“As you move through your trials, remember who benefits from your setbacks. Surely it is not you nor God.” –
It’s safe to say that in one way or another, we’ve all experienced some troubling times as of late. Like you, I’ve felt deflated, defeated, discouraged, and a host of emotions that have been hard to shake. But one thing I’ve realized is that God does not benefit from our dismay and sorrow, but you know who does? The opposition.
Living a Christ-like existence is a lifelong journey. There are many highs as well as lows. The devil will always try and discourage us when we’re onto something miraculous. Think about it, why go after a lost soul when you can attack a person on a mission for Christ! It’s difficult to cling to the truth in times of dire straits, but when we rest in the Word of God, we win the already declared victory that evil pretends does not exist. We win by putting our faith and deeds in God.
Are you enjoying the victory or mourning a false loss peddled by the devil?
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1 LORD, remember what has happened to us. See how we have been disgraced! 2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. 3 We are orphaned and fatherless. Our mothers are widowed. 4 We have to pay for water to drink, and even firewood is expensive. 5 Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are exhausted but are given no rest. 6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough food to survive. 7 Our ancestors sinned, but they have died— and we are suffering the punishment they deserved! 8 Slaves have now become our masters; there is no one left to rescue us. 9 We hunt for food at the risk of our lives, for violence rules the countryside. 10 The famine has blackened our skin as though baked in an oven. 11 Our enemies rape the women in Jerusalem and the young girls in all the towns of Judah. 12 Our princes are being hanged by their thumbs, and our elders are treated with contempt. 13 Young men are led away to work at millstones, and boys stagger under heavy loads of wood. 14 The elders no longer sit in the city gates; the young men no longer dance and sing. 15 Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. 16 The garlands have fallen from our heads. Weep for us because we have sinned. 17 Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears. 18 For Jerusalem is empty and desolate, a place haunted by jackals. 19 But LORD, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation. 20 Why do you continue to forget us? Why have you abandoned us for so long? 21 Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! 22 Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still?
“Keep wise God-fearing counsel around you as they will steer you in the right direction.”
In this world, there is a spectrum of behaviors we can exhibit. We can do good, bad, and everything in between. Because we are human and imperfect spending time with wise people– those who have years of admirable life experience– to help us on our way. Their years of experience allows them to guide the young to smarter pastures. More to the point, their mistakes can help to avoid similar fates.
The eyes of the wise are clear and sharp thanks to their time with God and years on this earth. Those who have fought the good fight and live on to tell the tale have great stories full of insight. You can tell by the fact that God is within the very fabric of their lives– as He is in all of ours. Friends we live in a world with very many paths and detours. Yet there are two directions. So whoever you spend your time with, make sure their counsel leads you back to the source, in the direction of Christ
Who do you listen to and which direction are they pointing you to?
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1 How the gold has lost its luster! Even the finest gold has become dull. The sacred gemstones lie scattered in the streets! 2 See how the precious children of Jerusalem, worth their weight in fine gold, are now treated like pots of clay made by a common potter. 3 Even the jackals feed their young, but not my people Israel. They ignore their children’s cries, like ostriches in the desert. 4 The parched tongues of their little ones stick to the roofs of their mouths in thirst. The children cry for bread, but no one has any to give them. 5 The people who once ate the richest foods now beg in the streets for anything they can get. Those who once wore the finest clothes now search the garbage dumps for food. 6 The guilt of my people is greater than that of Sodom, where utter disaster struck in a moment and no hand offered help. 7 Our princes once glowed with health— brighter than snow, whiter than milk. Their faces were as ruddy as rubies, their appearance like fine jewels. 8 But now their faces are blacker than soot. No one recognizes them in the streets. Their skin sticks to their bones; it is as dry and hard as wood. 9 Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of hunger. Starving, they waste away for lack of food from the fields. 10 Tenderhearted women have cooked their own children. They have eaten them to survive the siege. 11 But now the anger of the LORD is satisfied. His fierce anger has been poured out. He started a fire in Jerusalem that burned the city to its foundations. 12 Not a king in all the earth— no one in all the world— would have believed that an enemy could march through the gates of Jerusalem. 13 Yet it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the sins of her priests, who defiled the city by shedding innocent blood. 14 They wandered blindly through the streets, so defiled by blood that no one dared touch them. 15 “Get away!” the people shouted at them. “You’re defiled! Don’t touch us!” So they fled to distant lands and wandered among foreign nations, but none would let them stay. 16 The LORD himself has scattered them, and he no longer helps them. People show no respect for the priests and no longer honor the leaders. 17 We looked in vain for our allies to come and save us, but we were looking to nations that could not help us. 18 We couldn’t go into the streets without danger to our lives. Our end was near; our days were numbered. We were doomed! 19 Our enemies were swifter than eagles in flight. If we fled to the mountains, they found us. If we hid in the wilderness, they were waiting for us there. 20 Our king—the LORD ’s anointed, the very life of our nation— was caught in their snares. We had thought that his shadow would protect us against any nation on earth! 21 Are you rejoicing in the land of Uz, O people of Edom? But you, too, must drink from the cup of the LORD ’s anger. You, too, will be stripped naked in your drunkenness. 22 O beautiful Jerusalem, your punishment will end; you will soon return from exile. But Edom, your punishment is just beginning; soon your many sins will be exposed.
“Resolve your concerns with God because each day brings its own soil to till.”
Last week, my 13-year old nephew approached me with a ‘business opportunity’. He was looking to build a dollhouse for his sister and needed some venture capital. During his pitch, he brought out design sketches, complete with measurements, timeframes, build costs, materials, and where to purchase them. The kid left no stone unturned. I sat as he spoke, with a smile on my face, he did his homework and sold me on his vision, so I funded his project. As we went online to purchase materials, I couldn’t help but be reminded how of God blesses our moves when we come before him honestly and openly. That said, in order for us to prepare a proposal for God that He can sign off on, we first must do the work.
It’s impossible to be motivated 100% of the time. If you’re expecting some fanfare or ‘ah ha’ moment that gets you into gear to till the soil of your life, you will never break ground. More to the point, you’re also competing against time. Life does not stop when you’re tired, weary, confused, numb, angry, unsure, anxious, and so on. Even in the best days, the idea of “ready” is essentially a myth. There is no button that we push that says to our brain, “I’m ready to step up to the plate”. Nope, the unglamorous truth is that you put one foot in front of the other, making progress with each step. For this reason, we have to reconcile our day to day with God if we even stand a chance to receive the daily grace it takes to conquer the day.
The amazing thing is that God is not only the investor of our lives, He’s also the builder, planner, contractor, He’s everything. So when He puts the plan into motion, you must go to Him from start to finish of the project. So how do we do this? We start by turning our backs away from foolishness. If you’re looking, reading, drinking, eating, or touching things you ought not to, let it go. Friends, God will not bless or enable our foolishness. I can attest to that, ha. But more to the point, the junk that our wayward beings crave does not hold a candle to the righteous gifts that only God can bestow. So, start by doing the work. Don’t wait to get motivated. Begin with the Word, and let Him lead your project. All you have to do is break ground.
Are you looking for Holy Capital for a heathen project?
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1 I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD ’s anger. 2 He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. 3 He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. 4 He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. 5 He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress. 6 He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead. 7 He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. 8 And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers. 9 He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; he has made my road crooked. 10 He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me. 11 He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated. 12 He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows. 13 He shot his arrows deep into my heart. 14 My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. 15 He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. 16 He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. 17 Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” 19 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. 20 I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. 21 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25 The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD . 27 And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28 Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD ’s demands. 29 Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. 30 Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. 31 For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. 33 For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow. 34 If people crush underfoot all the prisoners of the land, 35 if they deprive others of their rights in defiance of the Most High, 36 if they twist justice in the courts— doesn’t the Lord see all these things? 37 Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? 38 Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? 39 Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? 40 Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD . 41 Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, 42 “We have sinned and rebelled, and you have not forgiven us. 43 “You have engulfed us with your anger, chased us down, and slaughtered us without mercy. 44 You have hidden yourself in a cloud so our prayers cannot reach you. 45 You have discarded us as refuse and garbage among the nations. 46 “All our enemies have spoken out against us. 47 We are filled with fear, for we are trapped, devastated, and ruined.” 48 Tears stream from my eyes because of the destruction of my people! 49 My tears flow endlessly; they will not stop 50 until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. 51 My heart is breaking over the fate of all the women of Jerusalem. 52 My enemies, whom I have never harmed, hunted me down like a bird. 53 They threw me into a pit and dropped stones on me. 54 The water rose over my head, and I cried out, “This is the end!” 55 But I called on your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. 56 You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” 57 Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” 58 Lord, you are my lawyer! Plead my case! For you have redeemed my life. 59 You have seen the wrong they have done to me, LORD . Be my judge, and prove me right. 60 You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me. 61 LORD, you have heard the vile names they call me. You know all about the plans they have made. 62 My enemies whisper and mutter as they plot against me all day long. 63 Look at them! Whether they sit or stand, I am the object of their mocking songs. 64 Pay them back, LORD, for all the evil they have done. 65 Give them hard and stubborn hearts, and then let your curse fall on them! 66 Chase them down in your anger, destroying them beneath the LORD ’s heavens. Lamentations 2Lamentations 4 Parallel Compare
“When you’re spiritually out of gas, go to God for some roadside assistance.”
To the Limit
During my time on the road, driving for 7-hour blocks was not uncommon. So much so that I became an expert at driving well past the ‘low fuel’ indicator. Way after the light came on, I’d be driving as if I had a full tank of gas. I knew that I could push it for 50-60 miles before I was in any real trouble. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s done this, minus my mother who I’m sure refills once at the quarter mark, haha. Just as I push my limit with gas in my car, at times I forget to refuel my spiritual tank. This difference is that a low spiritual fuel signal may not be as apparent as the signal in our cars, but it’s even more important in the grand scheme of things.
Out of Gas
When we run out of spiritual gas, weariness, fatigue, listlessness, disappointment, fear, anger– all of the not so great emotions take hold. Somewhere along our journey, we avert our attention from God– who replenishes us each and every day– to whatever issues and troubles plague our day to day lives. This causes us to burn up our spiritual fuel faster, and even more to the point, we begin to stop going to the Holy Fuel Center that is Christ himself. Before we know it, we’ve abandoned the car and are stranded out, unsure of how we got here and how we get back. Thank God (literally) for us, that He is our Holy AAA, offering unlimited tow miles and refills.
Beauty in the Breakdown
Friends, I know for one reason or another, we’re all pretty weary and in need of some spiritual fuel. God is never far from us, no matter where we are in our walks. I know that can be tough to realize, especially when you feel like you’re miles and miles away, I know I’ve been there. When we breakdown (which will happen on occasion), there is a beautiful truth that we have to hold onto. Whatever is causing you to burn through your spiritual fuel is a burden that you or I are not capable of dealing with on our own! God designed us to be in relationship with Him, which is why we must call on Him daily. No matter how near or far you breakdown, God is only one call out, one prayer, heck, one cry for help away. All we have to do is ask.
What’s keeping you from asking God for spiritual fuel?
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1 The Lord in his anger has cast a dark shadow over beautiful Jerusalem. The fairest of Israel’s cities lies in the dust, thrown down from the heights of heaven. In his day of great anger, the Lord has shown no mercy even to his Temple. 2 Without mercy the Lord has destroyed every home in Israel. In his anger he has broken down the fortress walls of beautiful Jerusalem. He has brought them to the ground, dishonoring the kingdom and its rulers. 3 All the strength of Israel vanishes beneath his fierce anger. The Lord has withdrawn his protection as the enemy attacks. He consumes the whole land of Israel like a raging fire. 4 He bends his bow against his people, as though he were their enemy. His strength is used against them to kill their finest youth. His fury is poured out like fire on beautiful Jerusalem. 5 Yes, the Lord has vanquished Israel like an enemy. He has destroyed her palaces and demolished her fortresses. He has brought unending sorrow and tears upon beautiful Jerusalem. 6 He has broken down his Temple as though it were merely a garden shelter. The LORD has blotted out all memory of the holy festivals and Sabbath days. Kings and priests fall together before his fierce anger. 7 The Lord has rejected his own altar; he despises his own sanctuary. He has given Jerusalem’s palaces to her enemies. They shout in the LORD ’s Temple as though it were a day of celebration. 8 The LORD was determined to destroy the walls of beautiful Jerusalem. He made careful plans for their destruction, then did what he had planned. Therefore, the ramparts and walls have fallen down before him. 9 Jerusalem’s gates have sunk into the ground. He has smashed their locks and bars. Her kings and princes have been exiled to distant lands; her law has ceased to exist. Her prophets receive no more visions from the LORD . 10 The leaders of beautiful Jerusalem sit on the ground in silence. They are clothed in burlap and throw dust on their heads. The young women of Jerusalem hang their heads in shame. 11 I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people. Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets. 12 They cry out to their mothers, “We need food and drink!” Their lives ebb away in the streets like the life of a warrior wounded in battle. They gasp for life as they collapse in their mothers’ arms. 13 What can I say about you? Who has ever seen such sorrow? O daughter of Jerusalem, to what can I compare your anguish? O virgin daughter of Zion, how can I comfort you? For your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you? 14 Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope. 15 All who pass by jeer at you. They scoff and insult beautiful Jerusalem, saying, “Is this the city called ‘Most Beautiful in All the World’ and ‘Joy of All the Earth’?” 16 All your enemies mock you. They scoff and snarl and say, “We have destroyed her at last! We have long waited for this day, and it is finally here!” 17 But it is the LORD who did just as he planned. He has fulfilled the promises of disaster he made long ago. He has destroyed Jerusalem without mercy. He has caused her enemies to gloat over her and has given them power over her. 18 Cry aloud before the Lord, O walls of beautiful Jerusalem! Let your tears flow like a river day and night. Give yourselves no rest; give your eyes no relief. 19 Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children, for in every street they are faint with hunger. 20 “O LORD, think about this! Should you treat your own people this way? Should mothers eat their own children, those they once bounced on their knees? Should priests and prophets be killed within the Lord’s Temple? 21 “See them lying in the streets— young and old, boys and girls, killed by the swords of the enemy. You have killed them in your anger, slaughtering them without mercy. 22 “You have invited terrors from all around, as though you were calling them to a day of feasting. In the day of the LORD ’s anger, no one has escaped or survived. The enemy has killed all the children whom I carried and raised.”
“Go to God with your weaknesses and ask for help so that the devil will not play you like a fiddle.”
Though the devil is defeated, he is crafty in the way he gets us off the beaten path. He’s especially cunning at getting us to focus only on our shortcomings and weaknesses. Like a fiddle, he plays us a specific song to get us off the beaten path. He’ll create an enticing tune where the melody is a collection of your weaknesses. Because it’s a catchy tune, if we aren’t close to the Truth of Christ, it’s a song we continue to hear for many years. Like a hit on the radio that we play on repeat, it leads us to believe the worst about ourselves, discourages us from our relationship with God, and ultimately blinds us to the reality of Christ.
We do not need to fear the devil because God is for us. We do, however, need to understand how the devil operates so that we don’t fall prey to his schemes. He will use lies disguised as truth to get you to believe the nonsense that keeps you from being who God called you to be. He does not attack you because you’re weak, he attacks you because of your potential. Think about it, what’s the best way to attack a powerful person? So instead of being played like a fiddle, remember who made you, who keeps you, and who saved you. Tune out the noise of the evil one and tune in to the Truth of Christ. His melody brings everlasting life.
Are you being played like a fiddle or did you turn the noise off?
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1 How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. 2 Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. 3 After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. 4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish. 5 Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The LORD has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. 6 All the splendor has departed from Daughter Zion. Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer. 7 In the days of her affliction and wandering Jerusalem remembers all the treasures that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into enemy hands, there was no one to help her. Her enemies looked at her and laughed at her destruction. 8 Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. All who honored her despise her, for they have all seen her naked; she herself groans and turns away. 9 Her filthiness clung to her skirts; she did not consider her future. Her fall was astounding; there was none to comfort her. “Look, LORD, on my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed.” 10 The enemy laid hands on all her treasures; she saw pagan nations enter her sanctuary— those you had forbidden to enter your assembly. 11 All her people groan as they search for bread; they barter their treasures for food to keep themselves alive. “Look, LORD, and consider, for I am despised.” 12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger? 13 “From on high he sent fire, sent it down into my bones. He spread a net for my feet and turned me back. He made me desolate, faint all the day long. 14 “My sins have been bound into a yoke ; by his hands they were woven together. They have been hung on my neck, and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has given me into the hands of those I cannot withstand. 15 “The Lord has rejected all the warriors in my midst; he has summoned an army against me to crush my young men. In his winepress the Lord has trampled Virgin Daughter Judah. 16 “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.” 17 Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her. The LORD has decreed for Jacob that his neighbors become his foes; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them. 18 “The LORD is righteous, yet I rebelled against his command. Listen, all you peoples; look on my suffering. My young men and young women have gone into exile. 19 “I called to my allies but they betrayed me. My priests and my elders perished in the city while they searched for food to keep themselves alive. 20 “See, LORD, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. Outside, the sword bereaves; inside, there is only death. 21 “People have heard my groaning, but there is no one to comfort me. All my enemies have heard of my distress; they rejoice at what you have done. May you bring the day you have announced so they may become like me. 22 “Let all their wickedness come before you; deal with them as you have dealt with me because of all my sins. My groans are many and my heart is faint.”