The sunrise this morning seems like a Valentine's Day gift for us all. You are greatly loved today!
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zephaniah 3:17
Imagine with me a Hollywood perfect Valentine's Day. Breakfast in Bed. Roses. Dinner out. Dancing. And before bed a serenade, massage and chocolate. Swoon. Love. Amazing Love. However, in the next scene the lead in the story repeats wll the scenes with another partner. The image is wrecked. Why? Because love is worthless without faithfulness.
In her book, 31 verses to Write on Your Heart, Liz Curtis Higgs discusses this marriage of love and faithfulness in the verse Proverbs 3:3. "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart". Ms. Higgs writes that in other translations these pairings are loyalty and kindess, grace and truth, favor and firmness.
You have to have both. Love without faithfulness has no power. Faithfulness without love is dead. Grace outside of truth has no power. Truth without grace is crushing.
The entire book of Jeremiah is a nod to this idea. The justice of God and the mercy of God are ever entertwined.
Jeremiah was a priest whom God appointed as prophet to the people of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. The prophet speaks God's words of judgment to the nation for their worship of other gods, violence, treatment of the oppressed and their breaking of the covenant. Jeremiah also speaks words of judgment to the nations surrounding Israel who wish her harm. Like always, God also sends words of hope.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prohet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 May I remind you that God knew you before you were born? That he loved you?
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land; The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? Jeremiah 5:30-31 Oh how this verse scares me. May we be committed to both love and truth. Its such a temptation to write only the cheerful and happy truths and not be faithful to God's full message. Yikes. What will we do in the end? A prophet should cause people to pause. To ponder. To repent.
"Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush." Jeremiah 6:15a Ahem. Sound familiar? I laugh when people say the Bible has no bearing on today. Perhaps our society could use a little blushing now and then. A reminder to keep some things sacred?
The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have? Jeremiah 8:9 Good question. Its worth considering.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. The heart is decitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 18:7-9 There it is again the counter culture message. Don't trust your heart. Don't follow your hear. Don't listen to your heart! My guess is your heart is a mess. Mine sure is. Wandering and faithless and questioning and ungrateful. But you can lead your heart to the source. To the trustworthy One.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29: 11-13 Hope paired with trust. Hold to this verse in courtrooms and hospital rooms. It isn't a promise there will be no lawsuits or illness or heartache. Jeremiah knew hardship. He faced beatings and loneliness and prison. But he also knew the everlasting faithfulness of God.
Ah, Soverign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 Nothing is too difficult for God. Not your past. Not your promblems. Not your doubts. Not your future. The key is turning to him for help not away from him in rebellion. Rebellion causes great heartache. The book of Jeremiah ends with the people hauled off to Babylon in captivity and their great city in ruins. Yet the promises remained. God would restore. Keep the book in context. The story isn't over.
Our storyline isn't over either. The incredible thing about God is he used his outstretched arm on a cross to make a way to heal the consequences of our unfaithfulness. That's a better love story than any Hollywood Valentine.
Jeremiah is a heavy book to take in it all in one sitting. If you want to try though, the guys at The Bible Project again serve up a good overview. Take the time to watch.
NewSpring church has a good list of devotionals to work through the book of Jeremiah. Read them HERE or check out their handy infographic below.
I am a lion, not a mouse.
I am a lion, not a mouse.
I am a lion, not a mouse.
Some days I have to repeat that phrase to myself, over and over again. Some days I’m more lion, than mouse. Most days I’m more mouse, than lion.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it mean that I always know the answer? Does it mean that I always know the right thing to do? Does it mean that I never suffer any pain, heartbreak, regret?
Imagine a world where all your dreams come true. Imagine a world where your life is a perfect, shiny little pop tart, with a handsome man by your side (who has never said ANYTHING to insult you and ALWAYS compliments you on your perfectly well-done hair and makeup.) With young, beautiful, perfect kids who never lie, spill the milk, draw on the walls, or poop in their diapers. With a dog that is completely house-trained and never pulls you to the other side of Jupiter while on leash. With a cat that never marks the walls or scratches up the furniture or meows with fish breath in your face in the middle of the night. Your house is always clean, the dishwasher is somehow never full, the toilet never gets clogged, laundry is ACTUALLY done, and you get to enjoy a nice, leisurely evening lounging on your couch and sipping your wine while gracefully delighting yourself in dark chocolate.
You’re probably smirking by now. Maybe giggling a little bit. I’m laughing out loud.
Life could never be that way. It’s not supposed to! Where’s the fun in that? The memories are made in the messes, the disasters, the mistakes. The memories are made in the working together. Relationships are deepened by the reconciliation of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Why, then, do we get it in our heads that as a Christian, we must never mess up? Why must we have a “perfect” Christian walk? Why do we beat ourselves up when we do fail? Why does the world end when we make a mistake?
Think about it. King David lusted after another man’s wife. Jesus is of King David’s descent. I don’t recall Jesus ever freaking out about the fact that His ancestor lusted after another man’s wife an then had said man murdered “accidentally.” I don’t remember Him ever beating Himself up over His “sketchy” heritage. Maybe because He knew He didn’t have to. Maybe because He knew that God loved Him despite the mistakes of the past…cause, guess what? That mistake, is in the PAST. As in, it’s done. Over with. So why does it matter now? It doesn’t define you. It didn’t even define the person who made the mistake.
Every day, I hold myself to a really high standard. I get so angry with myself when I mess up. I tell myself that I’m a failure, that there’s no way God could use my messy life and broken heart to reach others.
I think a huge aspect of reaching others that we forget about is the actual reaching…to reach, we must relate. How can we relate to another broken heart if we do not know how a broken heart feels? How can we relate to someone suffering their mistakes if we have made none ourselves? How can we advise someone on how to clean up their life if we have not cleaned up our own?
How can we tell someone that Jesus is the only Way, when we have been relying on our own way our entire lives because we’re “perfect”?
I don’t want to be perfect. Perfection sets me apart from those I want to reach. I can’t reach if I’m too far away. Perfection keeps me from relying on God. I want to be right there, with the sinners, the broken, the messy. I want to be the broken jar that the Holy Water pours out of and washes the feet of others.
Jesus suffered loss, betrayal, heartache, and pain. Jesus suffered the imperfection of this world. He suffered our sins. He suffered to reach others. He suffered to relate to us. To me. To you. His suffering pulls us in. His suffering makes us say, “Woah…He went through what I’m going through. How did He make it? How did He survive? I want to learn from Him. He UNDERSTANDS.”
I am a lion, not a mouse.
A mouse scurries about, scared of being stepped on and falling into traps for food.
A lion walks with confidence. A lion need not try to be powerful. A lion need not lament over his mistakes. A lion knows his place. He knows his power. He accepts that he was created to lead his pride. He accepts that he needs only to answer to His Creator.
I am a lion, not a mouse.
My family spent last week in Disneyland. We loved it. All Mickey Mouse, crazy rides, princess joy, cotton candy, 50 miles walked in 5 days of it. I'm exhausted but grinning. We are all now professional character greeters. We stood in lines to meet Mickey, Jasmine, Buzz Lightyear and hosts of other iconic friends. My ten-year-old hauled us into the line to meet the Star Wars characters. My four-year-old announced that Chewbacca was a big sad teddy bear. As we waited to meet Darth Vader the character hostess teasingly tried to talk the little one into joining the Dark Side. She told her they have unicorn cookies. Big sister stood in the gap and convinced her the cookies weren't worth it.
The prophet Isaiah has a similar message. Don't be drawn away from the truth. The consequences are harsh. And the savior is worth the loyalty of his people. The message still fits today. Don't be drawn into hate or slander or pride or self-indulgence. Run to the light. He'll save the day.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40: 29-31 If you are exhausted and weary, rest in the power of hope in the Lord.
This is what God the Lord says - the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it. "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:5-6 Don't ever forget the plan was always to spread the light to everyone. Your neighbors, your family, the lost and scared and hungry and hopeless. The hope is for everyone.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 More hints of the promised coming savior. The amazing thing about Isaiah is it shows the beautiful balance of justice and grace. Without justice there is no peace. But its impossible to meet the holy demands. And so God made the perfect match in love and grace. He met the demand we could not.
Isaiah 57:14 And it will be said: "Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. How about we be a people about the business of building, preparing and removing obstacles? If you allow your soul to be saturated with the tearing down of other people, with ridicule and bitterness and hate, with blocking people's access to Jesus with hypocricy or pettiness or strife it will in fact drown your soul. Build up.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10
Take the time to read this gorgous book. Choose a verse. Write it on your mirror. Make some changes in your habits to match. Rely on the strength of the Lord. Trust Isaiah's message. The cookies are better on this side.
Here you go! Part two of The Bible Project's Read Scripture video on Isaiah.
Happiness is elusive. Dependent on circumstances. Fleeting. I feel happy on Christmas morning, at the gates of Disneyland and sitting down to a plate of homemade lasagna.
Problem is that when those circumstances change – when I’m walking into a hospital, in the midst of an argument, sitting in line at the dump or the DMV my emotions switch. Happiness is gone and in its place are feelings of fear, annoyance, sadness. Happiness is fun but grossly fickle.
There is a different way. In her book, Choose Joy, Kay Warren warmly shares her life’s journey through hard places to how she learned the secrets of Joy. Joy is the peace of God and assurance of His love. Joy can happen at birthday parties and funerals. While paying bills or baking cookies. On your best days and your worst. I love Kay’s book because it shares practical steps to learn how to live your days in Joy.
A few of my favorite quotes:
“We are going to experience joy in this lifetime, there’s only one possible way: We will have to choose it. We will have to choose it in spite of unbelievable circumstances."
"Those who love lavishly, extravagantly, find their souls flooded with joy.”
“When trials expose our faith-life, will others see us embracing both the joy and the pain of our life? We do not need to live out one and deny the other. Those around us need to recognize that both of these elements are part of life, and both give us hope for heaven.” - Kay Warren
Kay Warren sent me two copies of Choose Joy and a copy of the CHoose Joy Devotional to give out to readers. I'll be drawing winners tomorrow from the Quirk-Email subscription list. If you haven't signed up yet do so now to be included! Click HERE to sign up.
You can buy your own copy of Choose Joy at the link below.
It was Christmas 2011. I was sitting with my new gifts.
My mom hands me a new gift, a lumpy gift.
I tore it open.
Just a shirt, a pink shirt with black lettering. Right? No.
This shirt changed my life.
Let's jump back a few months before, I'm sitting with my blanket crying. I'm crying because I don't have a sister. Mom sits down with me and I say "I want a sister". Mom and I prayed to God "Lord, please give me a sister to play with." Let's just say this happened for a long time.
Now, back to Christmas.
I start reading the shirt.
"Mom! Am I really going to be a big sister?!"
My mom says "Yes!"
(This goes on for the rest of the day).
The point of this is that God may not come to you and give you what you want right away. And sometimes he says no.
I am so grateful that he said yes to me this time!
Now, my sister is 4 1/2 and so cute! This just shows that praying is powerful.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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