“Imagine where we’d be if we did comply with the corrupt dealings and practices of those in power.”
When I look out into the world and see the state we’re in, it’s easy to cast blame to the corporations, the politicians, and anyone else in a position of power and influence. However, in order to get to the truth, we first must take responsibility for the abdication of our posts. Think about it, if you sell your land for a one-time payment, give up your business for a job, or forfeit your inheritance for a tasty meal, that is your choice. Temporary gains only paint a small picture of what is to come, which is why we must not cave to our desires for instant gratification.
When you trade the narrow road for the road of consumption and ease, don’t forget what you’ve given up. Swapping hard work for the sake of convenience, you’re given up the farm for the drive-thru line. But, what happens when the line closes and there is no farm to go back to? Friends this is why we read the Bible. It’s not only great for the understanding of Christ and salvation, it is also a sharp reminder of what happens when we take easy street. There is an unspoken tab that we create as we throw our resources at flash in the pan treats and trinkets. Make no mistake, our smoke and mirror lives are on full display as we come to the realization that we gave up our kingdoms for pennies on the dollar.
Are you willing to stand up to the corruption or are you happy waiting in finite meal line?
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1 The prophet Jeremiah gave a message to Baruch son of Neriah in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, after Baruch had written down everything Jeremiah had dictated to him. He said, 2 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: 3 You have said, ‘I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the LORD has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.’ 4 “Baruch, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. 5 Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!’”
“Take time to encourage one another so that we may all run the race well.”
My father and I share the same trait of continued progression. Something can always be improved on and learning is continuous and ever-evolving. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, if you stay in the weeds for too long, all you begin to see are the incomplete items on your progress list, failing to appreciate all that you have accomplished. This myopic look can bring discouragement and a false narrative that can cause us to stumble. For this reason, we must stop and encourage each other for the good work that we are doing.
This morning, as I was having my usual conversation with my dad, it dawned on me to encourage him as he often encourages me. Sometimes we get so desensitized to the good works of our family, friends, and peers that we fail to recognize their efforts. An encouraging word is like a cool glass of water to a parched runner. We all need the occasional ‘great job’ every now and then. So friends, when you have the chance, let’s build up our brothers and sisters in Christ. When you see great work that honors our Father in Heaven, stop and take the time to say something. That’s also part of sharing the Good News.
Are we encouraging each other as Christ encourages us?
1 This is the message Jeremiah received concerning the Judeans living in northern Egypt in the cities of Migdol, Tahpanhes, and Memphis, and in southern Egypt as well: 2 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: You saw the calamity I brought on Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah. They now lie deserted and in ruins. 3 They provoked my anger with all their wickedness. They burned incense and worshiped other gods—gods that neither they nor you nor any of your ancestors had ever even known. 4 “Again and again I sent my servants, the prophets, to plead with them, ‘Don’t do these horrible things that I hate so much.’ 5 But my people would not listen or turn back from their wicked ways. They kept on burning incense to these gods. 6 And so my fury boiled over and fell like fire on the towns of Judah and into the streets of Jerusalem, and they are still a desolate ruin today. 7 “And now the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, asks you: Why are you destroying yourselves? For not one of you will survive—not a man, woman, or child among you who has come here from Judah, not even the babies in your arms. 8 Why provoke my anger by burning incense to the idols you have made here in Egypt? You will only destroy yourselves and make yourselves an object of cursing and mockery for all the nations of the earth. 9 Have you forgotten the sins of your ancestors, the sins of the kings and queens of Judah, and the sins you and your wives committed in Judah and Jerusalem? 10 To this very hour you have shown no remorse or reverence. No one has chosen to follow my word and the decrees I gave to you and your ancestors before you. 11 “Therefore, this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to destroy every one of you! 12 I will take this remnant of Judah—those who were determined to come here and live in Egypt—and I will consume them. They will fall here in Egypt, killed by war and famine. All will die, from the least to the greatest. They will be an object of damnation, horror, cursing, and mockery. 13 I will punish them in Egypt just as I punished them in Jerusalem, by war, famine, and disease. 14 Of that remnant who fled to Egypt, hoping someday to return to Judah, there will be no survivors. Even though they long to return home, only a handful will do so.” 15 Then all the women present and all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to idols—a great crowd of all the Judeans living in northern Egypt and southern Egypt —answered Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to your messages from the LORD ! 17 We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven just as much as we like—just as we, and our ancestors, and our kings and officials have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! 18 But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her with liquid offerings, we have been in great trouble and have been dying from war and famine.” 19 “Besides,” the women added, “do you suppose that we were burning incense and pouring out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!” 20 Then Jeremiah said to all of them, men and women alike, who had given him that answer, 21 “Do you think the LORD did not know that you and your ancestors, your kings and officials, and all the people were burning incense to idols in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 22 It was because the LORD could no longer bear all the disgusting things you were doing that he made your land an object of cursing—a desolate ruin without inhabitants—as it is today. 23 All these terrible things happened to you because you have burned incense to idols and sinned against the LORD . You have refused to obey him and have not followed his instructions, his decrees, and his laws.” 24 Then Jeremiah said to them all, including the women, “Listen to this message from the LORD, all you citizens of Judah who live in Egypt. 25 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘You and your wives have said, “We will keep our promises to burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven,” and you have proved by your actions that you meant it. So go ahead and carry out your promises and vows to her!’ 26 “But listen to this message from the LORD, all you Judeans now living in Egypt: ‘I have sworn by my great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that my name will no longer be spoken by any of the Judeans in the land of Egypt. None of you may invoke my name or use this oath: “As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives.” 27 For I will watch over you to bring you disaster and not good. Everyone from Judah who is now living in Egypt will suffer war and famine until all of you are dead. 28 Only a small number will escape death and return to Judah from Egypt. Then all those who came to Egypt will find out whose words are true—mine or theirs! 29 “‘And this is the proof I give you,’ says the LORD, ‘that all I have threatened will happen to you and that I will punish you here.’ 30 This is what the LORD says: ‘I will turn Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, over to his enemies who want to kill him, just as I turned King Zedekiah of Judah over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.’”
“You may think you’re putting one over people, but truthfully you’re only pulling the wool over your own eyes.”
Admittedly, I used to think Jacob (of the Jacob and Esau ilk) was a clever dude. When I was young, I thought, if Esau was dumb enough to trade his birthright for some food, surely, he didn’t deserve it. Getting over on people is a lazy/deceptive person’s way of not doing their God’s honest work while reaping a reward that doesn’t belong to them. In today’s world, many hide behind loopholes or obscure laws to justify this kind of deception. The problem with being clever and tricky is that eventually, it catches up with you. More to the point, through your deception of others, you distort the Truth in your own eyes.
If you simply scan over Jacob’s story, it appears that he lucked out in the end. However, if you take a closer look, he had to struggle for everything he got. Between the wives, the sheep, his sons (they sold their brother into slavery!), his brother, his leg injury– the dude had a lot of targets on his back and he spent a good chunk of his life looking over his shoulder. When I think about his life, and what that entailed, it was clearly evident that the shady seeds he had sown impacted him for his lifetime! While things were reconciled (his brother welcomed him with open arms and he was eventually reunited with Joseph), those things were given by the mercy of God, but only after Jacob had changed his ways. I say all of this to say that we are accountable for our actions, behaviors, and deceptions. God is the ultimate equalizer and if we found ourselves on the Jacob path, He is gracious enough to set us straight, as long as we seek Him.
Are you deceiving yourself by deceiving others?
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1 When Jeremiah had finished giving this message from the LORD their God to all the people, 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other proud men said to Jeremiah, “You lie! The LORD our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! 3 Baruch son of Neriah has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.” 4 So Johanan and the other guerrilla leaders and all the people refused to obey the LORD ’s command to stay in Judah. 5 Johanan and the other leaders took with them all the people who had returned from the nearby countries to which they had fled. 6 In the crowd were men, women, and children, the king’s daughters, and all those whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had left with Gedaliah. The prophet Jeremiah and Baruch were also included. 7 The people refused to obey the voice of the LORD and went to Egypt, going as far as the city of Tahpanhes. 8 Then at Tahpanhes, the LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 9 “While the people of Judah are watching, take some large rocks and bury them under the pavement stones at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace here in Tahpanhes. 10 Then say to the people of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will certainly bring my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, here to Egypt. I will set his throne over these stones that I have hidden. He will spread his royal canopy over them. 11 And when he comes, he will destroy the land of Egypt. He will bring death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and war to those destined for war. 12 He will set fire to the temples of Egypt’s gods; he will burn the temples and carry the idols away as plunder. He will pick clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd picks fleas from his cloak. And he himself will leave unharmed. 13 He will break down the sacred pillars standing in the temple of the sun in Egypt, and he will burn down the temples of Egypt’s gods.’”
“Keep wise people around you because their hard-earned wisdom will serve you well.”
I chat with my dad often. Most of the time, it’s because he’s got a lot of cool information that I’ve been able to use both in my life and my business. While I may take some time to wrap my Texas-sized ego around his wise words, more often than not, after a moment or two (and quite possibly a nap) I concede that his answers are far better than my own. Every now and again, I manage to squeak out a wise word from my own experiences, but usually I’m the student, benefitting from 55 years of living. Listening to wise biblically based counsel is very important, as it helps you gain discernment that will see you through this life.
When you have daily conversations with God and godly people, your spiritual eyesight is sharp, able to cut through the superficial nonsense of this world. Because you set your sights on above, God Himself act as your guide to navigate the waters of a sin-fallen world. Even better, if He has given you a wise elder within your family, peer group, or what have you, you have the added benefit from learning through their experiences, mistakes, triumphs, and the like. As this world gets more flesh-driven, there are fake things that pretend to be good. If you’re not looking too closely, you will fall prey to the imitations set out to devour you. It’s easy to say that evil is deceptive and that we lack insight into the motives of others and the opposition. But, with sharp eyes, a Christ-centered mind, and wise counsel, you can persevere and sidestep the tomfoolery.
Are you staying sharp by knowing God and His people, or are the fake treasures of evil blinding your sight?
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1 Then all the guerrilla leaders, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, approached 2 Jeremiah the prophet. They said, “Please pray to the LORD your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before. 3 Pray that the LORD your God will show us what to do and where to go.” 4 “All right,” Jeremiah replied. “I will pray to the LORD your God, as you have asked, and I will tell you everything he says. I will hide nothing from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! 6 Whether we like it or not, we will obey the LORD our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.” 7 Ten days later the LORD gave his reply to Jeremiah. 8 So he called for Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders, and for all the people, from the least to the greatest. 9 He said to them, “You sent me to the LORD, the God of Israel, with your request, and this is his reply: 10 ‘Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,’ says the LORD . ‘For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power. 12 I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.’ 13 “But if you refuse to obey the LORD your God, and if you say, ‘We will not stay here; 14 instead, we will go to Egypt where we will be free from war, the call to arms, and hunger,’ 15 then hear the LORD ’s message to the remnant of Judah. This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and live there, 16 the very war and famine you fear will catch up to you, and you will die there. 17 That is the fate awaiting every one of you who insists on going to live in Egypt. Yes, you will die from war, famine, and disease. None of you will escape the disaster I will bring upon you there.’ 18 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Just as my anger and fury have been poured out on the people of Jerusalem, so they will be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. You will be an object of damnation, horror, cursing, and mockery. And you will never see your homeland again.’ 19 “Listen, you remnant of Judah. The LORD has told you: ‘Do not go to Egypt!’ Don’t forget this warning I have given you today. 20 For you were not being honest when you sent me to pray to the LORD your God for you. You said, ‘Just tell us what the LORD our God says, and we will do it!’ 21 And today I have told you exactly what he said, but you will not obey the LORD your God any better now than you have in the past. 22 So you can be sure that you will die from war, famine, and disease in Egypt, where you insist on going.”
“Don’t shy away from life’s pain points, as there are valuable lessons to be learned from your experience.”
Pain of any kind stinks. It’s an unpleasant, visceral experience that changes our perception. For that reason, it’s important to grieve, and to grieve well. That being said, after our period of grief, we have two options– get up off our mat and walk, or lay down and succumb to living a numbed life. In the natural world, pain seems pointless and cruel, leaving us to be fearful and and without hope. After all, why try again if some other terrible thing is lying in wait? What would be the point. Well, this is where the knowledge of Christ is crucial in our walk.
While pain sucks, when filtering those moments through the Word of God, He will give you wisdom from those experiences. I can say this, any shred of spiritual intelligence or wisdom I may have, was hard-won from some tough times. In those messed up moments of loss, rejection, etc. I learned the true value and necessity of leaning on God. I learned to accomplish more with less. I learned the pure joy and restoration of forgiveness. Long story short, I’ve learned a lot, and I suspect I still have much to learn. My point is, after the experience is over, and you’ve picked up your mat, don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal the point of your pain. In this life, there is growth in all that we do, we first have to embrace a life-learning mindset.
Are you growing from your pain or are you stuck in a neutral pity party?
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1 But in midautumn of that year, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama, who was a member of the royal family and had been one of the king’s high officials, went to Mizpah with ten men to meet Gedaliah. While they were eating together, 2 Ishmael and his ten men suddenly jumped up, drew their swords, and killed Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor. 3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah. 4 The next day, before anyone had heard about Gedaliah’s murder, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria to worship at the Temple of the LORD . They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and cut themselves, and had brought along grain offerings and frankincense. 6 Ishmael left Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he reached them, he said, “Oh, come and see what has happened to Gedaliah!” 7 But as soon as they were all inside the town, Ishmael and his men killed all but ten of them and threw their bodies into a cistern. 8 The other ten had talked Ishmael into letting them go by promising to bring him their stores of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey that they had hidden away. 9 The cistern where Ishmael dumped the bodies of the men he murdered was the large one dug by King Asa when he fortified Mizpah to protect himself against King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with corpses. 10 Then Ishmael made captives of the king’s daughters and the other people who had been left under Gedaliah’s care in Mizpah by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard. Taking them with him, he started back toward the land of Ammon. 11 But when Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders heard about Ishmael’s crimes, 12 they took all their men and set out to stop him. They caught up with him at the large pool near Gibeon. 13 The people Ishmael had captured shouted for joy when they saw Johanan and the other guerrilla leaders. 14 And all the captives from Mizpah escaped and began to help Johanan. 15 Meanwhile, Ishmael and eight of his men escaped from Johanan into the land of Ammon. 16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders took all the people they had rescued in Gibeon—the soldiers, women, children, and court officials whom Ishmael had captured after he killed Gedaliah. 17 They took them all to the village of Geruth-kimham near Bethlehem, where they prepared to leave for Egypt. 18 They were afraid of what the Babylonians would do when they heard that Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, the governor appointed by the Babylonian king.
“At some point, you have to let go of the opinions of man and be who God made you to be.”
There is a price to pay for walking the path of Christ. As people on this earth, we must choose our path– God or Evil. While that may seem hyperbolic, when you look at it for what it truly is, it makes your choices quite simple. Note that simple does not mean easy. Good cannot walk with evil and as such, the walk with God will filter out a lot of people, distractions, and the like. Fortunately, God will find ways to keep you busy. But, make no mistake, there is a secular loss. You will look weird. People will look down on you, all the while trying to exploit your honest efforts. Your best intentions will fall on deaf ears as their hearts and minds are hardened. Sometimes, it can be hard, challenging, and hurtful. But friends, the price you pay in the natural is eclipsed by the magnitude of calling Jesus your savior.
Be all in with God and He will show you amazing things! When you operate according to the One who made you, you find it much easier to be yourself– no assembly necessary. There will be hardship, trials, and tribulations, but make no mistake, you were built to endure. Take Jeremiah for example. That dude had quite the task! He had to go to some of the most wicked folks in his time to tell them some very unpopular things! And, for his trouble, he was beaten, jailed, mocked, and other unpleasant things. But, as we are reading, what he said came to pass, and God took care of him! So I say all of this to say, we could all take a page out of Jeremiah’s book. Let’s be who God created us to be, discomfort and all.
Are you being who God made you to be or is the favor of a wayward nation more important to you?
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1 The LORD gave a message to Jeremiah after Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being sent to exile in Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard called for Jeremiah and said, “The LORD your God has brought this disaster on this land, 3 just as he said he would. For these people have sinned against the LORD and disobeyed him. That is why it happened. 4 But I am going to take off your chains and let you go. If you want to come with me to Babylon, you are welcome. I will see that you are well cared for. But if you don’t want to come, you may stay here. The whole land is before you—go wherever you like. 5 If you decide to stay, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan. He has been appointed governor of Judah by the king of Babylon. Stay there with the people he rules. But it’s up to you; go wherever you like.” Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, gave Jeremiah some food and money and let him go. 6 So Jeremiah returned to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he lived in Judah with the few who were still left in the land. 7 The leaders of the Judean guerrilla bands in the countryside heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor over the poor people who were left behind in Judah—the men, women, and children who hadn’t been exiled to Babylon. 8 So they went to see Gedaliah at Mizpah. These included: Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, and all their men. 9 Gedaliah vowed to them that the Babylonians meant them no harm. “Don’t be afraid to serve them. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well for you,” he promised. 10 “As for me, I will stay at Mizpah to represent you before the Babylonians who come to meet with us. Settle in the towns you have taken, and live off the land. Harvest the grapes and summer fruits and olives, and store them away.” 11 When the Judeans in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the other nearby countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a few people in Judah and that Gedaliah was the governor, 12 they began to return to Judah from the places to which they had fled. They stopped at Mizpah to meet with Gedaliah and then went into the Judean countryside to gather a great harvest of grapes and other crops. 13 Soon after this, Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. 14 They said to him, “Did you know that Baalis, king of Ammon, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to assassinate you?” But Gedaliah refused to believe them. 15 Later Johanan had a private conference with Gedaliah and volunteered to kill Ishmael secretly. “Why should we let him come and murder you?” Johanan asked. “What will happen then to the Judeans who have returned? Why should the few of us who are still left be scattered and lost?” 16 But Gedaliah said to Johanan, “I forbid you to do any such thing, for you are lying about Ishmael.”
“Prioritize your relationship with God and His wisdom will organize your life.”
I’m going to come right out and say it, for me, organization, lists, schedules, etc. are not my cup of tea. I’m firmly rooted in the ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ camp. That said, in the nature of my work, I’ve begun to realize that without some organization, or prioritization, I cannot be successful in all of the endeavors in my life. I’ve slowly but surely started adopting more rules and schedules within my life (I can feel my mother smiling at the thought of rules, ha). Funnily enough, I would not have made that connection by listening to the gently and careful advice of God.
Spending time with God each day is like getting master tips on organization for your mind, body, and spirit. In that quiet place where you sit, speak, and listen, He will share with you the ultimate organizational tips specific for the growth and change for your life. As we all learn to mirror Christ and leave our fleshly comforts, ideas, and harebrained schemes behind, the path becomes clearer and more manageable to navigate. Make no mistake that it does become narrower which is why it seems less traveled than the roads of your past. But, if you make that relational time with God a priority, He will help you organize the rest.
Are you prioritizing the Organizational Tools of Christ or is following the disorganized destruction of the world your preferred path?
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1 In January of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with his entire army to besiege Jerusalem. 2 Two and a half years later, on July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, a section of the city wall was broken down. 3 All the officers of the Babylonian army came in and sat in triumph at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, and Nebo-sarsekim, a chief officer, and Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser, and all the other officers of the king of Babylon. 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the soldiers saw that the Babylonians had broken into the city, they fled. They waited for nightfall and then slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley. 5 But the Babylonian troops chased them and overtook Zedekiah on the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was at Riblah in the land of Hamath. There the king of Babylon pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. 6 The king of Babylon made Zedekiah watch as he slaughtered his sons at Riblah. The king of Babylon also slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in bronze chains to lead him away to Babylon. 8 Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned Jerusalem, including the royal palace and the houses of the people, and they tore down the walls of the city. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took as exiles to Babylon the rest of the people who remained in the city, those who had defected to him, and everyone else who remained. 10 But Nebuzaradan allowed some of the poorest people to stay behind in the land of Judah, and he assigned them to care for the vineyards and fields. 11 King Nebuchadnezzar had told Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, to find Jeremiah. 12 “See that he isn’t hurt,” he said. “Look after him well, and give him anything he wants.” 13 So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard; Nebushazban, a chief officer; Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser; and the other officers of Babylon’s king 14 sent messengers to bring Jeremiah out of the prison. They put him under the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, who took him back to his home. So Jeremiah stayed in Judah among his own people. 15 The LORD had given the following message to Jeremiah while he was still in prison: 16 “Say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I have threatened. I will send disaster, not prosperity. You will see its destruction, 17 but I will rescue you from those you fear so much. 18 Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the LORD, have spoken!’”
“Thank God that He does not see us as just one thing.”
Life is a continuous journey that has different acts, seasons, treasons, and reasons, come what may. To that end, I’ve lived long enough to know that we all have various roles in our own stories. There are times where we are the protagonist– the good guy. There are times where we are the antagonist– the bad guy. Hopefully, at some point, you get the memo from God to learn how to find the happy ending to your story–salvation. Even though we wear many different hats in our lives, and the road changes often, we are never just good or bad. Sometimes we win, and sometimes, well… thank God for mercy and grace! My point is, we cannot judge each other as just one thing, one moment in time, or one character. Even further, when you trap a person into one thing, you are trapping yourself to the same fate.
Because God’s love for us is constant, we can rest assured that as we change, He still loves us no matter which character we are portraying. This means that when we’re on point or when we’re in the gutter, His love remains. In 30 years, I cannot say that I am the same person I was 20 years ago, well, even 2 years ago! I’ve played the protagonist very well, and I’ve had some minor antagonist roles as well. I thank God that He has given me wonderful examples so that my antagonist roles were shorter than they could’ve been. And because I’ve had the grace of being more than one thing, it’s my responsibility to share that grace with you. We all are loved by God in whatever part of the story we’re in. For those who understand this, we must work hard not to judge those who do not. And remember, just because you’re the ‘good guy’, it does not give you license to judge or condemn the ‘bad guy’ because, in life, everyone played every role at least once.
Are you giving your brothers and sisters the chance to play different roles, or is your judgment better than God’s?
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1 Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people. He had been saying, 2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!’ 3 The LORD also says: ‘The city of Jerusalem will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’” 4 So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!” 5 King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like. I can’t stop you.” 6 So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it. 7 But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, 8 so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him. 9 “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.” 10 So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. 12 Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.” Then when Jeremiah was ready, 13 they pulled him out. So Jeremiah was returned to the courtyard of the guard—the palace prison—where he remained. 14 One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the LORD ’s Temple. “I want to ask you something,” the king said. “And don’t try to hide the truth.” 15 Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.” 16 So King Zedekiah secretly promised him, “As surely as the LORD our Creator lives, I will not kill you or hand you over to the men who want you dead.” 17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. 18 But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape! This city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground.’” 19 “But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them. And who knows what they will do to me!” 20 Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the LORD . Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD has revealed to me: 22 All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army. Then the women will taunt you, saying, ‘What fine friends you have! They have betrayed and misled you. When your feet sank in the mud, they left you to your fate!’ 23 All your wives and children will be led out to the Babylonians, and you will not escape. You will be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city will be burned down.” 24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t tell anyone you told me this, or you will die! 25 My officials may hear that I spoke to you, and they may say, ‘Tell us what you and the king were talking about. If you don’t tell us, we will kill you.’ 26 If this happens, just tell them you begged me not to send you back to Jonathan’s dungeon, for fear you would die there.” 27 Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the king’s officials came to Jeremiah and asked him why the king had called for him. But Jeremiah followed the king’s instructions, and they left without finding out the truth. No one had overheard the conversation between Jeremiah and the king. 28 And Jeremiah remained a prisoner in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.
“In order to build an authentic relationship with God, you must live a first person life.”~TB
I recently purchased a patio set that required some work to put it together. To give myself an understanding of what to expect, I read the reviews of people who had purchased the set. To my dismay, most said the process was hard, arduous, and not worth the effect. This made me avoid the project, dreading the idea of taking on such a difficult task. Yesterday, I finally got down to business, and not only did it take me about an hour, it was pretty straightforward and easy! Even more ironic, I enjoy putting things together, so why I allowed the opinions of others impede on my task is beyond me. As I sat on my newly built furniture, I laughed at myself because it had taken me an extra week to finish an easy and enjoyable project. I couldn’t help but see the correlation between how we pursue or don’t pursue a relationship with Christ based on the opinions of others.
In Real Time
When we live our lives based on the opinions and experiences of others, we fall prey to not truly living at all! The same can be said about knowing God. Just because you perceive that your buddy Joe is a Christian, that doesn’t mean he has all of the answers about God’s will for your life. That’s between you and God, not Joe. More to the point, most of us rely on faulty stories from other people that discourage us from knowing Him, only to find out that building that vital relationship was nothing like the bill of goods you were sold! Friends, walking with God is a first-person adventure. Your mother, brother, sister, daughter, son, pastor, teacher, or preacher cannot walk that walk for you. Even the wisest person is still unreliable in terms of perfectly exemplifying the behavior of Christ. So you must get to know him, otherwise you can fall prey to the false testimony of those who do now know Him.
Are you actively walking with God, or are you getting advice from an unreliable source?
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1 Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim as the king of Judah. He was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 2 But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the LORD said through Jeremiah. 3 Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the LORD our God for us.” 4 Jeremiah had not yet been imprisoned, so he could come and go among the people as he pleased. 5 At this time the army of Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt appeared at the southern border of Judah. When the Babylonian army heard about it, they withdrew from their siege of Jerusalem. 6 Then the LORD gave this message to Jeremiah: 7 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The king of Judah sent you to ask me what is going to happen. Tell him, ‘Pharaoh’s army is about to return to Egypt, though he came here to help you. 8 Then the Babylonians will come back and capture this city and burn it to the ground.’ 9 “This is what the LORD says: Do not fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians are gone for good. They aren’t! 10 Even if you were to destroy the entire Babylonian army, leaving only a handful of wounded survivors, they would still stagger from their tents and burn this city to the ground!” 11 When the Babylonian army left Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s approaching army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave the city on his way to the territory of Benjamin, to claim his share of the property among his relatives there. 13 But as he was walking through the Benjamin Gate, a sentry arrested him and said, “You are defecting to the Babylonians!” The sentry making the arrest was Irijah son of Shelemiah, grandson of Hananiah. 14 “That’s not true!” Jeremiah protested. “I had no intention of doing any such thing.” But Irijah wouldn’t listen, and he took Jeremiah before the officials. 15 They were furious with Jeremiah and had him flogged and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary. Jonathan’s house had been converted into a prison. 16 Jeremiah was put into a dungeon cell, where he remained for many days. 17 Later King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, “Do you have any messages from the LORD ?” “Yes, I do!” said Jeremiah. “You will be defeated by the king of Babylon.” 18 Then Jeremiah asked the king, “What crime have I committed? What have I done against you, your attendants, or the people that I should be imprisoned like this? 19 Where are your prophets now who told you the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land? 20 Listen, my lord the king, I beg you. Don’t send me back to the dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for I will die there.” 21 So King Zedekiah commanded that Jeremiah not be returned to the dungeon. Instead, he was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city. So Jeremiah was put in the palace prison.