A Yearning Heart

Jeremiah 31_20_A Yearning Heart

Is Ephraim my dear son?  Is he my darling child?  For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still.  Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20) 

For many of us, it’s really tempting to skip reading the Old Testament.  Or, if we brave those waters, it’s relatively easy to let the eyes glaze over all the names and historical events.  However, if we’ll navigate these pages with our eyes wide open, we’ll see the beautiful heart of God, and His original plan of salvation throughout. 

Such is the case with the verse above.  In short, Jeremiah had been sent by God to prophesy against Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel).  Because of their waywardness, God was going to discipline them via captivity in Babylon.  They were guilty and deserving of whatever came their way. 

Yet, look at the heart of our Heavenly Father as He thought about His people (here called by the singular tribe, Ephraim).  Despite their ungodliness and idolatry, God still saw them as His dear children in whom He took great delight.  Yes, He saw their sin, and He spoke against it.  But that’s not all He saw.  He continued to think of them as His children for whom His heart yearned.  We don’t use the word “yearn” much today, but in that day, the reader would have understood it to mean that God’s heart ROARED for His people.  It was so full of love and devotion that it could not be contained.  Instead, that love had to overflow into action. 

That action on God’s part then, was the extension of mercy upon an undeserving people that led to their salvation.  That’s the nature of our God, and it hasn’t changed over time.  Though He sees our sin and will move against it, His love for us has provided a merciful way of escape.  Spend some time today thanking Him for His yearning, forgiving heart. –Dave  

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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A Little More Time to Love

1 John 4_11_Little More Time to Love

As I slipped on my black suit jacket to walk into the funeral home, I felt something fairly solid in my inside label pocket.  As I reached in to retrieve “it,” I was surprised to find a handful of prior funeral programs – a total of 10 of them to be exact.  (Yes, I only wear this suit to funerals). 

Later that day, I sat down with those programs and briefly remembered the life represented by each one.  There were those who had been blessed with lives that neared 90 years – but only 3 of the 10.  After them, the next oldest had only been 71.  And, for 60% of this group, life had ended before their 66th birthday.  One was 22, another 32, a third 42, the fourth 54, another 57, and one 65.  For all 10, the average age was <61 years.  

I don’t have a morbid fascination with death, however this small sampling of funeral programs was a reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.  If we’re sensitive to God’s prompting, funerals ought to serve to sharpen our focus; to spend some time in reflection about where we are in life, and what we’d like to do with any amount of time we may have left.  As the pastor who officiated today’s funeral stated, the death rate is 100% – and one day it will be our body in the casket.   

But, we’re not there yet!  Which begs the question – what will you do with your remaining time?  As I considered my answer to that same question, the words of a Steven Curtis Chapman song (A Little More Time to Love) came to mind.  I’ll leave you with his words, and encourage you to use your remaining time to love… Dave 

It’s getting clear that I’m not here for long
So what am I to do with my few minutes here in this place?
But, there’s a day that is coming
When everything will be new
God will dry every tear
And while we’re waiting for that day to come
We’ve got a little more time to love…
 

      Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11) 

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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Always Have Hope

Sunday_Psalm 71_14_Always have hope

With God, we always have a reason to hope.

(To receive free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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Attend or Participate?

Matthew 18_20_Attend or Participate

“When I was young I had a drug problem – my parents drug me to church every Sunday!”  

I don’t recall which comedian said it, but if you’ve ever been a parent trying to get your kids to church, you understand!  And once there, you’re likely to hear an occasional, “I’m so bored!”  (Yep, I remember those days!) 

But, the reality is that many of us continue to drag ourselves to church, and often fight boredom once there.  Perhaps we go more out of a sense of obligation than out of genuine desire.  If that’s true of you, might I suggest a practical way out of the Sunday doldrums?  The key is active participation vs. mere attendance.   

Church attendance means showing up, occupying “your” seat, writing a check, maybe singing along with the music, then watching the clock so that you can “get on” with the rest of your day.  Active participation, on the other hand, starts before you even leave the house.  Anticipating that God will actually be at your house of worship, you expect to hear from Him that day.  So, perhaps you write the check out before you leave the house so you’re not distracted doing it during the service.  Then, take that same pen and clip it to a small notebook, and take both to church with you – why?  Because you fully expect that God has used your pastor to prepare a message from which you’ll benefit.   

Active note taking not only enhances your understanding as you listen, but it also increases the chances of recall later.  Also, it allows you to jot down thoughts about how God’s Word can be practically applied to your specific life situations.  (By the way, I’ve never met a pastor who frowns upon congregants taking notes during their sermon).   I fear that to leave the pen and paper at home is to predetermine that God has nothing to say to us that day.   

Bored at church?  Ask yourself if you’re actively participating or merely attending. –Dave 

      For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20) 

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit: http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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Saving and Giving

Isaiah 23_18_Saving and Giving

It’s a tough balance to find.  Scripture instructs us to work hard (Proverb 14:23), provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and even leave an inheritance to our grandchildren (Proverb 13:22).  Yet, if we’re not careful, we’ll slip right into the extremes of working too much, and hoarding the excess.

Such was the case with the ancient city of Tyre.  As a major sea port, the city was once known for its many merchants, fine lumbar, and rich, royal dyes.  It was so prosperous, that it attracted the attention of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and Alexander the Great.  Sadly, for Tyre, their prosperity also got God’s attention.

Speaking through His prophet, Isaiah, God said this about Tyre, “Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord, for abundant food and fine clothes” (Isaiah 23:18).

If we concentrate on Isaiah’s words, we’ll see some principles for handling our resources that please the Lord.  First, part of our money is to be set apart for God.  Second, with some of our resources we can provide food and clothing for those who cannot provide such for themselves.  Finally, neither of these things (giving to God or to others) will be possible if we simply stuff all our money away – never to be spent or given away.

As you make your financial decisions, begin to ask yourself if you’ve found the right balance between saving and giving; between giving to God’s work and to God’s people.  Look for opportunities to give wisely, and fight the urge to hoard.  –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit: http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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The Dross

Proverb 25_4_The Dross

Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel” (Proverb 25:4).

As we continue to grow in our relationship with Christ, I believe there should be an ever-increasing desire to be used by Him, and for Him.  To become a vessel that He fashions, owns, and uses however He would choose.  But as the proverb above suggests, before God can create such a vessel, the material has to be ready.

I’ve never been a silversmith, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the process.  But, my understanding is that silver is purified by heating it, agitating it, and then skimming the impurities off the surface.  It is a slow, hot, tedious, and uncomfortable process.  If not left in the heat long enough, the impurities remain.  If left in too long, the metal may be damaged.  However, a skilled silversmith knows the exact mixture of time, heat, and agitation needed to produce material he can use.

How much more does our Heavenly Father know exactly what trials to subject us to, and for how long, in order to take away the dross from our hearts?  He knows how long to leave us in the fire.  He knows what type of ‘stirring’ is required to purify us.  He knows how to transform us into the image of His Son.  It’s never comfortable in the crucible; but, He is always trustworthy.

Do you find yourself in the melting pot today?  Remember, He’s preparing you to be used as His vessel. –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit: http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

 

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Who’s Diggin’?

Jeremiah 2_13_Cisterns

“My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) 

I think it’s safe to say that during the days when Jeremiah walked among the people of Judah, God was less than pleased with His people.  And while their sins were many, God boiled their offenses down to two main grievances.  First, they had forsaken Him, the spring of the only living water.  They had literally “freed” themselves from God and left Him.   

Their second offense was actually related to the first.  Having walked away from The Provider, they attempted to provide for themselves.  They needed water to live, and since they’d left the Living Water behind, they rolled up their sleeves, grabbed their rudimentary axes, and dug their own cisterns – vessels that were intended to contain water.  But, as happens with so many of our own efforts, those vessels ended up broken and unable to fulfill what was promised.  Their own effort paled in comparison to what God could have provided. 

As I look at Israel’s two major sins, it’s easy to understand the first.  I mean, forsaking the Lord is serious business after all.  But we need to notice that attempting to provide for ourselves, in and through our own efforts, is equally offensive to God.  To rely solely on self, with no reliance upon Him, is but another way of saying to God that we have no need of Him.   

It’s a reasonable question to ask – upon whom are you depending?  Self or God? –Dave  

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional books, visit: http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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