“Thank God for tough times because it’s in those moments where we learn most about compassion.”~TB
Displaying empathy isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I have a great deal of it (I cried during the Back Draft fire simulation at Universal Studios because the thought of people in there was heartbreaking for me) internally, but it usually comes out as practical or logical advice to the issue rather than a listening ear. Fortunately for me, I had great examples of empathetic and loving people to model growing up. And even more fortunately, I’ve gone through some dark times where God’s compassion and mercy got me to the other side. These days, I’m so grateful for every harsh moment in my life, because in those tough times, my level of compassion for others— particularly those I don’t inherently relate to— has increased. I’ll give you an example.
Sometime last year, I was at a Starbucks getting some work done. A lady around my age was sitting with a toddler and a car seat. She was very much focused on the phone and kept scolding the child for not sitting still. I remember at the time, I was irritated by her callousness. Clearly frustrated she walked outside with the child and car seat in tow and sat at one of the tables. Soon after, this woman began to cry as her child was happily playing and none the wiser. In that moment, I felt the need to hand her some napkins, which is odd for me because I’m not one to get involved in emotional distress. As I handed her the napkins, I saw a surprised but grateful look on her face and I could hear a voice saying to give her a hug. On a side note, I’m not a hugger, especially when it comes to strangers.
I ask the woman if I could give her a hug and she says yes. At this point, she’s bawling, explaining she missed an important job interview because her daycare fell through. Though I’ve never been in her shoes, I could relate to her feelings of frustration and helplessness. Even more out of character for me, I asked if I could pray for her and she said yes. After, I went back inside, perplexed at my behavior, but grateful to have been some kind of comfort to a person in need. As she left, she waved at me with a smile, and I just remember feeling a weird connection and sense of gratitude from the exchange.
I’m not sharing this to get a pat on the back or claim some kind of super Christian status. No, I’m just a very human, human being, who more often than not puts her foot in her mouth. I say all of this to say that when you experience the compassion and comfort that God provides, especially in trying times, you can’t help but share that with your neighbor, even when it calls you to get out of your comfort zone. I started that encounter judging this woman on a quick moment in time that I did not understand. How arrogant! But God used the situation to provide kindness to one of His own. My point is, we will all have moments in life to share the gifts of mercy, grace, and compassion that Christ gives to us every single moment of every day. It’s not only helpful for the person in need, it’s as equally vital to you too. These moments allow us to truly understand what the Body of Christ is and how we all are instrumental to one another.
Are you sharing the compassion and kindness that God gives you?
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1What sorrow awaits you Assyrians, who have destroyed others but have never been destroyed yourselves. You betray others, but you have never been betrayed. When you are done destroying, you will be destroyed. When you are done betraying, you will be betrayed.
2But LORD, be merciful to us, for we have waited for you. Be our strong arm each day and our salvation in times of trouble.
3The enemy runs at the sound of your voice. When you stand up, the nations flee!
4Just as caterpillars and locusts strip the fields and vines, so the fallen army of Assyria will be stripped!
5Though the LORD is very great and lives in heaven, he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
6In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD will be your treasure.
7But now your brave warriors weep in public. Your ambassadors of peace cry in bitter disappointment.
8Your roads are deserted; no one travels them anymore. The Assyrians have broken their peace treaty and care nothing for the promises they made before witnesses. They have no respect for anyone.
9The land of Israel wilts in mourning. Lebanon withers with shame. The plain of Sharon is now a wilderness. Bashan and Carmel have been plundered.
10But the LORD says: “Now I will stand up. Now I will show my power and might.
11You Assyrians produce nothing but dry grass and stubble. Your own breath will turn to fire and consume you.
12Your people will be burned up completely, like thornbushes cut down and tossed in a fire.
13Listen to what I have done, you nations far away! And you that are near, acknowledge my might!”
14The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear. Terror seizes the godless. “Who can live with this devouring fire?” they cry. “Who can survive this all-consuming fire?”
15Those who are honest and fair, who refuse to profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong—
16these are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance.
17Your eyes will see the king in all his splendor, and you will see a land that stretches into the distance.
18You will think back to this time of terror, asking, “Where are the Assyrian officers who counted our towers? Where are the bookkeepers who recorded the plunder taken from our fallen city?”
19You will no longer see these fierce, violent people with their strange, unknown language.
20Instead, you will see Zion as a place of holy festivals. You will see Jerusalem, a city quiet and secure. It will be like a tent whose ropes are taut and whose stakes are firmly fixed.
21The LORD will be our Mighty One. He will be like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross, that no enemy ship can sail upon.
22For the LORD is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king. He will care for us and save us.
23The enemies’ sails hang loose on broken masts with useless tackle. Their treasure will be divided by the people of God. Even the lame will take their share!
24The people of Israel will no longer say, “We are sick and helpless,” for the LORD will forgive their sins
“How wonderful it is that God’s salvation does not have any fine print attached to it.”~TB
I’m someone that reads the fine print. Not because I’m detailed oriented, but because I don’t want to sign my life away to some tech company that has cleverly embedded som nonsense clause in their user agreement. That may sound paranoid, but the fine print is ingrained in a lot of things we do as people. And if I’m being honest, it’s shady.
Imagine if Jesus died for our sins with asterisk (*) attached to it. Imagine if the fine print read “this agreement is valid for those who are left handed.” Or “Agreement is void if you eat a red onion.”? Or what if it called for perfection? My point is, I’m so glad that Christ is way more forgiving, honest, and loving than we are to each other.
What would the world look like if we treated one another the way God treats us?
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1“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the LORD . “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.
2For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade.
3But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced.
4For though his power extends to Zoan and his officials have arrived in Hanes,
5all who trust in him will be ashamed. He will not help you. Instead, he will disgrace you.”
6This message came to me concerning the animals in the Negev: The caravan moves slowly across the terrible desert to Egypt— donkeys weighed down with riches and camels loaded with treasure— all to pay for Egypt’s protection. They travel through the wilderness, a place of lionesses and lions, a place where vipers and poisonous snakes live. All this, and Egypt will give you nothing in return.
7Egypt’s promises are worthless! Therefore, I call her Rahab— the Harmless Dragon.
8Now go and write down these words. Write them in a book. They will stand until the end of time as a witness
9that these people are stubborn rebels who refuse to pay attention to the LORD ’s instructions.
10They tell the seers, “Stop seeing visions!” They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies.
11Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’”
12This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel: “Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies,
13calamity will come upon you suddenly— like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down.
14You will be smashed like a piece of pottery— shattered so completely that there won’t be a piece big enough to carry coals from a fireplace or a little water from the well.”
15This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.
16You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!
17One of them will chase a thousand of you. Five of them will make all of you flee. You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.”
18So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.
19O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.
20Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.
21Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
22Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance!”
23Then the LORD will bless you with rain at planting time. There will be wonderful harvests and plenty of pastureland for your livestock.
24The oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat good grain, its chaff blown away by the wind.
25In that day, when your enemies are slaughtered and the towers fall, there will be streams of water flowing down every mountain and hill.
26The moon will be as bright as the sun, and the sun will be seven times brighter—like the light of seven days in one! So it will be when the LORD begins to heal his people and cure the wounds he gave them.
27Look! The LORD is coming from far away, burning with anger, surrounded by thick, rising smoke. His lips are filled with fury; his words consume like fire.
28His hot breath pours out like a flood up to the neck of his enemies. He will sift out the proud nations for destruction. He will bridle them and lead them away to ruin.
29But the people of God will sing a song of joy, like the songs at the holy festivals. You will be filled with joy, as when a flutist leads a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem, the mountain of the LORD — to the Rock of Israel.
30And the LORD will make his majestic voice heard. He will display the strength of his mighty arm. It will descend with devouring flames, with cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and huge hailstones.
31At the LORD ’s command, the Assyrians will be shattered. He will strike them down with his royal scepter.
32And as the LORD strikes them with his rod of punishment, his people will celebrate with tambourines and harps. Lifting his mighty arm, he will fight the Assyrians.
33Topheth—the place of burning— has long been ready for the Assyrian king; the pyre is piled high with wood. The breath of the LORD, like fire from a volcano, will set it ablaze.
“God allows us to go through tough experiences to share with others.”~TB
Last week, I came across an article written by a fellow freelance writer. She had a catchy title, so curiously, I clicked. The first sentence began, “After 3 weeks of freelancing, I’ve come to learn… and I’m here to teach you…”
Three.Weeks. I was incredulous. How someone can believe they have the authority, understanding, or mastery of anything let alone running a freelance business is beyond me. It reminded me of the passage in 1 Timothy about why new believers shouldn’t be leaders and how the Devil would cause them to fall. It made me chuckle as I remembered a conversation I had with my father some years ago.
Faith Without Deeds
A few years back, God downloaded the Truth into my brain and I arrogantly shared with my Dad the “secret” to Christianity and following God. My father— who is ever patient and long-suffering with me— nodded and listened carefully to my “all knowing theories and agreed that what I said had made Biblical sense. He was kind enough to let life’s teachable moments fill in the gaps of my arrogant ways. The thing is, it’s easy to understand God’s truth, at least the “mechanics” of it. But, to hold onto that truth whileyou are tested, while you endure hardship, while you suffer persecution, now that’s a whole other animal. See, I knew the Truth, but had no experience applying it. As fate would have it, not too long after our conversation, I went through some of the toughest years of my life.
I was broken down, pruned, fired in the kiln, spiritually crushed, and eventually put back together. In that time I had to make a choice: either press on or give up God altogether. For me, though at times I wanted to quit, I knew too much and I couldn’t go back to my old selfish ways. At the time, I didn’t understand why I went through such an oppressive period, but a random conversation with a woman in Tennessee made me understand why God’s children have to go through a foundation building process.
I talked about this a month or so ago, but while I was traveling, I stayed at an Airbnb in Tennessee with a hospitable lady. She had a free spirit “all gods are the same” type of mentality, which I didn’t push back on. At the time I was travel-worn and just wanted to catch my breath. What was interesting was that she kept asking me what I believed and why. And as I mentioned earlier, I was in no mood to have that conversation, but I could feel God prodding me to answer this woman, and so I did. At the time, I was more concerned with sharing about God’s Truth and not necessarily my subject matter expertise. To be honest, I didn’t know why me of all people would be the one share Biblical information. I certainly didn’t feel (And still don’t) qualified to know or share anything after the crazy past few years. However, after reading that freelance writer’s blog, remembering the conversation with my dad, and recalling the conversation in Tennessee, I finally got my answer why. Experience. It’s easy to know the Truth untested, but to believe it after a hard life exam, you’ve gotten some subject matter experience under your belt.
No, I’m not some wise person who has unique God-given experiences (at least I don’t think, I do have grey hair, however). I believe that those who have been through the refiner’s fire have something to share with those who are in the process. We can encourage those going through tough times because we’ve had to endure struggles of our own and have lived to tell the tale. The woman in Tennessee was asking some legitimate theological questions and had I not gone through such a crappy few years having to rely solely on God, I would not have been able to give meaningful answers. I say all of this to say that if you have gone through the process, have gone through the fire, and can still choose God above yourself, you too have answers to share with those seeking Him. It’s a team effort.
What’s your experience to share?
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1“What sorrow awaits Ariel, the City of David. Year after year you celebrate your feasts.
2Yet I will bring disaster upon you, and there will be much weeping and sorrow. For Jerusalem will become what her name Ariel means— an altar covered with blood.
3I will be your enemy, surrounding Jerusalem and attacking its walls. I will build siege towers and destroy it.
4Then deep from the earth you will speak; from low in the dust your words will come. Your voice will whisper from the ground like a ghost conjured up from the grave.
5“But suddenly, your ruthless enemies will be crushed like the finest of dust. Your many attackers will be driven away like chaff before the wind. Suddenly, in an instant,
6I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, will act for you with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and storm and consuming fire.
7All the nations fighting against Jerusalem will vanish like a dream! Those who are attacking her walls will vanish like a vision in the night.
8A hungry person dreams of eating but wakes up still hungry. A thirsty person dreams of drinking but is still faint from thirst when morning comes. So it will be with your enemies, with those who attack Mount Zion.”
9Are you amazed and incredulous? Don’t you believe it? Then go ahead and be blind. You are stupid, but not from wine! You stagger, but not from liquor!
10For the LORD has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep. He has closed the eyes of your prophets and visionaries.
11All the future events in this vision are like a sealed book to them. When you give it to those who can read, they will say, “We can’t read it because it is sealed.”
12When you give it to those who cannot read, they will say, “We don’t know how to read.”
13And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.
14Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.”
15What sorrow awaits those who try to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their evil deeds in the dark! “The LORD can’t see us,” they say. “He doesn’t know what’s going on!”
16How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”?
17Soon—and it will not be very long— the forests of Lebanon will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops.
18In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness.
19The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD . The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20The scoffer will be gone, the arrogant will disappear, and those who plot evil will be killed.
21Those who convict the innocent by their false testimony will disappear. A similar fate awaits those who use trickery to pervert justice and who tell lies to destroy the innocent.
22That is why the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the people of Israel, “My people will no longer be ashamed or turn pale with fear.
23For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob. They will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24Then the wayward will gain understanding, and complainers will accept instruction
“When the Hand of God changes your life, going back is futile and useless.”~TB
When a radical change has occurred in your life, finding your footing can be tough. It’s like a chasm or opening where new opportunities— good or bad— can take root. Patterns and habits from your previous existence no longer bring you the same joy as they once did. But, sometimes knowing where to go next brings more questions than answers and it can be stressful. If you look at the story of Lot’s wife, it can be tough to understand why she was turned into a pillar of salt. All she did was look back, what’s the harm in that? But, if you look at it metaphorically, it’s easier to comprehend. When we begin a new life in Christ, the old stuff cannot remain. It’s kind of like shedding skin if you think about it. The discipline lies in having the courage and faith to move forward without craving the life you once led.
I’ll be honest, when you change into who God has called you to be, you will lose your previous identity and sometimes that means the people you once did life with. It can be an isolating and strange experience if you don’t reach out when necessary. The one thing I’ve learned is that a blank canvas scares many people. After all, our society paints a supposed blueprint for this thing called “life” so when a plan gets blown up, having the imagination and fortitude to start something new can be terrifying. It’s probably why many turn back to old behavior, because it’s comforting or familiar. But, what if the unknown held something better? If we can reconcile the fears we hold in our minds and rely on the vision that God provides, moving forward doesn’t seem all that scary. The trick is to hold onto faith when doing so.
Are you stuck in your past?
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1In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation.
2Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter.
3You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.
5He humbles the proud and brings down the arrogant city. He brings it down to the dust.
6The poor and oppressed trample it underfoot, and the needy walk all over it.
7But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.
8LORD, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.
9In the night I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek you. For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right.
10Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good. Although others do right, the wicked keep doing wrong and take no notice of the LORD ’s majesty.
11O LORD, they pay no attention to your upraised fist. Show them your eagerness to defend your people. Then they will be ashamed. Let your fire consume your enemies.
12LORD, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.
13O LORD our God, others have ruled us, but you alone are the one we worship.
14Those we served before are dead and gone. Their departed spirits will never return! You attacked them and destroyed them, and they are long forgotten.
15O LORD, you have made our nation great; yes, you have made us great. You have extended our borders, and we give you the glory!
16LORD, in distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.
17Just as a pregnant woman writhes and cries out in pain as she gives birth, so were we in your presence, LORD .
18We, too, writhe in agony, but nothing comes of our suffering. We have not given salvation to the earth, nor brought life into the world.
19But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead!
20Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the LORD ’s anger has passed.
21Look! The LORD is coming from heaven to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will no longer hide those who have been killed. They will be brought out for all to see.
“If being nice means you have to subjugate the truth, then you’re not being nice; you’re lying.”~TB
Being “nice” is such a weird concept to me. It’s not “nice” to disagree even if you’re position is correct. It’s not “nice” to offend even if what you say is true. We use it as a means to not be honest. But friends, the truth is the truth, whether we want to hear it or not. And people with ulterior motives will shove “nice” down your throat to get you from seeing the truth and to accept their lies. “Nice” is circumstantial, but the Truth never changes. I’ll give you an example
5 or so years ago, when I first began freelancing, I was shucking and jiving, not doing what I needed to in order to run a successful business. I was hiding under the guise of fear and anxiety to avoid the truth: I wasn’t doing the work to make it happen. Fortunately, my mom— who’s great at seeing through my BS— sent me a compelling email calling me out on my nonsense. At first, my feelings were hurt, but then, I called a former boss and in 3 days, I had a job. Imagine that.
Honor in Telling the Truth
My mom could’ve been “nice” and just let me wallow in my stupidity. After all, that would’ve been the safest route. However, she told me a much needed truth: I needed to get off my rear and make some money to take care of myself. People who truly love you will tell you the truth, no matter the consequence. God is the same way. His Truth never changes and depending on the level of stupidity we’re into, sometimes His Truth doesn’t feel all that nice. But considering His Truth is the only Truth, I for one would rather sacrifice my pride to live in the Truth today rather than feel “nice” and suffer the consequences tomorrow. Truth is, the choice is ours to make.
Are you interested in the Truth?
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1O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.
2You turn mighty cities into heaps of ruins. Cities with strong walls are turned to rubble. Beautiful palaces in distant lands disappear and will never be rebuilt.
3Therefore, strong nations will declare your glory; ruthless nations will fear you.
4But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall,
5or like the relentless heat of the desert. But you silence the roar of foreign nations. As the shade of a cloud cools relentless heat, so the boastful songs of ruthless people are stilled.
6In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.
7There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.
8He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!
9In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the LORD, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
10For the LORD ’s hand of blessing will rest on Jerusalem. But Moab will be crushed. It will be like straw trampled down and left to rot.
11God will push down Moab’s people as a swimmer pushes down water with his hands. He will end their pride and all their evil works.
12The high walls of Moab will be demolished. They will be brought down to the ground, down into the dust.
“Sin is like digging in the trash for treats— nothing good comes from it.”~TB
A few days ago, I forgot to take out the trash. It wasn’t old or anything, but the it contained some chicken bones and meat products, which are too much of a temptation for my dog. I figured it would be ok since there’s a lock on it, but when I arrived back home, trash was sprawled all over my kitchen floor and my dog was in the corner with her tail tucked in and a face that read ‘guilty’ all over it. Annoyed, I asked her, “Why do you go digging in the trash when I’ve bought you treats? All you have to do is behave and you get all of the treats you want”. Then, I had an epiphany. God probably says the same thing to us when we sin. We all go digging in the trash looking for forbidden treats even though God provides us good things all of the time.
Mercy at its Finest
I can’t stay mad at Abbey for long. She’s a good dog, and she’s had to put up with me for almost 7 years. Getting back to the trash, I sigh and chuckle, cleaning up the mess as I thought about how many times God has had (And will continue) to clean up mine. It’s funny though, we all mess up, digging through the trash and then hide from God as if He doesn’t already know what we’ve been up to. Fortunately for us, He lovingly cleans up our junk, erasing it from the score board, and guess what, the “treat” is till on the table. Just like our canine friends, we’ll always find trash attractive as its in our nature, but with discipline and looking out for the divine ‘treats’ maybe we can stay out of the garbage more frequently. As for my dog, well, I’ll just stick to taking out the trash.
Are you ready to stop digging in the trash?
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1This message came to me concerning Tyre: Wail, you trading ships of Tarshish, for the harbor and houses of Tyre are gone! The rumors you heard in Cyprus are all true.
2Mourn in silence, you people of the coast and you merchants of Sidon. Your traders crossed the sea,
3sailing over deep waters. They brought you grain from Egypt and harvests from along the Nile. You were the marketplace of the world.
4But now you are put to shame, city of Sidon, for Tyre, the fortress of the sea, says, “Now I am childless; I have no sons or daughters.”
5When Egypt hears the news about Tyre, there will be great sorrow.
6Send word now to Tarshish! Wail, you people who live in distant lands!
7Is this silent ruin all that is left of your once joyous city? What a long history was yours! Think of all the colonists you sent to distant places.
8Who has brought this disaster on Tyre, that great creator of kingdoms? Her traders were all princes, her merchants were nobles.
9The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has done it to destroy your pride and bring low all earth’s nobility.
10Come, people of Tarshish, sweep over the land like the flooding Nile, for Tyre is defenseless.
11The LORD held out his hand over the sea and shook the kingdoms of the earth. He has spoken out against Phoenicia, ordering that her fortresses be destroyed.
12He says, “Never again will you rejoice, O daughter of Sidon, for you have been crushed. Even if you flee to Cyprus, you will find no rest.”
13Look at the land of Babylonia — the people of that land are gone! The Assyrians have handed Babylon over to the wild animals of the desert. They have built siege ramps against its walls, torn down its palaces, and turned it to a heap of rubble.
14Wail, you ships of Tarshish, for your harbor is destroyed!
15For seventy years, the length of a king’s life, Tyre will be forgotten. But then the city will come back to life as in the song about the prostitute:
16Take a harp and walk the streets, you forgotten harlot. Make sweet melody and sing your songs so you will be remembered again.
17Yes, after seventy years the LORD will revive Tyre. But she will be no different than she was before. She will again be a prostitute to all kingdoms around the world.
18But in the end her profits will be given to the LORD . Her wealth will not be hoarded but will provide good food and fine clothing for the LORD ’s priests.
“God respects a humble honest attempt over the deceptively sweet sounds of empty promises.”~TB
It’s easy to have goals. It’s a whole different ball game to create a plan to achieve said goal and then go off and execute it. We’ve all known (and have been guilty of) someone who claims to want to improve, yet fails to cultivate the discipline to follow through. Someone wants to write a book yet fails to create an outline or even begin writing at all. We do the same thing with God. Many Christians claim to want to know Him, but then the idea of having to change behaviors, change thought patterns, or regularly pick up the Bible stops them in their tracks. Discipline of any kind is tough in the beginning. But without it, change is impossible. The beauty of pursuing a relationship with God is that only one of you is flawed and the other perfect. And trust me, that unconditional thing goes a long way.
God isn’t looking for perfection, He’s looking for obedience and an honest effort. So when we make mistakes, have doubts, go through humbling moments, though point is to get back up, acknowledge our shortcomings and ask God to make up the difference in our effort to walk the path of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to get up, repent, and move on, but just like a kid trying to learn how to ride a bicycle, just keep trying. And by doing so time and time again, you begin to understand how God personally sees you and how valuable you are to Him. So the next time you feel like phoning it in, remember God’s grace and put in the effort.
Does your effort match your mouth?
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1Listen, Ethiopia —land of fluttering sails that lies at the headwaters of the Nile,
2that sends ambassadors in swift boats down the river. Go, swift messengers! Take a message to a tall, smooth-skinned people, who are feared far and wide for their conquests and destruction, and whose land is divided by rivers.
3All you people of the world, everyone who lives on the earth— when I raise my battle flag on the mountain, look! When I blow the ram’s horn, listen!
4For the LORD has told me this: “I will watch quietly from my dwelling place— as quietly as the heat rises on a summer day, or as the morning dew forms during the harvest.”
5Even before you begin your attack, while your plans are ripening like grapes, the LORD will cut off your new growth with pruning shears. He will snip off and discard your spreading branches.
6Your mighty army will be left dead in the fields for the mountain vultures and wild animals. The vultures will tear at the corpses all summer. The wild animals will gnaw at the bones all winter.
7At that time the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will receive gifts from this land divided by rivers, from this tall, smooth-skinned people, who are feared far and wide for their conquests and destruction. They will bring the gifts to Jerusalem, where the LORD of Heaven’s Armies dwells.
“In order to have a real relationship with God, you must first be real with yourself.”~TB
Our society has done a great job getting people to pretend to be something they are not. Many spend time chasing things and people that don’t actually align with who they are, what they value, and the list goes on. So, if you can’t even be real for your sake, how will you maintain a real relationship with God? He knows you, but do you know you?
God calls us for our own unique position and purpose. It takes certain characteristics and personalities to fill specific jobs. We are made according to our purpose. Of course, if I’m being you and you’re being me, how well can we fulfill our roles? Drop the act, stop being who you think you ought to be and be who God made you to be. It’s much easier than putting up a facade. More importantly, it’s how you grow deeper with your connection to Christ.
When you keep it real with God, the shame of what you ‘lack’ lessens because you know where to fill your cup. If you’re looking to the world to replenish your needs, you will always come up short and lacking. Knowing Christ’s identity and His purpose goes a long way in growing your maturity. When you’re young and dumb, the flashy glitter of the world is worth throwing away your authentic self for a pat on the back and a path to Hell. As you spiritually grow, you will value the realness of God and the unique qualities He has bestowed upon you.
Are you keeping it real or are you really faking it?
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1Isaiah son of Amoz received this message concerning the destruction of Babylon:
2“Raise a signal flag on a bare hilltop. Call up an army against Babylon. Wave your hand to encourage them as they march into the palaces of the high and mighty.
3I, the LORD, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted.”
4Hear the noise on the mountains! Listen, as the vast armies march! It is the noise and shouting of many nations. The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has called this army together.
5They come from distant countries, from beyond the farthest horizons. They are the LORD ’s weapons to carry out his anger. With them he will destroy the whole land.
6Scream in terror, for the day of the LORD has arrived— the time for the Almighty to destroy.
7Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts,
8and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor. They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear.
9For see, the day of the LORD is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it.
10The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light.
11“I, the LORD, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.
12I will make people scarcer than gold— more rare than the fine gold of Ophir.
13For I will shake the heavens. The earth will move from its place when the LORD of Heaven’s Armies displays his wrath in the day of his fierce anger.”
14Everyone in Babylon will run about like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd. They will try to find their own people and flee to their own land.
15Anyone who is captured will be cut down— run through with a sword.
16Their little children will be dashed to death before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked, and their wives will be raped.
17“Look, I will stir up the Medes against Babylon. They cannot be tempted by silver or bribed with gold.
18The attacking armies will shoot down the young men with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for children.”
19Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them.
20Babylon will never be inhabited again. It will remain empty for generation after generation. Nomads will refuse to camp there, and shepherds will not bed down their sheep.
21Desert animals will move into the ruined city, and the houses will be haunted by howling creatures. Owls will live among the ruins, and wild goats will go there to dance.
22Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make dens in its luxurious palaces. Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.
“Don’t shortchange the importance of doing your Biblical homework as trick questions are difficult to answer if you haven’t practiced beforehand.”~TB
When I was in school, I seldom— if ever— did or turned in my homework or studied. I was clever enough to pass my tests and still receive somewhat decent grades in spite of my blatant disregard for homework. When I went to college, however, not turning in homework or studying was much harder to fake as the tests were more cumbersome and I couldn’t skate by as easily. I had to fail to realize how important studying and doing the homework correlated with a passing grade. As I continue my walk with God, I realize that studying and homework are even more important, as the opposition uses trick questions and fake answers to get us to stray.
The devil’s objective isn’t just about getting us to sin. It’s more to do with derailing God’s purpose for our lives. He’ll use cheap tricks and smoke and mirrors— creating seemingly lifelike problems to get you from deepening your relationship with Christ. This is where all that studying and homework come into play. When you make daily time for the Lord and when you read His teachings, the devil’s schemes are more easily discernible. But, if you don’t do the reading or know God on a deeper level, satan’s party tricks will sweep you up into a mental storm that can be difficult to overcome. If you find yourself in a pop quiz that you didn’t study for, go back to the Source Material that is the Bible.
What the devil doesn’t want you to realize is that all of these tests, trials, and tribulations are open book. Which means that at any given time, you can consult God and the Bible for the answers. Until our last breath on this Earth, we can retake tests as needed, with God lovingly showing us the way when we humble ourselves to put in the work. No test or walk is perfect. There are many times where I still fail to study, only to realize that I must do the work so that I too will not stumble. Thank God (literally) that He still loves a slacker like me and allows me to learn. So friends, learn to discipline yourselves to do your homework, study the word, and grow with God so that you spot the fake answers and pass your tests.
Are you ready to improve your study and homework methods?
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1In that day you will sing: “I will praise you, O LORD ! You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me.
2See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”
3With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
4In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the LORD ! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!
5Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world.
6Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”
“Learn to be kind and patient with one another as we all make mistakes.”~TB
I process information pretty quickly. It works in my favor most of the time, but every now and then my quick thinking leads me to jump to inaccurate conclusions. Yesterday, for example, I checked the oil dipstick to ‘inspect’ my newly changed oil and in my haste, I deemed there was no oil in my car. I immediately call the mechanic and demand them remedy the situation. Fortunately, my father— who is more experienced with cars— checked and showed me that there indeed was oil in the car. Clean oil looks drastically different than old oil, who knew! Embarrassed, I called the mechanic and apologized, owning my error and he graciously accepted it. I’m glad that he was able to bestow kindness and patience towards me, even though I was ready to read him the riot act when I thought he made a mistake. So why am I sharing this? Giving each other grace and mercy allows us to grow and learn, so that we can extend the same to the next person.
Practice the same mercy and grace that God gives us with everyone that comes into your life. Granted, that’s easier said than done, just look at the above paragraph. When we jump to conclusions, and expect the worst in people, we fail them by not giving them a chance. More to the point, we might be the ones who are wrong. Even further, how we deal with others is a direct reflection of how we deal with ourselves. If we cannot extend mercy and grace to ourselves, how can we dispense it to others? So if you are insufficient in the mercy and grace department, take cues from our Father in Heaven. Read the Word and talk with Him to model His ways. In the Bible, there are plenty examples of Jesus extending grace and mercy to those who didn’t meet perfect standards. Conversely there are many folks in there who were as unmerciful as they were imperfect. So friends, strive to walk with each other as God seeks to walk with us.
Are you walking in grace and mercy or are you quick to jump to conclusions.
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1Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
2And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD .
3He will delight in obeying the LORD . He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.
4He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
5He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.
6In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.
7The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.
8The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
9Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD .
10In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
11In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people— those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
12He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth.
13Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end. They will not be rivals anymore.
14They will join forces to swoop down on Philistia to the west. Together they will attack and plunder the nations to the east. They will occupy the lands of Edom and Moab, and Ammon will obey them.
15The LORD will make a dry path through the gulf of the Red Sea. He will wave his hand over the Euphrates River, sending a mighty wind to divide it into seven streams so it can easily be crossed on foot.
16He will make a highway for the remnant of his people, the remnant coming from Assyria, just as he did for Israel long ago when they returned from Egypt.