Posts Tagged “Jeremiah”

At 52 chapters, Jeremiah is the third longest book of the Bible. Only Psalms and Isaiah are longer. Over the past week our Resting at the River’s Edge readings have had us reading the middle chapters – 22 through 31. How’s it going? Are you getting bogged down or is it coming alive as you read it? I admit that it’s hard reading sometimes yet I feel a stirring to pause and think about the text periodically. I don’t have any great thoughts or insights, but I thought I’d share some some of my musings. Feel free to add your own comments to mine:

  • I love the way God uses real-life props to bring prophetic words to life – from boiling pots to linen belts to wooden yokes, God makes the prophecies real and memorable by tying them to tangible things. I have found that He often uses tangible things to teach me lessons – but only when I take time to pause when situations or objects catch my attention. When I’m rushing through my life I miss those object lessons. (Lord, slow me down and give me an ear to hear.)
  • So many of the verse have caused me to grieve for our country and culture. We have turned our back against God – immorality is rampant and much of the Church has become complacent toward God. Can judgment be far behind? (Lord, give your Church a repentant heart and a burden for the lost.)
  • I am very aware that I love reading the chapters in which Jeremiah prophecies the return of Israel much more than the chapters in which he prophecies her destruction. It is so easy to gloss over God’s righteous character and believe that God won’t judge sin. (Lord, give us an accurate perception of ourselves – don’t let us be deceived.)
  • Having said that I am so blessed that my God is a god of love and His mercy triumphs over judgment. For every punishment there are verses like Jeremiah 31:6:

There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the LORD our God.’”

What follows is singing for joy (v7), weeping (v9), shouting for joy (v12), dancing (v13) and mourning will be turned into gladness (v13). And everyone will know the Lord:

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:34

(Thank You, Lord for your compassion and love!)

Jeremiah is a book of warnings and blessings. I hope your reading of it is stirring you both to take sin seriously and to know that God will forgive when we repent.

Keep reading God’s precious Word!

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Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet
In August, we’ll spend most of our time at the River’s Edge with Jeremiah. I’ll be honest with you…there are some books of the Bible that don’t make me excited when I think about reading them. Known as the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah is one of those books. Let me be more honest…I’m so wrong! The book of Jeremiah is full of great material and reveals the heart of God tremendously. Here’s a quote that I love. God is speaking to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah.

This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.
Jeremiah 2:5 (NIV)

Do you hear the Lord’s broken heart? “What fault did your fathers find in me…” Now obviously there is no fault with God, just as there is often no fault with parents when their children choose rebellion. And the parents’ hearts break. God’s heart breaks when we stray far from Him. He watches as we follow worthless idols, knowing that doing so we will be come worthless ourselves.

I bet there are other verses in this book that you know but perhaps don’t know the reference. Check these out:

[The Lord is speaking] “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5a)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

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. (Jeremiah 29:11)

13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a)

Someday my emotions will catch on that the weeping prophet knows the heart of God and I’ll rejoice at the thought of reading the book of Jeremiah.

Mark, James & Peter
Our New Testament reading will have us in these books:

  • Gospel of Mark – We’ll finish the Gospel of Mark, reading chapters 8 through 16.
  • James – The book of James is a favorite of many. It was written by James, the brother of Jesus, and many people believe it was the first New Testament book written.
  • 1 Peter – This book of encouragement was written to Christians facing persecution. We’ll be exhorted to live a holy lifestyle and submit to authority (and who doesn’t need those lessons?).

The month holds some great opportunities for learning and reflecting as we rest by the river’s edge with God’s Word. I pray that you will come to know God’s heart in a greater way as you read during the month of August.
Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for August is below.

To download a PDF of the August 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me – Old?

I try not to be too self-indulgent in these blogs, but it seems appropriate today. I am fifty-four years old today. I’ve been wondering which makes the lesser impact – fifty-four or 54? It seems like suddenly it’s a big number. Forty-eight didn’t seem like such a big number. Occasionally it occurs to me that I may not live another twenty years! And that seems so short. I can remember when twenty years seemed an eternity.

Believe it or not, this isn’t maudlin in my mind, but I realize that it may come across as maudlin in the reading of it. I’m just sort of amazed that so many years have gone by. Let me encourage you to stick with this blog…we’ll get to some amazing Scripture that is not only true of me, but also for you. And not only on your birthday, but every day of your life.

Anyway, I soften the blow that number (54) sometimes brings by telling my husband that we are accomplishing one of our life-long goals – to grow old together! Can’t accomplish that goal without growing old. Not that I put the “old” label on myself yet, but I am very aware that thirty years ago I applied that label to people my age.

The foolishness of the young!

When I am with a group of people who are younger than me (which happens more and more often these days), I am frequently amazed to realize that I am older than they are. When I’m with people that are LOTS younger than me, it often comes to me as a bit of a shock to my system – “Oh, I’m not their age!” I suppose that’s a good thing. That shock is immediately followed by the shock of realizing that they are probably very much aware that I’m older than they are. At least when I was 25-35, I remember being around people who were 45-55 (of which I’m now at the upper end of the range) and thinking how much older they were than me.

Age brings quite a different perspective on many things. Phil and I regularly lead church services at nursing homes. Being around such aged saints brings another perspective. To most of them, I am still quite young. But whether we’re 25 or 55 or 75, God’s Word is still true and His Word has some amazing things to meditate on when we’re tempted to be pulled down by the passing of time.


My Age Doesn’t Impact God’s Plans

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.
Jeremiah 29:11

To be honest, there are times when I wonder if God will ever fulfill the plans He has for me. Well, I guess to be more honest, what I wonder is if God will ever fulfill the plans I have for me! J That’s when I bow my head and remind myself and God that it’s His plans I want fulfilled, not mine. The flesh wants mine. My spirit wants God’s. I’m confident that the two overlap in the most important areas. At least most of the time I’m confident of that! J I’m guessing you have similar doubts sometimes. What I am always confident about is that I serve a forever-faithful God. When I doubt, it’s me who is unfaithful or insecure, not God. He is always faithful.


I Am God-Created – for My God-Created Purpose

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

4The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:4-5

What great passages of Scripture! I love knowing that God knit me together – that I am His handiwork. I’m not just a bunch of cells thrown together by happenstance. I was woven together and His eyes were upon me the whole time. I was formed by the Master Potter. The word translated “woven together” is a term that relates to the creation of beautiful tapestry of variegated colors. In the Jeremiah passage, the word translated “formed” is a pottery term that describes molding the clay into shape. God is communicating His personal involvement, as if His very hands were in my mother’s womb as I was growing from zygote to fetus to newborn baby girl on March 28, 1956.

After forming me, or perhaps while forming me, He set me apart and appointed me to the destiny He prepared in advanced for me. Jeremiah was appointed as a prophet to the nations. I don’t think that’s my calling (there’s been no indication of that yet, anyway, and I am 54 years old)! Yet God created me perfectly to accomplish what He has planned for me to do:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

Having a purpose gives my life meaning. Knowing I am perfectly prepared to accomplish that purpose gives me confidence and brings peace in stressful situations. I love knowing that I am God’s workmanship! He does good work! I might not always feel like it, but I choose not to rely on feelings. I choose to rely on the Truth of God’s Word.


He Rejoices! He Sings! He Dances! And It’s All for Me!

For Christmas, Phil bought me a plaque that says “On the day you were born, God danced.” I love it! It sits on my dresser where I see it every morning. I’ve been thinking about that plaque a lot today. God danced on this day 54 years ago. Such a thought brings joy to my heart.

I can understand how God would dance over me – it’s not that I’m so good – I’m not – I fall way short of my goals, and I’m sure my goals are way, way lower than His goals for me – yet He still sees me as the precious daughter He formed so many years ago. He also sees me as the woman I am becoming as I continue to pursue Christ. And He sees me as the woman I am in Christ – righteous and forgiven. Those women are worth being excited about – those women are worth dancing for. So when I think of God dancing when I was born, I get excited about how precious I am to Him and how much pleasure I bring Him.

Having said that, I can’t find any Scripture that specifically says God dances over us. But I can come close!

As a young man marries a maiden,
so will your sons marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62:5

The word “rejoice” means be exceedingly glad, greatly joyful, make mirth, or rejoice.

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

In this case, the word translated “rejoice” means literally to spin around. The word translated “singing” – rinnaw – is interesting. It means a shout of joy (or grief), joy, proclamation, rejoicing, shouting, singing, triumph.

Those words carry such emotion that they “feel” like rejoicing that can’t be contained without dancing. When put together with the Scriptural analogy that Christ is the Bridegroom and we are His bride the picture that comes to my mind is that of the groom who lifts his bride on the dance floor and swings her around with great joy. I can see the huge smile and joy on the face of my Bridegroom.

Jesus, right now, is looking forward to the day when we will be face to face. And since there is no such thing as time where He is (something well beyond my comprehension), He is already rejoicing in that day even while He watches over me in my day! Wow!

So those are my birthday musings. Phil had to work 3-11 today, and it’s a rainy, cold day. Some might think that would make for a dreary birthday. It wasn’t. God is too good for that.

*All definitions came from Strong’s Hebrew & Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

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Six Temptations of Failure, Day 6 of 6

Temptation # 6: Living in Fear of Failure
Sometimes we overreact to failure and build walls around ourselves and our activities so that eventually we wall ourselves in and no longer live in the freedom God has given us. Instead, we live in fear that we will fail again. So we essentially stop living. Sure, we’re still breathing and walking and talking, but the life has gone out of our life. Failure is a part of life, friends. We cannot build ourselves into such a safe place that we will not experience it, and to try to do so places limits around us that diminish our lives.

Fear ultimately leads to living a life characterized by legalism. We make rules and regulations to govern our lives and build a hedge of protection around ourselves to keep from ever being hurt again. Most of these new rules aren’t biblical. God never tells His people to stop stepping out in faith. These barriers you erect to prevent future failures all too often separates you from God and His best will for your life.

Fear is the antithesis of faith. Fear is believing that Satan will win instead of believing that the outcome will be what God has said it will be. Choose to believe God, friends. Engage your faith and live life to the fullest.

It occurs to me that perhaps I seem uncompassionate in this blog. Trust me, friends, I have compassion for those experiencing failure. Been there — done that. Refused to buy the T-shirt and don’t want to go back to have another opportunity to do so. But I also know that the temptations listed in these blogs are Satan’s way of binding us to the failure and blinding us to the plans God has for us.

“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.”
Jeremiah 29:11

God desires to give us freedom. God desires for us to be whole. God desires to make something great out of your failure and mine. Let’s resist Satan’s bait and trust God for the good stuff!

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We’ll spend much of September with the Prophet Jeremiah. He is the author of both Jeremiah and Lamentations. Jeremiah had a hard job — prophecying to a people who didn’t want to hear what he had to say. That made him unpopular and, in the world’s eyes, unsuccessful. I bet there are times that you feel that way. Times when it seems that you aren’t where you wish you were at this point in your life. Times when you look around at others and everyone seems to be doing better than you are. Well, as I said, Jeremiah had a hard job. But God dealt with him graciously and I think we can learn much from seeing the interaction between the two and from watching Jeremiah’s faithfulness in difficult times. Was he successful? You make the call!

We’ll also finish the book of Psalms, ending with the triumphant last verse:   

Let everything that has breath Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord
.
Psalms 150:6 (NIV)

Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord
!
Psalms 150:6 (NLT)

We’ll also read 1 and 2 Peter, but I’ll leave discussion of those books for when we get to them.

Don’t give up, friends! I’m guessing you’ve made much progress toward reading the Bible this year – perhaps more than you ever have before! Congratulations! Keep at it!

Enjoy!

To download a PDF of September’s reading schedule, click here.

09SepReading

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If you are reading through the Bible following our Resting at the River’s Edge schedule, you will begin to read the book of Jeremiah today. The book of Jeremiah is many things, but one of the things I love about it is that it is such a primer on how prophecy “works” – how it happens – in other words, how God speaks to His people.

Now don’t think I’m saying that God always speaks to His people in a certain way. That’s not where I’m going. As you read through Jeremiah, though, watch how God gives Jeremiah prophetic words. Here’s an example from chapter 1:

13The word of the LORD came to me again: “What do you see?”
“I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered.
14The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.

– Jeremiah 1:13-14

The Lord used the things around Jeremiah as illustrations to prophecy about things to come. Since learning this, when I am particularly distracted by or my attention is arrested by something, I often pray “Lord, are you trying to tell me something? Is there something in this? I see…..” I then begin to describe to the Lord what I see. Often while I describing the scene, I receive an interpretation of it.

For example, once I was at church worshiping. We met in a school auditorium, so the worship team was on the stage and there was a chair very near the edge of the stage. A little boy kept climbing on the chair, reaching forward to grasp something on the stage. As he did so, the chair would tip backwards and came dangerously close to tipping over, sending the child tumbling. Periodically his mother would see him, sit him in the chair with a short scolding. He would pout for a few minutes, then climb back up on the chair and begin to reach onto the stage again.

After a while I realized that I was thoroughly distracted from worship, but I remembered the “what do you see” lesson. So I began to ask God if he was saying something to me and I described what I saw. God didn’t waste any time in revealing to me that I was often like that little boy. Climbing to places I shouldn’t go yet, dangerously tipping my “chair” as I reached for things God hadn’t given me yet. (How thankful I became for God’s protection.) He didn’t stop there, though. He went on to say that I was also like that little boy in that when God did “sit me down” I would pout for a while, then turn around and begin to explore beyond my reach once again. Ouch! But how wonderful for God to speak to me about it!

Of course there are many other things in Jeremiah, but I’ll leave them to you to discover. Enjoy your reading this month! I pray that God speaks to you daily as you rest with Him at the river’s edge.

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In my last blog in the “Heart of a Worshipper” series (HWS). I wrote that we must have a willing heart, allowing God to use us in whatever way He wants. The very exciting thing about serving God is that when we are willing to let Him lead, the paths He takes us lead us into ever increasing freedom. Read on as I look at three ways that the heart of a worshipper is a free heart.

A Free Heart

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
          2 Corinthians 3:17

Regularly worshipping God means regularly entering into His presence – allowing our spirit to encounter the Spirit of God in a stronger and more intimate way. That experience changes us forever. As we learn more about God and who He is, we learn more about the insignificance of this world. And that’s freedom! It unencumbers your heart and mind. It releases you from the bondage of this world. It sets us free.

In what ways has the Lord set us free? Let’s look at just three of them.

Freedom from Condemnation
You probably know Romans 8 verse 1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But did you realize that verse 1 ends in a comma? The statement is incomplete. Let’s look at the full sentence (verses 1 and 2):

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
          Romans 8:1-2

There is no condemnation because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. When we recognize Him as Savior and receive Him as Lord, we are freed from eternal judgment and given the Spirit of Life. I am not condemned. Period. And if God can forgive whatever I’ve done and all that I’ve done, it seems a bit prideful to me not to forgive myself. When I don’t forgive myself, I am setting myself up as judge above God – I am overriding (or overturning) His “not guilty” decision. I really try not to trump God. I’ve found that it doesn’t work in the long run! God has declared me “not guilty.” I choose to agree with Him (regardless of how I feel on any given day). Again, I choose to agree with Him.

Freedom from Fear
A little further in Romans 8 we find the following verses:

because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
          Romans 8:14-15

These verses tell us that we have been released from a spirit of fear and have been given the opportunity for an intimate relationship with God (“Abba” can be translated “Daddy”) – the Spirit of sonship.

2 Timothy 1:7 is a verse that many people memorize:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity [or fear], but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline [or a sound mind].
          2 Timothy 1:7

Fear does not come from God. Faith comes from God. Assurance comes from God. Love comes from God. I don’t know what your greatest fear is, but I do know that spending time in God’s presence can give you His perspective on things. His perspective includes, among other things, the following facts:

  • That God is good and desires good things for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • That He knows me and understands me better than I know and understand myself (Psalm 139:1-3, 13)
  • That He is the One who controls all that happens to me today (Proverbs 16:9, 24).
  • That He will provide all that I need (Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • And that He is the One who has said “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Meditating on these statements and verses pushes fear away. And while you’re meditating, here’s something else to think about: If you look up the verses I referenced in the short list above, you’ll find that you are familiar with nearly all of them. If I can come up with a list like this from the most commonly known Scriptures, imagine how much longer the list could be if you or I were to dig further. If you struggle with fear, let me encourage you to focus on the character of God. As you read your Bible today and tomorrow and the next day, ask God to show you His goodness, compassion and love and His awesome ability to hold you near to His heart. Ask Him to allow you to see yourself, those around you and the world through His eyes.

Freedom to Obey and Serve
There is tremendous freedom in knowing God and being willing to obey Him – to do what He calls you to do. Many years and several states ago, I had a good friend who was afraid to give herself fully to God because she was afraid that God would require too much of her. He’d ask her to become a missionary to Zimbabwe or he’d allow her to become paralyzed so she could have a ministry like Joni Erickson Tada. (Perhaps she’s never heard Joni’s full testimony. I’ve heard Joni say that she’d rather spend the rest of her life in her wheelchair with God at her side than to have spent one minute of her life without Him.) Knowing that you are willing, are doing and have done what God wants you to do is tremendously freeing. Withholding from God, or being outright disobedient to God carries a whole lot of emotional baggage. It’s like a constant nagging in your heart and soul. My friend was never free from the knowledge that she wasn’t living God’s best for her because she wasn’t willing to give herself entirely over to Him. It pulled on her spirit and dragged her down. And perhaps appropriately so – she was grieving God’s heart. But doing His will brings a lightness, a freedom to our hearts. Even the difficult tasks bring with them the peace that comes from knowing that God will enable and supply. And that allows us to be free from worrying about the results.

Let me give you just a couple of verses to meditate on:

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.
           James 1:25

This verse describes God’s law as “the perfect law that gives freedom.” This seemed strange to me when it first registered with me because I had never thought of God’s law as bringing freedom, but I now understand that obedience brings freedom. When you’re driving on the freeway within the speed limit, you have no fear of who’s around the corner. When your foot is heavy on the gas pedal, there’s a bit of wariness that leads to stress.

I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
          Psalm 119:44-45

The Psalmist is saying that because He has studied what God wants and has decided to obey, he will walk in freedom. Obedience brings a freedom of spirit that is life-giving. It is a freedom that brings light-heartedness in difficulty.

Freedom Here We Come!
We value freedom very highly in this country. Christ has come to bring a degree of freedom to our lives that is beyond any freedom we can experience at the hands of men. That freedom comes about by getting to know God better. The heart of a worshipper is a heart that is free! Spend some time today in worship!

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 I hope you’re enjoying this “Heart of a Worshipper” series (HWS). We’re about half way through the series, so this blog begins with a review. You can click on any of the topics to go to the blog on that topic.

A Willing Heart

Time for review. When this series is completed, I’ll have written about seven characteristics of the heart of a worshipper. We’ve covered four so far. How many of them can you remember? Can you name them? Let me help. Reading about them interspersed with “life” can make it difficult to see the natural progression, so let’s review the first four.

  • A hungry heart – one that desires to know God more intimately. There are many scriptures we could look at that express this sentiment, but I like these two:

“Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.
          Isaiah 26:8-9

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
          Psalm 42:1-2

  • A pursuing heart – one that follows hard after Jesus. Proverbs 16:26 says: “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” So it is with God. Our desire for Him drives us to get to know Him better – the hungry heart becomes the pursuing heart
      
    In His book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney explains his title like this: “A God Chaser is a person whose hunger for God exceeds his grasp…whose passion for God’s presence presses him to chase the impossible, in hopes that the Uncatchable might catch him.”
      
    And the wonderful thing about our God is that He promises to allow us to catch Him! Review these scriptures if you have any doubts: Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13-14, Matthew 7:7-8, and Proverbs 8:17. (There are lots more, but these should give you a good start!)
        
  • A transparent or unveiled heart – one that allows the Light of Life (Jesus) to shine through it so that He can reveal to us what is hidden in it’s deepest, darkest corners. When our heart is transparent, we can say with David “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9) Having a transparent heart allows God to reveal our sin to us.
        
  • A vulnerable heart is the logical extension of the transparent heart – it’s the heart that suppresses our “fight or flight” response as we sit at Jesus’ feet and allow Him to change us. It moves from allowing God to reveal our sin to allowing Him to transform us into the image of Christ. It also means total dependence on God – trusting Him to make the right choices for you. It means giving God the right to make the rules and put the ball in play. And it means giving up our right to say “No, I don’t want to be like that,” or “I don’t like those rules.”

A Willing Heart – The Second Half of the Equation 
A key phrase in the last paragraph is “put the ball in play.” In other words, having a vulnerable heart that allows God to change us is only the first half of the equation…we must also have a willing heart that allows God to use us.

Chapter 6 in Isaiah is a fascinating illustration of the vulnerable and willing heart of Isaiah. Let me do a quick outline of verses 1 through 11 for you

Verses 1 – 4: Isaiah is given a glimpse of the throne room of heaven

…I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty…” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Verse 5-7: Isaiah experiences conviction for his sin

Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…

Verses 6 and 7: God demonstrates that Isaiah’s sin has been forgiven by having an angel take a coal from the altar and touch his lips with it

With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Verse 8: God makes a request and Isaiah enthusiastically responds

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Verse 9-10: God elaborates on the assignment, revealing that it won’t be a pleasant one

“Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes…”

Verse 11: Isaiah remains committed to carry out his task

Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged…”

There are no words in scripture to give us an idea of what inflection to put into Isaiah’s response, but we do know that the last thing he said was spoken with enthusiasm or passion: “Here I am! Send me!” It seems reasonable, then, that the next line would continue in a similar emotion. So even though the Lord has told him to go do this seemingly miserable task, his response is “For how long, Lord?”

 I don’t think Isaiah was dragging his feet and saying “Oh man, how long do I have to do this?” I think He was saying with eagerness “How long can I do this for you Lord?” or “I’m happy to do it as long as you want me to, Lord. How long?”

Isaiah sees worship in heaven and his first response reveals his transparent heart “Woe is me, I am undone.” His second response reveals his willing heart: “Here I am. Send me.”

Oh, that I might be as enthusiastic when I receive assignments from God. I’m tempted to pray here, “Lord, make my heart and spirit cry with enthusiasm, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me,’ even when Your assignments mean obscurity or unpopularity or drudgery.” And that would be a good thing…but you know, sometimes my heart isn’t really there!

It’s at those times that I am tempted to feel condemnation because I think my heart should be always willing, no matter what the circumstances or assignment. So I try to get my heart to the right place…yeah, right!

One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t manufacture a change in my heart any more than I could manufacture the heart itself! I cannot rely on myself for such things. Charles Spurgeon made this point well in a book called All of Grace.

If we trust to ourselves for our holding on [i.e., continuing in Christ] we shall not hold on. Even though we rest in Jesus for a part of our salvation, we shall fail if we trust to self for anything…Beware of mixing even a little of self with the mortar with which you build, or you will make it untempered mortar, and the stones will not hold together. If you look to Christ for your beginnings, beware of looking to yourself for your endings. He is Alpha. See to it that you make Him Omega also. If you begin in the Spirit you must not hope to be made perfect by the flesh. Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…

In other words, don’t look to yourself, look to God.  Don’t trust yourself, trust God. 

Returning to our passage in Isaiah, we see that he didn’t work up his own obedience – it was a natural response to having seen the glory of God. So perhaps my prayer shouldn’t be “Lord, make my heart and spirit cry ‘Yes Lord’ with enthusiasm;” perhaps the secret lies in sitting at Jesus’ feet in worship and praying “Lord, give me a glimpse of Your glory as you gave to Isaiah.” And that brings us full circle – it all starts with having that heart which is hungry for God and it leads to the wonderful privilege of being used by Him.

If your response to God isn’t as whole-hearted as you’d like it to be or you’re feeling condemnation from the enemy for lacking enthusiasm for the things of God, let me encourage you to take time to sit at Jesus’ feet in worship. Just for a while, stop doing things for God and simply spend time with God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a new way. He delights to do so!

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In the previous blog in our “The Heart of a Worshipper” series (HWS) we looked at the first condition of the heart of a worshipper: it is a heart that is hungry for more of God. In this blog, we continue to look at the qualities of the worshipping heart. May you be blessed and transformed as you grow in your own worship of the King of Kings.

A Hungry Heart
The first condition of the heart of a worshipper that we looked at is a heart that is hungry for more of God. Psalm 42, verses 1 and 2 describe the condition well:

          1    As the deer pants for streams of water,
            so my soul pants for you, O God.
       2    My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Verse 2b tells us where a hungry heart leads us – to a desire to meet with God. Proverbs 16:26 says:

“The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.”

Satisfying the Hungry Heart
When the condition of our heart is that we are hungry for God, the response of our heart is to pursue Him more aggressively. Spiritual hunger is fed by pursuing God. A pursuing heart is one that is trying to satisfy the hunger for God that is within it.

In His book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney explains his title like this:

“A God Chaser is a person whose hunger for God exceeds his grasp…whose passion for God’s presence presses him to chase the impossible, in hopes that the Uncatchable might catch him.”

He goes on to say that the chase begins with worship – recognizing Who God is. Become a “God Chaser” Pray “Lord, make me a God-Chaser!” Chase after God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – He will not disappoint you!

A Pursuing Heart
Let’s look at Deuteronomy 4:29:

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The word for “seek” is baqash (baw-kash’) which means to search out (by any method, spec. in worship or prayer); to strive after, ask, beg, beseech, desire, enquire, get, make inquisition, procure, (make) request, require, seek (for).

That same word is used in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek (baqash) me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” What a great promise! But God doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say in verse 14 “I will be found by you.” These verses provide a prayer that we can be confident is always in God’s will: “Lord, I want to know You more. Teach me more of Your ways.” God will satisfy the hunger in our heart when we pursue Him.

Baqash is the word used in the Old Testament; there’s a similar word used in the New Testament: zeteo (dzay-teh’-o). It means to seek (lit. or fig.); spec. (by Heb.) to worship (God),to desire, endeavour, enquire (for), require, seek (after, for, means). This word is used in Matthew 7:7-8.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek (zeteo) and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks (zeteo) finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Again, God promises that we will find Him when we pursue Him.

Zeteo was also used by Paul in his sermon at Mars Hill. Acts 17:24-28 is a passage worthy of meditating on in worship:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek (zeteo) him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Wow! God did all this, he created this world and mankind and determined the time in which we were to live and the exact places where we should live…why? So that men and women would SEEK him. God’s desire is that we seek Him. He makes us hungry, then rewards us with a stronger relationship with Him.

Let’s look at 2 more verses that give us God’s perspective and response to those with a hungry and pursuing heart:

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

God’s ways truly are not our ways. He loves us beyond our understanding, and He’s implanted in us a desire to know us. He created and controls the entire universe for the purpose of bringing you into a greater loving relationship with Him.

A hungry heart develops into a pursuing heart. If you have a hungry heart, don’t ignore your hunger pains. Don’t put yourself on a spiritual diet. Know that it is God Himself who has made you hungry and wants to satisfy that hunger by revealing more of Himself to you. Pursue God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Do it today!

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During this Christmas season, it seems that all my prayers look toward Good Friday more than Christmas – toward the death of Jesus on the cross instead of the baby born in a manger. When my husband pointed this out to me, I began to reflect on it. Christmas, the season of rejoicing at the birth of a Savior, is inextricably linked with Good Friday, a day of extreme sorrow. Christmas, the day of the birth of a King, stands next to Easter, the day of the murder of a King. Hmmm.

The more I reflected on it, the more I realized how appropriate this juxtapositioning is – because the entire purpose of Christ’s birth was fulfilled in His death and resurrection. Without Christ’s death and resurrection, His birth would have simply been a footnote in history. Instead, his birth, life, death and resurrection are the turning point of history.

The angel Gabriel declared the purpose of Jesus’ life to Joseph in a dream when he said “And she [Mary] will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NLT).

Jesus’ purpose for being born was to save His people from their sins! What a lofty sounding destiny! Of course, another way of saying it is much less lofty sounding – Jesus was born to die! You see, the payment that is required for our sin is death. Someone must make that payment. Christ was born so that He could make the payment for us. His death enables us to bypass death and experience life forever.

Christ also suffered when He died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners that He might bring us safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18, NLT

For the wages of [required payment for] sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23, NLT (bracketed words are my amplification)

Christ was born to die, and it was a destiny that He obviously knew from some very early age. I can’t help but wonder how knowing that His destiny was to die affected the way He lived His life. How would it affect mine? How about yours?

And then it hit me…we do have that destiny! Read this passage:

It is destined for each person to die once, and after that to face judgment.
Hebrews 9:27, (my paraphrase)

We are also destined to die! After our death comes judgment. For those who have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, we are raised from the death, just as Jesus was, to live eternally with God. For those who have not accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, death rules in judgment.

I find myself agreeing with Paul who wrote the following to the Corinthians:

1As God’s partners, we beg you not to reject this marvelous message of God’s great kindness. 2For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2, NLT

What does it mean to accept God’s free gift? It means to agree with Him and give Him control of your life. Agree first that you have done wrong and need His forgiveness. Believe that Christ died on the cross as the payment required for your wrongdoing. Yield your will to God’s will by determining to live according to His plans for your life instead of your own plans.

Then set about learning more and more about what those plans are. Because although our destiny might be to die and face judgment one day, God also has purposes and plans for our lives that go beyond ourselves.

My [Jesus’] purpose is to give life in all its fullness.
John 10:10b, NLT

11For 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.
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

Accepting God’s free gift of salvation not only brings eternal life, it also enlarges our earthly life. Can you dare miss out on such a “marvelous” opportunity to receive “God’s great kindness?”

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