When I see this scripture reference, my mind goes immediately to,
“For I know the plans I have for you,… plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”
Maybe that is your thought, as well. It IS a wonderful scripture!
New Thoughts Captured my Attention
This morning, as I was enjoying quiet time in Jeremiah 29:1-14, some phrases captured my attention in a startling way. I was blown away at the revelation that came to me as I read Jeremiah 29:5-7 (NLT).
“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the fruit you produce. Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.”
Suddenly, this thought hit me:
“What is your Babylon?”
And then, these questions:
What holds us in captivity?
How do we get out of it?
What can we do?
Sometimes, we come to a difficult place in life and we feel as if we are held captive in it. A serious illness, the death of a spouse, the end of a job, a career change, relocation, . . . the list is vast. Life happens. Many times what happens is out of our control, but it is NEVER out of God’s hands!
When life throws a curveball, it is too easy to become paralyzed, bitter, depressed, even frantic. God, however, says “Live life!” Re-read those verses. The Lord told His people to carry on with life, not to just sit or dwindle away. Keep reading, because the Lord also said,
“Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive.”
Pray for the company, the school, the country, the family…. whatever your “Babylon” is. When we offer up whatever has us down to the Lord, He can take that situation into His hands and deliver us from it. Remember this, though: God moves in His time and way. The solution to your dilemma may take time, but He does have the solution.
That familiar promise will come to fruition:
“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you…”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
This is the clincher:
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,…and will bring you back from captivity.”
Jeremiah 29:12-14 NIV
Take every thought captive. Seek the Lord and His direction. Pray for the place where you are, that place that has you stuck. Know that the Lord has a plan, and he will bring you out better than before!
THAT is your confidence!
– Glenae Atchison
Last Chance to Link-up in the Legacy Link-upin June
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
The shaker on our table is what we bring to mind, but in Jesus’ day, salt was a valuable commodity. It was sometimes even used to pay one’s salary. Jesus called the disciples salt because they were as important to the Gospel as salt was to the society. Have you ever eaten a French fry without salt? Just a little salt makes a world of difference!
Consider the impact the disciples made on the world once they were anointed with God’s power through His Holy Spirit. Just twelve men initiated worldwide change as a result of God’s power! (Acts 2)
As powerful as salt is, it can lose its savor if it is mixed with other additives. RealSalt.com says salt will never go bad, but common table salt has agents added which degrade over time causing the salt to lose its savor. Society in Jesus’ day was mixed with many sinful impurities. If Christ-followers were not careful, their lives would be overrun with the effects of sinful choices.
This leads to a need for preservation! In ancient times, salt was added to prevent food from spoiling. When the disciples began spreading the Gospel, they were keeping the world from decaying without the Hope offered through Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. Salt can go both ways. If we allow society to rub off on us, we will lose our savor; but if we rub off on society, we hold out the life-giving freedom of Christ!
How can you and I effectively be Salt of the Earth?
If you don’t have the deep desire to be a Salt of the Earth disciple, it would be wise to follow the apostle Paul’s teaching and examine your hearts “to see whether we are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)
Have you ever known a person who rubbed you the wrong way? Comparatively, have you known someone who always blesses a room when they enter? This is how we season the world. A preacher once asked, “If you record yourself, what would you see/hear?” This challenged me and still does, to take special care in what I do and I say, making sure I’m surrendering myself to the Spirit’s power alive in me.
Showing love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness is how believers share their Salt with the Earth. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
My heart remains true and is awed by Your words. I celebrate because of Your promise, like someone who discovers great treasure. I despise and abhor lies, but I love Your law. Seven times every day I praise You because of Your right rulings.
Psalm 119:161-164 The Voice
Homesick & Heartbroken
It was my freshman year in college. I was 500 miles from home and looking forward to a long weekend home for Easter. I was packed to go and even had riders to share the cost. I woke up Thursday morning for my last day of classes and there was snow on the ground. I received a call from my father in Wisconsin. He strongly suggested that I not come home because the weather between Kentucky and Wisconsin was pretty severe.
I was so heartbroken. I had had a long year fighting homesickness and I really wanted to go home. Dejected, I went to my first class. Being at a Christian college, the professor always opened class with prayer. That is, he always asked a student to pray. That morning, he asked me to pray.
I wondered, “How on earth could I pray?” I was so disappointed that I was not going to be able to go home. We all bowed our heads…
I’m not sure what else I said. I was shocked to hear myself say it. Certainly, I was not thankful for the snow. It was the cause of my demise.
Thankful in the Midst of Trial
It’s hard to be thankful when you are in the midst of trials. Your mind is so centered on your trouble, you can’t really think of anything else. But maybe praise and thankfulness are what helps ease our mind. Maybe it is what helps us make it through. Could it be the way to keep from spiraling down into despair is to continually have His praises on our heart and our mind?
This celebration of His Blessings may very well have been the beginning of a wonderful Easter weekend. I was invited to go to Georgia instead. I visited with a friend AND my aunt and Uncle.
Celebrate His Promises
Soon after the start of my chronic pain. I was introduced to the writings of Ann Voskamp. You have probably seen to droves of Thankful posts on Facebook during November. When I realized that this came from Ann, I decided to read her book, A Thousand Gifts. I was challenged to list three blessings every day for an entire year. That was the beginning of the return of smiles in the midst of the pain.
It truly does make a difference to begin listing the things for which I am grateful.
As the women’s director, I challenged all the ladies at church to take the Joy Dare with me. Several did it along with me. One couple shared with me several times how not only did the Joy Dare make them stop and think of things they were grateful for, but also, gave them laughter. The prompts weren’t always easy to find answers to, but they would laugh trying to think of ideas. What a blessing!
You have probably seen these Joy Dare prompts on Facebook. Go download them and begin your own journey to joy today! It will change your life as it did me and my friends. And as it did for Ann. Notice again the last line of the scripture above. The Psalmist says he gave praise to God SEVEN TIMES A DAY.
Wow! Seven times. I know I’m behind.
Join me and Celebrate his Promises!
My Journey with Chronic Pain
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Last fall I wrote about the feasts that God ordained in the fall of the year. This month when I was assigned a study on fellowship and guilt offers, I was reminded of the 7 Feasts book by Erin Davis. So I picked it up again and realized that I missed out on writing about Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks. So today, I’d like to share how we find Christ in the Feast of Firstfruits.
Erin Davis begins her book by teaching us that we, humans, have a terrible habit of forgetting. She called it Spiritual Amnesia. We tend to become so self-sufficient when, in truth, we need God more and more every day. The feasts were a way to remind the people of their sinfulness held against the holiness of God. The feasts reminded them of a God that not only protects but forgives and gives us all a second, third, fourth chance. The law acted as guard rails to protect us as we wander.
Take time to Read Leviticus 23:9-14 – The Feast of First Fruits
Creation Teaches Us the Gospel
First of all, we have all learned about the seasons. They make a circle from death to life and back again. We can see the character of God in every season. We see His redemptive plan every spring as the flowers bloom and animals are born. Spring reminds us that Christ died but rose again for us. His circle of life shows us His faithfulness new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23); His great power and strength (Isaiah 40:26), His righteousness and justice (Job 37:21-23)
“The firstfruits of Spring join together to declare this amazing truth…”
He is not here, for He is risen, as He sad. Come and see the place where He lay.
The Feast of FirstFruits Follows Immediately after Passover and the Sabbath
Interestingly, these feasts are sequential.
On Thursday, they celebrated Passover.
Friday – Jesus was crucified,
Saturday, the Sabbath – Jesus rested in the grave.
On the first day of the week, Sunday – Feast of Firstfruits
– Jesus rose from the dead defeating death and sin!
Jesus was the firstfruits of our salvation! The first to rise from the dead to eternal life.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
We are the Second Firstfruits!
When we accept Christ as Savior, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). His Holy Spirit works within us to remove our carnal spirit and to become new in Him. The things in our past are now gone!
But we can take this all one step further. One day, we will rise! We will be raptured to be in Heaven ever with the Lord. This is a future hope!
We have this hope, hallelujah!
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
For the Lord, himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
On Easter we remember that because Jesus lives forever, we will too!
Jesus is Worthy of our Best!
At the feast of firstfruits, they were required to bring two offerings. First, a peace (or fellowship) offering of grain. This grain must be the very first sheaf of wheat they harvested. They were not to eat any of the new grains until after this offering was made. Like a peace offering we might bring to a spouse after messing up big time, it was an offering for acceptance; an offering to request fellowship again.
The second offering was a burnt offering or sin offering. This would be a male lamb, one-year-old with no blemishes. It was to be completely burned up and a fragrance to the Lord. It would be for the forgiveness of sins.
Did God need this grain? No. It was required to remind them of their sins and of God’s holiness. It was the “cure for their spiritual amnesia.” We still bring firstfruits offerings to God in the form of service, tithes, devotion. We give these things not because God needs them or even requires them but more as the posturing of our hearts. We give offerings because of our love and gratitude to Him.
Jesus gave the best for us. He gave all.
What offerings are you bringing to the Lord?
Are you giving the best of your best or just seconds?
This Bible study is exciting and moving, even for a seasoned Christian like myself. I get so blessed connecting the traditions set forth by God in the Old Testament to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like the A-Team said at the end of each episode, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
Our family loves Kincaid paintings. Of course, we were never able to purchase a painting, so we did the next best thing; we bought, assembled, and framed puzzles. What an accomplishment to finish the gorgeous pictures by placing the last piece!
However, my husband enjoyed hiding away a puzzle piece so he could place it into the last open spot. It became a fun routine at our house and the kids went straight to Daddy to find the last piece.
One Christmas, however, he didn’t take a piece, and yet, one was missing. Initially, the kids didn’t believe him, but eventually, the truth sank in; oh, what a disappointment to have a hole in the middle of the picture, leaving it incomplete! We framed the picture anyway, taking a piece from the unseen edges to try to fill the empty space, but our eyes were immediately drawn to the patched-up place every time we looked at the picture.
The God-Shaped Hole
Just like the unfinished puzzle, there is a hole in our hearts in the shape of God. The piece was removed way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned against God, separating us all from His Presence.
Oh, the ache we feel over lost fellowship with God! We know something is missing, but often, we are not sure what (or really, Who). So we might try to fill the emptiness with other pieces like family, love, success, drugs, alcohol. But nothing really fits.
There is nothing like having the right puzzle piece.
The following Christmas, as we brought out the decorations, we found the missing puzzle piece! It had somehow fallen off the table into one of the boxes and was stored away. How appropriate to have found the missing piece at Christmas! Just like our family, if we keep searching for God (our hearts’ missing piece), we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)
All who accept Christ as their personal Savior have the Holy Spirit living within them, guiding and directing their lives. Indeed, God is with us now, but one day Christ will return to earth, righteous and victorious. He will set up His Kingdom, removing all evil.
When we accept Christ’s wonderful gift of salvation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is like earnest money. His indwelling in a believer is the proof of God’s guarantee that He will follow through with His promise and bring us home to dwell with Him forever in Heaven.
This is our confident hope!
One glorious day we will be fully alive and free from the temptation to sin as we live eternally in God’s physical presence. We have a guaranteed inheritance through Jesus. Paul wanted the Ephesian believers to know the great magnitude of this rich inheritance in God’s people.
We are HIS Inheritance
We usually think only of our inheritance as salvation, righteousness, or Heaven, but Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand they were so precious to God that He considered them His own inheritance. Knowing our spiritual poverty, we wonder how God can find anything of value in us, let alone His own inheritance.
His Investments in Us
Yet God creates unspeakable riches out of poor men and women because He invests Himself in them. He has invested riches of love, riches of wisdom, riches of suffering, riches of glory, and riches of holy transformation. These things accrue to a rich inheritance in the saints. (Enduring Word) He has invested Himself in us and His return on that investment will be magnificent!
“Because of His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
It’s a Glorious Hope!
What a glorious hope we have! I urge you to read the entire passage in 1 Peter! No matter what we face in life, hope in Jesus is certain and sure, never fading away. This confident hope comes from the sealing of the Holy Spirit. We know, that we know, that we know, that God holds our lives and our souls for eternity, sustaining us through His Word.
We can trust Him with eternity, with our next breath, our next celebration or tragedy; He will never change or abandon us. We can remind ourselves of His faithfulness by
Hold Tightly to Your Confident Hope
Holding tightly to our assured hope is hard, but if we keep a written record of God’s specific blessings, we can remind ourselves of His faithfulness when our faith is weak. In my own life, there have been many trials, but my hope is found in knowing God is faithful and never fails.
I like to use Psalm 136 as a template to write my own blessings from God; repeating after each blessing, “His faithful love endures forever.” I pray you have this confident hope in Christ! It is yours by giving your life completely to Him. Leave everything in His hands and you will find peace, hope and security.
This is just an excerpt of the Bible Study I wrote for Gracefully truthful. Follow this link to read more.
Elisha was a prophet of Israel, but he also was kind of a spy letting the King know if the Syrian army was up to anything. The Syrians were aware of this so they figured if they capture Elisha it would solve their problem.
One night the Syrian army surrounded Elisha and his young, new servant. The servant was very concerned about the situation, asking, “What should we do?” But Elisha had a confident belief about him. He knew that God would protect them. He believed what King David had said that God’s angels would surround and protect them.
Elisha knew that this confidence comes from experience and knowing how God takes care of His own, so he prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant to see the Lord’s Angel armies all around them. And God did it! The servant looked around and there were horses and fiery chariots all around ready to protect him and Elisha.
Can you imagine that? …
Seeing all those fiery horses and chariots on all sides? How exciting!
Trouble on Every Side
2020 has been one of those years with so much trouble on every side. I pray that God has opened your eyes to see His armies standing ready to defeat your enemies. I pray that God will give you the confidence of Paul when he wrote. “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” 2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Let’s walked with confidence into the new year that God has it all under control.
Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart
Nought be all else to me, save that Thy art
Thou my best thought in the day and the night
Waking or sleeping, Thou presence my light
Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me Lord
Thou my great Father and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight
Be Thou my armor and be Thou my might
Thou my soul shelter, and Thy my high tower
Raise Thou me heavenwards, oh power of my power
Riches I need not, nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance through all of my days
Thou and Thou only though first in my heart
High king of heaven my treasure Thou art
Oh high king of heaven, when battle is done
Grant heaven's joy to me, bright heaven sun
Christ of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, though ruler of all
When I was single, I longed for days when we could all be together again. I grew up with 5 siblings. There was always activity going on around the farm. But far from home with no family nearby, it could get mighty lonely. Phone calls only made me more homesick. I prayed to be able to see my family again. I prayed that Jesus would allow me to get home to see my family.
Oh, to be together as a family. My heart often aches because I live so far from my parents, especially now as they are aging. Not being able to check in on them and see how they are doing is difficult.
Paul wrote the same thing to the Thessalonians. They were like brothers and sisters to him. He desired to be with them to see how their faith was growing. He urged them to keep loving each other as an example and a reminder of how much he loved them. Even more so, how much Jesus loved them.
One day there will be a great homecoming and all Christians everywhere – and from every time – will be together forever. And even better than that we will be with Jesus. It is God’s preposterous promise… to be with us!
Won’t that be a glorious day? We will finally be home and together with Jesus.
Points to Ponder:
C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” [Mere Christianity] We were made for another world. Take a look at Genesis 2 and note this perfect world. Who did Adam and Eve walk with each evening?
How can we thank you enough, Lord? You have provided a way for us to be with you again. Thank You for sending Your Son to earth to live, die, and rise again to save us from our sins. Guide us in Your truth and cause Your love to increase in our hearts and for each other. Strengthen our hearts as we live for You and keep us blameless in holiness before You when our Lord Jesus returns. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.
Published with permission. Originally written by Mandy Farmer and published at the Discipleship Place ~ Women’s Ministries at The Church of the Nazarene November 2019
Is it really that big of a deal when we tell a little white lie? What does it hurt? The answer to that is, “It hurts God”. He created us in His image and that image is about His character. When we lie, are we reflecting the image of God? NO! Because God is Truth.
I recently wrote a Bible study for Gracefully Truthful on why God includes Lying in the Ten Commandments. I’ll share an excerpt to that study in this post but you can continue the study at Gracefully Truthful.
Mankind has grappled with the definition of truth throughout the ages. Hours before His death, Pilate posed this question to Jesus. But Pilate’s query was rhetorical, meant to dismiss the subject. He was only interested in the truth of Rome, Caesar, and political power (Morris).
Even today, the struggle to define and understand truth persists. Many people want to believe in a truth of their own, based on perspective or personal preference. But Scripture teaches God alone is our source of absolute, unchanging, timeless, big “T” Truth.
We see the day coming but we are no more ready to face the King of Kings and the Lords of Lords than they were in Joel’s day. We sit in our padded pews and “mourn” the sinfulness of our nation but ignore the subtle sins in our own hearts. Our nation will not “turn and repent” until they see that living for God looks different than the rest of the world.
When we look in the mirror of the Ten Commandments, what do we see? Is it righteousness or self-righteousness? Does reading this list cause us to fall on our knees in true repentance like the prophet Isaiah did when he saw the Lord in the temple?
Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Challenge to Examine Your Heart
I challenge you to read down the list of commandments. Ask God to show you where you have failed him. If you don’t see any failure, read it again. And then again. Slow down, read slowly, and consider the subtle things that Satan has blinded you from.
How much time do you spend with God? 5 minutes a day? Do you have a quiet time? study the Word?
What have you placed above God? Job, Success, family, sports?
Do you treat the Sabbath just like every other day of the week?
What ways do you honor your parents?
Have you stolen anything lately? Extra time at lunch? office supplies? Have you robbed from God, by withholding tithes and offerings?
Do you lie and cheat to climb the ladder of success? Do you gossip in the guise of a prayer request?
Are you jealous of those who have more than you?
Hmmm… I wonder why people want nothing to do with Christianity.
Yes. We are all sinners
It’s true. None of us are righteous. We are all worthless and separated from God. Even King David who was considered “a man after God’s own heart” sinned. And he sinned BIG!
The size of the sin is not what matters. What matters is our response when we see that we have sinned against God. This week I wrote at Gracefully Truthful about David’s response when he was confronted with his sin. Click the purple image to read.
Let’s take a look at the words of the prophet, Joel. He said if we repent, maybe God in His Mercy will forgive us and visit us once more. Let’s check it out.
“Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him;
True Repentance requires more than just “I’m sorry”. It produces change, a turning away from sin. Too often our apologies are not sincere. We are more sorry that we were caught than mournful of our sin. We say “I’m sorry” but we don’t turn from our wicked ways. There must be a change of heart and life. If it is real, the change will be noticeable.
Seek His Face
Many times God says in His Word if we seek Him, we will find Him. Right smack in the middle of the Bible is Psalm 119. It’s a poem using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The entire chapter is all about seeking God and meditating on His Word. Start here in your search for God.
Don’t just read a quick devotion or a few verses and go on your way. Think about what it says and how it applies to you. Ask God to show you why that particular passage is there for you. What can you learn? If you need help with this, I would suggest the online study Gracefully Truthful or try the First Five phone app which studies a chapter a day. This and many others are free online. There are also some great Bible apps for your phone.
Also, invite His Holy Spirit to take full control of your life. Consider your heart as a house. When you ask the Lord into your heart when you are saved, He comes in. But do you only allow him to stay in your living room? Do you allow him into your kitchen? your bedroom? closet? attic or basement? God wants it all. He wants full control. And until we surrender it all to Him, we are still the one in the driver’s seat. We aren’t in full obedience to God.
Fast Weep Mourn
fast – Abstinence from food and/or drink as an element of private or public religious devotion. Today, some will fast other things they “can’t” live without. The importance is that you use this time for prayer.
weep –To express sorrow, grief or anguish by outcry.
mourn – The Greek word used for mourn is “pentheo,” which means to “wail or passionately lament, grief so all-encompassing it cannot be hidden.” The same word is used in Mark 16:10 to describe the emotions of Jesus’ followers after His crucifixion, a soul-deep sorrow.
2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation.” Thus, it is a necessary mourning, required for us to reach a place of complete repentance before God.
Honestly consider, have you been truly repentant for your sins?For the sins of the nation? Regrettably, I doubt that most of us have. In Bible times, people would tear (rend) their clothing in remorse. But sometimes this became just a show. (like the Pharisees) Try Anne Graham Lotz’s prayer from the National Day of Prayer. You can find it on her website here.
What rituals are you doing by habit or just showing off your spirituality? I’m reminded of the Pharisees praying, “Thank you, that I am not like them.” We need humility and true sorrow as we pray. This is what Joel meant by “rend your hearts, and not your clothes”
Let’s come to God with a broken and contrite heart as David did in Psalm 51. He was a picture of true repentance.
With gentleness and sincerity,
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