“Don’t let the devil’s parlor tricks steal the peace and life that God has planned for you.”
Cheap Party Trick
On your walk with Christ, don’t be surprised when the devil tries to throw pesky seeds of discord in your life. Small, petty situations can creep into your daily activities and if you’re not disciplined in your thinking, can rob you of your joy. This could be in the form of a neighborly dispute, rude coworker, annoying shopper in the grocery store, the list goes on. These encounters in themselves are nothing.
However, when we dwell on our anger, or the fact that we’ve been wronged, we start creating space for the opposition to create a foothold, opening up to even bigger issues down the line. Friends, it’s ok to be frustrated, mad, or disappointed when someone wrongs you. It’s not ok to keep those emotions festering like a rotting wound. More to the point, obsessing over the petty stuff robs us of our inheritance that God has planted through our hard work and honest efforts. We can’t fulfill our calling if we are stewing in anger over our neighbors.
Spot the Decoy
So instead of picking the wrong devilish card, read the One Manual that shows you all of the devil’s tricks, the Bible. When you read Proverbs, you’re not learning about ‘nice rules to follow’, you are reading wise instructions on how to avoid being scammed by cheap parlor tricks! We read the Bible not because we’re doing God a solid, no. We read because it’s literally the instructions on how to avoid the snares and traps of the devil.
We read because we draw close to Christ, living the intended harmonious plans He’s designed for every single one of us. So, what does this look like? Well, don’t cosign for just anybody. Don’t get into relationships with those who do not know (or care to know) Christ. If you lend something to your neighbor, be prepared to let it go. Better yet, if it’s important to you, don’t lend it at all. Gossip is foolish and those who partake lead foolish and dubious lives. You may not see that immediately, but actions begat lifestyles. I say all of this to say, God watches over us, which is why we have the Word to guide and keep us. When we do our daily work to truly know Him, we know the enemy is merely a has-been trickster.
What’s got you festering in anger and are you going to open the Resource to help get you back on track?
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1 The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. 3 “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. 4 Then he said, “Son of man, go to the people of Israel and give them my messages. 5 I am not sending you to a foreign people whose language you cannot understand. 6 No, I am not sending you to people with strange and difficult speech. If I did, they would listen! 7 But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. 8 But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. 9 I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.” 10 Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. 11 Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.” 12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a loud rumbling sound behind me. (May the glory of the LORD be praised in his place!) 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living beings as they brushed against each other and the rumbling of their wheels beneath them. 14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I went in bitterness and turmoil, but the LORD ’s hold on me was strong. 15 Then I came to the colony of Judean exiles in Tel-abib, beside the Kebar River. I was overwhelmed and sat among them for seven days. 16 After seven days the LORD gave me a message. He said, 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. 20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 21 But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” 22 Then the LORD took hold of me and said, “Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.” 23 So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the LORD, just as I had seen in my first vision by the Kebar River. And I fell face down on the ground. 24 Then the Spirit came into me and set me on my feet. He spoke to me and said, “Go to your house and shut yourself in. 25 There, son of man, you will be tied with ropes so you cannot go out among the people. 26 And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be speechless and unable to rebuke them, for they are rebels. 27 But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.
“When we’re not paying attention, the wrong stuff looks almost like God’s stuff.”
Folks move in the world, adopting its godless practices and life carries on. From a distance, secular lives seem to be devoid of any strife, struggle, or need for God. But man, it goes without saying (I’m saying it anyway), the devil is in the details. Let’s look at Eve and the apple. The serpent tells her that surely she will not die from eating the apple. What he was actually saying was that she would not die… yet. That is a major distinction. Friends we are not living for today, contrary to what most marketing tells us. A life without God may seem like the life, but in eternity, a lifetime is merely a second. Don’t let the synthetic desires of the flesh lead you to a sin-thetic life.
So, sin is the act of trying to fill a need without the aid of God. I laugh at myself all of the time when I try and navigate this world in my own accord. Long story short, I make a bunch of mistakes and eventually run back to God, asking Him to sort out whatever mess I made. We humans aren’t that bright, despite what we tell ourselves. Even the wisest crumble, repent, do better– rinse, recycle, repeat. The difference is the consistency of grace and mercy that only Christ can give. When you accept the gift of salvation, old foolish acts don’t feel as good. It’s because they’re a cheap knock off of the real thing. Luckily for us, we serve a God of forgiveness and love. Let’s turn from the sin-thetic and get the natural cure that is Christ.
Are you enjoying the everlasting supply of Christ or are you overdosing on a sin-thetic lifestyle?
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1 “Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” 2 The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. 3 “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. 4 They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’ 5 And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them. 6 “Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. 7 You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious! 8 Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” 9 Then I looked and saw a hand reaching out to me. It held a scroll, 10 which he unrolled. And I saw that both sides were covered with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom.
“Be diligent in the company you keep and the actions you engage in, because the Bible shares a variety of wisdom for a reason.”
There is nothing subtle about the content within the Bible. In fact, many declarations and accounts are written more than once! Cling to the Living Word, because it is THE foundational truth of which we have to build our lives on. If you don’t, you will be tricked by the false imitations, foolishly lying down with dogs and waking up with fleas. In all things that you do, keep the Word close, and let it guide your minds, hearts, and actions.
God says love everyone. That said, He does not say trust everyone and that is a key distinction we must take into account. Love should be freely given, but trust, that is earned. In fact, when it came to men of God, those who spoke on His behalf, He called his people to discernment and to look for proof. So why is it in the present we blindly believe anyone with a captivating word, but then turnaround and blame God when they’re revealed to be a charlatan? When you look to bring people into your world, listen to their words, but trust their deeds! Take heed of the wisdom repeated in the word so that your discernment is as sharp as a razor-edge sword.
Do you listen to the wisdom of the Bible of the sweet nothings of the corrupt?
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1 On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 This happened during the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. 3 (The LORD gave this message to Ezekiel son of Buzi, a priest, beside the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians, and he felt the hand of the LORD take hold of him.) 4 As I looked, I saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber. 5 From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human, 6 except that each had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and their feet had hooves like those of a calf and shone like burnished bronze. 8 Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9 The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around. 10 Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11 Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12 They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around. 13 The living beings looked like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches, and lightning seemed to flash back and forth among them. 14 And the living beings darted to and fro like flashes of lightning. 15 As I looked at these beings, I saw four wheels touching the ground beside them, one wheel belonging to each. 16 The wheels sparkled as if made of beryl. All four wheels looked alike and were made the same; each wheel had a second wheel turning crosswise within it. 17 The beings could move in any of the four directions they faced, without turning as they moved. 18 The rims of the four wheels were tall and frightening, and they were covered with eyes all around. 19 When the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. When they flew upward, the wheels went up, too. 20 The spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. So wherever the spirit went, the wheels and the living beings also went. 21 When the beings moved, the wheels moved. When the beings stopped, the wheels stopped. When the beings flew upward, the wheels rose up, for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. 22 Spread out above them was a surface like the sky, glittering like crystal. 23 Beneath this surface the wings of each living being stretched out to touch the others’ wings, and each had two wings covering its body. 24 As they flew, their wings sounded to me like waves crashing against the shore or like the voice of the Almighty or like the shouting of a mighty army. When they stopped, they let down their wings. 25 As they stood with wings lowered, a voice spoke from beyond the crystal surface above them. 26 Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. 27 From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. 28 All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the LORD looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me.
“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.”
“With God, doing life with your brothers and sisters in Christ is far better than worse.”
Love is a verb and it’s a hard one. Especially when it comes to loving those closest to you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined jumping ship to greener pastures. But, as I reflect on the amazing people that God has placed in my corner to do life with, I can say it is far better than worse. I didn’t always feel this way. And sometimes, I still scratch my head when it comes to those I love as they likely scratch their head at me. I’m sure we all do. But, when we allow Christ’s loving example to guide how we love others, it does make those trying times a bit easier.
God-inspired love takes an honest, hardworking, and consistent approach to even do a halfway decent job of it. It forces us to be present. It calls us to forgive as God freely forgives us. It causes us to swallow our pride and let transgressors off the hook. It causes us to put down our lectures and let God be God to teach us what we need to learn. Christ-like love is tough from a human perspective, which is why we have to use God’s filter rather than our own. So the next time you feel like you may want to excommunicate a loved one, remember how Christ loves you and see how you can mirror that love. Using Christ’s template, you will come to find that love is far better than worse.
Who are you modeling your love after?
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1 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 2 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the LORD ’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done. 3 These things happened because of the LORD ’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 4 So on January 15, during the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led his entire army against Jerusalem. They surrounded the city and built siege ramps against its walls. 5 Jerusalem was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign. 6 By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. 7 Then a section of the city wall was broken down, and all the soldiers fled. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, they waited for nightfall. Then they slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley. 8 But the Babylonian troops chased King Zedekiah and overtook him on the plains of Jericho, for his men had all deserted him and scattered. 9 They captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath. There the king of Babylon pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. 10 The king of Babylon made Zedekiah watch as he slaughtered his sons. He also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. 11 Then he gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in bronze chains, and the king of Babylon led him away to Babylon. Zedekiah remained there in prison until the day of his death. 12 On August 17 of that year, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard and an official of the Babylonian king, arrived in Jerusalem. 13 He burned down the Temple of the LORD, the royal palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. He destroyed all the important buildings in the city. 14 Then he supervised the entire Babylonian army as they tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side. 15 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took as exiles some of the poorest of the people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had declared their allegiance to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. 16 But Nebuzaradan allowed some of the poorest people to stay behind to care for the vineyards and fields. 17 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars in front of the LORD ’s Temple, the bronze water carts, and the great bronze basin called the Sea, and they carried all the bronze away to Babylon. 18 They also took all the ash buckets, shovels, lamp snuffers, basins, dishes, and all the other bronze articles used for making sacrifices at the Temple. 19 The captain of the guard also took the small bowls, incense burners, basins, pots, lampstands, ladles, bowls used for liquid offerings, and all the other articles made of pure gold or silver. 20 The weight of the bronze from the two pillars, the Sea with the twelve bronze oxen beneath it, and the water carts was too great to be measured. These things had been made for the LORD ’s Temple in the days of King Solomon. 21 Each of the pillars was 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference. They were hollow, with walls 3 inches thick. 22 The bronze capital on top of each pillar was 7 feet high and was decorated with a network of bronze pomegranates all the way around. 23 There were 96 pomegranates on the sides, and a total of 100 pomegranates on the network around the top. 24 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took with him as prisoners Seraiah the high priest, Zephaniah the priest of the second rank, and the three chief gatekeepers. 25 And from among the people still hiding in the city, he took an officer who had been in charge of the Judean army; seven of the king’s personal advisers; the army commander’s chief secretary, who was in charge of recruitment; and sixty other citizens. 26 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took them all to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 27 And there at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king of Babylon had them all put to death. So the people of Judah were sent into exile from their land. 28 The number of captives taken to Babylon in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was 3,023. 29 Then in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year he took 832 more. 30 In Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year he sent Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who took 745 more—a total of 4,600 captives in all. 31 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, Evil-merodach ascended to the Babylonian throne. He was kind to Jehoiachin and released him from prison on March 31 of that year. 32 He spoke kindly to Jehoiachin and gave him a higher place than all the other exiled kings in Babylon. 33 He supplied Jehoiachin with new clothes to replace his prison garb and allowed him to dine in the king’s presence for the rest of his life. 34 So the Babylonian king gave him a regular food allowance as long as he lived. This continued until the day of his death.
“Quirks and flaws, thank God He still loves us all.”
Maybe it’s because I have more time to stay in my head, but lately, I’ve been glaringly aware of my imperfections. Despite my best efforts, I’m not smart enough, not spiritual enough, not wise enough, not nice enough, not content enough, and so on and so on. When you get to that level of stinkin’ thinkin’ (as Joyce Meyer would say) it’s easy to get a ‘why bother’ mentality. No, I am not perfect, and will never be, but that doesn’t make God love me any less. It doesn’t make any of us less cherished by our Father in Heaven. In fact, just look at all of the crazy, flawed, renowned people in the Bible. Those folks had their quirks and flaws, but God loved and delivered them nonetheless.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I think about the many characters’ stories within the Bible, it’s hard not to look up to the people who did great things on behalf of God. Sometimes I forget their humanity and flaws, which is dangerous. That’s because, when you perceive the people in the Bible as perfect or better, we fail to see our similarities and how God can use us as He did them. Think about it, Abraham and Sarah lied about being brother and sister out of fear. David sent a man off to his death just so that he could spend a night with his wife. In spite of their quirks and flaws, we cannot deny the amazing things they did on behalf of Christ.
Obedience over Perfection
The people in the Bible weren’t enough, and yet what miraculous things. were achieved! I don’t acknowledge their flaws to minimize their accomplishments. I mention them to highlight the humanity of their lives. Folks, we’re dumb, prone to sin, lambs who desperately need our Shepherd. Instead of lamenting on the ‘enoughs’ of the world, we should be rejoicing that we aren’t enough, but we serve and are loved by the one who is. This changes the game of perfection to one of obedience. God calls us to obey, not to be perfect, He knows good and well of all the shortcomings and failures that come with a wild bunch of humans. Yet, His love is unfailing and infinite to every one of us. So the next time, you’re feeling the weight of your humanity, give that burden to God and flip open your Bible to see what crazy shenanigans the people before us were getting up to. There’s comfort in knowing the Truth
Are you embracing your quirks and flaws or are you pretending you’re perfect?
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1 This is what the LORD says: “I will stir up a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Babylonia. 2 Foreigners will come and winnow her, blowing her away as chaff. They will come from every side to rise against her in her day of trouble. 3 Don’t let the archers put on their armor or draw their bows. Don’t spare even her best soldiers! Let her army be completely destroyed. 4 They will fall dead in the land of the Babylonians, slashed to death in her streets. 5 For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has not abandoned Israel and Judah. He is still their God, even though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.” 6 Flee from Babylon! Save yourselves! Don’t get trapped in her punishment! It is the LORD ’s time for vengeance; he will repay her in full. 7 Babylon has been a gold cup in the LORD ’s hands, a cup that made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank Babylon’s wine, and it drove them all mad. 8 But suddenly Babylon, too, has fallen. Weep for her. Give her medicine. Perhaps she can yet be healed. 9 We would have helped her if we could, but nothing can save her now. Let her go; abandon her. Return now to your own land. For her punishment reaches to the heavens; it is so great it cannot be measured. 10 The LORD has vindicated us. Come, let us announce in Jerusalem everything the LORD our God has done. 11 Sharpen the arrows! Lift up the shields! For the LORD has inspired the kings of the Medes to march against Babylon and destroy her. This is his vengeance against those who desecrated his Temple. 12 Raise the battle flag against Babylon! Reinforce the guard and station the watchmen. Prepare an ambush, for the LORD will fulfill all his plans against Babylon. 13 You are a city by a great river, a great center of commerce, but your end has come. The thread of your life is cut. 14 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has taken this vow and has sworn to it by his own name: “Your cities will be filled with enemies, like fields swarming with locusts, and they will shout in triumph over you.” 15 The LORD made the earth by his power, and he preserves it by his wisdom. With his own understanding he stretched out the heavens. 16 When he speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses. 17 The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge! The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make, for their carefully shaped works are a fraud. These idols have no breath or power. 18 Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed. 19 But the God of Israel is no idol! He is the Creator of everything that exists, including his people, his own special possession. The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! 20 “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the LORD . “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. 21 With you I will shatter armies— destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. 22 With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and young women. 23 With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and officers. 24 “I will repay Babylon and the people of Babylonia for all the wrong they have done to my people in Jerusalem,” says the LORD . 25 “Look, O mighty mountain, destroyer of the earth! I am your enemy,” says the LORD . “I will raise my fist against you, to knock you down from the heights. When I am finished, you will be nothing but a heap of burnt rubble. 26 You will be desolate forever. Even your stones will never again be used for building. You will be completely wiped out,” says the LORD . 27 Raise a signal flag to the nations. Sound the battle cry! Mobilize them all against Babylon. Prepare them to fight against her! Bring out the armies of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander, and bring a multitude of horses like swarming locusts! 28 Bring against her the armies of the nations— led by the kings of the Medes and all their captains and officers. 29 The earth trembles and writhes in pain, for everything the LORD has planned against Babylon stands unchanged. Babylon will be left desolate without a single inhabitant. 30 Her mightiest warriors no longer fight. They stay in their barracks, their courage gone. They have become like women. The invaders have burned the houses and broken down the city gates. 31 The news is passed from one runner to the next as the messengers hurry to tell the king that his city has been captured. 32 All the escape routes are blocked. The marshes have been set aflame, and the army is in a panic. 33 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Babylon is like wheat on a threshing floor, about to be trampled. In just a little while her harvest will begin.” 34 “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has eaten and crushed us and drained us of strength. He has swallowed us like a great monster and filled his belly with our riches. He has thrown us out of our own country. 35 Make Babylon suffer as she made us suffer,” say the people of Zion. “Make the people of Babylonia pay for spilling our blood,” says Jerusalem. 36 This is what the LORD says to Jerusalem: “I will be your lawyer to plead your case, and I will avenge you. I will dry up her river, as well as her springs, 37 and Babylon will become a heap of ruins, haunted by jackals. She will be an object of horror and contempt, a place where no one lives. 38 Her people will roar together like strong lions. They will growl like lion cubs. 39 And while they lie inflamed with all their wine, I will prepare a different kind of feast for them. I will make them drink until they fall asleep, and they will never wake up again,” says the LORD . 40 “I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and goats to be sacrificed. 41 “How Babylon is fallen— great Babylon, praised throughout the earth! Now she has become an object of horror among the nations. 42 The sea has risen over Babylon; she is covered by its crashing waves. 43 Her cities now lie in ruins; she is a dry wasteland where no one lives or even passes by. 44 And I will punish Bel, the god of Babylon, and make him vomit up all he has eaten. The nations will no longer come and worship him. The wall of Babylon has fallen! 45 “Come out, my people, flee from Babylon. Save yourselves! Run from the LORD ’s fierce anger. 46 But do not panic; don’t be afraid when you hear the first rumor of approaching forces. For rumors will keep coming year by year. Violence will erupt in the land as the leaders fight against each other. 47 For the time is surely coming when I will punish this great city and all her idols. Her whole land will be disgraced, and her dead will lie in the streets. 48 Then the heavens and earth will rejoice, for out of the north will come destroying armies against Babylon,” says the LORD . 49 “Just as Babylon killed the people of Israel and others throughout the world, so must her people be killed. 50 Get out, all you who have escaped the sword! Do not stand and watch—flee while you can! Remember the LORD, though you are in a far-off land, and think about your home in Jerusalem.” 51 “We are ashamed,” the people say. “We are insulted and disgraced because the LORD ’s Temple has been defiled by foreigners.” 52 “Yes,” says the LORD, “but the time is coming when I will destroy Babylon’s idols. The groans of her wounded people will be heard throughout the land. 53 Though Babylon reaches as high as the heavens and makes her fortifications incredibly strong, I will still send enemies to plunder her. I, the LORD, have spoken! 54 “Listen! Hear the cry of Babylon, the sound of great destruction from the land of the Babylonians. 55 For the LORD is destroying Babylon. He will silence her loud voice. Waves of enemies pound against her; the noise of battle rings through the city. 56 Destroying armies come against Babylon. Her mighty men are captured, and their weapons break in their hands. For the LORD is a God who gives just punishment; he always repays in full. 57 I will make her officials and wise men drunk, along with her captains, officers, and warriors. They will fall asleep and never wake up again!” says the King, whose name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 58 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: “The thick walls of Babylon will be leveled to the ground, and her massive gates will be burned. The builders from many lands have worked in vain, for their work will be destroyed by fire!” 59 The prophet Jeremiah gave this message to Seraiah son of Neriah and grandson of Mahseiah, a staff officer, when Seraiah went to Babylon with King Zedekiah of Judah. This was during the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign. 60 Jeremiah had recorded on a scroll all the terrible disasters that would soon come upon Babylon—all the words written here. 61 He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, read aloud everything on this scroll. 62 Then say, ‘ LORD, you have said that you will destroy Babylon so that neither people nor animals will remain here. She will lie empty and abandoned forever.’ 63 When you have finished reading the scroll, tie it to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates River. 64 Then say, ‘In this same way Babylon and her people will sink, never again to rise, because of the disasters I will bring upon her.’” This is the end of Jeremiah’s messages.