Call for help!

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.08.14 PMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.08.08 PMMiriam will be taking her AP English exam tomorrow. Please be praying for her. I would guess a good part of her class this year has centered on analyzing “themes” in the stories she has read like Romeo and Juliet, the Kite Runner and A Doll’s House. Every story has a theme.

I am beginning to see a very clear theme in Ezekiel. It is the theme of “Obey God no matter what.” Today, in the verse above, this part caught my eye: “I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit.” I can sure “relate” to Ezekiel’s feelings here-being that frustrated, that it is described as a “heat of my spirit.” The thing about this verse is that it is surrounded by other verses like verse 11b that says, “Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’; whether they hear or refuse to hear.” The same idea is repeated in verse 17b; “… whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” If you were to read on in the chapter, you would see God keeps reminding Ezekiel over and over to do what he is told to do. That is it. The people’s response is not Ezekiel’s responsibility. Ezekiel’s feelings about the situation do not absolve him of his responsibility to obey.

Ugh! Did you read that? Do you see where that leaves us in relation to today’s verse? It means that even when I am in “bitterness in the heat of my spirit” that is absolutely no excuse for not doing what God calls me to do. Our emotional frame of mind does not dismiss our calling from God. I can’t get out of it and neither can you.

Ezekiel looked around at the people to whom he had to give his message and no doubt, felt hopeless, frustrated, and in fact, in verse 15 it says he was “stunned” or overwhelmed. But God still called him to be His messenger, and Ezekiel still had to do that.

Are you frustrated with something, someone or a specific situation right now? You are not alone. Ezekiel felt it. I have felt it. Our frustration is never an excuse for rudeness, disrespect, disobedience or any other sin we may be tempted to commit. We must still be faithful servants to Christ. This will require help, which takes us back to Friday’s devotions, and Acts 1:8 again; the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to be calling out to the Holy Spirit for power and help-especially when the Lord’s hand is “strong” upon us. We need help when God takes us to places or situations where we do not want to go. Only with His help, will we be able to be the obedient and faithful servants we desire to be!

Stand out..stand strong…

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.14.08 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.14.15 AMThose are some harsh, stern instructions given above if you ask me, aren’t they? Reading today’s Scripture in Ezekiel, God’s commands to Ezekiel seem tough, but very clear. He is to say what God tells him-regardless of the people’s reactions. He is also to “stand out” from the crowd and not conform-at least not conform to their rebellious ways. I suspect you feel like dad and I have said these words to you from time to time or at least have given you similar instruction. Consider the first part about speaking words-regardless of what “they” hear. I often think of this in terms of a pastor who should preach the truth of God’s Word and make that his focus-regardless of the congregation’s response or reaction. I also believe we can take this instruction to heart even though we are not “pastors”. As parents, dad and I are required to teach you God’s ways, right from wrong, sin from righteousness. We are not responsible for your reaction and acceptance or rejection of these things, but we are responsible to teach you. Thankfully, you are all good “hearers” and we see you taking these things to heart and God working in your lives in many areas.

The second portion about not being like that “rebellious” house will hit much more close to home if you (and I) consider our modern day phrase “peer-pressure”. That is really what Ezekiel had to deal with. He was probably tempted to do what those around him were doing and to disregard God’s instruction in the same way they were. The pressure to not stand “out” from the crowd was as real then as it is today. Nobody is immune. We all face peer-pressure, the desire to fit in and struggle with temptation. (Yes, even I still struggle with this in certain ways!)

As I considered these things today, I realized one thing we often forget. God does not ask us to do things that we are incapable of doing. If He asks you or I to not conform to those around us, He will also enable us to do just that: not conform. He will give us the strength to accomplish that goal. We need to remember what we are told in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me…” We are given the Holy Spirit and power comes with that. That power is sent to help us be witnesses to Jesus Christ. A good witness for Christ would certainly mean obeying Him and living for Him which often requires “standing out” and not conforming. I have to believe then, that the Holy Spirit is ready, willing and able to help us in our times of need-when we are fighting against peer pressure and temptation. Call on that power. Ask God to help you stand as He asked Ezekiel to stand, and realize, you are able. God would never call you or I to do anything He has not equipped us to accomplish in full!

Never ending…

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 9.11.56 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 9.11.44 AMAre you a morning person or a night owl? I think it is safe to say dad is a morning person and Miriam, Aaron and Jordan are night owls. I am not sure what I am-I certainly don’t find it easy to get up so early in the morning, but I do LOVE the morning once I am up. Early morning is just such a nice time-it is quiet, peaceful, bright…and you have the whole day ahead of you. You haven’t “messed it up” yet.

In fact, I think mornings are a gift from God. A reminder that we all get to “start over” in a sense. Things can “look” very different in the morning from the way they may have looked the night before. Today, Lamentations talks about mornings, and what makes them special. It is related to hope.

We are reminded today, that when things look really bleak (as Jeremiah has pointed out in both Jeremiah and Lamentations) that there is still hope. There is hope because of who God is and what He is like. There is hope because God’s love never ceases. This means, He will never stop loving you…no matter what you do. Never. We have hope because God does not “run out” of mercy. Think of mercy as being treated with kindness when we really could or should be punished. We are told those mercies are new every morning. I think this is what makes mornings special-that deep down inside, we can sense God’s mercy and love for us at the start of each new day. He has given us another day. Another chance. He is not holding a grudge, but is ready to love us again today-no matter what yesterday held for us.

And finally, why is this? Because He is faithful. He is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to complete the work He has started in us. He will never give up on us. If these are not great thoughts to start your day off with and bring renewed hope, I don’t know what is! Have a wonderful day!

Sad, very very sad…

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.53.37 PMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.53.28 PMWe start in the book of Lamentations today-I bet you can’t wait! Lamentations was very likely written by Jeremiah after the destruction he prophesied had come to pass. Do you know what a lamentation is? A “lament” is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Think of someone at a funeral, or at the sight of a horrific accident. These type people would “lament” something. Lamentations is an entire book lamenting “something.”

The writer is now looking upon the demise of Israel, the sad state the people of God are in, and how they got to this point. Today’s verse is just a piece of that. What caught my eye is the phrase in the middle of this verse, “…she [Jerusalem] took no thought of her future…”  Jerusalem took step after step in the wrong direction. The people sinned in multiple ways. I have to assume they sinned because whatever it was looked good, was fun, or there was some other value in it or they would NOT have chosen that path. One thing is for sure: they did NOT consider the future. They did not consider where the path truly led.

I believe this is one of the many ways we can get entrapped in sin-by NOT thinking about the future. Either we don’t think about it at all, or we are deceived into thinking something along the lines of “that won’t happen to me.” Why not? When sin has led countless others down a path of destruction, why would we believe it won’t happen to us? Consider the sins we struggle against right now: selfishness, pride, words we speak (gossip, ungodly conversation, slander), disobedience and so on. Where exactly does that lead? What is it’s “future”? The future of selfishness in an adult marriage? Often it is divorce. The future of disobedience in a child? Parents and/or children don’t want to be around them and don’t invite them to events because they are too difficult to handle or control. The future of pride in an athlete? Tiger Woods had it all, and felt he was so good, he could live outside the constraints of marriage and have an affair. He lost sponsorships, his wife, his child, and I would say a good portion of his career. The future of sin is bleak. Very bleak.

May we never be fooled by this. Instead, as God reveals and convicts us of sin in our own lives, lets be honest. Let’s admit to the sin. Let’s determine to honestly look at our future if we were to follow through. Finally, let’s repent, so there is no lament to be made and no destruction to look back upon!

No sad endings, please!

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Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.52.35 AMI generally won’t go to a movie or read a book if it does not have a happy ending. I see no point. If I want sadness, I will turn on the news-not pay for it.

We come to the conclusion of Jeremiah today with chapter 52. Let’s just say if Jeremiah was a movie, I would not have paid to go see it either. No happy ending here, but also no surprise. In fact, in terms of “spoilers”, God himself (through Jeremiah) gave “spoilers” to this ending throughout the entire book! The ending, as you can see in verse 17 above, is that basically the temple is ransacked and all the costly items are broken and taken to Babylon after the people have been taken into captivity.

As I read this though, my first thought was that this was not the downfall of Israel-because that really had already happened long ago. Their temple may have been standing, but it was “useless” years before. The kings never listened or obeyed God’s message through Jeremiah and the people had spiritually walked away from the temple years ago. This physical ransacking was nothing more, sadly, than the finale. Sometimes, the physical structure can remain and “look” a certain way from the outside, but that is only appearance-inside it is completely dead and empty.

The warning to us-the outside can still look good while the inside is dying. Our faith walk is a “daily” walk… it takes effort, planning, and a commitment to seek God each day. Just because we spent time in His Word yesterday, doesn’t mean we don’t need to today. It is like food-just because you ate yesterday, doesn’t mean you can go without today. In fact, without food, your body will start to deteriorate. Without planned exercise time-the time won’t “magically appear” in our day. The same goes for us spiritually. Without planned time in prayer, study and memorizing God’s Word, it won’t happen. We are always moving in either one direction or the other-towards God or away. There is no standing still.

The temple when it was used by the people of God to worship Him in love and obedience in the days of David or Solomon, was a wonder to behold. Let’s let our lives also be wonders to behold because of what’s going on on the inside so there never comes a day when we are so ransacked spiritually on the inside, that the outside is just a shell left to be ransacked and carried away.

Tick Tock

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.53.31 AMPrintable15Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.53.16 AMMiriam has been diligently working on many scholarship applications this year. Today, we are handing one in to the Rotary Club of Wilmington that required a large amount of effort. One of the statements she made to me yesterday was she sure hoped it was worth all the work and that she receives at least one of these she has applied for. I do too. She doesn’t want to have worked “for nothing” or to have wasted her time!

That can happen. We can spin our wheels, work very hard on something-but it is the wrong “thing.” It is something that is not worth working towards. It is wasted effort. This is what Babylon was doing in Jeremiah. God tells us the people were “exhausting” themselves for nothing. In today’s verse, it tells us they “weary themselves only for fire.” In fact, based on yesterday’s devotions, we already know what happened to Babylon-it is no more.

So, what were the Babylonians doing that was a waste of time and effort? From reading Jeremiah 50, verses 35-38 we know they had horses and chariots (built up a great army), treasures, and abundance of water (vital in that day) and idols. The crux was that all they were doing was NOT in any way honoring to God or worshiping Him. Therefore, it was all in vain. It was a waste of time.

Jordan and I are currently very interested in time management. We do not want to waste our time. (Hence, my newly added 86,400 seconds sign in the office) I do not want to “exhaust myself for nothing”. I am also reading a book, called, What’s Best Next, which is about this very subject. Based on what we learn from Jeremiah today, I suggest we consider our priorities and time in light of the glory of God. Consider Matthew 5:16; “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” I Peter 4:11 says, “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” Each morning it is my prayer that I would effectively steward the gifts, talents, time and energy that God has given me for the good of others and the glory of God. I need God’s guidance to be able to do this.

The good news? Almost anything we do, if viewed in the light of this, and if not against God’s clear instruction, can be done for Him. We can sweep floors for the good of others and to God’s glory. Miriam can apply for scholarships and give God the glory for all the talents and gifts she lists, as well as if she actually is awarded the scholarships. I can write the devotions to God’s glory and work on computers and devices for the good of others. This is what matters. God’s priorities are what matters-and if our time is invested in His priorities, working towards these very things, it will NEVER be wasted time!

Babylon…

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Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 11.29.50 AMDo you remember the hyenas from lion king? They were like Scar’s side kicks. Scar and his whole gang seemed to lived far away from all the others, where it was more like desert land, barren, no vegetation to speak of. Not the best of places.

That place could have been called Babylon-at least based on God’s description of Babylon in Jeremiah, as you can see above. In fact, it is a description of Babylon today. As I read His judgment on Babylon in Jeremiah, I thought I would google search Babylon and see what it is like today. The pictures you see here are of Babylon today. It looks pretty “sparse” to me!

I also looked at what is said about Babylon by secular writers. Here is an excerpt from one of the first articles that came up on CNN’s website this morning, which is of course, a secular source. The article title is Bringing Babylon back from the dead.” (click title to read actual article) It goes on to say; “Babylon was one of the glories of the ancient world, its walls and mythic hanging gardens listed among the Seven Wonders….but following years of plunder, neglect and conflict, the Babylon of today scarcely conjures that illustrious history.” The article continues to recount attempts to “reopen” Babylon, to rebuild it or to make it a tourist attraction…all to no avail. Even Saddam Hussein tried to restore it, including a replica of Nebuchadnezzar II’s palace. Babylon has never been “peopled”, as Jeremiah said.

Today, I just wanted to point this out. I want to point out that what God said through Jeremiah about 2600 years ago still stands. It is proven true by both pictures and non-believer’s words, whether they believe God’s Word or not.

This is our God. What He says stands. It stands for all time. What He says will happen, will happen. What He does not want to happen, will not happen. What He says is right, is right. What He says is wrong, is wrong. What He says will result in blessings, will bring blessings. What He says will result in disaster, will bring disaster. Man can choose to believe in God or not. Man can try as long as they like to go against what God says, but they will fail every time, in every century, at every point. Our God reigns. He always has and He always will!

Don’t be the “laughingstock”

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Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 12.50.14 PMDrunk, vomit and laughingstock. Not exactly words I would want used to describe me, how about you?! These are the words that God uses to describe “Moab”, which is a land/people group in Jeremiah’s day. Things were apparently not going to be so swell for them in the future, to say the least!

Moab is not the Israelites. Dad informed me the Moabites are the descendants of the incest that occurred with Lot in prior years. They were not God worshipers. They were not the chosen people. And right now, they are not going to see the favor of God in their lives either.

When I read a verse that is “strong” like this, I always wonder “why?”  Why is God going to make them become a laughingstock? Why are they being judged and what are they being punished for?

We see the “why” partially in this verse. We are told “he” (the people “Moab”) magnified ‘himself’ against the Lord. I read in a commentary that the nation had not humbled themselves under God’s authority. They were full of pride. Earlier in this chapter we are told that Moab “has been at ease from his youth; settled like wine on its dregs.” (48:11) They had become “complacent”. Complacent means “to show smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.” This thought might hit a little closer to home for us than the thought of  a foreign country back in the olden days that did not revere God.

God didn’t like complacency then and was going to punish the Moabites for it.  Yesterday we talked about how God punishes and disciplines us for correction. Knowing God does not like complacency, that God punishes people who are complacent, and that God never changes-I would bet it is not a bright idea for us to allow ourselves to be complacent. We should not be ‘smug’ about our achievements. But this is not so easy. Think of your current areas of strength….these will be the prime targets for Satan to deceive you and convince you to take pride in them.  Just look at most professional athletes or recording artists…I don’t think “humble” would be a common word used to describe them.  They have taken pride in their talent and now complacently sit back and revel in how ‘marvelous’ they are!

Knowing now God’s attitude and actions He will take towards pride and complacency, let’s go back to the idea of becoming a “laughingstock.” I reiterate; Is that a word we want to describe us? If not, I suggest we guard ourselves from attitudes, words and any actions stemming from pride and complacency.  Pray we would be humble, remembering exactly why we have any strength or gift we have. Pray for the areas of strength you see in your siblings, or dad and I. Pray we would be guarded from taking pride in these areas. Then, reflect the glory of that gift back to Him for others to glory in Him, not us!

Punishment and Consequences…

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Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.06.45 PMHave you ever considered what the difference between spanking and child abuse is? Perhaps you have discussed it in a class? One is a reaction out of anger or loss of control, the other is a means to redirect a child out of love and to help prevent them from stepping out of God’s circle of protection and blessing. Abuse can end a child’s life, sadly. Proper spanking would never do that.

God speaks of punishment for the Israelites today along these same lines in our verse from Jeremiah above. In fact, He makes it clear, His intent is not to “make an end” of them, but to chastise (rebuke) and punish them. The Living Bible translates the verse above “…I will punish you but only enough to correct you.” (TLB)

One of my favorite things about the Old Testament is how it shows us God; who He is and how He acts towards us. This is another great example. He disciplines us to help us, not to “make an end” of us. We know from both the Old and New Testament, that the Lord disciplines “those He loves.” We see that here in the Jeremiah, we read it in Hebrews 12:6, and we see it in our lives today.

I was trying to think of real life examples of God’s discipline in my life or yours. In considering this, I realize a lot of the times, God disciplines us by allowing us to suffer the natural consequences of our sin. He could prevent it, but He doesn’t. Take lying as an example. The consequence for lying ranges from getting spanked, grounded, expelled or put in jail depending on our age and the lie. God most certainly could PREVENT that lie from being found out, but it is more beneficial and restorative if our “sin finds us out”. Why? Because chances are-next time we will be much less likely to lie. It is preventative and corrective discipline.

God still will “by no means leave us unpunished”-but it will always be for our good. The more we do what is right, the less we need to fear discipline and consequences-which is exactly how God wants it. Choose the better way-please God and obey Him-and He will have no reason to punish us in the first place!

Faulty Memory and Fear…

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Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 11.58.22 AMWhen was the last time you said or heard, “Remember when ____?” I think we all say this often. Remember when we all went down to Wildwood last year for the soccer tournament? Remember when you used to ride the scooter to school? Remember when we lived in the old neighborhood? We remember a lot of things in the past, but our memory is not always 100% accurate. We tend to “skew” it-often forgetting the bad things, and only remembering the good. This can be good, because we wouldn’t want to always dwell on bad things from our past but it could also be bad if we based a decision on faulty memory.  Some people say “Hindsight is always 20/20”…I am not so sure.

Today, we can see some of that faulty “hindsight” decision-making. Actually, it is a combination of faulty memory AND fear. The Israelites have gone from bad to worse and are no longer ruling and dwelling in Jerusalem. They are being oppressed by the Chaldeans. Do you see what they want to do in the verse above? They want to go back to Egypt. Egypt? Really? Where they were slaves? Where they finally escaped then wandered for decades? Granted, they are generations away from these experiences, but I am certain they knew what happened there. Why do the Israelites ALWAYS seem to want to go BACK to Egypt when it was a horrible experience? In this case, it was faulty memory and fear. First, because of a faulty memory of what Egypt had to offer. They have fallen for Satan’s lie that Egypt would be better. Second, because of fear. They feared the Chaldeans. Ultimately, they feared God would not help or protect them. Their decision was based on fear and faulty memory.

You and I make decisions daily. Seeing the Israelites mistakes are ways we can learn without having to go through the same mistakes ourselves. Do you have a difficult decision ahead of you? Perhaps the decision is whether to go see a movie with friends that you don’t have a peace about? Is your decision based on fear?…the fear that you will be made fun of or not accepted if you don’t go? How about the decision to stay up late on a school night? Is your memory faulty and telling you you managed the next day and weren’t too tired, when in reality in the morning you were exhausted and wished you had gotten more sleep? I fall prey to these things too-and need to be mindful. Both small and big decisions can be easily affected by memory or fear. When we have a decision to make, and you or I are struggling with it, I suggest we take a minute to think about our solution. What is it based on? If our decision is based on memory or fear, than perhaps we need to rethink it, pray about it, and ask God to help us see through the lies.  This will be the only way to see clearly what would truly be the best choice!