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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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Leviticus 19-20; Acts 10; Ps. 13

Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offerit, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. Leviticus 19:5-7

Isn’t interesting that the peace offerings of the Law were no longer acceptable on the third day? The purpose of this offering is “so that you may be accepted.” The sacrifice which makes us acceptable to God is no longer needed on the third day, the sacrifice is complete and we need it no longer. Could God have painted a more poignant picture of what was to come. I was completely blown away yet again at how even the Law points to Jesus. On the third day there is no longer need for a sacrifice. In fact any sacrifice left on the third day is detestable. On the third day the sacrifice is complete and peace has been made.

Wow! Could this passage be any more cool? The Law in itself is so dreary and oppressive, but woven within it is the hope of our salvation and peace. On the third day a sacrifice to make peace with God is no longer needed. I would say that two things come to mind in terms of application. First, we can rest complete and whole in the finished work of Christ the perfect sacrifice. We do not need to offer anything up for on the third day He rose again, conquered death and threw open the gates to God. It is finished! I just hope I never get over it. The second point that comes to mind is that we also tend to try to hold onto sacrifice after it is no longer needed. We all return to other things to make us acceptable when we already are. It is absurd and an offense to the perfect sacrifice of Christ for us to offer up anything else.

Father thank you that through Your sacrifice we are made eternally acceptable to you. Thank you for Jesus, the unblemished Lamb who takes away the sins of the world who has conquered sin and death once and for all and given us eternal life. We need nothing else. Amen!

M Hipsley (From the archives. Originally published on 66 Books in a Year on February 8, 2009.)

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Leviticus 4-7; Acts 6

Scripture

“…the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.”  (Leviticus 4:31, NIV)

Observation

The nose knows, I suppose, and God has a favorite smell.  Among the lengthy Levitical “sin payment” rules, with all their blood and death, God repeats something that delights him:  a pleasing aroma.  His favorite smell.

“Your sacrifice,” God says, “is an aroma that pleases Me.  It smells good.  When I smell it, I know that you made a sacrifice for your sin.  The aroma of atonement pleases me, and indeed, I am pleased to forgive.”

Application

When I read Leviticus with New Testament eyes, I remember that Christ became my sin offering.  He was a sacrifice, made on my behalf.  He took on all the Levitical “blood and death” to become a pleasing aroma to God, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12), so that mankind’s sin-debt would be paid in full.

God no longer smells the stench of my sin.  He smells only Jesus—the aroma of atonement—and is pleased to forgive.  His nose knows.

Prayer

God, thank You again and again for forgiveness.  Thank You that Jesus’ death paid for all sins—even mine.  Empower me now to become the “aroma of Christ” to the world, and to “spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”  (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)  I love You, God, and I’m forever grateful.  Amen.

Amy Storms (From the archives. Originally published on 66 Books in a Year on February 2, 2009.)

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Genesis 32-34; Luke 10

Genesis 32:27-29

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

“No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” 

“Why do you ask my name?” the man replied.

 Then he blessed Jacob there.

This text humbles me.

Because there’s something here that I’ve missed all along.

Every other time I’ve read the story, I’ve gone the same route:

Trying to ‘figure it out’

Asking questions like,

Who is the man Jacob wrestles with?

 Is it an angel?

 Is it Jesus?

 What’s the point?

 Is it about wrestling with God in prayer?

 Why doesn’t the author just explain it?

Missing what’s there right in front of me.

Jacob asks the question I keep asking.

And the man answers.

“Why do you ask my name?”

As an American I tend to miss things like this, we aren’t exactly the type of culture that chooses names with a purpose, let alone one that allows seeks the Lord’s counsel in naming our children. A friend of mine had a girl in his middle school Boys and Girls Club program named

‘La-a’

(pronounced ‘La-dash-uh’)

Yep.

But in the ancient cultures, a name wasn’t just an arbitrary word to keep track of different people, like a tracking number,

A name meant something.

 A name was who you are.

 Jacob’s name was important.

Heel-Grabber, one who contends with,

His name proved to be true,

Getting his brother’s birthright, as well as his blessing,

Gaining wealth from Laban’s flocks,

The debacle with Rachel and Leah,

Strife seemed to follow him wherever he went.

The man asks Jacob his name, not so he knows what to call him, but he’s asking him:

at the deepest level of your being Jacob,

Who are you?

 and when Jacob tries to turn it around and ask the same question?

It’s not about me right now, Israel

 It’s about you, and who you’re going to be,

 because of me

 And there’s the simple, but impossibly hard question I need to ask myself before every action,

before every word,

today.

What’s my name?

 Who does God say that I am?

Lord help me to become more and more, Who I am in you, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight.

 -Samuel,

son of Paul.

son of God.

From the archives. Originally published by (anglinsam) January 13, 2014.

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Job 8-11; Revelation 12

Human suffering is wrong. We are not made for it and yet it is a tangible reminder that things are not right with the world and points to something, someone beyond our understanding…God.  The unwelcome twins, Grief and Pain settle in with Job and refuse to leave. It’s a full body-mind assault 24/7 and brings him to the very edge of life. Even his wife begs him to put an end to his suffering, “Curse God and die,” but he can’t. His belief that God hears his pleas and is somehow good and just beyond his meager understanding serves as the thin thread that keeps him hanging on.

Job can not look to his righteousness and intellect to save him, “But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” Job 9:2-4.

 The God who created the universe and continues to provide life and breath withholds healing. Job may feel a million miles away from God, but that doesn’t change the reality of His existence: “When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.” Job 9:11.

 But then Job asks, if not prays, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it is now stands with me, I cannot.” Job 9:33-35.

Job’s seemingly rhetorical questions prove to be prophetic. The great arbitrator, the Messiah comes and takes on the curse intended for all mankind. I don’t have to suffer the consequences of my sin. Jesus goes to the Cross and his Resurrection breaks the power of sin and death over us. Once a stranger,  I am invited into the very presence of God having been made clean by the righteousness of Jesus.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” Revelation 12:10.

 The evil spell is broken. In this world, I will know pain, grief and sorrow, but because I hold on to Jesus, I will never be separated from God. He endured that separation, so I would never have to. I am always invited, always welcomed into God’s presence. Short and sweet, God wins.

Dear Father,  thank you there is so much more to life than what I see and understand. Thank you, Jesus for taking up my sin and shame and making me whole so that I am learning what it means to enjoy the Father’s presence. Let suffering and pain remind me that I am made for your Kingdom. Today Holy Spirit, with my feet firmly planted in this world, show me how to live as a citizen of your country, under your authority and free from the accusations of the enemy. Your word is the last word and stands forever. Amen

 Kathy (klueh)

 From the archives. Originally published December 16, 2016.

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Obadiah; Jeremiah 40-42; Psalm 147; 1 Peter 5

I have been thinking a lot this week about the flow pattern of my quiet time with the Lord. I am constantly seeking him for wisdom and guidance. I want to see the Lord and hear from him in new ways. I ask for him to speak to me and I tell him I will be obedient to his call on my life. Have you ever thought about the words you pray to the Lord? I mean really thought of them? We go to church and sing songs of worship to him like “wherever you lead, I will follow” and “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…wherever you would call me.” Have you really thought of the meaning of those words?

The prophet Jeremiah was a young but brave soul who served the Lord through thick and thin. Here we see the people coming to him again for advice and asking Jeremiah to go to the Lord on their behalf for what their next steps should be. They promised they would be obedient to whatever the Lord told Jeremiah to tell them:

“Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:2-6

When I do hear from him, though, I am often unwilling to move. I find excuses to stay inside my comfort zone instead of stepping out in faith and following him where he leads. So often, it is fear that holds me back because I can’t see what’s up ahead. It’s easy to serve the Lord where I know I will be safe but when I must move beyond the walls of comfort, I feel unbalanced and shaky. But I must remember that protection comes from His loving hand and not the walls I have so carefully built.

Moving beyond my convenient, happy, and contented life may require some discomfort and ultimately sacrifice. I may be in situations that are not “safe” but this life is only temporary as are the sufferings. Peter’s words encourage my heart that no matter what lies ahead, focusing my eyes on Christ and His calling and purpose will result in the ultimate reward that will never be taken away.

 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11

Dear Lord, my we humble ourselves and cast all our worries on you when you call us to go. Thank you for your promise that you will restore, confirm and strengthen us when we rely on you. To you be the praise and glory forever! Amen.

Kateredding

From the archives. Originally published on October 17, 2016.

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Isaiah 45-48; 1 Corinthians 13

“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily.  “If it is a good morning,” he said.  “Which I doubt,” said he.  AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Eeyore moments are no laughing matter. When our vision is confined to what we see, despair, anger and depression follow. Isaiah and his people have every earthly reason to throw up their hands and give in to the darkness around them. Morally bankrupt leaders and nations are on the attack; the world as they know it is collapsing around them. It is only natural that the people of Israel take an Eeyore posture, but God speaks and commands his people to listen.

“I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”                     Isaiah 45:19

“…And there is not God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other…Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.’  All  who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”   Isaiah 45:22

God appeals to Israel’s imagination; He gives them a vision of what is to come:

“Before me every knee will bow; by every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength. All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord and all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”                                                                                                                                                                                      Isaiah 45:23-25

I hear God asking me about my hopes and dreams. To whom and in what am I entrusting my future? Politicians, pastors, 401K’s? My own ability to figure things out? My force of will and determination? When I hit snags in personal relationships, do I trust in my sense of personal righteousness and insist on my way, or do I submit to God’s definition of love (1 Corinthians 13)?  Do I allow Him to win the day  even when if things appear to be a total loss?

O dear Father,  thank you for calling me by name and telling me to listen. Your Word sits before me;  you speak. I am listening. Have your way in my life. Strengthen my humble faith so that I trust you in all things—the major and the minor, no matter how things appear. Teach me to sing of your beauty and goodness in all things and in all times.

Klueh

From the archives. Originally published September 9, 2016.

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