak about; it never even entered my mind. Now people call this place the Valley of Ben Hinnom or Topheth, but the days are coming, says the Lord, when people will call it the Valley of Killing. (Jer 19:3-6) NIV

I don’t imagine these words were received with great applause by the crowds that heard Jeremiah declare the words of the LORD. As it is today, many hear the words of God and dismiss them, scoff at them, and refuse to believe them. They are “stiff-necked and refuse to listen.” But as Psalm 93 states: God’s laws will stand forever. His promises can be trusted—both the ones of blessings and the ones of curses (see Deut. 28).

As I read Chapter 20 and Jeremiah’s treatment, I couldn’t help but think of Paul and his many trials. He, too, was beaten and imprisoned for spreading the truth of God’s words.  He, too, was obeying God and fully in His will.

Pashhur son of Immer was a priest and the highest officer in the Temple of the Lord. When he heard Jeremiah prophesying in the Temple courtyard, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten. And he locked Jeremiah’s hands and feet between large blocks of wood at the Upper Gate of Benjamin of the Lord’s Temple. (Jer 20:1b-3).

Verses 7-18 are entitled “Jeremiah’s Complaint” in my bible. As I read through them, I thought of Jeremiah and what he had just endured. These verses come after he’s been spreading God’s words, warning people of the coming destruction, mistreated, and ridiculed. He spent the night in stocks at the public gate in order to shame him and try to silence him. He was doing God’s work and never expected it would play out the way it did. Having been through trials God has allowed into my life, I totally get his battle within for I’ve battled with these same feelings. Here I was, doing what I thought God called me to do, and something I never expected came out of it. I went from being angry with God, to praising Him, to hurting so badly I wish I’d never been born. Like Jeremiah, I took it straight to God and I felt his love for me as I wrestled with the turmoil inside my own head and heart. He let me wrestle until I got to that place of surrender where, knowing God was sovereign, I could once again do what he was asking me to do. Chapter 21 begins with Jeremiah once again setting off to prophesy for the Lord. Being silent was not an option for Jeremiah—he was called by God to be His voice to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. (Jer 20:9)

Lord, I pray to be so consumed by the Holy Spirit that I cannot keep inside what you’ve called me to do. I thank you for the times you’ve allowed me to share my feelings of fear, frustration, doubts, and anger as well as the times of pure praise, worship, and thanksgiving. You’ve patiently waited for me to get beyond myself to that place of surrender where you are once again in your proper place in my life. Your will above my own. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

 

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