We make many assumptions. Too often we assume that as Christians, we don’t experience the same problems unbelievers face. It’s easy to think that once we are redeemed from our sins we don’t have as great a need of God’s grace as others do. We know that those who don’t trust Jesus for forgiveness have been blinded and hardened against the truth (John 12:40, Ephesians 4:18). However, when Jesus stilled the storm in Mark 6, the disciples were surprised at Jesus’ power because “their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). This begs the question, “Can Christians have hard hearts as well as unbelievers?” Hebrews 3:14 indicates we certainly have the potential, so I don’t think we can remove ourselves from this dangerous category. Instead we should know what it means to be hard-hearted, what we can do to prevent it, and how we can be restored if we have sinned by having a hard heart.
Life. Death. Fleeting days. Unending eternity. These are all topics that we’ve covered so far in our three-part mini-series on the brevity of life. However, by this point you may be thinking, If life is so short why can’t we just enjoy it? Or What sort of difference can I possibly make with my little life and why would it matter? Why can’t we spend life loving the Lord and longing for heaven?
“It’s not the years in a life, but the life in those years.” So states this widely known and used maxim. While its original author is unknown, this adage utters much wisdom and perspective on the priorities of life. People from most walks of life, both Christian and non-Christian, have resonated with this concept, hence the quote’s popularity and broad usage. However, while the latter clings to this as the one thing that matters, the last hope, and the end goal, the Christian recognizes a deeper truth and meaning.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
Sent into exile, thousands of miles from home, captives in a foreign land, and separated from the God of their fathers. The Israelite exiles in Babylon had every reason to feel discouraged, lost, and broken. Even though this was because of their own sin, they probably felt far away and distant from God and rejected by Him.
God has a wonderful plan and purpose for your life. We love this promise and widely use the supporting verse during graduation season. And while this is true, we often don’t realize this promise and verse was actually given to a people facing the just wrath of God. A people who had sinned greatly against the God of their fathers, had ignited His anger, and forsaken the Lord. So God brought disaster and punishment upon them and allowed them to be taken captive and exiled in the land of Babylon.
After redeeming and rescuing the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, God gave them ten simple rules called the Ten Commandments. But now over 700 years later, the people called by the LORD couldn’t even keep the first one: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Last year, I did a personal Bible study on the book of Jeremiah. At the time, I was not ready to share the insights I gained, but now, during this interlude between Bible studies, I’ll give you a brief mini-series synopsizing a few of the nuggets and truths I found in this great book.
Editor’s Note: Since my article was published on TheRebelution.com, there has been an increased focus and interest on the subject of trials and God’s sovereignty in them. So when I received an email from a friend paralleling the metal refining process with God’s work in our lives and the biblical use of metal, fire, and purification, I was so encouraged and excited by the concepts and truths brought out that I felt led to share it with you all. So here it is. While the first half may become a bit tedious—especially if you’re not an engineer—keep reading, everything will fall into place and create a power-punch at the end! May the Lord use it to encourage and build you up in your current place—whether it be in the midst of, coming out of, or recovering from a season of difficulty.
Walls can do many things. They can give support, become a solid place to prop things up against or hang things on. They can enclose a space and provide protection for all that’s within. But walls can also conceal and hide things, create a divide, or give a false sense of privacy. And the last example is the type of wall God is talking about in Ezekiel 43:7-8:
As I was studying the construction of the Jewish temple, I was astounded by one of the things I found.
Sweet baby Jesus! You left your heavenly dwelling of glory to be born among the lowly and despised of the earth, in a cattle stall among people who had no room for You. From a throne of splendor to a straw filled manger, You humbled Yourself and be came like one of us in our very weakest and vulnerable state. You came as a newborn baby, fully reliant upon an imperfect, inexperienced mother and father. And while shepherds paid their respects, and wise men came to worship, the very people You came to save largely rejected and ignored You. Their hearts and their doors stated “No room in the inn.” And now, two thousand years later, many people still have signs hanging on the door frames of their homes and hearts declaring, “No room in the inn!” But may we be like the shepherds of old who left their flocks by night and came to your bedside to worship. Or may we be like the wise men from a far who traveled many miles in search of the King of Kings. And may our Christmas prayer this year be this:
As we continue our “God Came Down” series, the next characters from the Nativity story that we will look at are the Magi or wise men. How often we see these special guests depicted as three elegantly dressed men bearing rich gifts and kneeling before or hovering over an idyllic manger scene! Now while I hate to burst your bubble or perfect picture, the truth of the matter is that the wise men were nowhere near the manger scene for the birth of Jesus. In fact, we don’t even know if there were three who visited the infant Jesus! There could have been five or ten for all we know! Nevertheless, while no one knows the details on their identity, we can still learn some very valuable lessons from these semi-obscure worshipers of the Christ Child.
As we move from the season of gratefulness and Thanksgiving, and into that of gifts, giving, and receiving, we must be careful that we do not slip into a hunger and desire for things, dissatisfaction for what we have and what God has given us, and a need to possess more. I’ve always thought it rather paradoxical that immediately after our celebration and declaration of thanksgiving to God for what He’s done for us and given us, we turn to and start thinking about what we’ve got to have and will not be happy without. So as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I believe that the Apostle Paul has a timely message for us.
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
Another view on this concept of the Lord being our glory and our honor —and one that is more relative to our era—is that He is our renown, our fame, and our identity. Our culture tells us to promote ourselves, pursue notoriety and popularity, and make our name known. However, David, the most famous and well-known man in Israel during his day, declared that the Lord was his glory. It wasn’t his wealth, fame, accomplishments, abilities, victories, wives, children, or popularity; David’s glory was the Lord.
Today is a day of remembrance and reflection for our country. A time to remember lives lost, sacrifices made, and a war begun. Fifteen years ago, terror struck America as three hijacked planes hurled into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attackers’ objective: terrorize the most powerful nation in the world and bring fear and devastation. They accomplished their mission and ignited the War on Terror. Since that fateful day in 2001, there have been many other terrorist attacks in America and around the world where innocent people have lost their lives and military personnel have sacrificed theirs.
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Today is a day of remembrance and reflection for our country. A time to remember lives lost, sacrifices made, and a war begun. Read more
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