Reading: Lamentations 1 – 5
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV
It is often said that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness! But here in Lamentations, in the midst of difficulty and affliction, Jeremiah is doing just that – talking to himself.
It's as if the part of him that speaks and directs is able somehow to separate itself from the circumstances of his physical body and then, from that removed position, encourage and direct the rest of his being.
Like “time out” in a sports match, Jeremiah gathers himself to recall, to remind, to refocus, and ultimately to rekindle his faith in God's unchanging love. He knows what is true so he speaks it out, to himself.
That voice that God has given me – the one I use to talk to myself – it has power! Just as Jeremiah and the psalmists and numerous other Bible characters talked themselves through doubt and difficulty, so I can keep myself on track by speaking to myself truth and self-encouragement.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” So when it comes to speaking to myself, I need to speak life!
I can make declarations based on Scripture, and statements born from faith. I can instruct myself according to what I know from the Bible.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It hasn't occurred to me before, but this principle applies just as much to the way I talk to myself as it does to the way I talk to others!
Negative self-talk should never cross my lips. It only gives the devil a foothold to accuse and discourage me. Nor should feelings or circumstances determine how I talk to myself, since they so easily change. Truth, on the other hand, is solid and unchanging. What do I know about God? What does God say about me? These things I can declare.
All this serves to remind me how vital it is that I read my Bible and declare it with my mouth, and keep on declaring it. As I speak and declare to myself the truths in God's Word, my faith will grow, my confidence will rise, and with God's help I will achieve all the plans and purposes that he has for my life.
Lord God, you are so good. Everything you do is perfect. Thank you for your written Word, and for the voice of your ever-present Holy Spirit. I offer to you now my own voice, and pray that just as you purified Isaiah's lips with a coal from your alter, you will purify mine. May they always only ever speak life, both to me and to others.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1 NIV
Reading: Joshua 15-20
In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai—descendants of Anak. Joshua 15:13-14 (NIV)
Joshua: Well, here's your promised inheritance Caleb – Kiriath Arba. The land is yours. Oh, and by the way, it comes with a few Anakites…
Caleb: No worries, Joshua, I'll sort them out.
And so he does. Caleb had been promised this forty five years earlier after spying out the land with eleven others. Only he and Joshua had believed that with God they could take the land. “So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’” Joshua 14:9
Finally the time had arrived to claim that inheritance. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day,” says Caleb to Joshua. “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Joshua 14:12
Caleb sure had spirit, even at a young 85. As far as he was concerned, the promise had been made, the land was his, and nothing was going to stand in the way of him claiming it for his own.
It strikes me that the promises of God often seem to come with “Anakites”. I wish that wasn't the case – I don't like big gnarly inconvenient obstacles parked all over my driveway. When I read in Isaiah 61 (for example) of those things that Jesus won for me at the cross, and then look at my actual situation (and those of others), it's clear that there are still a few gnarly old Anakites out there. Some of what has been promised to me through Jesus I have yet to claim. And I see others weighed down with burdens that, with his life, Jesus paid to remove.
Caleb is my teacher today. First and foremost, he took God at his word. Secondly, having spied out the land years earlier, he knew what had been promised to him, and had a clear picture of this in his mind. I too need to become completely familiar with God's promises, and then set about claiming those promises with the same spirit that Caleb had – one of faith and determination.
Thirdly, it's clear that although Caleb didn't focus on the Anakites, he did deal with them. As I deal with the “Anakites” in my life, and help others to deal with theirs, prayer is so vital, along with worship and time in the Word. By myself, I actually can't use these things, but with the ever-present help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful in my hands. “The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Anakites] out just as he said.”
God my Father, I pray for the faith and courage of Caleb. Help me Lord to truly be a man of prayer, and to take real action as I claim what you have promised me. As I spend time walking and talking with you, as I converse with you during the moments of my day, and as I talk and pray with others, may “your kingdom come, Lord; and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reading: Matthew 1
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
Joseph and Mary are such an inspirational couple. Having each received the most profound of revelations, and facing as a couple the certainty of public humiliation because of the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy, they each responded with a humility that is breath-taking.
In effect, by accepting God’s will for their lives, they were also accepting the promise of both humiliation – for a time – and glory. The same went for Jesus himself, who would accept not just humiliation, but also death on a cross, knowing that glory was coming (and joy!) And yet I wonder, were they humiliated? Is it possible for the truly humble to be humiliated by others?
There is something essentially different between humiliation and humility. Humiliation is a feeling, a feeling of shame and foolishness which comes when my pride and dignity is injured. The attitude of my heart determines how vulnerable I am to being humiliated, and perhaps also what is hidden in my heart. When I’m vulnerable, I open myself up to the possibility of being humiliated either by others, or simply as the result of my own actions. It might come as the result of being ‘exposed’.
Humility is not a feeling, but rather is an attitude of the heart. It comes from within, and is under the control of my will. As humility grows, pride diminishes, and I become less and less vulnerable to humiliation, which means that the way I feel about myself is no longer at the mercy of others. Instead, it is my core beliefs about what is true that set the tone for how I feel.
As a Christian I will feel less need to justify myself to others, because having God’s approval has become the most important thing. That may in fact define what humility is: The state of heart where I value the approval of God more highly than I value the approval of anyone else.
What strength of character humility brings! It enables me to endure much, and is the perfect partner for courage. In fact, I wonder if true courage may in its very essence be simply godly humility in action.
Thank you Lord God for the inspiring humility of Mary and Joseph. Their courage and their willingness to obey you in everything is something that I want in my own life. Please help me to be humble and brave, and to follow their example. I offer myself to you and ask that you would create in me a heart that is pure and trusting, and that you would work humility in me for your glory.
Reading: Joshua 14
So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. Joshua 14:9 (NIV)
The land on which Caleb's feet had walked was the very land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years earlier. Twelve men were sent out by Moses to spy out that land – Caleb, Joshua and ten others. Two of them had seen a land of opportunity, “flowing with milk and honey”. But the other ten had seen men like giants living in fortified cities, and their report made the hearts of the people “melt with fear”.
Whereas Joshua and Caleb viewed everything in the light of God's promise, their colleagues' eyes were darkened by fear and doubt. Perhaps they just didn't know God well enough to trust him. Perhaps they hadn't truly yielded themselves to God despite the amazing miracles they had seen him perform.
Nonetheless, the same promise of God was made to them all. Joshua and Caleb took the promise to heart, and prepared to take it in hand. They acted on their wholehearted belief that God was faithful, and their faith was richly rewarded. But the half-hearted were left empty-handed.
What a difference it makes to view the world in the light of God's promises! It changes my perspective completely, like a new pair of glasses, bringing a confidence and hope that draws me out of my comfort zone, out beyond what I can achieve in my own strength, and into all the plans and purposes that God has for my life.
As I write this, I am aware of how quickly I jumped to condemn the ten fearful men, from the comfort of my armchair… Would I have acted differently? How am I responding myself to the promises of God as revealed in his Word? I suspect there is much “promise land” I have yet to walk on. And yet my strong desire is to walk there. Lead me on, Lord!
Yes Lord, lead me on! Cut me loose from my fears and insecurity, and help me to live my life on the strength of your promises. Thank you for your written Word the Bible, and for all the promises it contains. Infuse my heart with the truth those promises contain, and may they be fulfilled in my life.
“The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance…”
Reading: Jeremiah 1
“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:17-19
When young Jeremiah looked at himself in the mirror that evening, after having received the above calling from God, what did he see? A fortified city? An iron pillar? A bronze wall? I suspect that rather, he saw a stunned young man, one who was more than just a little afraid, and who would gladly have run away from this terrifying assignment.
But fortified cities don't run away. Iron pillars and bronze walls don't quietly sneak off to hide. And today, God had said it himself: “I have made you a fortified city…” It seems Jeremiah was given no choice, no chance to think about it, and no opportunity to wait until he was a bit older and wiser. It would be Jeremiah and God vs everyone else, starting now.
God isn't afraid of throwing me in the deep end, because nothing is too deep for him. So long as he is with me, it doesn't matter if the whole world would seem to be against me. It doesn't matter how daunting the task before me seems. Nothing is daunting to God. If God appoints me, mine is simply to trust and obey.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Thank you for the opportunities that lie before me, Lord. I choose to trust you, and when the time comes that I find myself out of my depth (no doubt that feeling will come again!), help me to trust you then too, and to find my strength in you. I ask for wisdom to know your will, and that you would open my ears, so that like Jeremiah, I might hear your voice clearly.
Reading: Psalm 103-105
He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. Psalm 105:39-42 (NIV)
When God brought his people Israel out of Egypt and into the inhospitable harshness of the desert, the people had absolutely no idea that they were about to enjoy the faithful hospitality of their God. Rather, many of them feared they were about to die. The environment offered them nothing. There was no way they could provide for themselves – there was no food, no water and no protection from the elements. Unless God miraculously provided for them, they would surely die. But God did provide, and in a way that left no one in any doubt: God was looking after them.
I'm used to the idea of providing for myself. I work to earn money and provide for the needs of my family. I have insurance lest something be stolen or damaged. The government provides services to care for me should I become sick or needy. If I'm hungry, I just go to the pantry. I'm certainly grateful for all those things, but I really don't know what it's like to have nothing, to be absolutely dependant on God for everything as the Israelites were.
Yet everything I have comes from God. He is the source of everything I will ever need. If all I depend upon is taken away from me, he will still be my Provider. It's all because of God's wonderful grace. So what can be my response?
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name. Psalm 105:1
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Thank you Father that I can trust you. Please continue to provide everything I need. Thank you that I can trust you with my life, and with my family. Thank you for the opportunity to work and earn an income. Thank you for the good things you provide, and for all your blessings to me. I look to you, Lord. May nothing else have a hold on me except the desire to know you more, and enjoy your grace forever.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Psalm 105:4-5 (NIV)
See also: Jesus Wants Me to Ask!
Reading: Jeremiah 16 – 17
Tags: confidence, fruitfulness, trust, faith, security, peace, resilience
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He 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.” Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV)
We all need to have confidence in something. To have confidence is to be able to stand firm, to have roots and be anchored to something. Confidence brings security. Without confidence, we are like tumble weed, with no idea of where the wind might blow us next. That's not a nice feeling.
But confidence has to be placed in something. In Jeremiah 17, God describes the plight of someone whose confidence is rooted in something or someone other than him:
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NIV)
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” What a contrast. In God there is to be found hope. In him there is security and inner peace. In him we can flourish, resilient and fruitful even when the circumstances of life are difficult, because our fruitfulness doesn't depend on our circumstances but on God's faithfulness.
Trees don't normally uproot themselves and walk off to another place, but that's exactly what I feel like doing. I hate the idea of relying on my own strength and falling short of all God has for me. Living my whole life within my own feeble limitations would be abysmal, yet I still find myself far too attached to that safe and familiar ground. It's time to shake the dust off those roots and move!
Lord, rip me out and plant me next to a stream! I don't want to pray prayers that are so safe I could answer them myself. I want to pray in faith beyond what is naturally possible. I want to step out and do things that will only work if you come through. I want to bless others even as I face challenges of my own, because you are the source of my fruitfulness, not me. I want to see what you are doing and follow you.
Lord, may my confidence ever be found not in me, or my job, or in anything else, but only in you, and your wonderful promises to me through Jesus.
Reading: Ephesians 6:10-24
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
Every so often, we all need a good pep talk to sharpen us up and renew our confidence. Here Paul is doing exactly that. He focuses on two things:
Firstly, he urges me to stand firm with my eyes wide open. I'm in a battle! I have an adversary, and need to be ready and alert to his schemes. Secondly, Paul does everything he can to instil confidence in me by reminding me that I already have everything I need to fight this battle. I can stand firm because I know the truth. I have been saved and made righteous by what Jesus has done for me. My faith allows me to fend off Satan's attacks whilst at the same time sharing the good news with others not yet saved.
The Word of God is not only transforming my own heart and mind, but is a weapon I can use myself in my struggle against evil, to attack and to defend. And, I have been given state of the art communication capabilities now that the Holy Spirit is living in me. I can truly get things done through prayer because of my position in Christ.
It's really about confidence, and knowing who I am in Christ. Everything is there. God's incomparably great power is at work in me (Eph 1:19 ), and all the things I need to help me stand firm and strong in my faith have been given to me already.
It's as I stand in this position of confidence and God-given strength that I am truly able to love, to be joyful always, to enjoy peace that surpasses all understanding, to be patient and kind and good, to be gentle with others and trustworthy, and to enjoy the security of having self control. These aren't the sort of things I imagined on a battlefield, but the Spirit of the Lord isn't here to bring death and destruction, but rather, life and freedom. No wonder Paul urges me elsewhere, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Thank you Jesus for the victory you won at the cross. Help me now to stand firm, in confidence, and to bring your love to the world in which I live. And for all those who face persecution and hardship as they serve you, please strengthen them, fill them anew with confidence, and release joy in their spirits as they hold fast to you.