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/)

Examples of Obedience

Jeremiah 35-37

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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

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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/)

God our Father

Jeremiah 30-31

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Wednesday, March 8

Today’s chapters really reminded me of how God is truly a Father to his people.  Chapter 30 is all about how He is punishing the Israelites for their own good.  But He doesn’t just say that He’s going to punish them, He also says that he will restore them after (30:17).  After this He reminds them of His love in verse 22: “So you will be my people, and I will be your God.”  and in 31:3 where it says “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Today’s passage also reminded me of what an incredible God we have who knows of our great guilt and many sins (30:15) but still offers us forgiveness! (31:34)
In 31:35 Jeremiah reminds us of how amazing and incredible God is:
“This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD Almighty is his name:”
The same God who is in control of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE looks at you, sees your sin, and still loves you.  This same God disciplines you like a child, and continues to care for you like the father He is.  Let that sink in.
Don’t we have an awesome Father?
-Sarah Blanchard
(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/jeremiah-30-and-31/)

Tune In!

Jeremiah 27-29

jer 29

Tuesday, March 7

 

After struggling to come up with a devotional topic that hasn’t been completely overdone (Jeremiah 29:11 anyone?), I finally decided on a specific idea to focus on:

Lies are hidden by “good” and the only way to differentiate is by listening.

Hananiah, the false prophet from chapter 28 did not come screaming lies against God, but he came claiming “good” things.  Even Jeremiah was excited about what Hananiah had to say!  Many lies in our own lives come disguised as “good” too.  Some are obvious and easy to avoid; that’s like our pre-test.  Others come hidden behind things that make us feel good and happy, and that is the true test.    So how did Jeremiah know that this “good” prophecy was fake?  He listened when God spoke to him.

I once heard the metaphor that God is like a radio station.  He is always broadcasting, but we have to tune in to hear Him. (Thanks, Susan Landry!)  I know  that I don’t always really listen when God is talking to me.  I’ve been known to completely ignore Him in fact!  As you would imagine, this generally ends in a whole lotta stress and unnecessary discomfort.  It’s not until I really hear what He has to say that things fall back into place.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  God promises to His people that as long as they are seeking, He will be there!  He is always broadcasting, we just have to tune in to the right station!

-Sarah Blanchard

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.todaysbibleverse.com/)

Choices and Truth

 

Jeremiah 24-26

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Monday, March 6

I had two major thoughts when reading Jeremiah today…

1) We are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

2) Speaking a tough truth is hard to do!

God has rules for us to follow.  In fact, He has an entire book of what rules we need to follow and examples of how to follow them.  And yet here we are… still breaking the rules.  And no one is forcing us to break them, it’s all on us!  Jeremiah 25:7 says “But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

We make choices every single day.  Some are good, some are bad.  But we have the freedom to choose how we will live our lives.  What we do not have is freedom from the consequences of what we choose.  Sinner or saint, Christian or not, at some point we will all have to stand before the throne and answer for our choices.  God makes it clear, He explains exactly what will happen when we don’t follow His rules.  Nothing is going to spare us from the wrath His cup will pour out (25:15) except for our own choices.  I would much rather have God’s eyes watching over us and building us up (24:6), wouldn’t you?

Chapter 26 tells us about how Jeremiah prophesied the hard truth to the people of Judah.  He told them that their city would become desolate and deserted (26:9).  Obviously, they did not take that too kindly and ended up threatening his life!  But Jeremiah did not back down from the truth he knew he was speaking.  He opened himself up, he told them to do whatever they wanted to him but that it wouldn’t change his message (26:14-15)!  Because of this, God protected him and they spared his life.  Now let’s jump down to Uriah’s story.  He preached the same message as Jeremiah did to the same people, yet his life was not spared in the end.  The difference?  Uriah fled when they threatened him.  He was afraid of what people were going to do to him.  He lacked the same faith and trust in God’s protection that Jeremiah had, and he suffered because of it.  So, how can this apply to your life?  Speak truth and don’t back down.  God’s got your back, even when it seems like you’re on your own against an angry city!

-Sarah Blanchard

 

(Photo Credit: quotescodex.com)

In the Doghouse or in the Pasture?

Jeremiah 22-23

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Sunday, March 5

 

Wow.  There was some heavy material just in these two chapters.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that God is not messing around with this stuff… “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors.  I will bring on you everlasting disgrace- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”  (Jeremiah 23:39-40 NIV)  I mean, at one point He even came at your mother!  (Jeremiah 22:26 NIV)

Obviously these commands that He mentions in 22:4 are incredibly important.  This is that point where your brain should be flashing red lights to remind you to pay attention!

In chapter 23 there is a big emphasis on false prophets and the trouble they are getting themselves into.  The thing that struck me here is that the prophets getting lectured aren’t only the ones that prophesied Baal, but also the ones who simply didn’t tell someone that they were doing wrong.  It makes sense to me that someone who is worshiping idols would be in trouble, but someone who was saying “You will have peace.” was a little harder to swallow.  These prophets were in the doghouse because they were accepting and condoning sin… probably with the intention of not hurting anyone’s feelings!  How often do we let “little” things slide like following their own heart versus God’s plan without us saying anything because we don’t want to come across as rude? I know I’ve done it!  We try and twist God’s words like fire (vs. 29) into something that makes us and others feel good and comfortable… but one day that’s going to come back to bite us.

With all of these warnings and pretty intense messages it is easy to skip over one of my favorite parts of these passages, starting in 23:3 with “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.”  I love this because it shows that no matter who or what tries to get in the way, God has a plan and it’s going to happen my friends!  It doesn’t matter if we’ve been scattered across the world, the flock will eventually come home!  He has a part for everyone in His grand plan, but if you don’t step up He will get it done either way.  It’s up to you, but who wouldn’t want to take part in this?!?

-Sarah Blanchard

Sarah Blanchard is a senior in high school from Pine Grove Bible Church in Minnesota.  She recently got back from the Philippines with Moriah Railton where they were able to teach the book of Genesis to kids across the world!  FUEL is something Sarah looks forward to every year, and she is excited to come back again in 2017!

(Photo Credit: found at http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/07012015/)