Promise of Peace

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the  earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Along my spiritual walk, there have been many moments where I felt uncertain, scared, lost, and worried about my future.  I wasn’t in a literal jail but felt imprisoned in my mind, heart, and actions. Our earthly life is full of trials, temptations, and worldly desires that blur answers to questions that can make you lose sleep and concentration and leave you wondering what the future holds.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who seemed lost in many ways with questions about everything.  The only answer I could provide was Him.  Based on past experiences, it wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear.  But, it was the truth.  The only person that can provide anyone peace is our Lord.  The one who formed this earth and us.  Our Lord.  It wasn’t until knowing, understanding, and most importantly, believing in our Lord’s promise of restoration and eternal life with Him that will you have the answers to all the questions.

Our Lord says, Call to me and I will answer and tell of great and hidden things.  

We need to pray. Pray with the knowledge of His specific promises of answered prayers. God wants to be involved in our lives always.  He wants to answer every question we have.  Just ask.

Psalm 91:15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.

Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Sleep

 

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 31:23-40

Sleep. One of the most basic of human functions, and one of the most complex that we have. We need sleep for many vital and necessary functions. Sleep is needed for our body to repair and restore the essential functions of daily life. Sleep is essential for our mental and emotional stability. Sleep is essential for all aspects of our well being and life.  As a pharmacist I can see that there’s so many people who are afflicted with the inability to sleep. In the last 19 years of my practice I’ve seen many individuals who are needing assistance going to sleep or to be at peace. It is interesting to see such a vital part of who we are and can be very elusive.

One of the most interesting aspects of parenthood is the transition of your sleep. I remember when Jillian and I were first expecting our first child, many people would tell us to get your sleep and “take naps when the children take naps“. As young adults we were naïve and didn’t understand the rationale of the sentiments of this new information. But within the first couple of weeks we could really understand that every point of rest and sleep that we could get we cherished.

For a while, in the earlier phase of our parenthood, we had some difficult times with rest and sleep. One of my aunts and prayer warriors told me a trick. She told me to pray intentionally for rest and not sleep. We offer interchange sleep and rest. But there is a difference: sleep is the act and rest is the restoration of the body. She informed me to pray for 8 hours of rest in 1 hour if sleep. So that no matter how much sleep I received, the body was rested and ready for whatever was coming.

In today’s passage, Jeremiah has been given a vision in a dream. Most of the time after God has revealed something amazing in the Bible, the prophet will react in a normal fashion of speaking to the people. But the profound thing about this vision is that he states 

Jeremiah 31: 23-26

23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes:

“‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness,

    O holy hill!’

24 And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. 25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

26 At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

 

Wow. This is something that I had passed over several times and it didn’t occur to me that sleep being pleasant was not the norm. I sometimes take for granted the ability to lay my head down and get rest. For many, they are not able to have this rest. For many they are struggling with so many different things that they are not able to be at peace.

The prayer for this week is to pray for peace and the ability for the ones that we are close to know the peace of God and allow the Spirit of God grant them peace and rest every time they lay down for sleep.

Be blessed

Discipline

Oh how I remember the times I had to discipline my children because of a wrong they did. If you are a parent you honestly understand that it sometimes hurts us more than it does the child who did wrong. My children are now young adults so it is very rare that  I have to do any correcting, but now they face their own consequences of sin. Just as I face my consequences for sins in my own life.

Sin has consequences and causes trouble in our lives. God’s response to sin is like a parent’s response to a misbehaving child. God loves us more than a parent loves a child. God hates sin because when we choose it, it separates us from Him and destroys what is good in our lives.

I will discipline you, but with justice; I cannot let you go unpunished.
Jeremiah 30:11

We read in Jeremiah chapter 30 of the people of Israel. They were broken and hopeless because they insisted on doing things there own way. But thankfully, that is not the end of the story.

God loves us way too much to let us stay separated from Him. He corrects us, just as a parent corrects a child. The discipline causes us to grow because, through it we learn to trust God and not ourselves.

I am so thankful that we have Jesus. He paid the price for our sins so we can be reunited with God. Durning the time of Jeremiah, the Israelites had no idea the Jesus was coming to pay the price.

Thank You God for loving us so much and sending your son to die for us.

Hope and a Future

Today’s reading is on Jeremiah 29.

It is quite impossible for me to imagine the last few years without my wife Paige by my side, supporting, listening, and loving me. I have seen through the blessing of this marriage how God demonstrates His love for us through what he’s planned for us. There is incredible comfort in knowing you are heard; loved; cared for. Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles speaks true to us about this fact even many years later. We, too, are in a land of exile, the weight of our human sinfulness and a broken world deeming us unworthy on our own accord by God’s judgement. But Jeremiah 29 is a reminder all of us need constantly: God hears us, He listens, and He wants us to seek him and share the wealth of life found in Him with those around us. God is thinking about us and cares about us even as we are; as Psalm 40:5 says, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” 

Beyond all, I find immense comfort in Jeremiah 29:12: “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.” Hope for the future when looking at this world seems nigh impossible to come by. However, despite all else, the knowledge of my hope in the Lord and my future in His presence provides a peace and joy that simply can not be found elsewhere. In my own exile, do I put myself in the position of these false prophets God condemns, who want to rush God’s plan and determine His undeterminable thoughts on their own? Or do I want to be someone instead who trusts God’s future for me, draws close to Him in the meantime, and prays for the same for those around me? In response to this ineffable gift and the action it inspires in me, I can only list verse 13 as the prayer of my heart: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” The Lord hears our cries to Him, and when it is our greatest desire to seek Him and follow His word, I know we will find a greater fortune than any riches could hope to compare to.

Equally Qualified

Today’s reading is Isaiah 56.

The prophet Isaiah foretells of Jesus’ coming and describes how God’s salvation would be for all people, not just those of Jewish descent. For this most of us reading this should be extremely thankful, as we may not come from a Jewish heritage. In Isaiah 56:8, God says He will “gather the outcasts of Israel.” In Isaiah 56:7, He says He will make His house of prayer one for “all peoples.” Earlier in Isaiah 56:6 and the beginning of Isaiah 56:7 He uses the pronoun “everyone” when describing those who keep His covenant. And even more exciting in a reference to eternal life in Heaven, He says He will bring these people to His “holy mountain.” These days we hear a lot about diversity and inclusion. It should be no surprise that God was ahead of what the rest of the world is just now latching on to. God’s love, grace, and opportunity for eternal life is for everyone. We are all equal and blameless in the eyes of the Lord when confess our sins and admit the only way we will be right with Him is through Jesus’ saving grace on the cross.

My challenge for us Christians today is to reflect on whether or not our thoughts are representing the reality that Jesus came for every human being we see and interact with. We commonly say to our kids, “Dislike the sin, love the sinner.” We can love someone who sins by a certain action we do not agree with, and my sin, albeit maybe different, is equally as bad in God’s eyes and separates me from God eternally without Jesus. This is a true statement and a good one to adhere to in my opinion. But in addition to that, what are my thoughts when I see someone who dresses in a way I would not? What are my thoughts when I see someone who’s hair is done in a way I would never dream of or has a tattoo or a piercing in a place I wouldn’t? Am I immediately judgmental thinking, why would anyone do that to themselves? Or, do I think like I should and see them as a child of God who is equally qualified for the same amount of God’s forgiveness and grace that I have been given through Jesus if they have also given their heart to him? What are my first thoughts?

Let us Christ followers move forward monitoring our thoughts and focusing on seeing each and every individual the way God does, as a child of His who He came to die for and who is loved and forgiven the same  through Jesus’ grace on the cross.

Rain

“That corn is going to be hip-high by the 4th of July!”

That is the statement my daughter made as we drove by the cornfield on our way to town this morning. And she is right, the corn is already knee-high. The rains a few weeks ago and now the high heat must be great growing weather for the corn.

The farmers rely on the benefits of the rain. Most do not have massive sprinkling systems to cover their crops. And even if they did, water from a well or water treatment plant will never be as perfect as the rain that falls from the heavens above.

There are a few reasons why rainwater is best (yes, I had to do a little research:).

1 – Rainwater is 100% soft water. It is free of salts, minerals, treatment chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
2 – Rainwater is slightly acidic. I don’t pretend to understand all the science stuff, but by God’s design rainwater is the exact ph range for anything that grows in the ground.
3 – Rainwater contains nitrates which are an important macronutrient for plants to thrive.

Isaiah 55 tells us that God’s word is just as irresistible and effective as the rain is for plants.

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the fame and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT)

We need God’s Word, straight from the Bible, no substitutes. It is like using tap water on your plants, it keeps the plants alive and growing, but never flourishing. There are so many places to read about God’s word…social media, magazines, pamphlets, books, even this Bible Journal which we write every week. But there is no true replacement for God’s Word.

When we feel run down, burnt out, or just plain tired, we need to run to God’s Word for rejuvenation. Just like the rain brings a dry, brown, crinkly plant back to life. The Word gives us what we need to continue through our day.

Just like the plants and fields need rain from heaven, we need God’s word daily. If we go too many days without being in the Bible, we may feel dry and unfruitful. But all it takes is cracking that book open and reading a few verses. God’s word is alive and will reach into your heart if you let it.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Hebrews 4:12

Afraid of Being Fearless

Isaiah 54

Jennifer and I were once asked to talk about being fearless.   Her comment was something along the lines of “they should pick someone else to ask.”  I think that rings true for most of us.  We don’t feel fearless.  In fact, as soon as you bring it up, all I can think about is the things that I am afraid of!  On closer reflection, however, it is not true.

Let’s start with geography.  Living in America is pretty safe.  I am not afraid of invasion or enemy attack.  But, does that make me fearless?

What about money?  The median worldwide income is around $2,900 per year.  The median wage in America is about $34,000.  If you live with me in BloNo, it’s higher than that.  I am not afraid that I won’t be able to buy food or gas tomorrow.  But, does that make me fearless?

How about knowledge?  Our educational system and availability of resources provide more educational opportunities than ever before.  I’ve been to college and have a post-graduate degree.  I am not afraid of being uneducated.  But, does that make me fearless?

Did you know that the freedoms and privileges I’ve just described are the fulfillment of prophecy?  Isaiah 54 talks specifically about God’s provisions of peace, riches, and knowledge for his servants. We are living proof of his promise!  But, guess what?  That does not make us fearless.    Fearless comes only when we embrace the promise and the privilege.  What does that look like?   It looks like “living life with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.” John Piper – Don’t Waste Your LIfe

God’s Perfect Purpose

Today’s reading is from Isaiah 52, where the prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s redemption of the Jewish people after years of oppression.

Pain, suffering, oppression, strife, and difficulties in this life are challenging to understand.  I write about this topic often as my studies of the Bible lead me to find meaning and understanding to make sense of difficult times.  I don’t question God, by any means, but challenges do cause me to ask questions and attempt to find meaning.  The Jewish people turned away from God in different generations, defied His commands, and He punished them.  It is difficult to comprehend why God would cause pain and such severe punishment to the Jewish people.

As a parents, we want what is best for our children.  We provide guidance to help them choose the right path in life. We do our best to have patience, allow them to make their own decisions, and live with the consequences.  Sometimes, our children make bad choices.  Sometimes those choices cause minor issues. Unfortunately, their choices can come with major consequences as well.  Depending on their age, we as parents are forced to deliver discipline, which is ultimately painful for them and us, or discipline can come others involved in their life.

There should be no doubt that God tests us in our lives. We can see time and time again that God brings challenges into our lives to validate our faith and increase our trust in Him. There are times when God provides discipline in our lives based on our actions and poor choices, just like we do as parents.  Here are a couple of verses that speaks to how we should view life’s trials.

1 Peter 1:6-7 – 6 In this you greatly rejoice, through now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more previous than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – 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 of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in the infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.

Do you feel strong in times of trouble? My first reaction, unfortunately, is resentment, anger, questioning the reason, and attempting to solve the problem. What I fail to realize is that the testing of my faith is an opportunity to build resilience.  I have the opportunity to focus on God’s Word, as the potential reasons and meaning may not be known now or is this life, but I must trust God’s plan and purpose for my life is perfect.  This is difficult and something I work on each day.

James, Jesus’s half-brother, said in James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

We must rely on the promise that all this world’s trials and troubles are building us up for a perfect purpose and our benefit, which ultimately strengthens our faith and bring us closer to Him.

As it should be.

Prior to boarding a flight on a warm sunny afternoon I spotted the pilot and crew outside the plane taking a deep breath and enjoying the sunshine. I wish I’d have taken their picture as it could have been an advertisement for the airline, greeting their passengers with smiling faces in the bright sunlight.

While on board, I witnessed something I’ve not seen in a long time: Smiling faces of passengers, unhindered by medical masks. One by one like a procession, nearly every person wore a smile. No grumpiness, no complaints, even as the queue was long and luggage compartments began to fill. I decided to relax and close my laptop to watch the remaining passengers board because their smiles brought joy to me.

The boarding experience felt for a moment, and maybe for the first time ever, “as it should be”. It made me hope in the future where there will be no more tears or bloodshed.

In a world full of destruction, sin, disease, and fear, there is still hope, there is still joy that comes from God. And while hoping for better days ahead is good, the great hope we have is that ancient prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

As a man, Jesus came to serve, doing God’s will to the point of death on a cross and then his resurrection. In the same way God delighted in him, he delights in us as we obey him and do his will. What is he calling you toward (and away from) today?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 42

Comfort

Today’s Reading:  Isaiah 40

This week my son and I attended Freshman Orientation at the University of Missouri.  Since this is my oldest child, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After check in, their first item of business was to send the parents to one location and the students to another.  I’d say about half of the auditorium was filled with rookie parents like me – parents who were sending their first child to college.  Opening remarks were given by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs / the Dean of Students, who designed his entire 15 minute message to give parents comfort.  After watching over and protecting these kids for the last 18 years, he wanted to give us confidence that Mizzou had all the right resources to help our kids be successful as we launched them into adulthood.

In much the same way, Isaiah 40 is all about comfort.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God’s message was aimed at giving his people confidence that he would take care of them, that he alone was all they needed.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God… 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:1, 28-31).

Am I comfortable sending my 18 year old on his own to a university with 30,000 other students?  I am, but not necessarily because the university has all the right resources he needs to be successful.  But rather because he and I both put our faith in the one true God who provides all we need.