Monday, August 31, 2009

Promises, Promises

Focus verses: Jeremiah 42:1 - 43:7

The remnant of Israel left in the land was uncertain of their future, so they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord for a word. They promised that whatever God said, they would do as He said. It was a promise. They made a vow. Whether favorable or unfavorable, they would do as the Lord said.

So Jeremiah sought the Lord and came back to the people with a word from God. But the people didn't like what God had said, so they disobeyed the Lord. No matter that they had vowed obedience. God hadn't said what they wanted Him to say, so they called Jeremiah a liar.

We cannot seek the Lord simply for an approval stamp for the plans we have already made. But that is exactly what the people did with Jeremiah. They wanted Him to say a particular thing, but He said just the opposite.

In this story, Egypt becomes a type of the secular world. Sometimes life gets hard when you are following the Lord. Circumstance and people seem to conspire to make your way difficult, if not impossible.

When that happens, it would be so easy to rely on the "wisdom" of the world. But that is precisely what the Christian is called NOT to do. When we do that, we will suffer famine and death. Perhaps not physically, but spiritually.

Let us resolve to seek the Lord, without prejudice, and obey Him unconditionally. We need to keep our promises to God.

Father, God,

Share with us Your wisdom. Keep us from the folly of listening to the world and letting its noise drown out Your words. Help us to continue faithfully on the path You set before us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Focus verses: Lamentations 3:1-33

There was a time in my life when I could have written these verses. The personal desolation of the first twenty-one verses describes the circumstances of the last seventeen years of my life. It began with the murder of a beloved family member and spiraled downward from there.

But when the grief would have overwhelmed me - swallowed me whole - the words of an old hymn built upon verses twenty-two and twenty-three seemed to rise up out of my spirit. The music and theology in that hymn buoyed my spirit to survive the waves of sorrow.

In 1972, Malcolm Smith published a book entitled Turn Your Back on the Problem. The premise was that you will be overwhelmed as long as you focus on the problem. But when you quit looking at the problem and start looking toward God, things fall into a different perspective.

No matter what the circumstances are, God is the faithful rock upon which we can build our hope. He is the source of all our strength. He deals mercifully with us. And He starts again each morning as if it were the first morning of creation.

Great is His faithfulness. Let us begin being faithful to Him.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom and strength to keep our eyes upon You in every circumstance. Help us to focus our attention on Who You are, not on what is going on with us, within us and around us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grief And Desolation

Focus verses: Lamentations 1:12-17

The book known as Lamentations is generally ascribed to Jeremiah. In it he gives full vent to his grief over the loss of Jerusalem. Grieving is a normal response to loss. God understands our grief.

We are especially grieved when the loss we are experiencing is brought on by our own misguided actions. Look at verse fourteen.
My sins have been bound into a yoke;
by his hands they were woven together.
They have come upon my neck
and the Lord has sapped my strength.
He has handed me over
to those I cannot withstand.
Sin is the source of this loss and desolation. We are doubly grieved when we recognize that the ills befalling us are the result of our own actions. We want to sow wild oats and then pray for a crop failure.

It doesn't happen that way. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. Faithlessness toward God will bring on His anger. Continually stubborn faithlessness will incur His unmitigated wrath.

His wrath, however, is not vengeful. God uses it as a form of discipline. He demonstrates the consequences of faithlessness in order to convince us to faithfulness.

Can we learn faithfulness without the desolation?

Father, God,

Help us to be faithful to You in all that we do or say or think. Grant that we may bring every thought and imagination captive to obedience to You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Time Is At Hand

Focus verses: Jeremiah 39:15 - 40:6

We have read the prophecies of woe and doom to the city of Jerusalem. Now that day has arrived. The leaders (most of them) have been summarily executed. Gedaliah has been appointed as sort of a territorial governor over the remnant left in Jerusalem. And Nebuchadnezzer has carried off the rest of the people to Babylon.

Make no mistake. What God says will happen does happen. It may not be exactly when you expect it, but it will come in God's own timing. When it happens, there is a way of escape for those who are faithful to the Lord.
Jeremiah 39:17-18 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be handed over to those you fear. I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.
Salvation, however comes because of our trust in the Lord. This cannot be just a lip-service trust. If we say we trust in Him, but do not behave as if we trust in Him, we really do not trust Him.

Trust in the Lord appears as an unshakable faith when things go wrong. Trust makes no allowances for circumstance. Every circumstance in our lives is allowed by the Lord for a reason. We may not see the reason - nor understand it. But if we truly believe that God is sovereign and we trust Him implicitly, we can endure anything in obedience to His will.

We can be assured that no suffering is ever wasted. Whatever pain you may feel, God can use that to help someone else overcome similar pain. Whatever trials you may encounter can blaze a path through the jungle of despair for someone following after you.

We need not know nor understand His purposes. They will be clear to us in the hereafter. Our duty and privilege is to walk faithfully the path He has laid out for us. Keeping to His course for our lives will result in ultimate joy, eternal joy.

Father, God,

Help us to remain faithful, trusting in You, no matter what the world throws our way. We offer our obedience to Your will as our ultimate sacrifice of praise. For You are the Lord our God.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Tale Of Intrigue And Three Little Words

Focus verses: Jeremiah 38:1-28

God's prophets are not always accepted and respected by the people. Jeremiah is a prime example. But God is never far from those He has called and is working behind the scenes for their good.

I find it interesting that King Zedekiah inquires of Jeremiah and then asks Jeremiah to keep their conversation secret. In fact, he orders Jeremiah to lie for him. And Jeremiah does as he is told.

Life does get complicated. But the key to un-complicating life lies in verse twenty.
Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you and your life will be spared.
Obey the Lord. Three little words that will guarantee success in any undertaking. Obey the Lord.

We don't always have a Jeremiah around to interpret for us. Sometimes obedience seems complicated because we are not sure we know what the Lord would have us do.

The answer is simple. Check out the scriptures. If what you are contemplating lines up with the known will of God as revealed in the scriptures, you can be pretty sure that's the will of the Lord.

Father, God,

Open our ears to hear Your voice so that we may be quick to obey. Grant us the assurance that You will lead us and not let us be led astray into disobedience.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arrogance Of Intellect

Focus verses: Ezekiel 28:1-10

While the verses in today's reading are addressed to the King of Tyre, there is a lesson for us. We live in an information age. Knowledge has increased geometrically in the last century. Look at the innovations that have come about in the last 20 years.

We have telescopes that can "see" farther into the universe than ever. But no telescope can give us the vision of God.

We have microscopes that allow us to see smaller and smaller particles. But no microscope can plumb the depths of God's creation.

Some of us are old enough to remember the telegraph and wire recorders (which predated the reel-to-reel tape recorders).

We remember when the mouthpiece of a telephone was affixed to a box attached to a wall and the receiver hung on a hook. We remember cranking the ringer to get central - the lady who plugged in the wires so that we could talk with another party.

And we remember party lines where you didn't pick up unless it rang short-short-long because long-short-long was your neighbor's ring, and you respected their privacy.

Now we are attached (wirelessly) to the world by cell phones that play different tunes depending on which of your friends or family is calling. We have nearly instantaneous access to breaking news - if not via the television, then by our computers.

All of this gives us information. But information is NOT wisdom. Wisdom comes from spending time in the presence of God - not from listening to the cacophony of the secular world around us.

Let us never forget that the first sin pandered to the arrogance of the intellect - the ambition to be as wise as God without seeking the wisdom of God.

Those who seek their own wisdom will be destroyed therein, just like the King of Tyre.

Father, God,

Grant us Your wisdom and the knowledge that all of our being is dependent upon You alone. Keep us from the sin of arrogance, reminding us that our intellect is finite while Yours is infinite.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And Now A Word About Egypt

Focus verses: Ezekiel 29:1-16

Amid the oracles against the enemies of the children of Israel, God says a few words about Egypt.

Egypt is special among those people, because God also promises to scatter them as a retribution for the atrocities against His chosen people. But he also promises to bring them back again.

The promise of restoration is much like the promise of the restoration of Israel - except that Egypt will not be returned to all her former glory. She will be a weaker nation. She will be a lowly people.

God does this so that the children of Israel will never again be tempted to look to Egypt for help or strength in time of trouble.

Where is our Egypt? To what do we turn when in trouble? This should be a reminder to us that our first thought should be to turn to the Lord. He is our help and our strength, our refuge in time of trouble.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that You are our first line of defense in times of trouble. You are not the last resort. Teach us to come to You first in all things.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Messianic Promise

Focus verses: Jeremiah 31:29-37

Today's reading is full of promise - and personal accountability. After the diaspora, God is going to restore Israel and Judah to the land of Canaan where He planted them in the first place.

This is to be a new covenant, not the same one He made with Abraham, nor the one He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

This covenant is no longer about ritual and sacrifice. It is about knowing Him. Each person is to have a personal relationship with Him.
They will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.
And He promises forgiveness, no longer remembering their sins. The descendants of Israel will only cease to be a nation in the eyes of the Lord if all the other things He created vanish from His sight. This means He has decreed Israel to be a nation in perpetuity.

The rest of us are wild shoots, grafted onto the cultivated plant. In effect, we are part of Israel and Judah - by God's grace. Let us never forget the root that nourishes us. Let us remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Father, God,

We thank You for the grace with which you bestow Your blessings upon all those who believe in You. We are grateful for Your sending us Your Son that we might be reconciled to You. And we thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit through Whom we can know You better, more intimately.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Promise Of Restoration And Prosperity

Focus verses: Jeremiah 33:10-13

After all the gloom and doom and judgment and retribution we've read, it comes back to the fact that God still loves this headstrong people he covenanted with. He has plans to restore them to their former well-being and prosperity.

Even in the midst of the judgment and retribution, he has plans for the children of Israel.

In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them.

The shepherd would find a sheltered place for the sheep at night - generally a cave or other kind of sheep fold - which was protected on all sides from marauding predators. As they entered, the shepherd would make them pass - one by one - under his hand. He checked the sheep for foreign objects entangled in the fleece. And it gave him the opportunity to verify that the sheep was not lamed in some fashion from the day's travels.

While this passage seems to be talking about the sheep of the shepherds, it can also be an allusion to the people of God. The children of Israel have been faithless, straying hither and thither to whatever new god or idol struck their fancy. Passing under His hand, they are individually tended and checked.

Of course, the sheep have to walk under the hand of the shepherd. And the people need to walk under the Hand of God. They can do this by reading His word, singing His praises, and listening for His Holy Spirit.

Father, God,

Bring us back into the sheepfold when we are led astray. Grant us the wisdom to check with You before undertaking any path, no matter how beautiful it seems at first glance.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gathering Again

Focus verses: Jeremiah 32:36-41

After all the righteous anger of the Lord has been poured out on the children of Israel, God makes this promise to them. There will be restoration.

The nub of this promise is His commitment to give them a singleness of heart and action so that they would always reverence Him and fear Him - for their own good. The promise is an everlasting covenant for them and their children (descendants).

God rejoices in being able to do good for His children - just like any good parent. It grieves Him when He must chastise us. It pleases Him when we put ourselves in right standing with Him so that He can do us good.

Our resolution should be to become faithful children of God. Revering Him, acknowledging His power and sovereignty. To preclude His having to chastise us with His wrath and bring about restoration. Restoration can begin today!

Father, God,

Help us never to stray from Your precepts. Keep us ever close to You so that we may not be scattered among the nations.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Purpose Of Wrath

Focus verses: Ezekiel 24:1-14

It seems that we have been forever in the litany of Israel's sins and God's retribution. Today, however, He talks about the pot.

This pot is a cooking utensil. You eat the things that cook in it. And when those things are all gone, the pot is to be set on the fire until it glows. Until the impurities left in it are burned away.

The fire represents the wrath of God. It will burn hotter and hotter toward the unfaithful nation until all the dross and impurities are burned away. Then His wrath will cool, and He will restore to them their inheritance. They will not be clean again until His wrath against them has subsided.

And His wrath will not subside until they are clean again. The two events are mutually dependent.

I wonder how much longer we can endure this smelting of the wrath of God. This word is for us as well as for the Jerusalem of old. Let us lean into the fire, until we glow as the impurities are melted away from us.

Father, God,

In Your holy wrath, we submit ourselves to Your fire. Help us to be purified as a nation. Pour out Your wrath until we are again clean and worthy to be called Your children.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fruits Of Idolatry

Focus verses: Ezekiel 23:46-49

The Lord has shown Ezekiel a picture of the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem. He likened them to prostitutes. They took what was actually due the Lord and gave it to idols and men. They traded the spiritual health of their cities for the tawdry baubles of power and wealth.

This should be a sign to us in the United States. We have adulterated the truth of God with a social gospel that proclaims tolerance of every kind of aberrant behavior. We fail to preach the facts of heaven and hell. We neglect the teachings of God's love and His righteous anger.

We have turned Him into a loving Father without regard for righteousness and His righteous wrath. We have given Him some respect - as long as we can make Him small enough to wrap our finite little minds around.

We seem to prefer a god that is as small as we are. We don't have that. We have a God who is too big to imagine. He's much too large to put into any box. And He is a jealous God. He will not allow us to give His glory and honor to another. That is spiritual prostitution.

It's ugly and self-defeating. It leaves us diseased in every sense of the word. God will let us reap the consequences of our infidelities so that we may know that He is the Sovereign God.

Father, God,

Preserve us from any form of adulteration of Your word. Keep us faithful to Your truth and help us to speak it without reservation.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sowing And Reaping

Focus verses: Ezekiel 22:17-31

This oracle from the Lord promises more winnowing and retribution for the children of Israel. God is sending an unsheathed sword (Babylonia) to destroy the land and the peoples.

God enumerates all the sins of Israel in verses one through sixteen of chapter twenty-two. Then he tells Ezekiel what will happen to the people of Israel and Judah. The litany of her sins continues with priests doing violence to the law and profaning the holy things. Then He says in verse 29:

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

There was not a single man who would stand in the gap so that the wrath of God would not be poured out on the city and the people. They sowed iniquity; they will reap the wrath of God.

Where are we? Are we standing in the gap? Do we protest injustice when we see it? Do we rise up in righteous indignation about the mistreatment of the poor and down trodden? Where is our gap-stander?

Could our nation withstand the wrath of God? I think not.l We need to be petitioning the Father at all times. we should be on the lookout to take what measure we can to avoid even the similitude of indifference to injustice. We should take up the banner, hold it high, and march forward in the knowledge of God's graciousness to us.

Father, God,

Thank You for being there for us when we most need You. We are grateful that Your righteousness is what matters here. And we ask Your divine hand on the entirety of our circumstances. Heal the brokenhearted and call those in the darkness forth into Your beautiful light.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Holiness and Calling

Focus verses: Ezekiel 16:1-22

This picture of the unfaithful wife is a picture of Jerusalem in Ezekiel's day. But it is also a picture of the modern church.

We have built up our own holiness in our own minds until we forget that we have no holiness. We have only the Lord's grace and mercy.

We build buildings and outreach programs. All of them are doomed to failure unless they are breathed of God. We put our words on the airwaves and our books on store shelves, and we pat ourselves on the back saying "what a good person am I."

What we ought to be doing is hiding our heads in shame at our puny fame and fortune. These things are all for the kingdom of this world. They have little to do with the kingdom of God.

Oh, there are people who are writing God's words and being absolutely faithful to the calling of God on their lives. They are, however, a minority as far as I can see.

People are preaching what the public wants to hear, not the word of God as written in His holy book. The public is being confused by the diverse voices and the conflicting suggestions and directions.

One can only know what God wants of him when he, himself, takes the time to sit in the presence of God and listen without all the interruptions and noise of this world. Closet time with God is essential to being faithful to one's calling. And everyone has a calling from the Lord.

You may be called as a housewife or an executive. You may be called as a mechanic or a financier. You may be called to hospitality or to the gift of teaching. Whatever your gift, God has given it to you for the benefit of His church. Your faithfulness to that call is your key to a "well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Father, God,

Help us to set aside time for You in our lives. Keep us faithful to that which You have given each of us as our personal task. Let us hear you clearly amidst the noise of life.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, August 17, 2009

False Prophets

Focus verses: Ezekiel 13:1-16

Being a prophet is a fearful thing. One must be very careful to speak only what the Lord has spoken or shown in a vision.

When a prophet has had some little success in this, it is easy to be drawn away into wishful thinking and create visions of his own. But there is a dire consequence for this.

The Lord's hand is against all false prophets. They will be cut off from the house of Israel (and by extension from the grafted in gentiles of the church). Their names will not be listed in the records of the house of Israel. The Lord will send a violent storm to destroy the false prophecies and the false prophets.

The Lord's wrath will fall hard upon the false prophet. So if you have the gift of prophecy, you need to be very sure that the words of your mouth are coming from Him and not from your own wishful thinking.

Father, God,

Grant us discernment in the cacophony of life to hear Your voice clearly at all times. Speak to us with love and direction. We will listen, obey, and teach only Your words.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Passover

Focus verses: Ezekiel 9:1-11

God has just shown Ezekiel the idolatry in Jerusalem and all of Israel. An idolatry which expands to include some of the priests of God.

This time it is not the blood of a lamb that saves the children of Israel. It is their grief and lamentation over those detestable things done in the city and even in the temple.

God reads the hearts of people. Our actions may not always live up to our own expectations but a humble and contrite heart He will not ignore or despise.

We live in a land where detestable things are done, even in the name of the Lord. We have, in large part, allowed these behaviors in the name of diversity and tolerance.

This passage shows that tolerance is not in God's vocabulary where worship is concerned. Old men, young men and maidens, women and children - none are exempted from the winnowing blade of the Lord. Idolatry in any form is not to be tolerated.

Father, God,

Help us to discern idolatry in its many forms. Keep us from putting anything ahead of You in our lives. Keep us faithful to Your standards of worship and behavior.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Call From God

Focus verses: Ezekiel 2:1-3:11

When God called Ezekiel, He did it in visions, elaborate and astounding visions. But there are some very important principles here.

First, be sure this is God's calling, not just man's ideas. Only God can make a call fruitful. And the Holy Spirit gives the strength to follow through.

Second, fill yourself with the Word of God. It is the source of your power and knowledge. God Himself sets it forth as a requirement before Ezekiel can go forth and speak to the people.

Third, your response to the call cannot be based on people's reactions to your message. You are responsible to God, not man, to be faithful to what you are told to say.

Ezekiel is not the only one called of God. Each of us has a call of God upon his life. God has a specific purpose for each of us. Our faithfulness to that call is the standard by which we should measure our success in life. It has nothing to do with what people think of us. It has everything to do with what God has called us to accomplish.

Father, God,

Help us to remain faithful to Your call upon our lives. Give us a clear vision of what You would have us do and imbue us with the power and perseverance to do it.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Awesome Is Our God

Focus verses: Jeremiah 51:15-19

As we draw closer to God, there is the tendency to think of Him as our Friend as well as our Redeemer. And He is our friend and redeemer. But He is more than that.

He is the awesome power that created the heavens and the earth. All the universe trembles at His least breath. His word is law over every created thing and creature. That includes us.

People are the highest creation of the Lord because He created us in His own image. In His likeness. We are created to be a reflection of God! Just think of it. He gave us a purpose in life. And He expects us to accomplish the purpose for which He created us.

So how do we accomplish His will in our lives? First, we must seek His will. We must know what He wants us to do. That requires spending time alone in His presence. It requires prayer and supplication. It may even require fasting with prayer.

No temporal satisfaction can match the satisfaction of knowing that you are in the exact center of God's will for your life. After all, He is the mightiest force in the universe. He had no beginning and will have no end. He goes on forever. He is infinite.

Let us not forget that our finite minds cannot wrap themselves around the entirety of our infinite, infinitely powerful God. Let us never forget our dependence on Him and our pettiness in contrast to His Majesty.

Father, God,

Help us to keep perspective. As we draw closer to You, remind us of Your awesome, awful power and might. Give us a small glimpse of Your majesty to help us see our dependence upon You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forgiveness And Restoration

Focus verses: Jeremiah 50:19-20

Here is the promise of restoration. God says that Israel and Judah will be restored to the fullness of their land. That they will be a holy people because God will have forgiven the remnant he restores.

What a beautiful promise. After seventy years in exile, the people of God will come back to their land. God will see to it that their land is fruitful for their needs. They will be satisfied with the pastures and hills.

This restoration did not come easily. Israel was conquered by Assyria and then by Babylon. The people were decimated and imprisoned. Their young men were deprived of their manhood, made eunuchs to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

The search for guilt in the people of God will be fruitless because when God forgives sin, it is erased entirely. This is a picture of our redemption under the blood of Christ.

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God's mercy.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that there is only one way to Your forgiveness, through the atoning blood of Jesus. Keep us ever faithful in speaking to others, lest we be drawn into tolerance of other paths - paths which can only lead to destruction.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Focus verses: Jeremiah 23:25-40

The job of a prophet is not without risk. There is the possibility of getting so enamored of the power of the position that one hears his own thoughts rather than the word of God from the Lord.

Power is a heady commodity. It tends to make people believe they are more than they actually are. We've all seen the local politician who forgets that his position is to represent the people who elected him. He decides what he thinks is best for the community rather than acting as the representative for the community.

When one is a prophet of God, one needs to be very sure of the source of his information. The word of God will not be denied. And God will not be mocked nor misrepresented.

The result of misconstruing God's word is dire. To be cast away from the presence of the Lord, to be shamed for eternity, these are consequences to be assiduously avoided.

Father, God,

Tune our ears to Your voice alone. Let us not be lured by the voices of our dreams or petty aspirations. Give us the grace to know Your voice from all others.
In Jesus' most precious name.

I must apologize for the tardiness of this post. I seemed to be having a technical problem with Blogger this morning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prosper In Captivity

Focus verses: Jeremiah 29:1-24

People love to quote Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." What they forget is that these words were written to the faithful remnant of Judah in captivity.

The Lord has told the people that they will remain captive to Nebuchadnezzar for seventy years. Seventy years! That's enough time for three generations to die. Grandchildren just born will be old when they are allowed to return to Judah. A ten-year-old boy led into captivity will be an old man of eighty with grandchildren and great-grandchildren before they are allowed to return to Judah.

In the meantime, God has told them to carry on the affairs of life, just as if they were in their homeland. They are to build houses, plant gardens, marry, and multiply. Much the same list of duties that He gave Adam in the original garden.

Oh, and one more thing, they are to seek the peace and prosperity of the city into which they have been exiled. They are to pray to the Lord for the city of their exile because if it prospers, they will prosper also.

If you are a child of God, you know that this earth is not your real home. You are here for a season only. Your real home is eternity. How fitting is this passage to where we are and what we need to do and pray for?

The parallel is clear. We are to carry on the affairs of life under the laws of God. We are to marry and multiply, we are to tend fields and wield His authority. Let us not miss what I consider one of the most important points. We are to pray for this world and the citizens thereof - whether they are Christian or not.

You see, God loves all the children He created. He would that all of them should come to a saving knowledge of His Son and the redemption work of the cross of Calvary.

Father, God,

Help us to see that our exile on earth is similar to the exile of Judah in Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Remind us that this is only a temporary home. Keep us faithful in prayer for this hurting world and ready our hearts to be united with You after our exile is finished.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, August 10, 2009

He Took It All

Focus verses: II Kings 24:10-12

Today's reading talks about the greatest dispersion of the children of Israel. King Nebuchadnezzar took prisoner all the assets of Judah.

He took the king, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and all the officials. He took the gold implements and treasures from the temple. He took all the fighting men in the army. And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Nebuchadnezzar took control of the ruler and the political structure. So the civil authority was under Nebuchadnezzar's control.

He took all the gold implements for worship from the temple of Solomon. And the religious activity was under his control.

He took all seven thousand of the army, so there was no military force for him to contend with.

And he took all the craftsmen and artisans. Whoa! Why would he want the artisans and craftsmen?

Our God is a creator. He gave man the gift of creativity. That creativity is most active and expressed in the work of artisans and craftsmen. But when these artisans and craftsmen create, they sometimes reflect the root of God that is in them. Their works point to the greatness of God.

But Nebuchadnezzar didn't want the people of Judah remembering their God or continuing to worship Him. Therefore he took all the craftsmen so that they would be occupied only with the commissioned pieces that Nebuchadnezzar wanted made. They had no artistic freedom to create their pieces as God inspired. And there was no one left in Judah to create either.

He left only the poorest people of the land, those without money - and perhaps without talents or skills. He robbed the land of those who could make it shine - who had the heart and the wherewithal to make things better.

But God had promised that Judah will be restored. And it was so.

No matter what the world may take from you, God can restore. Nebuchadnezzar took it all, intending to wipe out Judah entirely -- but God restored.

Father, God,

No matter what the world does to us, remind us that You are the restorer. You can take the broken heart and heal it. You can take the ruined family and restore it. You can take the broken spirit and help it soar and sing. Help us to soar and sing, no matter.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ever A Remnant

Focus verses: Jeremiah 49:4-6

In these three verses, God shows the way he deals with nations. When the nation is unfaithful to Him, or doesn't even believe in Him, He will chastise them with the nearest rod.

Sometimes that rod is another nation, and the country is conquered or led away into exile. But the Lord keeps a remnant for restoration. That is our hope for our nation.

As long as there is a faithful remnant of God's chosen people, He will not utterly destroy and erase all trace of the nation. He will restore His faithful remnant to their rightful heritage.

Our rightful heritage is the Name of the Lord. When we call upon the name of Christ, our Saviour, we have the same heritage as Christ for He says He calls us friends, and He has confided the entire business of God to us.

Because we have been given great knowledge and been taken into the confidence of God (not my thoughts, but His), we are also given great responsibility in carrying out the business of our God. Our greatest shame would be to fail in that task. The restoration of our nation is dependent upon our being that faithful remnant.

May we, by the grace of God, be equal to the task.

Father, God,

Help us to remain faithful to You and Your precepts, regardless of the call and pull of the world around us. Keep us attuned to Your voice and Your instructions in all we do.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Interpreting A Dream

Focus verses: Daniel 2:17-45

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon while Daniel was in bondage there. The king had a dream which he wanted interpreted, but he would tell no one the content of the dream. He insisted that the interpreter tell him what he had dreamed.

None of his magicians, enchanter, sorcerers and astrologers could tell him the content of the dream. They asked him to reveal the content, but the king grew angry and would have had them all executed. This would have included Daniel and his friends. But Daniel went to the king and asked for some time to interpret the dream. Then he prayed, and God revealed the dream and its interpretation to him.

He asked the Lord for this specific wisdom, and it was granted to him. "You have made known to us the dream of the king."

Then, if you will notice, he tells the king that the dream came from God as an unbidden knowledge. God was revealing the future to the king. Daniel can interpret the dream, not because he is wiser than anyone else, but because God has revealed it so the king could know what went through his mind.

The whole point of this exercise is that all wisdom comes from God. When we ask His wisdom, He is generous to reveal it. He gives us the knowledge we need for the time at hand -- when we ask.

Unfortunately, most of us rely on our own wisdom, not the Lord's. We tend to go about our daily business, blissfully unaware of the power and knowledge available to us if we but ask.

Father, God,

Help us to check the arrogance of our own intellects. Remind us that all wisdom comes from You, not us. Give us the grace to seek Your will before committing to a course of action.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, August 7, 2009

God Will Be Heard

Focus verses: Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah dictated the words the Lord gave him and Baruch wrote them down. It was a wearisome job and Baruch complained of it. But at Jeremiah's command, Baruch took the scroll and read it in the temple. Eventually, Jehoiakim, the king, heard of it and commanded that it be read to him.

After every few verses, he cut those verses off the scroll and burned them in his firepot. The scroll was totally destroyed. So the word of the Lord came again to Jeremiah and the scroll was rewritten - again by Baruch, the scribe.

And the Lord pronounced a judgment against the king who had destroyed the scroll. He will bring every judgment He pronounced against them because they have not listened to His words.

Often we are too busy and caught up in our own affairs to listen to the words of the Lord. We go our own way and don't hear Him or His call to righteousness.

But our not hearing is no excuse. We need to be listening for His word to us today.

Father, God,

Open our ears to hear you. Help us to be available to listen and swift to obey.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Faithful Sons

Focus verses: Jeremiah 35:1-19

The nation of Israel has been faithless time and again. But there is one example of fidelity in the group. The sons of Recab have done as their forefather, Jonadab, commanded - for generations. They have remained true to the instruction of a man. The nation of Israel has not remained true to the edicts of the Lord God Almighty.

Jonadab told his descendants that they were not to live in houses or plant fields. And they were never to drink wine. So they lived a nomadic life, in tents, and always sober. Things had gone well for them.

When wine was set before them, they refused it.

How often do we accept the things set before us without judging whether it is what the Lord would have us partake of or not?

We live in a world where we are bombarded with images. Some of them are most unwholesome. Nudity, violence, and greed are displayed as desirable. In the original garden it was a fruit.

When we see things, we are tempted to want them. If we see them often enough and want them badly enough, we figure a way to get them. And we do this even when they are things the Lord has told us to avoid.

The only way to remain faithful to the Lord is to keep our eyes on Him - at all times - in all circumstances.

Father, God,

Grant that we may always keep our eyes on You, remaining faithful to Your precepts to the end of our days.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God's Answer To Habakkuk

Focus verses: Habakkuk 1:12-2:17

Habakkuk was contemporary with Jeremiah. Certainly he had heard Jeremiah's prophesies. He questions the Lord's using the unrighteous nations to discipline the chosen people. This passage is his question and the Lord's answer.

The first thing God tells him is to write this answer down so that it can be disseminated throughout the land. And a written prophesy is more permanent that a spoken one. People hear and forget. People can read and re-read what is written.

It is written so that we may be reading it now. What was true for Israel in that time is still true for us. Evil will not go forever unpunished. Injustice will be corrected. Wrongs will be righted.

Woe to the greedy. Woe to the power-mongers. Woe to the violent. Woe to the licentious. Woe is me!

Look at what is going on in our own country. Greed, usury, violence, licentiousness are rampant in our society. We idolize celebrity and follow gossip as if it were gospel. We indulge ourselves with leisure, entertainment, food and drink until we are insatiable, over weight and out of shape. The consequences of our self indulgence are upon us physically and morally.

We need to look at God's answer to Habakkuk and change our course.

Father, God,

Help us to see evil as You see it. Let us recognize it for what it is and do all in our power to change it. Keep us ever faithful to You that we may not be led astray into evil doing.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fear Not

Focus verses: Jeremiah 46:27-28

After God has told Jeremiah about the destruction of Judah and the scattering of the people, He goes on to tell Jeremiah about the destruction of the nations which He has used to punish Judah. Can you imagine the consternation of the people? Not only will they be forcibly ripped from their homes, but the nations to which they will be scattered will also be destroyed. What is to become of them?

These two verses are filled with reassurance. He calls the people by the name of their father, Jacob. You will remember that Jacob wrestled with God and his name was changed to Israel.

It would seem that the descendants of Jacob continue to wrestle with God. They worship Him and then they are drawn away. They cannot seem to remain faithful in their obedience. They struggle with the world and the flesh.

But God reassures them here. He tells them he will not utterly destroy the descendants of Jacob, but He will completely destroy the nations to which they have been scattered.

Then He tells them He will discipline them with justice but He will not let them go entirely unpunished. In effect, they will reap the consequences of their infidelities.

God is always just. He may be merciful, but justice demands a discipline from a righteous God.

Father, God,

Help us to see Your righteousness and Your justice in the disciplines You enforce in our lives. Make us willing to see Your perfect plan as You reveal it to us day by day.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, August 3, 2009

In The Name Of The Lord

Focus verses: Jeremiah 26:1-24

Strange things happen when one speaks in the name of the Lord. Jeremiah has spoken truthfully all and exactly what God told him to say to the people. But the people didn't want to hear "repent before doom comes upon you." They would rather have ear-tickling words from false prophets.

So the mob (shades of things to come) calls for Jeremiah to be put to death. However, there are people there who speak up for Jeremiah. Jeremiah puts forth no defense except that if they kill him they will be guilty of innocent blood. So Jeremiah is spared.

Speaking in the name of the Lord is not always a good way to win friends. Truth is unbending. It's a binary file. Yes or no. On or off. Truth or lie. There are no shades of gray, no in-betweens.

We live, however, in a society that tends to reject absolutes. And it rejects them absolutely. That is a fallacy in itself. If nothing is absolutely true then it cannot be absolutely true that nothing is absolutely true.

It has been proven that children do better in a structured environment, when certain things are expected of them. It gives them a sense of importance to have a position in the family that is responsible for something. But children are very good at pushing buttons and stretching the boundaries.

That isn't because they want the freedom of no boundaries. They are reassured when the boundaries don't give when they try to stretch them.

We are children, too. We need the boundaries that God has set for us. When we push the boundaries, we generally reap a harvest we'd rather not have had. One cannot sow wild oats and pray for crop failure. It just doesn't happen.

When we speak or act in the name of the Lord, we'd better be very sure that God has set us to this task. Else we are doomed to failure.

Father, God,

Sharpen our ears to be attentive to Your word. Help us to keep within Your boundaries, and strengthen us to do or say what You would have us to.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Wages Of Sin

Focus verses: II Kings 23:1-28

This recounting of the deeds of Josiah fills this passage. After decades of unfaithfulness and the loss of the book of the Law of Moses, Josiah has the book read to him, and he decides to proceed under those auspices. He cleans the temples of their idols and forcibly removes all traces of worship to other than the Lord God.

The nation experiences a brief revival, but as soon as Josiah dies and his son, Jehoahaz, takes the reigns, the revival is over. Jehoahaz reigned only three months, but he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord - and the nation went along with it.

It makes me think that Josiah's success in returning Judah to the worship of the Lord was less about the Lord and more about the power and popularity of Josiah. This wasn't necessarily Josiah's fault, but people by their very nature are fickle. If Josiah had a winning personality and some charisma, then the people follow. But when Josiah's influence is silenced, the people go back to their faithless ways.

The consequences of the sins of the nation have been temporarily postponed, but they have not been canceled. The nation has sown wild oats; it is fruitless to pray for a crop failure. That harvest may be delayed, but the harvest will come.

We see many instances of skin cancer in our state. Generally this comes from an overexposure to the raw sun. If we don't wear skin protection while we are teenagers, we run the risk of multiple skin cancers which probably will not manifest until after we are fifty. Sun exposure as a teenager is the cause. Skin cancer forty or fifty years later is the effect.

In this instance multiple infidelities to the Lord. coupled with short-lived, shallow repentances have earned the nation this punishment. King Josiah's revival offered only a short reprieve.

Father, God,

Grant us wisdom in this hour to make decisions which will yield a fruitful harvest for You. Let us not be so short-sighted as to fulfill the desires of this moment at the expense of eternity.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Self-pity To Praise

Focus verses: Jeremiah 20:7-13

How often do we sink into self-pity? When something untoward happens we start asking questions. "Why me, Lord?" "What did I do to deserve this?" "Where are You?"

We should be asking a different question. "Where am I in relationship to God's will?"

We know that we are in God's will when the world comes against us as we speak out for God. It would be so much more comfortable to remain silent, to hide in the shadows, to be inconspicuous. But when we are living for God, it becomes obvious to all the world. They may ridicule, denigrate, and sneer at us, but they know where we stand.

And it's not like we have a choice in the matter. When we choose God, we choose to be His disciple. Not speaking for him creates a fire in the bones. When we speak God's words and message, we are not to bite our tongues. (I've never been good with the bruised and bleeding tongue thing, anyway.)

Only when we take the focus off ourselves and think about Who God is and the fact that He is with us can we begin to praise and worship Him. God inhabits the praises of His people. In praise, we draw closer to Him.

Father, God,

Help us to take our eyes off ourselves and fix them upon You. Draw us closer to You in our praises of Your worthiness and power and majesty and might. Keep us in right standing, knowing our place in You.
In Jesus' most precious name.