Jeremiah 37-41 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He rewards our faithfulness when we face opposition

I always marveled at the tenacity and courage of an elderly man who stood day after day on various busy corners in our city wearing a placard that said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Through the years I saw him receive many signs of agreement with honking, thumbs up and friendly waves.  I also saw crude gestures and unkind words; however, this did not deter the man from doing what he felt was his part in building the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t let his temporary comfort level and the measure of his popularity affect the eternal destination of a soul that needed to hear the good news.  I never heard if anyone’s life was changed by his stand for the Lord, but rest assured, Heaven was keeping track of it.

The story of Judah’s last king is a sad one.  King Zedekiah was only 21 years old when he was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to rule over Judah as his vassal.  Maybe his age played into his poor leadership, but regardless, he was only interested in saving his own life.  The prophet Jeremiah was unpopular with the king and the Israelites living in Judah because his message from God was one they didn’t want to hear – surrender to God or die.

The king’s officials had imprisoned and beaten Jeremiah because they hated his message, yet the king secretly listened to the prophet’s message, “King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, ‘Do you have any messages from the Lord?’” (37:17)  Zedekiah was not willing to openly accept the message of the prophet because of fear of what his officials would think of him.  What would they do to him? Jeremiah, however, bravely spoke God’s message no matter what the consequences.

Zedekiah would one day regret his cowardice.  He eventually lost his kingdom, lost his family, lost his eyes and lost his freedom. (39:6-7)  We do not have the promise that our stand for God will always save our lives – many have been martyred through the centuries – but we will be able to look back without regret.

Jeremiah had suffered much because he took a stand in the face of opposition, but he ultimately came out the winner.  Jeremiah was offered freedom and protection by the Babylonian king who took Israel captive.  What a different outcome than that of Zedekiah!  The words of Jesus come to mind in Luke 12:8, “I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.”

God may never lead us to wear a sign on the street corner, but He is expecting us to boldly stand for truth whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity. Whether it’s a new job or new neighborhood or perhaps a new relationship, taking a stand and proclaiming truth in love are just easier over the long haul.  They involve no cover-up or fancy footwork, promise no regrets and secure a place in heaven before God’s angels. 

Moving Forward:  May I live this day without regrets, not missing even one opportunity to take a stand for the One who will one day take a stand for me before all of Heaven. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 3-4

I Corinthians 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to share His wisdom and deep secrets with us

My husband recently purchased a Kindle for me, a nifty little electronic book that is less than one fourth of an inch thick yet holds an entire library of reading.  I must admit that I love the feel and weight of tangible books, flipping through those pages and smelling the ink; but at the time of purchase, the Kindle was ideal for my travel.  It was a used Kindle, so after reading through the manual, I deleted most of the previous library, not really interested in Sci-Fi and horror.

My mind was having trouble getting around the concept of adding books to this little device because surely the process would be complicated and filled with technical lingo.  To my amazement, in two or three clicks, using very familiar terms to me like purchase and select, my new book was there on my Kindle in black and white.  I did my best to make the process more complicated than it really was because sometimes it’s difficult to accept that something of worth could be so simple to attain.  Paul wrote about this very thing in our reading today. 

@ I Corinthians 1
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (21-23)

The Gospel is uncomplicated:  John 3:16 – God loved, God gave.  We believe, we receive.  For the intellectuals who were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day, this message was foolish and too simple to be true.  For those with a religious background, the Jews, this message was foolish and too simple to be of value.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  So many neighbors and acquaintances through the years have looked down their long intellectual noses as I’ve shared the simple Gospel with them, and many religious people, those who have been christened or confirmed or catechismed, have no need for the truth I am sharing.  Yet, if they will accept this simple Gospel, a door to wisdom will open for them that is so deep that only the Spirit can reveal its truths. 

@ I Corinthians 2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (9-10) The Gospel of salvation may be simple, but God’s deep secrets will never be understood without it.

With salvation come the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to understand God’s Word and the secrets it contains.  “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (12)

We will never understand all the mysteries and depths of God’s wisdom while here on earth, but those recorded in the Bible, at the very least, are available to us through His Spirit – His love for us, His intentions, and His direction. Isn’t that what the early Greeks and Jews were seeking in all their philosophical debates and teachings?  Isn’t that what people everywhere today are seeking?  Love, purpose and direction?  And it all begins with acceptance of the simple Gospel – God loved, God gave. We believe, we receive.   Simple but priceless. 

Moving Forward: I will continue to seek out through the Spirit the revelation of His wisdom, the mind of Christ.  And I will continue sharing the simple Gospel, undaunted by the intellectuals and religious, and finding those hearts that desire to learn God’s deep secrets. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 32-35

Deuteronomy 29-30 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He offers us the choice between life and death

When my grandparents left their homeland of Italy in the early 1900’s as single young people, I’m fairly certain they were not thinking about me and their other grandchildren and great grandchildren. Nevertheless, I have a feeling the potential of our existence was somewhere in the mix of their decision-making process for the future.  They were seeking greater freedoms and opportunities to provide a future for themselves and for the family they would one day have.  Whether we realize it or not, our decisions impact future generations in a profound way. 

@ Deuteronomy 29
“By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. ‘But you are not the only ones with whom I am making this covenant with its curses. I am making this covenant both with you who stand here today in the presence of the Lord our God, and also with the future generations who are not standing here today.’” (13-15)   By choosing to enter into the covenant with God, the Israelites would change everything for future generations as did God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

@ Deuteronomy 30
This was the choice that was put before them, “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways…But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed.” (15-18)

The Israelites could never say that they didn’t understand the terms of the agreement with God when they decided years later to worship others gods.  With God there are no gray areas today either, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  A choice between life and death!

The Israelites’ broken covenant has affected the lives of the many generations ever since.  In the process, they missed Him, the One they had been waiting to deliver them.  They missed Him.  And our choices may well affect the lives of generations to come should the Lord tarry.  When we break our covenant with God or with our spouse and family, the ramifications are endless.  I know this because I have spent a great deal of time over the years counseling the youth from broken covenants.

Today God offers this same choice to us, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.” (19-20)  The key is not all the substitutes we often choose.  No, this, my friends, is the key to your life! 

Moving Forward:  I can’t help but repeat it, “Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” 

Tomorrow @ Esther 1-5

Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some believe that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause lack of self esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

Luke 13-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He asks that we count the cost of following Him, loving Him more than any other 

@ Luke 14
Within our cache of junk mail, we all have received the seemingly innocuous credit card offers.  What a deal!  Free annual fee, 0% interest for about two minutes followed by a monthly pint of blood and extortive interest rates.  Well, somebody has to pay for it!  We would be wise to count the cost of this incredible offer – some offers just are not what they appear to be.

On the other hand, we all have been offered an amazing opportunity that is not only more than what it appears to be, but more than we can even imagine:  free paid membership, life-long eligibility as per the agreement, including out-of-this-world dividends – literally.  However, before we sign on the dotted line, it would be good to read all the print. There will be some dues to be paid as well as commitment to the everything stipulation.  In spite of this, the offer is miraculous, and there’s really nothing like it anywhere.

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…carry your own cross and follow me…count the cost…giving up everything you own,” Jesus explained to the large crowd following Him that day. (26-33) While these requirements to His offer may seem difficult, this blog couldn’t begin to hold all the blessings that result from our acceptance of His offer – abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven, just to name a couple of them.

We can easily understand the examples Jesus gave of the builder, the king and the importance of counting the cost to follow Him.  And because of the example of Jesus at Calvary, we can somewhat understand what it means to carry our own cross and the willingness to follow Him even to death.  Many throughout history have followed Him to this very end, and others are walking this path today. Does He really require us to hate our families and friends? In comparison to our love and devotion to Him, it may appear that way at times.

The giving Him everything stipulation is a tangible, hardcore, giving of all that we are, all that we ever will be, all that we have and all that we ever will have.  The truth is that our everything could not be in better hands—He gives back to us what we need, when we need it and how we need it.  We couldn’t find a better life coach and financial planner anywhere!  More importantly, He is our Creator, the One who knows us better than anyone else does and the One who knows our tomorrow.

Jesus desires that we count the cost of following Him so that our passion and enthusiasm is authentic and eternal.  The offer is this:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  When counting the cost, how can we can we not consider His incredible offer!

Moving Forward: Today I renew my commitment to the cost of following Him, regardless of the path it takes. I’m yours, Lord, everything I am or ever hope to be, everything I have or ever hope to have.  I love Him most. 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 1-2