Even in the Midst of the Heartbreak

Lamentations 4-5

lamentations5_21

Saturday, March 18

Jeremiah is recounting a lot of the rough times that Judah had faced. At the end of this desperate passage (in chapter 5), Jeremiah asks God to restore the people of Judah. I love, though, that even in the midst of the heartbreak, he doesn’t forget to praise and adore God:
 
19 But Lord, you remain the same forever!
    Your throne continues from generation to generation.

Then Jeremiah is raw and honest with God again about his frustration:
20 Why do you continue to forget us?

    Why have you abandoned us for so long?
But he is still hopeful and believing in God and his promises:

21 Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again!    Give us back the joys we once had!
Jeremiah included praise and petition in an honest prayer to God. I know that sometimes I feel silly being “honest” with God, letting Him know what I am really thinking… but he is GOD, and He already knows all my thoughts and feelings! We can with confidence humbly pray to our Lord and offer our requests and concerns, making sure to give thanks and praise to Him. There are a lot of good books to read on prayer. (My most recent favorite is “Fervent” by Priscilla Shirer.) I encourage you to read up… and of course, pray up! That is my personal challenge for myself and for you! Will you join me?! Here are a few verses on which to meditate as you focus on seeking God today:
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/09212015/)
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Some Hope for Your Hopelessness

Lamentations 2-3

lamentations 3

Friday, March 17

 

Lamentations 2 is recounting God’s anger, and in chapter 3 Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God is not listening to him. However, in spite of complaining, he does acknowledge that God gave the people grace in not dishing out as harsh a punishment as they deserved.

 

Despite the melancholy nature of the book, this portion of Jeremiah contains one of my favorite passages in all of scripture (ch. 3, v. 21-24):

 

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

This verse is displayed in our living room, scripted on a photo that we captured of a radiant sunset over Alaska’s Kenai Fjord during our honeymoon. I appreciate the daily visual reminder that God is always faithful, and that each day is a new start complete with His fresh mercies!

 

With all that Jeremiah was facing, I am encouraged that he still dared to hope. Have you ever dared to hope? Right now I am facing a difficult situation with an ailing loved one. For many months, I’ve experienced an exhausting cycle – hopelessness followed by a rush of hope (that has instead usually turned out to be a false alarm), followed by hopelessness, and then another chance to hope. And just when I tell myself that I am not going to hope again, I am presented with another opportunity to hope that I just cannot deny because life without hope, is, well, hopeless. Sometimes hope is all that keeps us going. Hope helps us cope with the difficulties in life. So will you “dare to hope”?

 

Ultimately, our hope as believers is in Jesus Christ and our future in the Kingdom with God. The meaning of my daughter’s name inspires my soul every time I think of it. Her first name is Maranatha, which means, “Come, Lord Jesus” (but most people know her as Mara), and her middle name is “Hope”, which we chose because the coming of Jesus our Lord is our hope as believers. Jesus knows that we will have trouble in this world, but he reminds us to “take heart! I have overcome the world!” Now THAT is something worth our hope!

 

Pray about what it is that God may be calling you to “hope” for. (Think about the injustices that came to your mind during yesterday’s devotion and how you hope the situation could be different). What actions do you need to take to allow yourself to hope? How can hope drive you to make a difference?

 

-Rachel Cain

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/lamentations/3/22-23)

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

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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/)