Scripture Reading: Obadiah 1-21 / Hebrews 2:1-18 / Proverbs 26:13-22
One winter a bird was seen on a piece of wood floating down the river towards Niagara Falls. It was enjoying the movement of the swiftly gliding stream and it had no sense of danger. Why should it be afraid…it had wings! It could just fly away even at the point of danger. The bird rested free from care on the piece of wood that carried it down near the falls edge.
When it reached the point of danger it tried to fly, but it couldn’t. The river's mist had frozen its wings, and it plunged over the falls to its death. There is a real threat and spiritual danger of drifting in a world of temptation and allurement. Paul admonishes, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1)
There is a subtle and deceitful power of a gentle drifting current. An apathetic and inattentive ship will easily drift off course. It doesn’t take any energy to float down stream. All that’s necessary is to relax, do nothing, and go with the flow. It is easy to get caught up in the worldly influences around us. There are undercurrents of opinion, habit and compromise that influence our course.
When we drift from our charted course of Christlikeness, our spiritual senses become duller. We are lulled into a lifestyle of false security. When we finally realize how off course we are, we are spiritually incapable to change course. Like Samson, we shake ourselves like in times past but don’t recognize the Spirit of God has departed from us.
There is a serious danger of drifting into circumstances that we cannot free ourselves from no matter how hard we try. What is the answer…how can we protect our lives from drifting off the spiritual course God has mapped out for us? We must first be alert and disciplined to stay the course. We must decide to do it and it is a choice we must make.
We are to be careful…very careful. No one ever by “chance” drifts towards Christ. It is easy to follow our natural instincts and sinful nature. It takes faith and spiritual resiliency to go against the waves of the world. We must be spiritually attentive and determined.
Of great importance on every ship is the anchor. It secures them to a determined and stable position where they will not drift aimlessly. Our anchor is Christ, His supremacy, His Lordship, His keeping and saving power. Christ is able to keep that which we commit to Him…He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly all that we ask or think…He will never leave us or forsake us…we will not drift when we are anchored in Him!
Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3:40-5:22 / Hebrews 1:1-14 / Psalm 119:129-136
Physicians encourage men and women to conduct routine self-examinations for the presence of cancer. Forty percent of women are the first ones to detect their own breast cancer and most testicular cancer is detected by self-examination. Those statistics confirm the great importance of establishing regular self-exams. Early detection is also one of the greatest factors towards a higher cure rate.
Our spiritual lives are also susceptible to problems as well and require self-examination. Spiritual diseases manifest themselves through our sinful habits and disobedience. We have a tendency to be drawn away by our own lust and open our lives up to the destructiveness of sinful waywardness.
This first verse jumped out at me as I read it this morning, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40) Rebellious Israel faced the wrath of God. They never imagined their sin would bring so much destruction. God warned them repeatedly and mercifully called them to repentance.
Jeremiah now calls them to move past the grief of their lives and to honestly examine their ways. Israel excused their rebellion and rejected God’s ways. Jeremiah calls them to humbly and without excuse test their hearts, actions, motives and lives.
When we fail to examine ourselves, pride and self-delusion are quick to take up residency in our lives. Our hearts are easily hardened and perspectives tainted.
I wonder at times why we fail to see greed, envy, gossip, slander, anger, arrogance, and harshness in our lives. We struggle with critical spirits, conceit, jealousy, maliciousness, unforgiveness, bitterness, criticism and hypocrisy. We either ignore these or they are hidden from us but amazingly others see them clearly in us.
We must realize that prayer and repentance are not to be reserved for the “nowhere else to turn to” times in our lives but are to be a regular way of life for us. Repentance isn’t for our “misery” but for our “growth”. None of us have reached spiritual perfection and are in need of the Holy Spirit’s constant work. Christlikeness is a journey where God shapes and molds us into Christ’s image.
One of my favorite childhood songs was the hymn, “Cleanse Me”. I had a yearning for God to take my life and completely forgive me of everything that was wrong and sinful. I wanted a pure heart, a clean heart and a heart after God. The hymn lyrics were taken from David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23,24) Self-examination is not an event…it is a lifestyle.
Scripture Reading: Lamentations 2:7-3:39 / Philemon 1-25 / Psalm 119:121-128
Jerusalem was completely devastated by Babylon. The city was under siege for more than 18 months as the Babylonian army surrounded the city. No one went in and no one went out. The city's food supply ran out, disease and starvation spread throughout the city.
Jeremiah repeatedly warned King Zedekiah of the impending doom and his need to surrender. In Zedekiah’s obstinance, he fled for safety believing he would face the wrath of Babylon if he surrendered. He did not escape but was captured and forced to watch his son’s execution before his eyes were gouged out. He was bound by bronze shackles and led 700 miles to Babylon where he would die in prison.
Jerusalem was burned and the walls of the city were torn down. All military, political and religious leaders were either executed or carried away into captivity. The Jewish survivors were led away to Babylon with many of them perishing along the way. Only the poorest of the poor were left in the land.
In the height of this catastrophe, Jeremiah speaks of hope for the people of God. He prophesies that their chastisement would only be for their good as God would bring them better days. He says, “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.” (Lamentations 3:22,23)
God has a purpose for everything that comes within our lives. He is great enough to bring us through, to mold us, to chastise us and to equip us. God is not surprised by life or by our actions…He knows us! His compassion is unending and unfailing; never ending and never failing.
God promised Jeremiah and Israel, “I am with you and will save you, declares the Lord. Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:11) God’s wrath comes by measure, but thank The Lord that His mercy is without measure!
God’s mercy and compassion are new every morning because He is a faithful God. We may be uncertain of life or even ourselves, but we can be very certain and sure of God’s faithfulness. His faithfulness was evident when He cast Adam and Eve from the Garden for their own good.
He clothed them and promised them a deliverer. God was faithful to His Word as He called Abraham, appointed Jacob, equipped Moses, anointed David and sent His only begotten Son. We live in the shadow of His love and with confidence, thankfulness and praise we declare, “Great is thy faithfulness”!
Scripture Reading: Lamentations 1:1-2:6 / Titus 3:1-15 / Psalm 119:113-120
Thousands upon thousands of Jews take a holy pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The wall is located in the old city of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. It is the most sacred site besides the Temple Mount.
Throughout the ages, the Wall is where Jews have gathered to express gratitude to God or to pray for divine mercy. The wall has thousands of prayer requests, written on small pieces of paper, crammed in the stone’s crevices. This is a holy site, as the Holy of Holies is believed to be located opposite the wall on the temple mount.
The wall is known as a “place of weeping” because the Jewish people would come to the site to mourn and grieve the destruction of the Temple. According to Jewish Law, Jews are to grieve and tear their garments after seeing the desolation and destruction of the Temple. They are to respond like Jeremiah, the prophet of old.
Jeremiah sat outside Jerusalem, grieving over the destruction, famine, emptiness and helplessness of the city. Jeremiah warned Israel of their great apostasy, now he mourns their destruction. His prophecy of divine judgment was unheeded and now it comes to pass with a fervency that surpasses even his imagination. The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s words of grief, dismay and sorrow.
“How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has not become a slave.” (Lamentations 1:1) The nation turned their back on God. They acknowledged Him but did not honor Him as God. Israel even renounced, rebuked and burned God’s Word.
God’s holiness and justice demanded the judgment of Israel but God’s heart was never the less grieved for them. Like Jesus who wept over Jerusalem and desired to gather them to Himself, God longed for Israel to turn to Him in repentance. He longed to forgive yet they hardened their hearts and minds. The aftermath of rebellion is certain… the sure wrath of God. Nations are brought to their knees; families are destroyed; lives crumble in the shambles of regret and remorse.
We have all grieved over the sins of others and our own sins. Some live with the pain of the past and guilt of what they should have done or did not do. I believe Adam and Eve would have never disobeyed God if they could truly understand the consequences of the sin. If we could only fast-forward life and then rewind it…our lives would be much different. God doesn’t do that but gives us something of greater value and reward. He gives us His promises that we can believe in, His judgment that we are to fear and His love that we are to embrace. We are not called to a Wailing Wall of grief, but to throne room of grace, mercy and hope!
Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-3:19 / Titus 2:1-15 / Proverbs 26:3-12
I love old television programs…especially the Three Stooges. My Dad and I loved watching them but my Mom didn’t find them that interesting or funny. Not everyone saw the humor in their foolishness but how could anyone not laugh at a slap to the back of the head or three men falling off a ladder. I found Moe, Larry and Curly’s stupidity and foolishness very entertaining.
In reality, “real” foolishness is no joke and nothing to laugh about. Foolish people are deficient in judgment, sense and understanding. Their foolish decisions and lifestyles affect their finances and relationship. They leave a trail of hurt, pain, and offense in their lives and in the lives of friends and family.
Solomon has much to say about the foolishness of man. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4) Solomon recognized the uselessness of arguing with a fool. There is no logic to their thought process, perspective or conclusions. Reasoning with them is out of the question because they do not comprehend and cannot respond to arguments of wisdom.
At times the only thing that can be done is to firmly refute them so their foolish opinions are not confirmed. Affirming their foolishness leads to conceit and sure destruction. “Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.” (vs.8) A stone is to set in the pocket of a sling but when it is foolishly tied into the pocket, the sling is useless and dangerous to the thrower!
Solomon describes a fool as one who has no sense and is a slave to habits and vices. So it is with the world when they are ignorant of God’s truth and His way. They are not knowledgeable of another way of living or thinking. Like a dog that returns to their vomit (Yuck), a fool repeatedly returns to their foolishness. It is natural for a dog to act in this manner just as it is for a fool.
Fools live in a hopeless condition but there is more hope of convincing a fool of his folly than a proud man of his ignorance and weakness! “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (vs.12) There is more hope for a fool than for the person who thinks they have all the answers and don’t need anyone’s advice.
The proud Pharisees thought they did not have any spiritual deficiencies. Jesus said, “If you were blind you should have no sin, but now you say, we see, therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41) The conceited and spiritually proud know the way and truth of God but they dismiss it. They elevate their own ideas while devaluating God’s truth as optional or immaterial. What a warning for us today…may we not become so caught up in self-righteousness that we become blinded to a lukewarm and deceptive lifestyle. The fear of the Lord…is the beginning of wisdom!
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 52:1-34 / Titus 1:1-16 / Psalm 119:105-112
Are you afraid of the dark? If you are, then you love flashlights, daylight and light switches! It is amazing how a bedroom light will calm a child’s fear. We tend to be fearful when we are in darkness. I have discovered that fear does not dissipate when we become “mature” adults but oftentimes it intensifies.
Our future, finances, employment, relationships and health are often covered in darkness. We struggle with the unknowns and mysteries of life. Our imaginations take us to dark, depressing and defeated places. The dark places of life leave us hopeless and helpless…often stopping us in our tracks.
What is the answer to the darkness of life? Turn on the LIGHT…turn to God’s Word! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) David experienced the darkness of night and the power of light. The Israelite countryside was dark and only illuminated by moonbeams. People rarely traveled at night but would always carry a lamp to guide their steps onto an unobstructed pathway.
Likewise, the town streets were narrow, unlighted, cluttered and especially dark at night because of the high walled homes on either side. There were dangerous holes, muddy places, and loose stones. If a person was to walk safely, they would not only have a lamp but they would hold it down by their feet so that the light would guide their next footstep.
The Word of God gives us guidance and direction everyday. There are so many experiences in life that we have not encountered and when they present themselves, we find ourselves “in the dark”. God’s Word helps us navigate through those times, giving us insight and inspiration. It is our counsel for every difficulty, comfort in every trouble and guidance in all perplexity. It is our daily light or “life-giver” that guides us through everyday life.
That same light is also our “life-saver” as it directs our steps in the darkness of life. We trip on stones of offense, fall into the holes of temptation and get stuck in the mud of compromise. Not only does The Word illuminate us to the traps of the world, it also shines upon us with conviction and correction.
Our 20/20 vision is not enough to guide us through daily life. Our wisdom and intellect fails us in the darkness. When we walk in darkness, sooner or later we will stumble. Our head needs the illumination of God’s Word and our feet need sure, safe direction. As we venture into the darkness of the world, be sure to take the Word of God with you…it will light your way!
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 51:15-64 / 2 Timothy 4:1-22 / Psalm 119:97-104
I had a memorable experience playing at my Aunt and Uncle's house when I was a young boy. I annoyed some bees living in the shed. They attacked me and one found a way under my shirt, stinging me several times. I ran into the house and as they pulled my shirt off of me, a bee fell to the floor but he left major and multiple welts on my back.
Needless to say…I don’t like bees but I love “Bit O Honeys”! I don’t love bee stings but I love what bees make…honey. It is amazing the way bees produce honey with it’s sweet potency. Bees gather nectar from flowers and transform the nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. They then store the honey and use it as a primary food source.
Bees gather as a group and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. The bee’s digestive acids and the flower nectar give the honey its potency. When it reaches a quality state, the honey is spit out but contains a high concentration of water. The bees then fan their wings, creating a strong draft, which hastens the evaporation of excess water. The reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration even higher.
David knew the sweetness of honey but experienced something even sweeter, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103) The similarities between honey and the Word of God are remarkable.
The Word of God was a delight to David. When God spoke through the prophets and to David directly, it brought pure sweetness to David’s heart.
Even God’s rebukes and precepts were sweet as they brought correction and truth into David’s troubled life. God restored David’s soul with the sweetness of mercy, forgiveness, grace and compassion. The Psalms give us a glimpse into the potency of God’s sweet words…”The Lord is my Shepherd; He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits; How lovely is your dwelling place.”
God’s Word brings sweetness, hope and purpose into our lives! We have discovered His Word brings joy to our spirits and forgiveness to our souls. God’s Word brings transformation to our lives, strength in the midst of our weakness, wisdom in our confusion and new life when we were dead in sin.
The sweetness of God’s Word brightens our eyes and strengthens our faith. It has the power to equip, rebuke, encourage and edify our lives. Regurgitate His Word through study, meditation and memorization. Allow the wind of His Spirit to fill you with a greater level of power and potency. The artificial sweetener of the world can’t compare to the real, unadulterated sweetness of God’s Word…How Sweet It Is!
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 50:11-51:14 / 2 Timothy 3:1-17 / Psalm 119:89-96
Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. I have wonderful childhood memories of church Christmas programs, Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house, my father reading the Christmas story, Christmas tree decorations and the cardboard fireplace! It was a brick fireplace replica and simply used as a decoration…adding Christmas ambiance and character to the room.
We hung stockings on it but we couldn’t warm ourselves by its fire. It only gave the appearance that it was real. I thought of that cardboard fireplace when I read Paul’s description of the “Last Days”. The last days are not a time in the far away future. In reality, the last days began when Jesus ascended to heaven and announced He would return in like manner. We are living in the last days but as we draw closer to His return; times will become increasingly terrible and godless.
After an exhaustive list of ungodly characteristics, Paul sums up man’s last day lifestyle as, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) Men will have an outward appearance and resemblance of godliness but that is as far and as deep as it goes. They look the part and even act the part but are only actors living a spiritual masquerade lifestyle.
God described Israel as drawing near to Him with their words and honoring Him with lip service but their hearts were far from Him. Last day men will have external piety but internal wickedness. Their unholy heart is of no value to God. He will not accept external morality that conceals internal impurity. The power of godliness must work within because God will not accept anything less.
A form of religion…we see that becoming more prevalent in our culture today. Man may talk a “good game” but their lifestyle is far from their message. They will give an appearance that they are driven by love for others but they will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure…not lovers of good or lovers of God.
So it will be of men during the last days yet they will use their hypocrisy not simply for their gain but also for the destruction of Christ’s church. These men are dangerous and deceptive. They present a persuasive message but it is empty of power and experience, leading seekers away from the truth of God’s Word.
Our eyes are to be open and hearts discerning to the deceptiveness that grows with every passing day. We must be people who live a life of godliness, have a heart relationship with Christ and walk in spiritual power. There will be plenty of cardboard fireplaces of religion in the last days. The world must see the real fire of the Holy Spirit radiating from our lives…. God promises to pour out His Spirit in the Last Days!
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 49:7-50:10 / 2 Timothy 2:1-26 / Proverbs 25:21-26:2
I guess if anyone knew about wives…it was Solomon. He had a great deal of experience as he had 700 wives and 300 concubines! Solomon was the wisest person ever but I tend to question his judgment because he didn’t “get it” after the first few wives. But there were a few things he learned like, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 25:24)
After I read this scripture, I debated about commenting on it but I’m going for it anyway…going where no man has gone before! (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the content of this verse and my wife isn’t quarrelsome…I’m talking about those other wives, not you dear!)
The Israelite homes were built with flat roofs. The roofs were accessible for the family to find a place of safety during enemy attacks or a place to be alone and find solitude. The roof was not an ideal place because it was not protected from nature’s elements. The roof was not a place to be when there were blistering winds, a scorching sun or pelting rain. But despite the elements, it was a desired place for an overwhelmed, distraught or a “pushed to his limits” husband.
A quarrelsome wife would make the roof decision an easy one for her husband. It would be better for him to not only visit, but also move to the roof…even a small corner of it! Facing the roof’s challenges was far more desirable than living with a scolding, brawling and contentious wife. A wife who found fault in everything he said, did or did not do. Her scorching disposition, blistering words and pelting accusations were more severe than even the worst of nature’s elements!
Husbands are not free from criticism but God has established a process of correction that does NOT include a quarrelsome wife. God said it was not good for man to be alone, so He created Eve to be a helpmeet to Adam. She was to complement and complete his life. Woman was created to be man’s most satisfying delight, not the cruelest thorn in his side.
A wife has a great deal of power and influence. She can either be her husband’s greatest encouragement or biggest detriment. Paul speaks of submissiveness as a great gift that a wife brings to the marriage. She has an opportunity to build her husband up and walk close to his side. Her opinions and wisdom are not dismissed but accepted and valued as she displays a Christ like heart and disposition.
Woman was created to promote and give life, not destroy it. God places every wife in a powerful position to either build up or tear down. Remember, it is not good for man to be alone…but a desired place when he has a contentious wife. As for me, I have no desire to live on my roof… why would I? My wife makes it a joy to be the “King of my Castle” because… she is the queen of my heart!
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 48:1-49:6 / 2 Timothy 1:1-18 / Psalm 119:81-88
We have all experienced shame in our lives. Either we have been ashamed because of what we did or what we said. I read a story about a young girl in junior high school whose father was a janitor. She didn’t know it, but he had gotten a job at her new school. A student had dropped their tray in the cafeteria and a teacher loudly called out her father’s name so he could clean up the mess.
To her embarrassment, she saw him walk to the table with a mop and some rags. One of her new friends said, “That janitor has the same last name as yours. Do you know him?” She looked at her father and hesitantly said; “I’ve never seen him before in my life.” She was instantly ashamed of denying her father whom she considered her dearest friend on earth.
Paul writes to young Timothy, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.” (2 Timothy 1:8) “Ashamed” is being afraid or feeling shame which prevents one from doing something; a reluctance to say or do something because of fear of humiliation; experiencing a lack of courage to stand up for something or feeling shame because of what has been done.
Paul senses that his young disciple is showing signs of being ashamed of the Gospel with its accompanied afflictions, persecutions and trials. From time to time there is a tendency for us to be ashamed of who we are and what we have as Christians. Some are ashamed to admit they love the Lord and trust Him as Savior. Some are silent and ashamed to speak up when others ridicule God’s Word. Others are ashamed to completely sell out for the cause of Christ. For whatever reason, Christians can find themselves ashamed of the Gospel and its work in their lives.
Paul gives us the solution for shame…the abiding knowledge of the Person of Jesus Christ…He removes all sense of shame. “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed…” (vs.12) The word “know” means an absolute, “beyond a doubt” knowledge. This kind of knowledge is not personal knowledge gained by experience, but knowledge of a person. Paul’s personal knowledge of Christ erased all shame. There was no shame in the power, holiness, salvation and grace of the resurrected Christ! Jesus defeated death, hell, the grave and all of the world’s wisdom.
Because of his personal relationship with a transforming Savior, Paul placed all of his trust in Christ. He found Jesus to be true, genuine and real. When we discover and experience Him, we will not be ashamed but will be His light in the midst of a dark world. Don’t hide your light under a bushel of shame; let His presence ignite your passion and purpose…let your light shine!
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!