Feeling Down?

Feeling down? You are not alone.

When the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, was given the task of proclaiming doom on the nation of Judah because of their rebellious lifestyle, he had few friends, was received with hostility, persecuted, and even imprisoned.

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Let’s face it. Sometimes, people are just not nice. Their rudeness, self-centeredness, and harsh words hurt our heart and crush our spirit.

How did Jeremiah respond? The book of Lamentations, most likely written or dictated by Jeremiah is a collection of five laments. In it, this “weeping prophet” grieves over the destruction of Jerusalem, its temple, the loss and exile of its residents, and the manner in which he has been treated.

But in the middle of the book, while Jeremiah is recounting bitterness and hardship, his thoughts change. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

The chapter continues with encouraging words to cling to:

“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (3:25).

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (3:32).

“You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life. You have seen, O LORD, the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause!” (3:57-59).

Our remedy is to call on the Lord in our despair and know that He hears our plea (3:55-56). May we turn to Him, lifting up our hearts and hands (3:40-41).

When feeling down, look up and be blessed.

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This Is My Blood

After last week’s devotion, “This Is My Body,” I had to follow up with the communion remembrance “This Is My Blood.”

The symbolism may sound gory, but the grape juice or wine we take during the Lord’s Supper represents the blood Jesus shed on our behalf.

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Prior to Jesus’s death on the cross, according to Old Testament law, a blood sacrifice was required to pay for sin. The sin offering typically involved the sacrifice of a young bull, ram, goat, lamb, dove, or pigeon. The animals offered were to be the very best, without defect or blemish.

The wonderful thing about Jesus’s death was that He was the better and final sacrifice. The author of Hebrews beautifully writes, “But when the Messiah arrived . . . He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God” (Hebrews 9:11-15 The Message).

Trace His steps as Jesus bled from the garden to the cross, from Gethsemane to Golgotha.

  • As Jesus prayed earnestly in the garden, His sweat was like drops of blood.
  • At the house of the high priest, Jesus was beaten by guards.
  • Pilate had Jesus flogged, receiving at least 39 lashes.
  • The soldiers jabbed a crown of thorns on His head and then repeatedly struck His head with a staff.
  • Finally, Jesus was led to Golgotha to have spikes driven through His hands (or wrists) and feet.

Jesus truly bled out to pay for our sin and provide forgiveness for the world. When we believers stand before the Father, He will see us as perfect because of the sacrifice of His Son.

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This Is My Body

We all have a body. You have one. I have a different one. We probably don’t even remember a time when we didn’t have a body. But we do understand that to currently live on earth, we need a body.

In God’s perfect plan, in order for God to come to earth as a human, He would need a body. Jesus, God’s Son, agreed to do just that. He left His exalted throne in heaven, put off His glory, put on human skin, and made the huge step down onto planet Earth. The Creator became a created being.

With His human body, Jesus experienced the following:  temptation, frustration, grief, a grueling schedule, homelessness, hunger, exhaustion, sleeplessness, criticism, hate speech, an attempted stoning, rejection, mockery, and being misunderstood by family, friends, and religious leaders. He was betrayed, falsely accused, judged as guilty, beaten, flogged (receiving at least 39 lashes), nailed to a cross, and left to die a criminal’s death.

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Paul described Jesus’s transformation this way, “Who, being in very nature God . . . made himself nothing, . . . being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The night before Jesus’s crucifixion, during the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24b).

When believers participate in the Lord’s Supper or Communion, we are to remember the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. The immense cost and act of love from the One and Only God is difficult to comprehend, but impossible to ignore.

(Watch for next week’s devotion: “This Is My Blood”)

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I Hate Church!

“I hate church!” Those words stung as I heard them, but clearly that is how some people feel. Whatever the reason, that is their mantra and they’re sticking to it.

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So, I can’t help but brainstorm how to respond to that viewpoint. I recently heard someone say, “People will always hurt and disappoint us.” That’s a good point to consider when thinking about the church, which is really a group of people. We’ve all had bad experiences with others, but in most instances, we don’t choose to quit altogether.

Have you ever had a bad date, been disappointed with a movie, or eaten a crummy meal at a restaurant? Did you decide to never date, never see another movie, or never eat out again? Of course not.

Another idea may be to point out that church is basically a hospital or triage for sinners. Most are there because we recognize we need help. We cannot live the Christian life alone. Unfortunately, like any place, there will be people at church gatherings who say and do hurtful things.

Sadly, we may need to inform others that everyone who calls themselves a Christian may not truly be one. True Christians should be bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23).

The only other response I can think of is for us to love those “church haters” with everything we’ve got and pray for God to change their hearts. Jesus instructed us to be salt and light. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Finally, I hope God will provide just the right opportunity for us to be a witness and eventually invite them to church.

Let’s be winsome to win some!

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Are You Sermon-Proof?

We see new recipes and try them out. Hear the latest fad diet, and give it a whirl. Follow the latest advice regarding finances. Jump into a new-fangled exercise craze. And, are easily persuaded by peers, co-workers, and social media.

We allow many things to influence our time, routines, attitudes, and thought life. So, what about sermons? When you attend a Bible-based church or listen to godly online preachers, does their message make any difference in our life?

When we open our Bibles and read sermons from Jesus, prophets, or apostles, does it change the way we think or live? Or, are we sermon-proof?

(At this point, I envision someone walking into a church service not even aware that they are wearing a blindfold and earplugs while cloaked in impenetrable bubble wrap.)

The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

If God’s Word is touching our hearts, it should be reflected in our actions. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Simply put, if we are living in disobedience, STOP! Stop whatever we are doing that does not align with God’s Word and do all we can to live right. Of course, we are not going to do it all right, but we can start by applying the truths we’ve heard, one day at a time.

May our lives display proof or evidence that we are hearing and doing what He says.

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Listener Beware!

Let’s go back in history . . . way back. Jeremiah, one of God’s prophets in the Old Testament, had the assignment of warning God’s people in Judah that if they didn’t change their behavior and attitude, they would be besieged by an enemy army and taken into exile in Babylon.

As God describes how He will punish His people for their rebellion, idol worship, and detestable sins, Jeremiah provides God an excuse for Judah. (Apparently, Jeremiah felt the people were at a disadvantage because of what other prophets were predicting.)

Let’s listen in: “But I said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them, “You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place”’” (Jeremiah 14:13).

Hear God’s response: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14).

Simply put, God did not accept the excuse that Judah had been deceived.

Fast forward to today. What messages are we hearing from the news, social media, and perhaps even some churches? Are we responsible for discerning what is true and false? Do we have a pass on consequences if we blindly follow those who are purposely trying to mislead us?

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Listener, beware. Are we filling our minds with truth from God’s Word? Or, lazily allowing the world’s lies to linger and bloom into full blown delusions in our minds?

I don’t think we will get away with rebellion and unfaithfulness just because someone suggested it’s the right thing to do or promised there would be no consequences.

It’s time to be wise listeners and live what aligns with God’s Word. Our future is at stake.

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What IS That Sound?

As I stepped outside early for my walk/jog, I was serenaded by mourning doves. Ah, so peaceful!

But, before I rounded the first corner, I heard the neighborhood woodpeckers. Mind you, this sound in no way resembles the woodpeckers I’ve enjoyed in the woods. Oh no, these release their speed-drilling talent on the metal vents on roofs and on the stucco that covers the outside walls of homes.

It’s just not right! That sound should not be correlated with woodpeckers.

As I continued on my trek, I thought of how sometimes the things that come out of our mouths don’t correlate with who we are as God’s people. Are we complaining or arguing? Speaking negatively about another believer? Speaking untruthfully or being unnecessarily critical?

Here are some verses that remind us of what we should or should not sound like:

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11a).

“Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). (Don’t sound like annoying woodpeckers.)

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).

The book of Proverbs is rich with wisdom about words. Try reading a chapter a day for a month. Then repeat.

Sorry if woodpeckers got a bad rap-a-tap-tap today. Just trying to drill the lesson home.

May we be “innocent as doves” (Mtt. 10:16).

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‘Noble’ Times Three

Need an easy-to-learn memory verse? One that rolls right off the tongue? Try Isaiah 32:8. For me, the rhyme, rhythm, and repetition slip easily into a tune or chant. Try it a few times: “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.”

But, what does it mean?

Let’s start with a definition. Noble, as an adjective, means having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals. It refers to excellent or superior quality, mind, or character.

Isaiah uses the term to describe three things in one short verse: a man (or person), plans, and deeds.

For application, I want this verse to describe me. I want to be that noble person. I want to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so that I strive to live by His principles and reflect Jesus in my life.

Next, I desire for God to guide my plans, praying for doors of opportunity to open and wrong ones to close, and for my priorities to be right. I also pray for the Lord’s help in how to use my time, talents, and skills for the work He has for me to do.

Finally, I want my deeds to be noble, of excellent or superior quality. I shouldn’t be content doing a half-way or incomplete job. I should offer God my best.

Now, in no way, am I anywhere close to achieving the ideal of being or acting noble but having this verse in my heart and mind helps remind me what I’m striving for.

So, one more time: “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.”

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Where Is God Anyway?

When kids ask where God is, it can be difficult to explain. As humans, we are limited to being in one place at a time. So, when I tell children that God is in heaven and also say that He lives inside us and is with us all the time, it’s easy to see why they are puzzled.

So, I was thrilled when I found this verse in my Bible reading: “For the High and Exalted One, who lives forever, whose name is holy, says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed” (Isaiah 57:15; italics added).

Did you notice the word “and”? For me, it jumped right off the page. There it was. A verse that basically clarifies that the Holy, Eternal God is in heaven, high and above all, AND, because He transcends our idea of time, He is simultaneously with those who call Him Lord. 

I think the next time a child asks me, “Where is God?”, my best response may be, “Everywhere!” Afterall, Scripture teaches He is all-seeing, all-knowing, and omnipresent, defined as “present everywhere at the same time”.

Psalm 139:7-10 declares, “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me.”

So, not only is God right beside you or living in you . . . but He is also seated in the highest heaven reigning over all.

Praising God for His Presence!

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Be a Shelter

Years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. We strived to meet the needs of a young child, providing a safe home and loving environment. We put together a kid-friendly bedroom and gathered clothes, toys, and school supplies. We helped her with homework and I spent hours on weekends learning how to do her hair that was much different than mine.

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Isaiah 32:2 says, “Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” Some commentators interpret this verse as describing how the kings of Israel were to care for God’s people.

But I think we can apply it for today. We can view it as encouraging believers to reach out and care for those in need, being a reflection of Jesus.

Look around. There are a lot of storms people are going through right now. Housing problems, financial troubles, health issues, loneliness, and feeling overwhelmed are a few of the obvious ones.

As we look to Jesus as our protector and refuge in storms, may we be that to others. Perhaps we can provide shelter or be a wind break. Provide a meal or cool drink.

Jesus’ half-brother, James, reminded believers that, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Though we only had that one foster child for only a few months, it made a difference for that one. We can all make a difference for someone.

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