Posts Tagged “Lamentations”

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

November is the official start of the holiday season in our house – Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas follows quickly behind it. I love reading the book of Luke in November because it tells the Christmas story so well. It’s the book that will be our New Testament focus this month. Near the end of the month we’ll begin to read the book of Revelation – God’s final words to us.

Our readings take us through the Old and New Testaments over a two year period. We’re winding up our two years this month and next, so here at Apprehending Grace we’re already thinking about our 2014 plan. If you have any thoughts about how you’d like us to organize the readings, let us know. Comment on the blog, send me an email or past a message on our Facebook page.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the November/December bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The November Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for November is below.

2013-11Nov RecRdg

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the September/October Bookmark.

September offers an opportunity to start anew as routines change with the changing weather. If your reading declined during the summer months, jump back in and join us. We’d love to have you share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Word of God, speak to us this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the September/October 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the September Reading Plan here

Here’s the September reading plan:

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Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 1 (Habakkuk chapter 1)

I like the book of Habakkuk! It was part of our Resting at the River’s Edge reading this week and I was so blessed by it. The book records Habakkuk’s cries to God for justice and God’s responses. It is filled with despair and hope; Habakkuk’s reality in this world and His faith-filled response to it.

When I sat down to write several hours ago, I thought I would write a single blog that would pull a few verses from the book that bless me. As I began to study it more, however, and it soon became apparent that more than one blog would be needed to share Habakkuk’s world and faith with you. So as you begin to read this short series of blogs, my prayer is this:

Lord, open our spirits to hear His message for each of us – spoken through Your Word and Your Voice heard deep within our spirit. Teach us Your Ways and give us hearts to be transformed. For the glory of Your precious Son, Jesus. Amen.

Habakkuk sees the world around him and asks God “How long?” Ultimately his cry is not answered, but the prophet stands in faith waiting for it with great tenacity and hope. My breath is taken away by his closing prayer…but that’s a message you’ll read about a couple of blogs from now. Let’s start with Habakkuk’s first lament and the Lord’s response. If you are reading the King James Version, the first verse is translated like this:

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Habakkuk 1:1 (KJV)

Notice that what you are about to read is Habakkuk’s burden – it is his heart’s cry to see justice. Instead all he sees around him is destruction, violence, strife and conflict. The book isn’t recording the annoyance that Habakkuk is experiencing today. It is the burden of his heart and he brings it before the Lord. Let’s read a portion of what he says to God.

2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Habakkuk 1:2-3 (NIV)

I don’t want to diminish Habakkuk’s circumstances – he was looking at the nation of Israel and seeing destruction – but I when I read the verses I personalize them. There have been times in my life when I cried out to God “How long must I call for help but you don’t listen, Lord?” Perhaps you have experienced times when it feels like your life is falling apart around you and you’re about to fall with it. Perhaps there have been times when you’ve been on the receiving end of injustice, destruction and strife. Take heart! God answers Habakkuk’s cry:

Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.

Habakkuk 1:5 (NIV)

It’s as if God whispers in Habakkuk’s ear – “Just watch this! I am about to do something you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes!” Notice that God didn’t just start doing things in response to Habakkuk’s prayer – he simply told Habakkuk that He was going to do things. This teaches me several things about God and His ways:

1 – God wants to reveal His plans to us – He wants to draw our attention to what He is doing. Check out this verse:

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7 (NIV)

The Lord does nothing without first revealing His plans! That excites me! Let’s keep praying “Lord, show me Your ways! Draw my attention to the things You are doing so that I might give you glory.” That is my prayer during this month of thanksgiving – that He would open my eyes more and more to the things He is doing so that I can give Him glory. Our God is a God who constantly reveals Himself and His plans to us. Whether through His Word, the world He created around us, a conversation with a friend, or His whisper in our ear, He makes His ways known.

2 – God is actively involved in growing our faith muscle – our journey with the Lord is a walk of faith, not sight. We hear Him whisper in our ear “watch this” and then He shows us His awesome power and glory. He puts it into our heart to pray for something, but doesn’t answer immediately because to do so would reduce Him to a heavenly gumball machine – we put our prayers in and immediately receive gumball that satisfies our craving for sweetness and activity! Yes, God answers our prayers, but He answers them according to His will and His plans for us and for the world. Often times that means we wait for our answers. During the waiting, our faith is challenged and we are shaped into the image of Christ. We learn to curb that craving for sweet things and powerless activity while we wait for the richness of God’s presence and the powerful anointing of His Spirit.

3 – Our God is a God of hope. The time was not yet right for God to interrupt Habakkuk’s world. So instead of leaving Habakkuk to dwell in the midst of despair alone, God whispered in his ear “I’m coming…just a little while…and it’s going to be glorious!” When life is at its darkest, we can agree with the prophet Jeremiah:

21Yet there is one ray of hope: 22his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. 23Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. 24My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him. 25The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him, to those who seek for him. 26It is good both to hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26 (TLB)

Whew! Three wonderful lessons about the nature of God which fill us with confidence and hope in the midst of the most dismal circumstances. What a great start in this small book of Habakkuk! Chapter 2 continues the lesson…but would make for quite a long blog, so I’m going to resist moving on. Let’s use the next couple of days to let God’s goodness work its way deep into our Spirit before moving on.

I pray, friends, that today and tomorrow you would experience God’s revelatory nature – that He would reveal Himself and His plans to you in a greater way than He has before. I pray that you would be aware of (and joyful in) is activity in your life. That you would know that you know that you know that He is a God of hope – His compassion never ends. I pray that you would experience the goodness in hoping and waiting quietly for God’s response to your challenging circumstances.

 

Looking forward in anticipation to hearing from you and sharing the next passage from Habakkuk with you.

In the meantime…Enjoy God!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Resting at the River’s Edge in September – Let’s Pursue Wisdom

The theme for this month seems to be wisdom. We’ll spend a significant amount of time in the book of Proverbs. The book was called Sophia by early Christian writers, a Greek word that means “wisdom.”

Solomon is the writer of most of the Proverbs and he establishes his purpose in the very first verses:

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Proverbs 1:1-6

Then, of course, Solomon establishes the place to start:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:7

God has used the Proverbs to correct or warn me very specifically on a number of occasions. I remember being pressured by a boss to lie to his boss and struggling about how to handle the situation. The morning I was to meet with my boss’s boss I read Proverbs 12:22 during my devotions:

The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.
Proverbs 12:22

The situation became incredibly clear to me – did I want to please my boss and have the Lord detest my actions or bring delight to the Lord and displease my boss? Hands down, I wanted to please the Lord. I did and He honored those actions. Very soon thereafter I quit that position and stepped into a much better job.

We’ll also spend a considerable amount of time in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. They seem an appropriate paring with Proverbs because they provide guidance about caring for and protecting the Church. The three letters focus on leadership qualifications and responsibilities as well as church life. 1 Timothy focuses on sound doctrine while 2 Timothy focuses on encouraging steadfast Christian living despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. The book of Titus carries a little of both topics.

Here’s to being much wiser by the end of the month!

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for September is below.

To download a PDF of the September 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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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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In this series, “The Heart of a Worshipper” (HWS) I’ve written about the need for our hearts to be hungry for God. The hungry heart gives birth to the pursuing heart, causing us to pursue God more diligently. Pursuing God is the first step toward becoming changed people. We then looked at the transparent or unveiled heart. When we pursue God whole heartedly, we open our heart to Him and others. That unveiled heart leads to a vulnerable heart, which is the topic of today’s blog.

A Transparent Heart is…A Vulnerable Heart (Part 1)

In the last blog in this series, I wrote:

“A transparent heart…One that allows the Light of Life (Jesus) to shine through it so that He can reveal to us what is hidden in its deepest, darkest corners.”

That’s vulnerability! Perhaps as you read that statement your reaction was similar to mine when I wrote it…”OK, NOW I’m scared.” Becoming that vulnerable almost evokes a “fight or flight” response. I want to go on the offensive or run away (and sometimes I can’t decide which). But why am I so afraid?

Why Am I Afraid?
I’m afraid because I know there are things hidden in my heart that I’m ashamed for my Lord to see. I must be forgetting 1 Chronicles 28:9b which says:

“for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
          1 Chronicles 28:9b

Or perhaps I’m overlooking Psalm 139 which beautifully describes how intimately the Lord knows us:

1      O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
2      You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3      You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4      Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
13     For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
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: 1-4, 13, 15-16

One of the exciting things about being in Christ is that He already knows our thoughts (even the very worst ones), and He STILL loves us! It’s not like He died for our sins, and then really realized what they were! The scripture that affected me the most before coming to Christ was Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
          Romans 5:8

He knew I was a sinner when He died for me and He still did it. He didn’t wait for me to clean up my act before He demonstrated that He loved me.

I’m afraid because of the punishment I imagine He might think is appropriate. Hebrews 12 deals with this:

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons…Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
          Hebrews 12:6-12

When I keep my eye on the prize – being conformed to the image of Christ, discipline has a sweet aftertaste to it that balances the bitter experience. Divine discipline produces the Christ-like qualities that I so desire. But if I don’t allow Christ to discipline me (by shielding my heart from Him), I remain unruly in my thoughts and deeds. (Please don’t interpret this to mean that I control the Lord’s disciplining of me. I do not. God can choose to discipline me whenever and wherever He wants. Keeping a vulnerable heart toward Him, however, invites His discipline of me.)

Even still, I might be afraid sometimes of how He might discipline me. In those times, I remind myself of God’s goodness. Lamentations 3 encourages me that “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;” (v. 25). Psalm 145:9 reminds me that “The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all he has made.”

It is healthy and appropriate to fear the Lord. It is also healthy and appropriate to understand that our God is a loving and compassionate God. If your fear of the Lord outweighs your understanding of His great love for you, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the merciful and compassionate God that can be found in the pages of your Bible. Start by doing a search on the words mercy and compassion.

Finally, I’m afraid because when I let down the guard that is around my heart, I give another the power to hurt me. While this is true, the opposite is also true…when I let down the guard that is around my heart, I give another the power to bring healing. Christ cannot bring healing until you allow Him to open the wounds of your heart. Some of the deep, dark secrets in our hearts stem from sins that have been committed against us. Sometimes those sins are root causes that have led to our own sins; often they are painful experiences or memories that we’ve allowed to change our behavior…and usually that change isn’t in the direction of Christ-likeness.

When I was 14, we moved away from the city we had lived in for as long as I could remember. How painful it had been to leave friends! With all the emotional passion of a young teenage girl, I vowed never to make close friends again because it hurt too much to lose them. And so I lived that way through high school, college and my first few years out of college. “Why should I make friends?” I would ask. “I’m just going to move away soon and I’ll never see these people again.” I refused to become vulnerable because I didn’t want to be hurt again. It wasn’t until I found Christ and became surrounded by loving men and women of God that I began to realize the foolishness of my approach to living without pain.

At 22 I was a very selfish, uncaring, uncompassionate woman of God. At 53, I’m a little less selfish and a little more caring and compassionate…but I still have a long way to go. Because the Christian walk is one of constant growth (change) if we stay vulnerable to the Spirit of God as He transforms us (changes us) into the image of Christ.

More on the vulnerable heart tomorrow!

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