1 Peter 2:9-17: This weekend I have the privilege of speaking in the Dothan Al. area on letting our light shine. It has been a joy studying and one of the verses I will be using is 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ” It is easy to get wrapped up in the world around us and forget who and whose we really are. The enemy seeks to tell us we are nothing special and why would anyone love or care about us. God’s perspective is night and day different. You my friend are chose, royal, holy, God’s own, and because we are we are given the privilege of proclaiming how awesome He really is. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to be called out of darkness and into HIS marvelous light. May the Light of my Savior shine brightly in and through me in all that I attempt.
Jeremiah 44–46: I don’t guess I thought a lot about the Children of Israel fleeing back into Egypt to avoid the Babylonians. God told them it was not going to go well and they did it anyway. How often do we look for a way of escape all the while God is telling us that it is not a good idea. We hear Him, but it seems the only clear path is to retreat. Things had worked out so poorly the first time they fled to Egypt I can’t imagine thinking the outcome would be any better this time. Maybe it was because they thought captivity to Egypt would be better than captivity to Babylon. What they did not know is that God was in control even in Babylon and He had a plan. To run into the arms of evil captors did not make sense, but if God was in it, it was a much better place to be than in Egypt. Their home land was in shambles and now they were bringing the same enemies with them to Egypt.
God is speaking over us, listen, “I have a plan. You may not be able to figure it out, but it is a plan for good not evil.” It all goes back to knowing we can trust God even when we can’t always trust where He is sending us. These are hard things to grasp, but walking with Jesus is not always down the easy paths. The thing to remember is we can always trust Him even when difficulties line our path.
One more thought, the captivity to Babylon came as a result of sin. To prevent captivity obedience is the only answer and way. What a great reminder to all of us. Stay close to the Father and clean before Him.
Jeremiah 35–38: I often laughingly put my hand up when someone tells me something I don’t want to hear and say, “I am not receiving that.” It is my way of saying it may be true, but I don’t want to believe it. I know that my receiving it or not doesn’t change the fact that it is. One silly example is I am not receiving that it is about to get cold outside. I love the sunshine of the summer and the longer days so much that I don’t want to accept the falls temperatures and shortness of days. Even though I don’t want to receive it, the order of things will take place and this morning it is chilly outside. My example is a simple and silly one, but for Israel in Jeremiah’s day they were not receiving the message of the destruction that was to come. The king did not want to receive that unless he turned himself and his kingdom over to the much stronger enemy Jerusalem would be burned to the ground. In the passage several times today Jeremiah gave the real truth and he was imprisoned for it, put into a cistern, eventually let out, and in the end asked again only to remain in prison. Each time his answer was the same and each time the ones listening decided to disregard his answer.
Do you and I do this in our spiritual walk with God as well? Do we know the right things to do and yet choose not to do them. James says to know and not do them is sin. The outcome of sin is separation from God and eventually conflict that comes along with it. We may not want to receive it, but the end result can be as devastating for our lives as it was for Israel as bondage for many years and death awaited many who did not heed the word shared with them.
May we always have ears to hear what God is saying to us and receive the message with hearts that immediately change to tune ourselves to God’s path. And yes, I know I must receive the shorter days as well and learn to rejoice in them. 🙂
1 Peter 1:1-9: Do you ever want to ask God “Why is this happening?” When hard times and trials set in you can feel overwhelmed and want to question God as to why or even what are you supposed to be learning through this trial. Take heart my friend. You are experiencing what every true child of God experiences. It is the testing of your faith. The purpose is to prove the validity of what you say you believe.
1 Peter 1 puts it like this: “6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
So if you are feeling the fire of the testing of your faith, don’t get discouraged. Hold on to the steadfast hope that you have in Jesus knowing that this testing is a part of revealing the character of Christ in you. Stand firm. Hold fast to what you know. Don’t allow your feelings to crowd out what you know to be the truth you have found in God’s word. Your testing may also be being used as an example to bring many others to faith in Christ. One day, and I am hoping it won’t be long, our Savior will return and when He does may He find each of us faithfully staying the course and bringing as many as we can into the family of faith.
James 5:7-12: Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? Do you think it will be soon? Have you become disappointed in His delaying or even begun to doubt it will happen at all?
James was writing to believers who had expected Jesus’ return to be much quicker than it was happening and because of the delay many were frustrated. They must have been turning on each other and grumbling about one another. Here is what he wrote.
James 5:8 “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
James was dealing with real people who expected things to move right along and for Jesus to come on their time table. Sounds like many of us doesn’t it. When people are not looking outwardly we can tend to look inwardly and pick each other to death. We see everyone else’ faults or how we could do their job much better. We get frustrated and complain because the focus is on us. When Jesus ascended into Heaven He assured us He would return. He is coming back, but in the mean time He has given us a job of not just looking upward for His return, but looking outward at those who have not heard the message of the gospel yet. It is rare for a church that is looking outward reaching the lost to have a split from within. There is much less grumbling and complaining because the enemy is outside not within. Oh how we need to remember this and if we find ourselves grumbling and complaining shift our vision. Remember Jesus is standing at the door listening and waiting to come again when the Father gives the command, but up until He does, we are to be about His business. So stop tapping your toe with your arms crossed and open your arms to those who are lost and in need around you. May the Father find all of us busy about His mission when He comes.
John 3:16-21: I love the setting of John 3. Jesus has just been having a late night conversation with a church leader whose heart was being stirred and yet he (Nicodemus) did not quite understand what Jesus was saying. They had talked about being born again and Nicodemus is so literal he asks how can a grown man go back into his mother’s womb. Jesus responds revealing not a water baptism like from a mother’s womb, but a Spirit one where the Holy Spirit comes into one’s heart and cleanses it from sin to be born a new with a clean heart as the Spirit comes in to take up residence. I am sure the religious leader pondered why God would want to redeem man. This is where our scripture today picks up because Jesus says, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not really die when life here on earth ends, but will live on in eternity with God the Father. I can just imagine how the church man’s head must have been spinning at this. Then Jesus went on to assure Nicodemus. God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn it, but to give this life everlasting. To a man whose life was set on keeping the law Jesus had just blown his mind. The law condemned all who failed to keep it. Condemnation was the fear for every man and yet Jesus is saying that love conquered that condemnation and the He, Jesus was the Son sent by God to make this happen. Then Jesus really hit the nail on the head when he said, The Light came into the world and the people loved darkness instead of this Light. Ouch! Nicodemus knew that he was a part of the religious community that rejected this very truth that Jesus was talking about. Then Jesus said, those who deny the Son are condemned already. Boy did Nicodemus not already know this because he lived a life of trying to keep the law and looking for the Messiah to come who would set them free. Jesus was saying He was the Messiah long awaited. Nicodemus came to a crisis of belief. Did he accept what Jesus was saying or deny it. He had all of the information. It was now time to make a decision. Many are standing at this same point. They know the truth, but will they allow it to change them. We aren’t told Nicodemus’ decision here, but when Jesus died his decision to follow was revealed. Oh how I long for all who read this to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Our Lord and Savior. May we all be bold in sharing Him today.
James 3:1-12: One of the greatest weapons used against man is not made of metal. You don’t put bullets into it, and yet it can be deadly. James describes the most deadly weapon like this.
James 3:5 “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
Have you experience the wrath of a unkept tongue? We call it many things, bullying, slander, lying, deceit, but when it all boils down to it the tongue is a weapon that can inflict blows that last a lifetime. A parent carelessly says,”You are a bother.” “You are so lazy you will never amount to much.” Or maybe the pain came from someone at school “You are weird. Nobody wants to be your friend.” Or may the culprit was a coworker who was jealous or had a vendetta and they told you that you were “a liability to the company.” Maybe they told you that you were a “bad realtor and did not deserve the money you made.” If your self esteem is healthy you may hear these things and just shake it off. But under the surface many who are not as healthy take each of those bullets and they can wound very deeply. Some people never get over the hurt and they see themselves by the words that were thrown at them. Even worse, the offender may not have thought a thing about it from the time the words left their mouth and yet the wounded has allowed the wound to fester. The end result is a life burned by the tongue that set a blaze that has never been extinguished.
AND YET the tongue can also bring life. It can speak words of encouragement and life. It can speak to a wounded soul and refute the negative and speak positive until the wounded one questions the validity of the negative. Our words can bring great life and enthusiasm into lives of people who are longing for someone to see them and acknowledge their worth. The question we must ask ourselves is are we using our tongue as a life giver or life taker? We have the gift of sharing life. May we all be mindful today of what come out of our mouth and be a blessing to all we speak to.
Jeremiah 7–9: I have loved doing the Focus study with Jena Forehand. Last night as she talked about how for many years the church was focused on the spiritual disciplines like reading your bible, giving, being evangelistic. We were so focused we had envelopes that we gave our tithes in each week that had us check off what we had done that week for accountability. Now we have swung the other way and the focus of most churches is on grace. The truth is that both are necessary, but we can’t excuse a lack of growth and obedience to following God’s commands by saying grace covers that. Here is how the people in Jeremiah’s day were acting,
Jeremiah 7:8″Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?”
Granted Jeremiah’s audience did not live under the cross, but they still had the mindset that you can live as you like them come to church and all will be fine. God doesn’t see it like that. the Bible is clear when it says, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” We are not living under the law, so we don’t have to check the box, but God longs for us to want a deeper relationship with Him. That deeper relationship will take us away from doing anything that would displease the Father. You may have read the list in vs. 9 and though, I don’t steal or murder or commit adultery so I am good. Wrong! When we gossip, exaggerate the truth, talk about others, are the source of division in our church, or even contribute to grumbling and complaining we are choosing the wrong path. As we focus our attention on being more like Christ daily these temptations will become much less alluring. We will walk in the Light as He is in the Light and have fellowship with others who are running that same journey.
Jeremiah 5: Do you remember as a child respectfully fearing your parents? I know I sure do. I never wanted to hear my mom say, “Wait until your father gets home.” I knew I was in for trouble. Today’s passage breaks my heart as God is talking to Israel.
Jeremiah 5:22 “Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail;
though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
they have turned aside and gone away.”
I am sure Israel had not just disappointed Him, but broken His heart as well. I can almost hear Him pleading for them to understand as He reminded them that He placed the boundaries of the earth.
We would do well to heed this warning as well. We look at evil running rampant around our globe and wonder how and why. This is what the world looks like when it rejects the Father. There is no love only hate and pain. Our only hope is to turn back to God and to loving people. We must stop dividing along lines that can range from color of skin to socioeconomic levels. We must see we are one though many shades, cultures and backgrounds. We will only survive as we learn to pull together not apart. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. The Father came to give live abundant. Today strive to build others up no matter what their background or lifestyle.
Isaiah 62–64: Last night I attended a revival Les was preaching. We sang the hymn “When We All Get To Heaven”. Oh how I miss singing about heaven and the joy that will be. Then our scripture today from Isaiah 65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.”
22 “They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
These verses tell me several things about our heavenly home. First it will be the new Jerusalem. We will be glad and rejoice forever so it is a place of no sadness and will never end. We will still build things there and inhabit them. We will labor but not in vain. God will hear us because we will be with Him. We will have some animals in heaven like the wolf, lamb, lion, ox and yes even snakes but they will no longer harm us. I look forward to the day Jesus returns and so many new things we will discover about the place God has gone to prepare for us!