God Only Knows

Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 24, 27, 28, 29 ; James 4 


…. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope….


This is the complete verse 

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29‬:‭10‬-‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There is a difference between what we know, and what is actually there. For the majority of my life, I have known this verse in many many respects. In one of the lowest points of my life and my wife’s life, when my son, Oliver, was a baby and we did not know if he was going to survive the next day or the next hour, a friend of ours gave us this verse to meditate on and to find strength. This verse is very powerful and it has so many deep meanings as well. But as I was reading and meditating on these passages this week, it has a more profound meaning for me.  This has been a verse in my heart since my childhood, but really held a prominent place during this period of my life. 

The majority of the time we look at this verse in Jeremiah for strength in the midst of our adversities and our weaknesses. But when we really look at the full scope of this, it gives us even more peace. It shows us that God is actually preparing things way in advance for us. He knows what’s happening far in advance. At this point, Jeremiah is telling the people about their exile and  about the people who will come and conquer them, and how God will make provisions for them. God is also showing how He will bring the people out of the exile. He even tells them specific times and how God will release everybody from exile.  

In the 24th chapter of Jeremiah, we see how God is selecting us, who are his children to be protected in the midst of adversity. He shows that doing and before the exile how he protects his figs or his people.

“After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the craftsmen, and the metal workers, and had brought them to Babylon, the Lord showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭24‬:‭1‬-‭2‬, ‭5‬-‭7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In Jeremiah , we have a glimpse of what is happening to the exile individuals that go into Babylon. He specifically speaks about Nebuchadnezzar . When we reference back to Daniel, we see how God has provided for Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, in the midst of their exile out in Babylon. In this passage in Jeremiah, he shows how he would already protect them from everything and in this passage and Jeremiah we also see that God uses Nebuchadnezzar for his benefit. 

Whenever I read Daniel, I always would see Nebuchadnezzar as the villain. But this passage in Jeremiah shows how God can use unlikely people in unlikely places to be blessings upon us for his benefit.  

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.”

‭‭Daniel‬ ‭2‬:‭46‬-‭48‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This passage gives me hope, and makes me smile in the midst of adversity and hardships, which we go through on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Sometimes it can feel insurmountable while we’re in the moment. But then God gives us peace in revelation, and how he will provide for us. In this moment, God is showing us that he has a plan for us before we even could understand it. He had a plan for the people 70+ years before they even knew what was going to happen.  He had a plan for us,  benefiting us through him. He’s not just going to leave it to chance. He has specific plans for us. Let us take solace in his plans for us.

Be Blessed

Chicken or the Egg?

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 22,23, and 26, Psalm 77, and James 2.

What comes first..the chicken or the egg? Most of us have probably heard this saying implying that you can’t have a chicken without an egg, but you can’t have an egg without the chicken. So, which comes first? James 2 digs into a similar question but with the topic of faith and works.

Christians believe that you go to Heaven by believing, or having faith, that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of your confessed sins and rose again on Easter (Romans 10:9-11). “Good deeds” don’t get you into Heaven and “good people” don’t go to Heaven if they don’t believe in Jesus. So, some can struggle with James 2:24 which says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:17 also says similar, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Are these verses saying just faith in Jesus doesn’t get you to Heaven? Is this saying works get you into Heaven?

I believe Scripture can often best be interpreted by cross referencing other Scripture, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that our all-church study verses last week came from 1 John 4 which can provide some more context when paired with James 2.

What compels us to do good works? Put simply…love. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.” Reading on in 1 John 4, we see verse 20 states..

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

1 John 4:21 follows up verse 20 also stating…

And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

If you truly have faith and love God, then it will show up in your actions. If you say you have faith and love God, but your works don’t show it…then do you really have faith and love God? James is telling us you can’t have one without the other..chicken or egg concept. Your faith in God is made complete by your actions just as in Abraham and Rahab who James references in James 2:23 and James 2:25.

Jesus gives us a great example of this when in John 13 He washed his disciples’ feet which was thought to be such a lowly task that Jews wouldn’t even let their Jewish servants do this for them, only Gentile servants. And of course, Jesus showed us the ultimate act of service when the next day He, the God of the universe in the flesh, gave himself up suffering one of the most gruesome and painful deaths possible through his scourging and Crucifixion on the cross, all so we could be forgiven and live with Him in Heaven.

We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Let us reflect personally.

  • How am I serving my family?
  • How am I serving my church?
  • How am I serving my neighbors or community?
  • How am I serving my friends?
  • How am I serving those who can do nothing for me in return?

Pick one you can improve on and let us complete our faith in action.

God is Near

Jeremiah, the prophet, had a difficult life. His family and friends were ready to rise up against him. They threatened to rise up against him if he continued telling about God.

I have heard the many rumors about me. They call me “The Man Who Lives in Terror.” They threaten, “If you say anything, we will report it.” Even my old friends are watching me, waiting for a fatal slip. “He will trap himself,” they say, “and then we will get our revenge on him.”
Jeremiah 20:10

But, there was something burning inside of Jeremiah, he simply could not keep quiet. He is what true ministry looks like. We are called, just as Jeremiah to speak the word of God when given the opportunity. We should not keep quiet, but speak boldly, just as Jeremiah did. Jeremiah knew that the Lord was with him.

But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior. Before him my persecutors will stumble. They cannot defeat me. The will fail and be thoroughly humiliated. There dishonor will never be forgotten.
Jeremiah 20:11

Jeremiah’s faith let him see the nearness of God. He was in despair because he lost his friends, but his faith kept his heart on God. Above all else, he knew that God was with Him.

What an example Jeremiah is for us. When we feel fear, we need only to remember that the Lord stands beside us like a great warrior.

Final Destination

Jeremiah 14-16, Psalm 76, 2 Corinthians 13

When was the last time you were on an airplane?  Were you afraid?  Of course not.  That is probably because the risk is so very low.  In fact, the International Air Transport Association documents just one accident for every 2.1 million flights.  That’s a great record!  It does not come by accident.  That jumbo jet that took you safely to the beach was subject to very careful examination.  The most basic happens every 500 flight hours.  Then, it gets a little more detailed every 18 months, and finally, every 4-5 years, experts examine every fastener, nut, wire, hinge, and component.  Each of these parts must be tested to ensure its quality, durability, and ability to perform the operation it was designed for.

Obviously, Paul knew nothing about inspecting airplanes.  He did, however, know a think or two about our hearts.  These need examination, too, he says.  “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  What exactly are we examining?  Everything.  That includes our actions and behaviors, thoughts, mindsets, relationships, possessions, desires, and our health.  Examination is not enough though.  We must also test.  Inevitably, we will find things that do not fit with our faith.  These need to be repaired, maintained, or fully replaced.  Many things, we hope, will pass the test.  These are the ones that provide proof, first-hand evidence, that Jesus is in you.

Sure, testing and examination is tough, scary work.  But it is worth it.  Done right, we will safely arrive at our final destination.  We might even enjoy the ride.

Strongest During Our Weakest

Today’s Reading:  Jeremiah 11-13; 2 Corinthians 12

They live in biggest house you have ever seen.  They take lavish vacations to the most beautiful and luxurious locations.  They have a garage full of expensive and exotic cars.  They have the most beautiful “model-like” spouse that has the perfect physique, looks, or appearance.   They live a life of materiality and wealth that everyone wants.  They “have it all.”

But perhaps the individuals that have these things are not “nice people.”  Perhaps they have taken profits when they should have been more generous.  Perhaps they have taken advantage and “run over” people to acquire the power and wealth they achieved for themselves.  Perhaps they have ruined the lives of their employees, teammates, competitors, or maybe even their own family to achieve the wealth they have.

How is it fair that sometimes the most ruthless and selfish people prosper?  Why does God allow this?

Jeremiah 12: 1-3 states, “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with you; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? 2 You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth, But far from their mind. 3 But You, O Lord, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter.”

It can be difficult for us to see prosperity happen to who we perceive to be “bad people.”  Maybe you are jealous because you work hard to do the right things. You live a Christ-centered, faith-filled life to set an example for your children, family, and friends.  Yet, you still cannot “get ahead.”  Perhaps you are unemployed, deal with financial challenges, drive a “beat up” car that won’t start, and work at a job you hate.   What is the reward for living your life following Jesus if you don’t experience “prosperity” or a “life of luxury?”

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells the people of Corinth that the “thorn in the flesh” was given to him. Paul was referring to the obstacles, challenges, and burden he carried, even though he was a prophet for Christ.  He sacrificed most of the years of his life, and ultimately gave his life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul said in verse 8, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” Verse 9, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power for Christ may rest upon me. “ 10 Therefore I take pleasure in the infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in the persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”

Scripture tells us God sees us.  He knows our sacrifices.  He feels our afflictions.  He is there with us every step of the way.  God encourages us to understand “we are our strongest when we are at what appears to us be our weakest.”  Let us not seek to be judged in this world but the “next world” in Heaven,” which will be our just reward.  Keep the faith that a life following Christ is the right path.


A friend was recently speaking metaphorically about the manufacturing business and comparing it to the production of wine (where a business needs investments to run, grow, and continue to be relevant and profitable for a long period of time). To make wine you need seeds for the grapes, fertile soil, sunlight, water, attention to the vines, machinery, and a lot of equipment to store and ferment the juice until it is ready to be bottled. People are also needed for the care of the vineyard, harvesting the grapes, and executing all the various processes to ensure a successful (and delicious) final product. There’s also marketing, distribution, financial management, and much more. Without any of the necessary “ingredients,” there can be no success in the wine business.

That description has one important thing missing. Our sustainer, God almighty. Without his provisions, without the life he breathes into us, without his blessing, there is nothingness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 8-10; 2 Corinthians 11

Jeremiah 8:4-12 talks about false prophets, the sin of man, and God’s brewing anger. To paraphrase the sins (from the NLT version) we:

  • Are even more sinful as we don’t turn away from our sins (v.4)
  • Cling to our lies (v.5)
  • Lie about everything and have no remorse (v.6)
  • Do not know the Lord’s laws (v.7)
  • Write lies about God’s word (v.8)
  • Reject the word of the Lord (v.9)
  • Are greedy and fraudulent (v.10)
  • Superficially respond instead of being peaceful (v.11)
  • Are unashamed of our sin (v.12)

As a result of these sins, God promises his judgment:

I will surely consume them.
There will be no more harvests of figs and grapes.
Their fruit trees will all die.
Whatever I gave them will soon be gone.
I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 8:13)

I take too much for granted and am guilty of returning to the same sins over and over so this is a stark reminder of God our sustainer (everything good that we have comes from him) and that God’s anger and punishment are real.

Just one sin separates us from God, and therefore he has every right to punish us and take things away. Our sins put us into voluntary bondage and leave us with feelings of guilt and shame. Whether we admit it or not, there’s still that soft voice letting us know we are in the wrong.

What then shall we do?

  1. Ask God to reveal our sins so that we can confess (telling him what he already knows to be true). Fill our hearts with gratitude for God’s love for us and what he has done and continues to do with us. Put all our hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the Holy Spirit speak to us and reveal a way out from our sin.
  2. Stop sinning, stop trying to do it on our own, and put every situation in our lives through the lens of God’s word (The Bible). Therefore, don’t put up with false teaching. False teaching is anything that doesn’t align with God’s word. The early Christians were prone to this, and we can be as well if we are not careful. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” – 2 Corinthians 11:4)
  3. Watch out for Satan’s deceit as he is the ruler of lies. He loves to twist just the smallest of facts to lure us away slowly but surely from God. “But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Don’t lose hope or heart! Our God is the same today as he has ever been. He loves us more than we can comprehend, and with each new day, we have the opportunity to know him better, to become more like his son Jesus (through trust and obedience), to share him, and ultimately spend eternity with him. The more we fill our lives with God’s truth and light, the less room for sin. How will you choose today?

Heat Treat

Today’s reading:  Jeremiah 5-7, 2 Corinthians 10

In 1997, I joined Caterpillar as a cost accountant at the transmission factory.  I knew absolutely nothing about manufacturing heavy equipment, but was eager to learn.  So like I would do with any new job, I began by familiarizing myself with the organization structure starting with the operations teams – Assembly, Case & Cover, Ring Gears, Bevel Gears, Miscellaneous Gears and Heat Treat.  Heat treat?  What in the world was that?  (I remember secretly thinking to myself.)  It didn’t take me long to learn that heat treat was the process of heating and cooling the iron.  This scientific (and very expensive process) greatly increased the strength of gears, thereby increasing the overall quality and reliability of the drivetrain.

God, the author and perfecter of human life, uses similar methods to increase our faith and improve the quality of our lives if we choose to put our faith in him.  When a precious metal is refined by fire, impurities are burned away.  In our lives, God uses trials and suffering to purify our hearts.  Ultimately, this results in us becoming more like Christ.

The genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

Jeremiah 6, our scripture for today, talks about God’s attempts to refine the hearts of his people in the Old Testament.  Despite the prophet Jeremiah’s repeated attempts, however, they refused to turn from their sinful ways and submit to God.

“I have made you a tester of metals and my people the ore, that you may observe and test their ways. They are all hardened rebels, going about to slander. They are bronze and iron; they all act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out. They are called rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:27-30).

Unfortunately we know those who turn away from God and instead choose a life of sin are eternally doomed.  Our job as Christfollowers is to share with them the good news of God’s saving grace.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).



Where Is The Lord?

Jeremiah 1-4, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 9

They did not say, Where is the Lord?  Jeremiah 2:6 (ESV)

It is easy in our grief, challenges, and wantonness to ask, ‘where is the Lord?’  These are opportunities to cry out, chances to seek a power greater than what we can attain on our own in this world.  The question comes in the most dire of circumstances.  Sometimes.  But what if it doesn’t come?

It happens more than you think.  We grumble and complain about our lives but do not ask, ‘Where is the Lord.’  We wander in the mire of broken relationships and ruined circumstances but refuse to inquire ‘where is the Lord?’

Perhaps your life is different.  Maybe you have riches and influence.  You live in the land of fruitfulness and bounty, but you still do not ask, ‘where is the Lord?’  You choose, instead, to ignore Him and waste your time on worthless idols.

Today, whethere in want, or in plenty, there is one thing that can satisfy our deepest longing and our greatest need.  That is to know right here, right now, in these circumstances, ‘where is the lord?’

Today’s Test: Love

From the time we wake up until the moment we fall asleep, there is decision after decision to be made. There is a question we all live out, including what we will do in the next 24 hours.

The world offers plenty of options.  I can reach for my phone, go to the fridge, work out, turn on t.v., cater to my kids, the list can go on and on, looking different for each of us.

Today’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 8,

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

Today, test the sincerity of your heart.  Where will you put your time, mind, heart, actions, and words? Paul was reminding the Corinthians and us to

7.  excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Sadly this test I have and will fail over and over again. I am so grateful for His grace.  I pray that I look to Him every day from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep.  Even though the world may paint the picture that we serve ourselves, I pray for the heart and sincerity to love others.  To point everyone to God, who sent His son to die for us all to walk in the grace provided to me today.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.


Are you there?


Today’s Reading: Habakkuk 1-3; 2 Corinthians 7 

The past couple of weeks have been very trying for myself and my family. My  family here in Illinois and my family in Texas.  There have been numerous trials and tribulations that we have endured these last couple weeks. Sometimes it feels as if we were in a vacuum and no one else understands what we were going through.  One of the best things that God has given us is the connection with others which allows us to become vulnerable with each other.

Just the other day while chatting with a friend, we were talking about the start of the new school year and homecoming and the need to connect with our kids.  As we spoke we understood that we are going through something very similar.  We are not alone, even if we feel like asking the question “ Are you there?”   We can all feel isolated. 

This is how Habakkuk felt.

‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭1‬:‭1‬-‭4‬

“The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it: God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.”

We are not alone.  We are not the first to got through this.  We don’t have to endure it by ourselves.   As soon as Habakkuk asks this question God answers.  

‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, with orchestra: God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them. And as you bring judgment, as you surely must, remember mercy. * * *”


‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬-‭19‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain! (For congregational use, with a full orchestra.)”

Whether we receive the answer that we want or not, God gives us peace and joy in His plan and purpose for us.  

Let us remember that God is listening and has resolution and peace for those whom love him.  

Be blessed