Author Archives: jenlvest

Jeremiah 43, 44, 46; 2 Peter 1

Peter is one of my favorite Bible characters.  Maybe it’s because he’s so relatable.  He messes up.  Then he messes up again.  At times, his faith is so evident—like when he cut off Malchus’ ear in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus (John 18).  Yet, at other times (in this case the very same night!), he denies the Lord he was just attempting to defend—not once or twice but three times.  It seems like Jesus and his purpose were a mystery to Peter.  He was quick to act and speak, but his understanding of the true ministry and mission of Jesus was lacking. However, by the time Peter wrote his second letter to the persecuted believers, he referred to Jesus as “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  After witnessing Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter had a full understanding of Christ’s mission on earth. 

It makes me think about often I respond the same way. With the benefit of history and God’s Word, I have a clear understanding of all that Christ has done for me and what is required of me in return.  I have a head knowledge of what to do, but my heart response doesn’t always match up. Many days my life doesn’t look very changed by the truth I know and, like Peter, I mess up again and again.

Peter was challenging his readers in the same way.  He wanted them not just to KNOW the truth about God, but to LIVE it out.  And I love that Peter doesn’t begin this passage with something they need to do.  Instead, he starts by reminding them what God has already done for them. My striving will never work. Only Jesus can guarantee my salvation.

His divine power has granted to us all things
that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to

his own glory and excellence,
 by which he has granted to us his precious

and very great promises,
 so that through them you may become

partakers of the divine nature,
 having escaped from the corruption

that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:3-4. ESV
)

In the verses 5-7, Peter shares a progressive list of qualities that should be the natural outpouring of a heart devoted to following Christ.  I love how each quality builds on the next–our foundation of faith should ultimately result in love for others.

I also love that Peter starts this list by saying “make every effort” but concludes by reminding his readers that Jesus has called them and ensures their salvation.  As believers, we are called to know Christ and grow in our faith and knowledge of Him and show His love to others.  Peter is clear that the consequences of not doing so are dire:  ineffectiveness and unfruitfulness (2 Peter 1:8) If my faith is not bearing fruit, something is wrong.  But Peter is also clear that these qualities are not prerequisites for salvation.  They do not secure or ensure my salvation; they will be the natural outpouring of a gracious heart that seeks to know God.   

Father, like Peter, I have so many flaws and imperfections.  Help me to continue growing in my understanding of your great love and sacrifice for me.  May my life be characterized by faith in You, growth that makes me more like You, and a love for others that represents You.   

Jen

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Jeremiah 17-20; James 1

Although more than 2500 years have passed since God instructed Jeremiah to prophecy to the kingdom of Judah, reading Jeremiah 17-20 quickly reminds me that, sadly, not much has really changed at all.  It’s easy, especially when reading the Old Testament, to compare myself to “Heroes of the Faith”-Noah, Moses, David and, in the case of today’s reading, Jeremiah.  And, while there’s nothing wrong with striving to be more like these godly biblical examples, I think I’d be wiser to compare myself to the nation of Israel.  Usually, I am much more “stiff necked” (Jer. 17:23; 19:15) and “desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9)—just like Judah—than I care to admit. 

Judah, at the time of Jeremiah’s message from God, was living in exile in Babylon.  According to these chapters, they….

Trusted in their own strength
Harbored deceitful hearts
Abandoned God
Stiffened their necks and did not listen
Made offerings to false gods

These descriptions sound awfully familiar to me.  Just like Judah, I…

Place confidence in my own abilities rather than relying on God for wisdom
Hold on to offenses or “acceptable” sins
Disregard God’s commands or the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life
Dig in my heels and do what Jennifer wants to do rather than what God is asking me to do
Worship at the “false gods”/altars of my hobbies, my family, my phone

And, just like Judah, in spite of being told repeatedly and knowing what is right, I do these things over and over again. I refuse to hear the words of warning from God’s word, choosing instead to continue in my sinful complacency.  Jeremiah warned Judah over and over; there was no question about what would happen if they continued in their sin.  But sadly, Israel didn’t listen, and God’s judgment was swift and sure. 

Even so, Jeremiah with not without hope.  He trusted that the God who had made covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David would keep His word and deliver Judah in spite of its wickedness and rebellion.

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior
So my persecutors will stumble and will not prevail

Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind
Let me see your vengeance on them
For, to you, I have committed my cause

Sing to the LORD, sing praise to the LORD
He rescues the life of the needy from the hand of the wicked.
Jer. 20:11-13 (NIV)

 
Father, thank you for the convicting example of Judah, and thank you for your grace and forgiveness that provide hope for reconciliation.  Help me to learn from Judah’s failures and sins and choose to do what is right. 

Jen



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Psalm 149; Nahum; 2 Corinthians 4

Nahum, a little book tucked into the minor prophets that is often forgotten and/or overlooked, is written as a prophecy about the city of Nineveh.  Yes, that same city that had repented and turned to God after the message of Jonah.  But, in the 100 years since Jonah’s message, Ninevah had returned to its wicked ways, and God was preparing to annihilate the city once and for all.  Ironically, the name “Nahum” means “comfort” but, at first glance, the prophet’s message to the nation of Israel doesn’t seem very comforting at all.  Yet, in reality, Nahum was telling the Israelites, who were at that very moment under siege by the King who made Ninevah his home, that God was going to destroy this enemy. God was reminding Israel that He had chosen them, He loved them, and He was going to preserve them and fulfill His promises to them.

Nahum begins with a description of a powerful God.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
    the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
    the world and all who dwell in it.

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
Nahum 1:1-6 (ESV)

Nahum begins his message with some poignant reminders of God’s past power and provision for His people.  These were events in which the nation of Israel had witnessed God’s power and provision firsthand:  He had parted the Red Sea and Jordan River for them (Ex. 14:21; Josh. 3:17).  He had descended to Mt Sinai in fire, and it trembled (Ex. 19:18).  Early in their travels through the wilderness, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock, providing water for the Israelites (Ex. 17:6).

Surely the Israelites were feeling fearful, abandoned, weary.  And, yet, in the midst of their suffering, Nahum’s message was one of comfort and reassurance.  He was reminding Israel to look back and remember that, despite their repeated disobedience and lack of trust, God had always kept His promises. 

The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
 But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
Nahum 1: 7-8 (ESV)

Nahum begins his message by rehearsing specific instances of God’s power and provision for Israel. He then moves immediately into reminding God’s people of His goodness.  The order of his message is not accidental.  Could Israel trust a God that was powerful but not good?  Could they trust a God that was good but not powerful?  I ask myself the same questions.  If God is powerful but not good, can I trust that He will use His great power to do good things?  And, if He is good but not powerful, can I trust that He will be able to accomplish the good things He has promised?  Of course, the answer is yes!  I can trust because God is both powerful AND good.  He does not make promises He cannot keep, and those promises are always good.

Like Israel, I can look back on God’s past faithfulness to me and trust that He will be faithful in the future.  Even when I cannot imagine anything good happening.  Even when things don’t happen in ways that I would consider “good”.  Even when I have no answers.  God’s past faithfulness is the anchor that grounds me for an uncertain future.  Because of His goodness, I can trust Him.  Because of His power I know that He can—and will—accomplish the good things He has promised. 

With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare,
the wisdom of God to plan it,
and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? 
Surely, we are the most favored of all creatures. 
AW Tozer

Jen

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Psalm 123; Isaiah, 36-37; I Corinthians 10

It’s difficult to imagine how Hezekiah, King of Judah, must have felt during the events of Isaiah 36-37.  Nearly twenty years earlier, Assyria had attacked Judah’s northern neighbor, Israel, and scattered the Jews who lived there.  Now, Assyria had completed its attack on the other fortified cities in Judah and was preparing to lay siege to Jerusalem.  I imagine that King Hezekiah would be scrambling to meet with advisors and strategists and military personnel.  But instead, even as he faced taunts and ridicule from the enemy army’s Field Commander, Hezekiah chose prayer.  

Hezekiah prayed immediately.  In Isaiah 37:14, Hezekiah’s first response was to pray.  Prayer wasn’t an afterthought or something Hezekiah resorted to after attempting to resolve the situation himself.  He went to God first.  Sadly, I am often much better at realizing I need to pray about something–or even promising to pray about something–than I am about following through and actually praying.  Hezekiah didn’t hesitate.  He prayed first.

Hezekiah prayed honestly.  Isaiah 37:14 says that Hezekiah took the letter he had received and “spread it before the Lord”. (ESV)  I imagine Hezekiah sitting down, unrolling the scroll, and literally looking heavenward and saying “Okay, God.  Now what?”  Obviously, I don’t typically have a threatening letter to lay before God but am I willing to figuratively “lay” my struggles, needs, desires, and, most especially, my sins before Him?  Am I willing to be honest and vulnerable in my prayers?

Hezekiah praised first.  Before Hezekiah started rattling off his many requests and petitions, he spent time in praise and adoration.  Even though he himself was the King of Judah, Hezekiah acknowledged God’s authority and his dependence on Him.  I often skip the important step of adoration and jump right into my list of requests, but Hezekiah was careful to praise God first. 

Hezekiah prayed with certainty.   In Isaiah 37:17, Hezekiah’s boldly asks “Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see.” (ESV) God had shown Himself faithful in Hezekiah’s life before and, because of this, Hezekiah prayed confidently, knowing God would hear and answer.  Reflecting on God’s past faithfulness in my life and answered prayers should give me confidence to approach Him boldly in any situation.

Hezekiah prayed dependently.  Hezekiah didn’t mince words.  He laid it all out there—Assyria was coming to destroy Jerusalem, and they needed divine intervention.  God knows all my needs and struggles.  I don’t pray to inform Him.  I pray to remind myself of my dependence on Him and to invite Him to meet my needs.

Hezekiah prayed for God’s glory.  Hezekiah wasn’t interested in being the hero.  He didn’t care about accolades and praise.  He wanted God to be glorified in their victory.  His simple prayer in Isaiah 37:20 was “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, SO THAT all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (ESV)  What motivates me to pray?  Is it my desire for a certain outcome, or do I want God alone to be glorified, regardless of the answer I receive?

Hezekiah prayed anyway.  In the beginning of Isaiah 37, Hezekiah sent his servants to seek wise counsel from the prophet Isaiah.  God’s response, through Isaiah, was the answer Hezekiah was hoping for “Thus says the LORD:  Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard…..I will make him [the King of Assyria] fall by the sword in his own land.“ (ESV)  This seems like a pretty good answer to me!  God had already answered and promised that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria!  In fact, by Isaiah 37:8, the King was already busy fighting somewhere else.  God’s promise had already begun to come true!  But that didn’t stop Hezekiah from continuing in prayer.  God planned to deliver Jerusalem all along, but Hezekiah’s prayer helped God accomplish His divine purpose.  My prayers don’t alter God’s plan.  My prayers help to accomplish the good and perfect plan God already has for me. God’s sovereignty should never stop me from praying.  Rather, it should drive me to Him in complete dependence because I need Him so desperately.

God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered.  Isaiah 37: 36 says “The angel of the Lord struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians” (ESV)  The passage doesn’t record Hezekiah’s response, but I think it’s safe to assume that he praised and thanked God for the victory.  When God answers my prayers, even (or especially!) if His answer is different than I had hoped, am I careful to thank Him and give Him the glory?

Father, thank you for the gift of prayer.  Help me to pray with the humility, boldness, and persistence of Hezekiah so that Your plan will be accomplished, and You will be glorified in my life.

Jen

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Isaiah 14-16; Matthew 28

Life is heavy right now.  For everyone.  For our family. Sickness and death, conflict and confrontation, fear and uncertainty. The past few weeks have been heavy.   

I’m sure Isaiah could relate.  He was prophesying to a divided Israel.  In spite of all God’s goodness to them, His chosen people had abandoned Him and aligned themselves with wicked, sinful nations who had no interest in serving the one, true God.  Sadly, all too often, I respond to all my “heaviness” just like Israel responded to God.  I forget His goodness and look for hope in other people, or self-help books, or Instagram, none of which can truly satisfy.

Isaiah, directed by God, pronounces judgment after judgment upon Israel and the surrounding nations.  It must have felt heavy and hopeless.  Yet, God wasn’t surprised, and it certainly wasn’t hopeless to Him.

For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel…Isa 14:1

When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil…..
Isa 14:3

The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be,
and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. Isa. 14:24

For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?  Isa 14:27

A throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David. One who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness. Isa16:5

And, although God was speaking to Israel through Isaiah, His words apply to me today as well.

He loves me.
He chose me.
He offers me rest.
He has a perfect plan.
His plan cannot be thwarted.
He is still on the throne.
He is faithful.
He is a righteous judge.

And, just as he promised his disciples in Matthew 28:20, He has not left me alone. 

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matt. 28:20

Always, which literally means “all the days”.  Not occasionally but continually.  Not just when I’m obedient.  Not just when things are happy and easy.  Before any sickness or conflict or fear, God was already there. When He spoke judgment in Isaiah, His perfect plan already included deliverance through His perfect Son—both for Israel and for me.  When Jesus spoke this promise in Matthew 28, He knew everything that lie ahead—for His disciples and for me, my family, and this world.  His sovereign presence is my only true hope.

I shake, but my Rock moves not.
CH Spurgeon

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