Taking All the Best

Bible:

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah. II Kings 24:10-17 ESV

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 ESV

Reflection:

Did you know that once there was a major league baseball player who had only one arm? His name was Pete Gray, and he had lost his arm when he was six in a truck accident. Pete Gray worked hard to overcome his loss, and he became a very good player. He could bat with one arm, and he could catch a ball with a glove on his one hand, toss the ball up while he tucked the glove under his other arm, then catch and throw the ball. Pete Gray played for the St. Louis Browns in 1945. He was only able to bat .218, and because he had to take a moment to toss the ball up after he caught it, runners often took an extra base on him. The reason he was able to play in the major leagues was because World War II was going on, and all the best players such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial had had to go off and fight in the war. The military effort took the best players away from baseball, and other players like Pete Gray played instead.

The same kind of thing happened to the city of Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged the capital city, and King Jehoiachin of Judah surrendered to him. Nebuchadnezzar took the king away to Babylon along with all his officials and his mighty soldiers the noble women and all the people who were skilled at crafts and the metal smiths. Nebuchadnezzar also took all the rich treasures out of Solomon’s temple. He set up a puppet king and changed his name to show that this new king was under his control. Nebuchadnezzar took everything that he thought was of any value, and just left the poor and common people in their land with their puppet king, Zedekiah.

What happened to Jerusalem is a little bit like what sin did to all of us. It took away from us anything good that we had to offer God, and all it left was weakness and helplessness. We were under the control of sin and death, but God had mercy on us and sent Jesus to rescue us. Jesus defeated sin and death by dying on the cross for us and coming back to life again. We are weak and helpless on our own, but with Jesus we are strong. He helps us every day and forgives our sins, and will give us life forever with him in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us even though we were weak and helpless, and for giving us new life in you. Amen.

Source:

http://blogs.britannica.com/2012/07/baseball-war/

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The Potter and the Clay

Bible:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.” Jeremiah 18:1-10 ESV

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever seen a potter’s wheel? Maybe you’ve even had the chance to use one. The wheel turns, and you put a lump of clay in the middle, and as it turns around you can hollow it out in the inside and make the shape the way you want it on the outside just by touching and smoothing it as the wheel turns. Potter’s wheels are very old. Before people used potter’s wheels, they would make a pot or a jar one piece at a time. They would take a chunk of clay and roll it into a coil, and turn the coil into a ring. Then they’d make another ring and put it on top of the first one, and keep on doing that, stacking one ring on top of the other. After the jar was as tall as they wanted it, they would smooth it all over. Inventing the potter’s wheel made it possible to make jars much faster and more perfectly.

The prophet Jeremiah visited a potter’s house and watched him make his jars for awhile. If the clay got off-center on the wheel or if the shape wasn’t coming out right, the potter would stop and take the clay off the wheel and then reshape it and put it back on again. He could do whatever he wanted with the clay. God spoke through Jeremiah and said that his people were like clay, and the Lord himself was the potter. If his people didn’t follow his ways and live as the people he wanted them to be, he would take them off the wheel and start over again to shape them. God warned his people through Jeremiah that he would remove them from their land and take them to another land far away if they didn’t repent of their sins.

We are also clay in God’s hands. We too have rebelled against God and gone our own way, but he took us and reshaped us to be his own people. He did this through Jesus, his Son, who came to die on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could return to our Heavenly Father. God has taken our ruined lives and reshaped them in the way that he planned. He loves us and forgives us, and not only has he remade us through Jesus, but he’s also prepared good things for us to do for him and for other people. He sends us his Holy Spirit to guide is in his ways, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for taking our ruined lives and reshaping them for yourself through our Savior Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.ceramicstoday.com/articles/potters_wheel.htm

Forsaken

Bible:

“For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’” Jeremiah 16:5-13

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34 ESV

Reflection:

There are two things that bring people together–funerals and weddings. We often think of a funeral as a sad and serious thing, but in New Orleans some people have jazz funerals. A band plays sad music while the body is carried to the graveyard, and many people follow it in a solemn parade. After the body is buried, the parade continues, but now the music becomes lively, and the people dance to it. This helps them dance out their sadness and celebrate the life of the person who has died. Some weddings in India have an interesting custom. When the bride and groom go into the place where they will get married, they have to take their shoes off. The bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes and hide them, and the groom’s brothers and cousins try to find the shoes. If they can’t find them, they have to pay gold and silver rings and money to get the shoes back!

Funerals and weddings are times when people get together to share sorrow and joy with each other. But as the judgment of the southern kingdom came closer, the Lord told his prophet Jeremiah to stay away from funerals and weddings. The time would soon come when there would be so much disaster and death that there wouldn’t be time to have a funeral for everyone who died, and such terrible times that there wouldn’t be any happy wedding celebrations. When the people saw that Jeremiah stayed away from their important occasions, they would ask him why, and he would tell them words of God’s judgment. The Lord loved his people and wanted to be part of their times of joy and sorrow, but they had turned away from him and worshiped false gods and not followed God’s law. The Lord was turning away from his people because they had turned away from him, and Jeremiah was a picture of God no longer being close to them and part of their lives.

We have also turned away from God and gone our own way, but God sent his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins and to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. When Jesus hung on the cross, his Heavenly Father turned away from him, and he was alone with the sins of the world. There was no one who could help him or share his burden. The sky became dark in the middle of the day, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But because Jesus was alone with our sins, we never have to be alone. God will never turn away from us, but will be with us always, sharing in our times of sorrow and our times of joy.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and forgiving us and for never leaving us. Please be with us in our happy days and our sad days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sources:

https://www.funeralwise.com/customs/neworleans/
http://www.utsavpedia.com/weddings-festivals/joota-chori/

Lonely Jeremiah

Bible:

The word of the Lord came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. Jeremiah 16:1-4a ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Reflection:

There’s an old story about the wizard, Merlin, who was an advisor to King Arthur. Merlin could sometimes see into the future, and one day he was in the marketplace and saw a young man buying a pair of shoes. The young man also bought some leather so that he could repair the shoes when they started to wear out and make them last longer. When Merlin saw this, he started to laugh. He knew that the young man was about to drown in a river, and that he’d never even wear the new shoes he had just bought. Merlin could see into the future, but he had no sympathy or concern for this young man.

This is only a story, but the Lord truly does see into the future, and he saw death and disaster coming because of his people’s sins. God warned his prophet Jeremiah not to get married or to have any children. He had sympathy and concern for Jeremiah, and he knew that many people would soon die of disease and famine and violence. He wanted to spare Jeremiah the anxiety he would feel for his family as he lived through the terrible times to come, so he gave his prophet the difficult assignment to not have a family. Jeremiah would know loneliness because of this, but God in his mercy wanted to spare him from a bigger sorrow.

The Lord doesn’t ask most people to live without families, and in fact a family is one of the greatest blessings he gives on this earth. Some people choose to live without a family so that they can serve God better, but most people serve God by loving and serving their families. Yet God does ask us to leave behind everything that keeps us from following him and doing his will. What he asks his people to leave behind is the sin and rebellion that turns us away from him. When Jesus came to the earth, he followed his Heavenly Father’s will perfectly and didn’t let anyone or anything turn him away from the road that led him to the cross. Jesus died on the cross to bring us back to God, our Heavenly Father, and Jesus stays beside us every day, forgiving our sins and helping us to follow the will of our Heavenly Father.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for following God’s will for our sakes. Help us to follow you, and please forgives us our sins. Amen.

Jeremiah Questions God

Bible:

Righteous are you, O Lord,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
But you, O Lord, know me;
you see me, and test my heart toward you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
How long will the land mourn
and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because they said, “He will not see our latter end.” Jeremiah 12:1-4 ESV

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:1-6 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever heard of a plant called Mile-a-Minute? The Mile-a-Minute is an invasive plant that is native to east Asia and parts of Europe, but was accidentally introduced to the United States. It doesn’t actually grow a mile a minute, but it does grow very fast–up to six inches a day! It can grow in fields, ditches, the sides of roads and streams, and the edges of the forest. When the Mile-a Minute takes hold, it quickly covers the ground and often kills the plants that are growing beneath it. It even kills young trees, and it can kill fields of young Christmas trees or other seedlings, and get in the way of efforts to reforest natural areas. Farmers, foresters, and others put in a lot of hard work trying to get rid of the Mile-a-Minute by cutting it or mowing it or spraying it.

Jeremiah lived in a time when the people of the southern kingdom had become very wicked and violent and hurtful. Jeremiah compared them to plants that took root and flourished, but destroyed everything in their path and left behind death and misery. The prophet cried out his complaint to God, asking why he let the wicked live and thrive. He begged God to get rid of the evil people who were hurting the land and leaving behind destruction and mourning.

It’s sometimes hard to understand why God allows evil people and violent times in his world. We can’t always see God’s purposes, and we might even wonder if he cares about us when we see so much hurt and destruction. We can’t always know the answers to these questions, but we can always go to the Lord with our troubles and know that he hears us and loves us very much. He came to us in Jesus, and Jesus suffered terrible violence and evil and hurt when they put him on a cross to die. But God used Jesus’ cross to give us the forgiveness of all our sins and to bring us back to himself. Because of Jesus, we can always be sure that God is working good for his people, no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and for hearing our prayers. Help us to always trust you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.agriculture.nh.gov/publications-forms/documents/mile-a-minute.pdf

A Change of Heart

Bible:

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,

“‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’

Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.” Jeremiah 26:16-19

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21 ESV

Reflection:

A circus was coming to Blueberry Center, and all the Griswold children hoped they could go and see the elephants and horses and other exciting things. But their father said he wouldn’t allow them to go. He believed that circuses were bad and wrong, and that the people who performed in a circus caused trouble and fighting everywhere they went. But then one of the circus elephants got stuck in the mud of the road near their farm, and the Griswold family invited the tired and hungry circus men into their home for something to eat. While they ate together the family got to know about the circus and the man who owned it, and the father realized that the circus wasn’t bad and wicked, but instead a harmless pleasure. He had a change of heart when he learned more about it.

When Jeremiah gave his defense to the people who had said he deserved to die, he simply said that he was speaking the words of God to them. He wasn’t trying to discourage or hurt his people, but instead he was giving them a warning that might save them and their capital city if they would only listen. After the officials and the people heard what he said, they had a change of heart. They didn’t see him as a troublemaker who was trying to help their enemies. They saw him as someone who was speaking to them in the name of the Lord, and they knew that they should respect that. They no longer said that Jeremiah deserved to die, and his life was saved.

When we hear warnings from God and his Word to turn away from our sins and walk in God’s ways, sometimes we are stubborn and don’t want to listen. Hearing God’s law can even make us angry and rebellious against the Lord sometimes. But God sends us his Holy Spirit to change our hearts. He helps us to turn away from our sins and to turn to Jesus, who died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. Because of Jesus, we can always turn to the Lord, no matter how much we’ve rebelled and turned away from him. God is always ready to forgive our sins because of what Jesus has done for us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for us, and for sending us your Holy Spirit to change our hearts. Amen.

Source:

Lenski, Lois Blueberry Corners Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1940.

I Am in Your Hands

Bible:

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” Jeremiah 26:12-15 ESV

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Hebrews 5:7-9 ESV

Reflection:

Some years ago Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States, and one day when the president was leaving the hotel where he had given a speech, there were a number of people standing outside waiting to see him. One of them had a gun, and when he saw President Reagan he fired his gun at him. A man named Tim McCarthy was a member of the president’s Secret Service detail that day. When he heard the shots being fired, he immediately got between the president and the shooter and blocked the President Reagan with his body. One of the shots landed in Tim McCarthy’s chest, but at that moment he knew that it didn’t matter. His job was to protect the president, and if that meant he would have to die instead, then that’s what he would do. Neither President Reagan nor Tim McCarthy died that day, and Mr. McCarthy might have saved the president’s life.

When Jeremiah was being accused of speaking against his nation and its capital city, the people said that he deserved to die. But Jeremiah knew that he was speaking for God, and he would be faithful to the mission the Lord had given him no matter what it cost him. Jeremiah knew that he himself didn’t really matter; what mattered was being true to God and speaking his message. Jeremiah told the people,  “I am in your hands.” He was ready to die, but he wouldn’t take back the words the Lord had given him to say.

When Jesus came to earth, his Heavenly Father gave him a mission to give his life for the sins of the world. Jesus was true to the mission his Heavenly Father gave him. He gave his life willingly because that’s what God asked him to do. Jesus gave his life because he loves us very much and wanted to save us and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Because of what Jesus did, God forgives our sins every day and calls us his children. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his ways, even when it’s not easy, and is always ready to love us and help us .

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving your life for us. Please stay close to us and help us follow you every day. Amen.

Source:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/he-took-a-bullet-for-reagan/

 

You Shall Die!

Bible:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” Jeremiah 26:7-11 ESV

O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. Psalm 71:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

An American young woman named Mildred Gillars went to live in Germany in the 1930s, and after awhile she got a job with Radio Berlin as an actress and an announcer. She broadcast in English throughout World War II, and many American soldiers as well as people in the United States listened to her broadcasts. Because she worked for the axis powers, American soldiers gave her the nickname, “Axis Sally.” She would find out the names and hometowns of American men who had been wounded in the war and talk about them as if there were little hope they would recover. Before the American troops invaded Normandy, she broadcast a play about a mother dreaming that her son was dying on a burning ship as it sailed toward the invasion. She used terribly realistic groans and cries of dying soldiers on the ship in her play. Axis Sally did these things to discourage the American war effort and to make people feel as if things were hopeless for the American side and their allies. After the war was over, Axis Sally was convicted of treason by the United States, and she spent 12 years in prison.

When Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would fall and the temple would be devastated, the people were furious. They thought he was trying to discourage his people and help their enemies. They were sure he was guilty of treason for speaking against his nation and the temple, and that he deserved death. The officials came together to the gate of the temple to hear the case, and everyone laid out their accusations against Jeremiah. They said that he deserved to die for the things he had said. They wouldn’t hear Jeremiah’s words as words of judgment and warning from God, but instead they saw the Lord’s prophet as a threat and a troublemaker.

Many years later God sent his own Son, Jesus, to speak his words to the people. Jesus spoke words of both judgment and love, but the religious leaders of his day were not pleased with his teachings. The religious leaders said that Jesus deserved to die, and they sent him to his death on the cross. But it was at the cross that God’s judgment for sin met God’s love for all people, and it is through Jesus’ death that we have forgiveness with God and life forever. God’s words of judgment always send us back to Jesus, where we can know of the wonderful love and forgiveness he won for us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for working through Jesus’ death to bring us forgiveness and life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.historynet.com/mildred-elizabeth-sisk-american-born-axis-sally.htm

Not Too Late Yet

Bible:

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord‘s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’” Jeremiah 26:1-6 ESV

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:12-15 ESV

Reflection:

Mr. Barry was visiting his dentist, and his dentist told him that his gums were in bad shape. The area of his gums around his teeth was red and swollen because Mr. Barry hadn’t been regular about brushing and flossing his teeth, and he hadn’t been to the dentist for a couple of years. His dentist told him that it wasn’t too late to do better. He should brush his teeth at least twice a day and floss them thoroughly every day as well. If he would do that, his gums would start to heal. But if he didn’t do that, his gums would get even worse, and in time he might even lose some of his teeth. But there was still time for him to change his habits and save his teeth.

Jehoiakim had become the king of the southern kingdom of Judah, and under his rule there was terrible violence and injustice. God’s judgment was about to fall, but the Lord spoke to Jeremiah to give his people an urgent warning. There was still time to repent and turn back to the Lord for forgiveness, and to follow God’s laws and ways. If the king and the people would do that, God would turn away the disaster that was about to happen to them. But if they continued to rebel against God, then the capital city of Jerusalem would fall under a curse that the whole world would see.

God continues to warn people about the final judgment, when the world will come to an end. Until the last day, there is still time to repent and to turn to God for forgiveness, but the time may be short. Even if Jesus doesn’t return for a long time, the day of death is coming to everyone who doesn’t live until Jesus comes. Punishment and separation from God forever will happen to everyone who lives and dies in rebellion against the Lord.

But we all are sinners, and we all fall short of obeying God’s law and following his will. None of us could ever have any hope of escaping God’s punishment, but our Heavenly Father loves us very much. He sent Jesus, our Savior, to take God’s full judgment for the sins of the whole world, and because of that, we are forgiven. We don’t have to fear God’s judgment, and God sends us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his ways. He gives us strength and forgiveness every day, and we can look forward to being with Jesus forever in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

 Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior. Help us to follow your ways every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I Will Rejoice in the Lord

Bible:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19a ESV

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. II Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV

Reflection:

Dog Monday belonged to a young man named Jem, and Dog Monday was a faithful dog who was devoted to his master. When Jem went off to fight in World War I, Dog Monday waited at the train station every day for Jem to come home. Jem’s brother Walter died in the war, and the day he died, before the word reached his parents or anyone else in town, Dog Monday howled mournfully, as if he knew what had happened. Jem was reported to be missing in action, and his parents knew that there was almost no hope that he would come home safely from war and imprisonment with the Germans, but Dog Monday kept on waiting at the train station every day. Jem’s family continued to hope that Jem would come home again, because they saw Dog Monday’s faithfulness, and trusted that he would continue to wait as long as he knew that Jem was alive.

This is only a story. The prophet Habakkuk had seen terrible violence and injustice and unfaithfulness to God among his people, and he had heard words of terrible judgment from God. Habakkuk knew that there was little hope for peace or good times, but he still had hope in the Lord. He closed his book with a beautiful poem that talked about fig trees and grape vines withering without their fruit, crops in the fields failing, and flocks and herds of animals dying. This would completely ruin the people of God and their land, and show that the Lord had taken away his blessing from them. But Habakkuk still had hope, because he trusted in the faithfulness and love of God rather than in the terrible circumstances he knew he would soon see. He compared his trust in the Lord to God bringing him to the top of high mountains like a sure-footed deer.

We also sometimes face terrible circumstances that seem hopeless. We can’t see anything good coming out of the sad times we face, and God doesn’t seem to hear or answer our prayers. When we face a situation like this, God sends us his Holy Spirit to help us to see beyond our circumstances and to find hope in God’s faithfulness and love. The Lord showed us his faithfulness in the worst of circumstances, when his Son Jesus faced a terrible death on the cross. When Jesus died, it seemed as if there could be no hope, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. He died so that our sins could be forgiven, and he rose again from the grave to defeat death for all his people Because of what Jesus did, we are God’s people now and forever, and we can be sure that he hears our prayers and will always work for good, no matter how bad things seem.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for working for good in the death of Jesus, our Savior. Help us to trust you even when there doesn’t seem to be any hope in our circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Montgomery, L. M., Rilla of Ingleside Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1921.