Author Archives: jansuwilkinson

About jansuwilkinson

God created us so unbelievably complex. As an addiction counselor, I am privileged to hear and hold in trust the unique stories of immortal beings whom God loves. When reflecting on my own journey, I am curious about the narrative, the timing, the burst of meaning, the unanswered enigmas of every day. Yet there is one simple truth: love is why we are here. Reading and spilling ink with fellow writers of 66 Books this Year 2022 promises to be no exception to discovering this divine love found on page after page of God's Word. Lead us in, Lord Jesus!

Ezekiel 41-43

Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple was God’s language of love to the Jews who had been exiled from Israel and whose glorious temple had been destroyed. The first thirty-eight chapters of the Book of Ezekiel were filled with visions condemning Israel for their faithlessness. Ezekiel’s latter prophecies were intended to bring hope to the Israelites still in exile – hope in God’s promise that He will return in all His glory to His people, His temple, and His land. Ezekiel’s earlier visions brought meaning to the suffering, but God was not done with Israel. Hope blazed anew with God’s measuring out the beautiful restoration of His dwelling place among Israel. Yet the temple painstakingly described by Ezekiel was never built.

I read an article by Dr. Solomon B. Freehof who pointed out that the Book of Ezekiel initiated acceptance of national and individual responsibility (social ethics) with ritual ceremony (Temple worship). He said, “Because it was Ezekiel who pioneered the principle that ritual and righteousness need not compete for the soul of the true worshiper of God, and that priest and prophet can teach together, one may well say that he, more than any other [Old Testament prophets], was responsible for the fact that at every Jewish public worship service, on every Sabbath and holiday, a reading from the prophets always follows the reading from the Torah.” Dr. Solomon B. Freehof, Author at My Jewish Learning(opens in a new tab)myjewishlearning.com/author/dr-solomon-b-freehof/

Not being Jewish, I cannot speak to the impact the Book of Ezekiel has on modern Jews of faith. However, I get the tension between addressing the suffering with social responsibility and giving all one’s devotion to spiritual matters. Some say that Christianity is a private matter that needs not be discussed outside of the Sunday church service. Others proclaim social responsibility and denounce the ‘pie in the sky’ focus. The great leveler, however, is when tribulation and adversity rains down, and they will – on all of us.

Then we look to the heavens and ask, “Why, God?! Why me? Why now?” If no answer comes, we may lose our faith, lose our hope, and neglect to worship God. Our focus is on fairness (is this not what we expect in being socially responsible) and frustration when we do not get our fair share. Disappointment thwarts our worship and spiritual devotion. At those times, we may need an Ezekiel to remind us that God is good and that His hand that stretches out to correct is also the hand that pulls us back to Him and the hope of His blessings. And not because of who we are or what we have done.

Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we are always in Your hands. Our hope is in looking to You for rescue, restoration, and forgiveness. Through worship we understand Your faithfulness and Your mercy. For You alone are with us and for us. All for love. So, we sing Hallelujah.

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Jeremiah 51:11-52:34

Salvation is a term that has many layers of meaning. For instance, salvation means rescue or help when in danger or the danger of defeat. Other examples include being released from prison, saved from mistreatment, protected from threats, or even deserved suffering. The Greek verb sozo used in the New Testament, elevates the meaning of salvation to the spiritual realm, as well. The term refers to God’s power to deliver us from the bondage of sin, the future deliverance from the presence of sin (Romans 13:11), and the deliverance of Israel at the second advent of Christ (Luke 1:71). God does not forsake His chosen. Jeremiah 51:5 says, “For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, the Lord of Hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.” And we who have become the children of God because Jesus Christ freely gave Himself on the Cross are also His chosen.

“Help me, Lord!” is probably my most spoken prayer. I seem to need saving on a regular basis. Maybe that is just my natural inclination toward chaos and crisis or perhaps my need is because of hypersensitivity to sin. I see potential danger around every corner – whether in my life, my family, co-workers, government, etcetera, etcetera. I want to call out like Jeremiah 51:9, 10 “Forsake [Babylon], and let us go everyone to his own country; for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies. The Lord has revealed our righteousness. Come and let us declare in Zion the work of the Lord our God.” Can we run away and hide together until God’s judgment destroys His enemies? Better yet, I want being saved to mean smooth sailing; no more drama; no worries; nothing to fear. In these moments, I recognize the child inside who wishes for the lazy days of summer, sitting on the porch swing, delicious smells of homemade bread baking and a whistling pressure cooker tenderizing a roast and vegetables, the soft humming of Jesus Loves Me on my aunt’s lips as she gently rocks the swing. Such a simple, peaceful time. I can also relate to the nod of restoration in Jeremiah 51:32-34. After Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Merodach became king and ruled two years. In his first year, he pardoned Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. “He spoke kindly to him and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon… [Jehoiachin] ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life.”

Yet I am reminded of another’s prayer. Refusing to be saved from impending death, Jesus Christ as Savior declared this: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27) We who are saved and being saved have reaped the benefit of Christ’s obedience to death. In all the chaos and suffering we are allowed to experience; we might look for the unseen benefit. Even the dark fall of Babylon had a silver lining; that is, a remnant of God’s chosen people survived Babylon’s destruction. We see later that Jehoiachin’s restoration was symbolic of the future restoration of Israel and Judah to their homeland.

Trials and difficulties force us to depend even more on the One and only God who can prevent, intervene, and/or restore what the enemy is intent on taking from us. Praying with faith storms the heavens and brings down salvation. And Christ Jesus promised saving grace that insures we will never be separated from Him. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

So, yes Lord. Conform us to Your image as we walk out our salvation. Intervene on our behalf. Grant us courage and determination to stand and testify to Your faithfulness. You are a present help. I will always cry out to You!

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Jeremiah 2:26-5:19

Jeremiah 3:1d “Yet return to Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 3:7 “And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’

Jeremiah 3:14,15 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord, “for I am married to you…I will give you shepherds who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Repentance is not just Old Testament. Sometimes I forget this. And yes, I sin. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Consider the cost. Christ suffered and died on a cross and was resurrected to set me free from the penalty of my sins. And consider the need. Romans 8:21, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God…O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Still, the consequences of sinful behaviors do not go unnoticed by God. Jeremiah 5:18 illustrates that God will address the sins of His people. “Nevertheless, in those days,” says the Lord, “I will not make a complete end of you. And it will be when you say, ‘Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us?’ then you shall answer them…'” The Apostle Paul, too, wrote his response after chastising his flock in Corinth, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner…For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted…What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” II Corinthians 7:9

God has not changed His mind about me or man or sin in general. He always calls His bride to repentance. He offers mercy and grace to those who are called by His name. Will the Law require my death? Yes, but I don’t live under the Law. Thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord, I live under grace!Yet, as I walk out my salvation, I am convicted by the Holy Spirit (and reading Paul’s letters in the New Testament!) of my sins and am made sorrowful. I am driven to my knees in repentance knowing that “returning to the Lord” is sweet relief, blessed forgiveness, and deepening love for this merciful God. He is the One who calls me back, talks me down from the ledge, soothes my frayed nerves, and bursts forth His righteousness where mine failed. All because He loves me.

So, no going to God with fear of rejection or punishment, my soul. Remorse, yes. And mostly regret for forgetting that my Father in heaven is the One who loves my soul, speaks healing to my heart, and lifts up my face to see His infinite mercy. My soul is undone every time.

Lord Jesus, You alone make repentance an act of worship and solid hope. Hope knowing that I will be changed, freed, filled with knowledge and understanding. Worship in awe of how a Holy God would want to be in relationship with me. Let me, Your daughter in faith, always stand in Your presence and delight in Your love. Amen.

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Isaiah 5:18-9:12

I see a scraggly, disheveled man pulling a rusty, red wagon loaded with smelly, rotted fruit and waste. His perverse, slurred shouts are insensitive and arrogant, and the people in the street applaud his audacity – “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Amid this debacle stands Isaiah, the prophet chosen by God to predict destruction in his time and declare salvation yet to come. In fact, the most beautiful prophecy in Scripture is spoken through Isaiah while he describes for Judah and Israel their near annihilation in the Syro-Ephraimite wars.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

The juxtaposition of these two images – comfortless desolation and hopeful redemption is a sermon, indeed. And though I am not qualified to write a sermon, I can testify to how the saving grace of Jesus Christ, Son of God, instilled unending hope and joy where depression and loss were commonplace. Some of my Christian friends have half-heartedly lamented that their testimony was uneventful; that is, they had not committed a life of grievous sin before coming to Christ. My little, red wagon, however, was full of regrets when I asked Christ into my life. Mostly, I can barely remember those ‘before Christ’ days. My ‘after dying with Christ’ life has many God-redeemed memories that now overshadow the past. But every so often, like a post traumatic flashback (actually, the look backwards is traumatic!), a disturbing memory will surface. Years ago, I would find myself at the mercy of these memories and would fall to my knees asking again for God’s forgiveness. Then, a lovely truth came to me, a gift from the Holy Spirit. I do not have to keep asking for forgiveness. The governing peace of Jesus Christ now reigns in my life because Christ was born, lived, and died and was resurrected to forgive my sins once and for all. Not only was I unhitched from the wagon, but God cleansed my soul, my mouth, and my mind. What peace! What joy!

So, the ugly memories serve only to remind me to be humble, forgive others, and be patient with those who have not yet had an encounter with the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dear Lord, let me see with Your eyes of compassion, those same eyes that saw me and loved me even in my worst condition so that I will be Your chosen vessel to spread the good news of salvation. Amen! Amen!

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Proverbs 2:10-5:14

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom.” Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the moral of each vignette in every chapter of Proverbs. At first reading, gaining wisdom and knowledge seems an easy task. Wisdom seems a rational response, especially when compared to the consequences of stupidity. Summarily, wisdom brings rewards, and the failure to use wisdom brings disaster. Simple, easy lessons. So why did God see the need to write 31 poetic chapters on wisdom?

When teaching concepts, the master teacher knows the how to get students involved in learning: use a protagonist to hook the student into a story; use strategies to increase memorization such as rhyme, mnemonic device, and visualization; define key words in context, and then have the student substitute this new concept into familiar surroundings (to make the teaching relative). I see the Master Teacher at work in just these three chapters in Proverbs. He presents vivid stories that illustrate the wickedness and terror awaiting us in the absence of wisdom and understanding. Since I love a mystery, these imaginations get my attention! Clashing villains and heroes start my heart racing, adrenalin pumping, and the fight or flight response that makes my body want to run for cover. My mind frantically looks for a way the protagonist may avoid or escape what lies in wait. For example, in Proverbs 2:15 we follow the deceitful woman down the street with her glittery eyes and swishing hips, promising a delightful evening. Then just when our hero is about to enter the darkened house, the Specter of Death or ghosts of the dead appear, too late for some, but hold back the one who elects self-preservation. You can almost hear the frightening cries of the foolish who went into the house where their flesh and their body are consumed. Surely this macabre story should be enough reason to listen to Wisdom.

And yet, how many will go down those darkened stairs into the lair of the wicked even knowing their end is imminent? Ignorance is not always at fault. As God points out in the Proverbs, Wisdom can be rejected. Proverbs 5:12-13 says, “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!” The story above hearkens to a flashback earlier in the life of the doomed. An admonition that could have led to a better choice. Here we have the father reminding his children to keep remembering his wise words on how to avoid trouble. Before standing at the door of temptation, Wisdom is listening to and obeying our parents’ on how to read social cues and environmental clues that danger is afoot. Again, these lessons may be simple enough said, but we are all foolish at one time or another. So, our heavenly Father not only gives sound advice, He strengthens us with His presence. Though the teacher and the parent impart words of wisdom, God promises to stay with His children to keep them safe. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”

And like the ‘happy ever after’ ending to the story, bliss and blessings abound for the one who finds Wisdom – length of days, promotion, riches and honor, sleep that is sweet, grace and the crown of glory, peace, and a pleasant life. Thankfully, the living Word of God is not an anthology of fairy tales or TV episodes in a series of increasing confusion where good becomes evil and evil becomes good. God’s Wisdom teaches us how to assess the world in which we interact with a righteous perspective and to respond with spiritual truths, grace. and love.

To keep us from just thinking that Proverbs tells exciting stories, the Master employs use of the emotional crescendo of a persuasive speaker, shouting out the importance of Wisdom. “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forsake her… Get wisdom and in all your getting, get understanding…Keep her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4:5-13)

Dear God, give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the courage to guard our hearts against the foolishness and deceitfulness of this world. Thank You, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Father, for loving us enough to teach us divine wisdom and spiritual understanding so that we might enjoy the benefits of Your promises and be gracious to others. Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all our temptations and failures and loved us still. Amen.

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