Lamentations 3:22 -5:22 I many ways, Jeremiah reflects what Naomi said to the women of Jerusalem: I went out full and have come back empty, [Ruth 1:21] She needed a redeemer. Everyone needs this, and it begins with the assessment of the heart and our self-examination to conclude that we have sinned. When we take that first step; then God can work. He is the redeemer; He is the righteous one who will pay the redemption price. God’s mercies are new every morning, but for us to recognize them, we must be transparent before Him. As Jeremiah wrote, we must do a self-examination: Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD. [Lam 3:40] God is waiting to hear those words so He can begin a new work in our hearts. We need a kinsman, a redeemer, and He has come to pay the price of our sin.
Today pray for those who need this today. For us, let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.
Proverbs 26. Chapter 26 is often referred to as the “book of the fool and the book of the lazy,” sayings from Solomon but recorded by the Hezekiah’s wise men. The first half of Prov 26 refers to the fool and the other verses speak to the lazy. One often wonders what transpired in his courtroom and could it be that these wise sayings he gleaned from seeing or hearing both in his presence?
The fool is a fool because he has rejected the wise counsel of him who is wise. (1) Why would you take counsel from the fool? To do so is your folly. (2) Why would you try to train the fool by trying to lead him or counsel him? He only learns the hard way (by whip or rod). (3) Why would you send the fool on a journey with a message when you know that it will either be lost or rehearsed incorrectly?
Then there is the lazy individual who refuses to work and Paul spoke to these individuals. Paul reminded them that he, who is lazy and won’t work, should not benefit from the toil of others. The lazy man/woman is not a seeker of wisdom. He is called the sluggard! He is habitually lazy! We have met people like this who think they are wise but their attitude and behavior, and yes sometimes, their countenance reveals their lot in life.
We can glean much from Solomon through the words he spoke as a wise man himself. Take heed to this counsel today.
Prov 22:11: The one who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious Prov 22:18 For it is pleasing if you keep these sayings within you, and they are ready on your lips.
Do you want to demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit? Then begin by looking deep within your heart. Does it love others and God? Listen to yourself as the Proverbs writer asks: are your words gracious or kind? Have you filtered each word through the grid of scripture? Have you prayed: “O Lord, place a guard over my mouth! Protect the opening of my lips!” [Ps 141:3] The writer reminds us that it is pleasing and gratifying when you keep this admonition close to yourself.
As you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to put a guard much like an army sentry over your mouth. Our words begin in the mind before they ever escape out of our mouth. Like a light switch in the off position, our heart’s switch is either in the on or off position. How often do we want our own approval more than God’s? Remember these words: “Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.” [Ps 139:4]
Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. [Eph 4:32]
Psalm 133 speaks to how beautiful it is to be unified. As the Father and Son are unified, we are to be as well, unlike Abraham and Lot, who went their separate ways or Euodia and Syntyche to whom Paul pressed to agree in the Lord. Our model is the Trinity, and we are to be the messengers of this unity to the world.
Abraham and Lot were family members, and as such, they had dwelt together for years, traveled together, and worked together. But, they failed to model that principle of family unity before their herdsmen. Then quarrels erupted and Lot took up the offense of his herdsmen. Abraham sought a sweet refreshment of their spirits: “Let there be no quarreling you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are close relatives.” [Gen 13:8] Unfortunately, Lot chose the well-watered plain of Jordan and moved away from Abraham. From that point on, he never sought his closeness or counsel again. This is a lesson for us in what NOT to do. Their unity was destroyed and never restored.
Psalm 133:1 “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!”
Is there disunity someplace in a relationship between you and another? Pray this as Paul prayed: Eph 4:3 ” make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Numbers 28-29 Is your calendar full of appointments? Do you include God as you begin each day? To help the Israelites, God included significant days on their yearly calendar, and on those days, they were to bring offerings that would be a sweet aroma to Him. They were to plan and choose each offering intentionally.
Do you spend time each day to prepare your heart so you can be a sweet aroma to others as you spread His love to all, not just on special days but every day?
“Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” [Eph 5] Jesus was the perfect atoning sacrifice. When we accept Christ’s sacrifice, it should produce a fragrant or sweet aroma that permeates or bring to mind the knowledge of the Messiah as we walk this earthly life. “To the saved, we are a sweet aroma of Christ, but to the unsaved, we are an odor or a stench of death to death.” [2Cor 2:15]
God doesn’t want an occasional “holiday appointment” but a daily appointment, not an excuse of why our life is busy with appointments that have no eternal value. He gave the best; what is the best you are giving to Him?
Job is described in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 42 as God’s servant. Job has been unaware of a spiritual battle between Satan and God. He has never known what that battle was or how God perceived him—until God responds to the three comforters in this last chapter. It is then that God speaks to Eliphaz and says; go to my servant Job—not once but four times!
When we face a trial, does God call you His servants? You may be facing a spiritual battle, but you can be assured of this; believers are God’s servants, and He knows how you and I will face each trial.
Paul reminds us that we not in a wrestling match against flesh and blood. Instead, our battle is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against evil’s spiritual forces in the heavenly places. [Eph 6:12-13] Therefore, we must put on the whole spiritual armor of God that includes the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace; the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and stand firm.
What trial are you facing this day? Will God announce to Satan that you are His servant?
Job 6 to 9 When we get discouraged it helps to remember that we know how this story will turn out but as we walk with Job we begin to experience his pain, his anguish, and his questions. Satan had accused and challenged God that if Job’s body were touched “skin for skin” he would curse God to His face. But, even in the throes of a body that was wasting away with sores and in bodily pain he did not succumb for he “feared God and turned away from evil.” He may not have understood but he remained God’s faithful servant. He kept talking to God and that is where many fail the test saying: “I tried God and He failed me.” Instead of clinging to God through the hard times, we seek to do it our way thinking we know best. But, Job, although walking precariously close to that edge in his thinking, never crossed that line; he trusted that God will have His way in His time.
A lesson we can learn from this comes from Peter:
“Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange was happening to you.” [1Pe 4:12]
Trials prove the genuineness of our faith and this is the lesson we need to glean from Job.
When you face these hard trials you have a choice; trust God or go your own way and prove the words of Satan true. Which will it be? Will you trust that God is working even if you can’t see it?
The words of the Apostle John remind us that we look forward to the time when we can all rejoice at the feet of our Savior. Until then we rejoice on Christmas in the babe in the manger and we look forward to His resurrection day on Easter. These are a reminder of God’s promises:
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. [Jn 1:14]
Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity.
If you live in the United States, you know that we do not face persecution as those in the first century. We talk about it but have not really experienced it. Many today, as illegal immigrants, who move from their home country now fear that their identity will be known and deportation will come. “Pastor” James understands their fears. His letter is as relevant today as in the first century. Lives have been upended, and they have relinquished their rights and the comfort of family, home, and citizenship. They were persecuted in Jerusalem and are even now facing persecution where they are now living. “Pastor” James sends this letter to encourage them in their poverty. He begins with an exhortation to be joyful in times of persecution. He encourages them to remain firm in their faith. He tells them that, in fact, their firm faith will help them to endure hardship and their response proves their faith.
Faith is true faith when works also accompany it.
He winds up that first part of his discussion by saying testing will come. He has written a letter to remind them as well as us to get prepared. One day we may find ourselves in the same circumstance. James is asking; are you prepared?
I must admit, I am a cooky-holic! I love to bake and I love December for its many cooky recipes! But, alas December is followed by January, and then I find myself groaning as I step on the scales! I know that the last cooky or last piece of candy should be put out of sight and out of mind. But, alas, I fall precipitously careless when so much is offered as a gift! And so comes January when I resolve to begin the rounds of dieting by sacrificing certain those foods, like cookies, so I can bring those scales back into the proper frame.
Often it is not just the cooky but there is also a second problem I face during this season. Christmas and Advent provide an example of what happens when I fail to guard my keeping to a Bible reading schedule each day. This happens when I allow this season’s busy activities to take my eyes and minds off what should be the most important activity of my day! Thus enters the deadly d’s of drifting and disbelief. The author of Hebrews warned of this! He called it being “sluggish in hearing.” [Heb 5:11] He also noted that “we must pay closer attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away. “[Heb 2:1]
Lest I find myself in the same strait, I must earnestly plan to dig into the Word daily and to learn the truths so I can share them with others. Will you join me in my Bible Reading Plan? Here’s a link I follow: https://tinyurl.com/3x8ufhl
Today my prayer is that you and I be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. [1Cor 15:58] And…I can only do that by setting aside time each day to read and pray.