Giving Grace

Jeremiah 50-52

Jer 52

Wednesday, March 15

In Jeremiah 50-51, the writings describe the future defeat and destruction of Babylon. In the next chapter, the army of Babylon surrounded Jerusalem for 2 years and allowed no one in or out. Finally, the Babylonian army broke through Jerusalem’s walls and destroyed the city, taking the people captive.

Let’s look at the last few verses again, starting with 52:31 (this is from The Message version):
“When Jehoiachin king of Judah had been in exile for thirty-seven years, Evil-Merodach became king in Babylon and let Jehoiachin out of prison. This release took place on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month. The king treated him most courteously and gave him preferential treatment beyond anything experienced by the political prisoners held in Babylon. Jehoiachin took off his prison garb and from then on ate his meals in company with the king. The king provided everything he needed to live comfortably for the rest of his life.”
This pagan king – whose name literally began with “Evil” – chose to show extreme grace and mercy to his enemy. If someone who is not for God can show that kind of love, how much more do we, as children of God, need to extend God’s grace and mercy to those around us, both Christians and unbelievers!

As followers of Jesus, you and I are called to shine his light to the world. That includes extending his grace to others just as we have received his grace. We need to try to be peaceful with others (Romans 12:18), forgive others, and show Christ’s love to everyone, both believers and unbelievers. We all – myself included – are guilty of not always being gracious and merciful, and I pray for God to help me with this.
Practically, giving grace can mean…
* being extra patient with the new waitress who is having a difficult day. (Instead of docking her tip for poor service, how about tipping her over 25% with a note to say that you are thankful and praying for her?)
* not lashing out against your family members when they make a silly mistake – after all, haven’t we all made silly mistakes?
* forgiving someone when they have wronged you. This is very difficult, but is possible with the help of God!
* thinking and praying for wisdom before you say (or type) a response to someone that might be hurtful to them or to God. (Give them grace for their difference of opinion just as you would want their grace for your opposite opinion, and then carefully and prayerfully craft a God-honoring response).
There are a myriad of times when we do not extend grace and love to others… but then we can ask for, accept, and share God’s grace and forgiveness, requesting His help to be a true light in this dark world. 

-Rachel Cain

 

(Photo credit: http://biblepic.com/42/jeremiah_52-31.htm#.WMiy_RLyvVo)

He’s Not Finished With You Yet

Jeremiah 46-49

Jer 46

Tuesday, March 14

These four chapters chronicle how Nebuchadnezzar and his armies defeated many different nations. It’s easy to get lost in all the war talk, but there is a little gem near the beginning of this passage on which I want to focus today. Check out chapter 46, verses 27-28 (from The Message):
“But you, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.

    Israel, there’s no need to worry.
Look up! I’ll save you from that far country,
    I’ll get your children out of the land of exile.
Things are going to be normal again for Jacob,
    safe and secure, smooth sailing.
Yes, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.
    Depend on it, I’m on your side.
I’ll finish off all the godless nations
    among which I’ve scattered you,
But I won’t finish you off.
    I have more work left to do on you.
I’ll punish you, but fairly.
    No, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Israel was God’s chosen people, and their future looked uncertain. However, God would not let their whole race perish! He still had great plans for Israel, and many prophecies to fulfill through them (SPOILER ALERT: including the birth of His Son, Jesus!). God is giving a reminder to his beloved children Israel that he’s got their back. Yes, he reminds them that they will be punished (fairly), but he clarifies to them, “I’m not finished with you yet.”

Even though these words were spoken to Israel and not specifically to us (though as believers in Christ we have been grafted into God’s family), I still like to take that promise to heart and remember that God is not finished with us yet. He wants to work in and through us to accomplish his will! I don’t know about you, but I want to leave a legacy for God – I don’t want the work he’s done in and through me to ever be finished! I want to teach others about God and his grace so they can grow to know and serve Him too, and therefore continue the work of spreading the gospel. I don’t have to be famous (in fact, as an introvert, I would prefer NOT to be famous!), but I want to leave a legacy from this life that will continue to grow God’s Kingdom long after I am gone… don’t you?
Philippians 1:6 – “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 
Pray and consider how you will leave a legacy. We are all called to be missionaries everywhere we go, every day in every way – at home, school, work, community, and beyond. Ask God to show you in what ways He is “not finished with you yet” so you can serve him every day in every way with your whole heart!
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/p.php?author=jeremiah+46:27)

Even When It Looks Like Chaos

Jeremiah 44-45

Jer 44

Monday, March 13

Jeremiah went to Egypt and he continued sharing God’s messages to the people, who were worshipping the Egyptian gods. Jeremiah warned them that God was upset with them and they would be punished for their sins, but they didn’t believe him. However, because of their sin, the very things they went to Egypt to escape – war and peril – would follow them to Egypt.
Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch was having trouble dealing with all this turmoil, but God had a message for him too (in chapter 45):
“But God says, ‘Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck, and what I’ve planted I’m about to rip up. And I’m doing it everywhere—all over the whole earth! So forget about making any big plans for yourself. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.” (The Message) 
Baruch had a lot of other things he would rather be doing with his time than wading through the chaos that was going on among the people. It is not known exactly to what he was aspiring – power, fame, fortune – but he was weighed down by all that was going on that prevented his desires from coming to fruition. God provided him some encouragement and reminded Baruch that He has a plan and is in control, even when it looks like chaos.
 There have been many times in my life when I wish I could have some of the “Back to the Future” movie magic in real life – not to relive the 1980s fashion that I remember from my childhood, but to experience the time travel feature! Sometimes, we just don’t want to deal with or sort through the mess in which we find ourselves. I’m sure Baruch would have liked to travel through time and just have the whole terrible experience be over.
Life sometimes throws us hard balls, and it can be difficult to find joy in the journey. But it is important to remember that even in the hard times, God is still in control. Pray with me to have an open heart to see what God might be teaching us through difficult times, and to “be full of joy in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4) even in the midst of our undesirable circumstances, seeking and praising Him through every moment of life.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/why-provoke-me-to-anger-with-what-your-hands-have-made-burning-incense-to-other-gods-in-egypt-where-you-have-come-to-live-you-will-destroy-yourselves-jeremiah-448-295864/)

Selective Listening – or Worse?

Jeremiah 42-43

Jeremiah 42-3 Pray That The Lord May Shoe Us The Way gold

Sunday, March 12

 

I’ve witnessed an oft-recognized-but-rarely-diagnosed illness called “selective listening.” I’ve charted an epidemic of the disease mostly among strong-willed toddlers, but it expands among all ages, genders, and cultures (even to Dads and, dare I admit it, Moms too). This “selective listening” regularly manifests as an inability to hear or acknowledge commands or requests given loudly a few inches away, followed by an ability the next minute to overhear a whispered conversation about dessert behind closed doors three rooms away.

 

Have you ever demonstrated selective listening? Or, even worse, have you listened and heard clearly, but deliberately chose to go the other direction? Often, selective listening becomes so selective that it leads to disobedience – we only let ourselves hear or believe that which aligns with our desires, and then we follow our desires even if they lead us away from God’s truth.

 

In this passage, the people went to Jeremiah for some advice. What should they do – should they stay in Judah or go to Egypt? Jeremiah consulted with God, who revealed to him that the people should stay in Judah. Jeremiah told the people about his revelation from God, but did they listen to this very advice (for which they had asked, mind you)? NO! They decided to head to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them. (We’ll explore the repercussions of this action over the next few days!)

 

I’m reminded of many Bible characters who had “selective listening” – or shall I say, outright disobedience – of which one of the most prominent examples was Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship in the exact opposite direction! He soon learned that he could not hide from God, though! (You can get that whole story in the Old Testament book of Jonah).

 

Pray with me about any areas of our lives that we need to be more open to listening to God and obeying him, even if it is contrary to what we want to do. Ask God to change our hearts to make us desire to listen to Him and obey His will. May we be people who DO the word of God, not just HEAR it (James 1:22).

-Rachel Cain

 

Rachel Cain is a follower of Jesus, wife to Dan, and stay-at-home homeschooling mommy to three precious Blessings. She enjoys reading (children’s books by day and non-fiction by night), eating ice cream, hiking, and writing devotionals about what God has been teaching her. 

 

(Photo Credit: http://images.knowing-jesus.com/i/jeremiah-42-3-pray-that-the-lord-may-shoe-us-the-way-gold)

Rose Among the Thorns

Jeremiah 38-41

jer-39-18-ww-unsplash-9x

Saturday, March 11

 

In between the battle, the fall of a city, and betrayal I think I managed to find something slightly more positive within these stories to make into a life applicable lesson!  A little rose among the thorns if you will…

If you read carefully, these chapters in Jeremiah actually speak a lot on friendship.

In chapter 38, we see a man named Ebed-Melek who managed to convince a king to let him save Jeremiah.  This didn’t seem like a big deal to me until I did a little more research on who Ebed-Melek was.  From the text we know that he was a Cushite and an official (or eunuch, according to the notes in my Bible) in the royal palace.  I really didn’t understand what the significance of this meant at first.  I won’t take up most of the devotional explaining* but from the information I read, Ebed-Melek was not high up on the chain of command AT ALL.  Why does this matter?  Because he went to see the king…someone with as little “importance” as himself went up to the highest ruler in his city to ask to save Jeremiah.  And he did!  “Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” And Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern…” (Jeremiah 38:12-13)

Because of this, God promised that Ebed-Melek would be saved from the destruction of the city.  “But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear.  I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 39:17-18)

In chapters 40 and 41 we see how Johanan tried desperately to be a good friend to Gedaliah.  He warned Gedaliah about Ishmael’s plan to kill him, and even offered to “take care” of the problem.  “But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, ‘Don’t do such a thing!  What you are saying about Ishmael is not true.'” (Jeremiah 40:16)  Have you ever disregarded a friend’s advice because it wasn’t what you wanted to hear?  Unfortunately for Gedaliah, this ended up costing him his life.  He trusted Ishmael, he invited him to eat with him on the same day that Ishmael struck him down.  Even after Gedaliah was assassinated, Johanan was still loyal to him and went out to do what he could to save the rest of the people.

Just in these four chapters we see two amazing stories of friends.  The people we spend our daily lives with, our friends, make a huge impact in our lives.  When you look around at your friends, do you see people like Ebed-Melek and Johanan who are willing to take risks and will stay by your side no matter what?  Or do you see people like Ishmael who you want to trust but may not be the best to have around?  If you see some Ishmael’s… do you need to make a change before it’s too late for you?

“Friends are the roses of life, pick them carefully to avoid the thorns!” -Unknown

*You should do your own research, it makes the whole story a lot more impressive if you ask me!

-Sarah Blanchard

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/jeremiah-39-and-52/)

Examples of Obedience

Jeremiah 35-37

jer-35-13-ww-unsplash-9x

Friday, March 10

The reoccurring theme I noticed from all of today’s chapters was obedience.

In chapter 35 we see the example of obedience from the Rekabites.  They had some unusual commands to follow, but they followed them anyways!  They weren’t allowed to drink wine, build houses, sow a seed or plant vineyards. (35:6-7)  At first I didn’t really recognize the significance of this, I mean, what’s the big deal if you don’t have to work fields right?  But then I started wondering, how are they living in those times without working and still surviving?  These commands they were told to obey were not easy to follow in that age!  Yet they still obeyed.  Because of this, God rewarded their family tree.  (35:19)

In Jeremiah 36 we see the bad example of obedience.  As I was reading how the king completely disrespected God’s message, it reminded me of being in elementary school when one person did something wrong and the entire class just went: “Oooooooooohhhhh…..” with our mouths hanging open.  I was just waiting with wide eyes and an open mouth as I read about the scroll being burned up.  As to be expected, God was not a fan of this disobedience.  36:31 says, “I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.”  Everyone is an example, some are just an example of what NOT to do!

Jeremiah left us with a great example of obedience in chapter 37.  He ended up being thrown in prison for obeying God’s commands!  But this did not stop him from speaking the truth God told him to speak.  Even though it would’ve been a lot easier to just tell the king what he wanted to hear, Jeremiah chose to obey God.  He knew that his reward would come later.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” -Jeremiah 17:10 (I know it’s not this week’s passage but it’s still in this book!)

Our obedience to God will be rewarded, the Bible tells us that all the time!  It also tells us that disobedience will lead to disaster.  Are you willing to follow the example the Rekabites and Jeremiah gave, obeying God’s commands even when they aren’t easy and can make you suffer for a little while, so that you can be rewarded later?  Or do you follow the bad example from the king of disobedience because it’s easier to do and hear?  Look to our examples from Jeremiah!

-Sarah Blanchard

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/jeremiah-35-and-22/)

To All You Control Freaks…

Jeremiah 32 – 34

Jeremiah_32-27

Thursday, March 9

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  -Jeremiah 32:27

How often do you question God’s ability?  Do you ever look at something and think to yourself, “This is hopeless…” or “I can’t do this by myself…”  I frequently fall into this mindset, and I know I’m not the only one.  I’m what some may call a control freak… I frequently try and fix the problem myself rather than simply calling on God!  33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

God promises that when we call to Him, He will answer.  Yet here I am still trying to do things on my own!  Thankfully, I have a good God whose love endures forever (33:11) and who follows through on His promises!

Chapter 34 is all about God following through on what He has said.  Good or bad, God commits to His word and will not change it.  What He says is truth.  We can know that whatever is written in the Bible is true because He inspired it!

Today I challenge you to ask yourself, ‘Am I a control freak?’

Give up the control you are clinging to and remember that you can call on our God.  Nothing is too difficult for Him and when you call to Him, He will answer!

-Sarah Blanchard

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Jeremiah-32-27_Inspirational_Image/)