Jeremiah 17-20; James 1

Trials.  They hurt.  They test our patience.  They try our faith.  We cry “It’s not fair!” Jeremiah prayed for deliverance from his enemies who were falsely accusing him.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.  Behold, they say to me, where is the word of the Lord?  Let it come!  I have not run away from being your shepherd, nor have I desired the day of sickness.  You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face.  Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster.  Let those be put to shame who persecute me, but let me not be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed; bring upon them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction!” (Jeremiah 17:14-18 ESV)

It is very difficult to walk through trials.  As someone who likes to be in control of “what comes next” it’s very difficult to let only God know the answer to that.  But on the other side of health issues, job loss, death and other various trials, I am closer to God and my faith is stronger.  James tells us to “count it all joy.”

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)

Trials are also blessings in disguise.  God allows the hurt but there is a purpose and we are always better for it and there is even a reward in it.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12 ESV)

Help us to cling to You during the trials that life sends our way.  During those trials, help us to focus on Your goodness and how we will grow when it is all over.

Amen, Kellie

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Jeremiah 14-16; Psalm 76; 2 Corinthians 13

Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘Those destined for death, to death;
those for the sword, to the sword;
those for starvation, to starvation;
those for captivity, to captivity.’

“I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,” declares the Lord, “the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds and the wild animals to devour and destroy. I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem. (Jer 15:1-4) NIV

In light of the last reading I had, suffice it to say this one hit me in the gut. I wasn’t prepared to hear how God was going to punish the Israelites because of Manasseh. Hadn’t God put him back on the throne to rule Judah? Hadn’t God forgiven him?

I think I needed to read it as a reminder. Yes, God is good and he can forgive us and put us back into leadership. He can change the hearts of the most hard-hearted among us. I like to focus on that part of God. The truth is, God is just! There are consequences to our sins. We have no idea what we set in motion when we choose to “do our own things” and not do what God instructs.

To some, the words sound harsh. “God wouldn’t do something like that to His people” one might think. The thing is, God was very specific about what He deemed acceptable behavior. He spelled it out for the Israelites. He loved them, He provided for them, He warned them they had turned away from Him and gave them every opportunity to repent and change their ways. Yet they still chose to worship idols they themselves created. They still chose to act in ways so contrary to the behaviors God specifically told them not to do. Maybe Manasseh was forgiven, but the generations that followed him suffered because of his early choices. God had entrusted the leadership of His people to him and he led them astray. They had done evil in the sight of the Lord.

I can see this in my own life. There are things going on in the lives of my children that I can attribute to the choices I made which impacted them. Sin has a ripple effect! I have witnessed generational sin in my own family of origin. I have prayed for God to break these patterns so my grandchildren will not repeat them. I truly believe He will answer that prayer.

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry?
You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still,
When God arose to judgment,
To deliver all the oppressed of the earth. (Psalm 76:7-9) NKJV

Lord, I am so thankful that You are a God who is loving and just. We can always count on You—You are constant in every way. You love us too much to let us stay in our place of sin. I tried living life apart from You and know the freedom that comes from staying in Your will. I choose You!! In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Jeremiah 11-13; 2 Corinthians 12

In Mark Batterson’s latest book Whisper he shares an experience he had with healing. You see Mark has had asthma since childhood. At the writing of his book he had been healed from asthma by God for 700 plus days. However, the first time he was prayed for in healing the asthma, something else miraculously happened. Mark also had feet that were covered by warts. The next morning after the prayer for healing the warts were gone, but he still had asthma. It was like God was saying to him, “I have the power to heal you, but I have chosen not to do so at this time.” Mark had a thorn in his side that lasted for 35 plus years. That may be why his ministry has been so remarkable and he has been so humble.

Paul’s experience is found below:

Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ.a For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 [CSB]).

I believe the “good news” is the more prideful you are the more serious the thorns God may give you. He wants us to point to Him always and not to our talents and abilities. His plan for us is to be a vessel that He uses and works through to further His kingdom.

Can you point to any thorns in your life God has given you? These weaknesses are given to you so that God’s glory will shine brighter through you and that through those weaknesses His kingdom will advance.

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Jeremiah 8-10; 2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 is the middle in a trio of chapters in which Paul uses boasting as a powerful device to compel, persuade, exhort, convince his listeners. In faith; in life; he testimony resounds.

And my heart is amazed. What man, this Paul.

16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would[a] but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. ESV

 

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[b] in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? ESV

 

And then…

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. ESV

 

Jeremiah chapters 8-10 proclaim woe, devastation, loss… and the lost. God’s people- lost.

 And this reminder, proclamation, call:

Jeremiah 9

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” ESV

It is easy, so easy, to value so many things; for my heart to lift many things higher than understanding and knowing the Lord. I ponder what my life would look like if I carefully assessed every area to align it with this ultimate goal. Do I see understanding and knowing the Lord as a priceless treasure- that- if nothing else could ever be said about my life- it could be said that I understood and knew the Lord? That I was an image bearer of His steadfast love, justice, and righteousness through my life?

It is (relatively) easy for me to pose the rhetorical questions to myself and ponder. But what will I do in and out of my (often) very long days? How can I recoup my vigor and intellect? I know the Lord finds me in my smallness. He is as present with me in the sometime weariness as He is in the moment of study and prayer. I pray I find His reality in the every moment of every day- when I am weak and small; when I am strong and sound.

Jeremiah 10

23 I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing. ESV

 

Lord, I pray that I would be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Thank you for Paul who lived and loved with such anointed, brilliant passion for You. Direct my steps, O Lord. I am small before You. Amen

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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Jeremiah 5-7; Psalm 75; 2 Corinthians 10

22 Have you no respect for me?
    Why don’t you tremble in my presence? (Jeremiah 5:22, NLT)

These verses in Jeremiah (5-7) are to God’s people who have once again turned away from him, in their pride they follow their own way. They reject him, and live like he doesn’t exist. He calls them foolish, senseless people with eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear. It’s a warning.

23 But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
    They have turned away and abandoned me.
24 They do not say from the heart,
    ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God,
for he gives us rain each spring and fall,
    assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’
25 Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings.
    Your sin has robbed you of all these good things. (Jeremiah 5:23-25, NLT)

It has been a wet season in Maryland, so much so that I have a hard time trusting when the sun peeks out that it could ever stay. I read that verse about rain each spring and fall, and I pause here: assuring us of a harvest when the time is right. And I think I sometimes wonder if I can trust in the harvest. Forgive me, Father.

In seasons of hardship, loss and grief, I have found closeness and comfort in the Lord. When I draw near to him, he is there, and I learn that this is where I want to be. Abiding in him. He is the wonderful blessing.

16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
    Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT)

I seek him and his kingdom. I stand on a path and look around–is this where you want me, Lord? Is this where you are calling me to go? When I feel weary and uncertain, I find myself wondering if I believe in the harvest, if I trust it will ever come. Sometimes the road doesn’t look the way I imagined, and I find myself unsure if I heard right. I bring him my fears and my doubts. I am learning to cast my cares upon him. To pray boldly.

Lord, I know that you are sovereign. Forgive me when I hesitate. Forgive me when I’m afraid. Forgive me when I’m downright resistant. I find myself in a new season and it’s not familiar. Help me to get my bearings, to discern the godly way, and to walk in it and not look back.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 1-4; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 9

I love the promises that God gives us – promises to protect, and keep us safe.

I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don’t be afraid. – Jeremiah 1:8  CEV

Those were what I counted on in the newness of my relationship with Him.  I needed those to survive, to transition, to be changed by the Holy Spirit to become what He purposed me to be.

When you were my young bride,
you loved me
and followed me
through the barren desert. – Jeremiah 2:2  CEV

Somewhere along the way, there are those friends of mine who have found that the narrow path has lost its flavour.  The joys of this world, the pleasures, somehow made us forget that God was blessings us. We forgot that these things were not for us to absorb and keep, but to give away to others who had less than we did. Unfortunately, I have met many of these individuals personally.  I wish I could say that in my desire to disciple them back into a relationship with God, I could not.  Their story is very much like the world Jeremiah was speaking of.

Your shoes are worn out,
and your throat is parched
from running here and there
to worship foreign gods.
“Stop!” I shouted,
but you replied, “No!
I love those gods too much.” You are so clever
at finding lovers
that you could give lessons
to a prostitute. You have more gods
than a prostitute has lovers. You act like a prostitute
when you try to win back your lovers. – Jeremiah 2:25,33;3:1;4:30  CEV

I was taught in my first year of ministry that one of the best ways to avoid the temptation of pleasure was to give.

God loves people who love to give. – 2 Corinthians 9:7  CEV

While my walk with God is crazy, I can see one very common, reappearing theme in my life – I have always given what I have, away.  I know that it is not my salvation, but I also know that pleasure will not take me off the narrow path – I just do not give it a chance.  Will my friends ever find their way back to God? Yes, I will be praying for them as will others. When God steps in and grabs their attention, then those that love them will walk alongside of them.  The Lord, who never leaves us or forsakes us, will be there alongside too.

The Lord will save you
from all of your sins. – Psalm 130:8  CEV

Father, it must hurt You so much when we deliberate leave the palm of Your hand and go elsewhere to find whatever it is that we think we need or want. Forgive me for even thinking of it sometimes. Keep my feet steady, may I always find that my trust is in You alone. Walk with my friends who are struggling so much.  They need You. Thank You.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

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Zephaniah, Psalms 74; 2 Corinthians 8

“Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.  They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor.  But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.  For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.  And they did it of their own free will.  They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift of the believers in Jerusalem.  They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT

I can learn a lot from the churches in Macedonia…

They had abundant joy.

They gave themselves to the Lord first.

They had a strong faith.

They were not focused on what they were lacking, but what they could give.

“I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.  Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving.  Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly.  And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. ” 2 Corinthians 8: 7-13 NLT

How many times have I felt lead to give and than I talk myself out of it? I make a mental list of all the reasons why I shouldn’t.  I give in to my fears and my eagerness fades. But, when I have followed through, my heart is fuller.  I am more grateful for all he has given me. He doesn’t hold back, so why should I?  I am reminded that my treasure truly is in Heaven.  I am reminded that it is all his.

“You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth.  You split the sea by your strength and smashed the heads of the sea monsters. You caused the springs and streams to gush forth, and you dried up rivers that never run dry.  Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun.  You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.” Psalms 74:12-17 NLT

Thank you Father for how you pour out your love on me.  Thank you for your faithfulness and provision.  Help me to live with open hands to others.  Give me wisdom and discernment where needed.  I pray that my eyes would be open to those around me who are in need of a touch from you.  That I would be willing to be inconvenienced when it would be easier to turn the other way. Amen.

“For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

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