WISDOM FROM LAMENTATIONS

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Lamentations 1:1 (New Living Translation) – Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave.

Lamentations 5:21-22 (New Living Translation) – Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still?

 

These are the opening and closing verses of the book of Lamentations, written by Prophet Jeremiah. Many avoid Lamentations because it is about grieving with sorrow over a devastating event; in this case, it is Jeremiah mourning the horrible destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and taking the people as captives.

This happened about 1000 years after God delivered Israel from Egypt and took them into a land of milk and honey (see previous post on Milk and Honey Part 1 and Part 2). When David was King, Israel was a very powerful nation, and when Solomon was King, it was a very rich nation. Here they were in Jeremiah’s era, a captive people.

The books of the prophets in the Bible, explain that this happened because Israel turned her back on God; consequently her Kings ruled very badly; her court judges were corrupt; her markets had traders who often cheated buyers; men were unkind and women cared more for their dress and make-up than their character.

Despite the prophets warning Israel for about 500 years to repent, they refused; and were then cruelly destroyed by Babylon. If Israel’s leaders, greatly favored by God, could get it wrong so badly, what about leaders of our nations today? Is it wise to place ALL our hopes for a better life, a better country, in the ability of our leaders today?

Psalm 146:3-5 (New Living Translation) tells us – Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Lamentations teaches a wise lesson that human leadership, no matter how blessed, will fail the people, from time to time. The only secure anchor we have is God; so in these difficult times of political insecurity everywhere, seek God earnestly and sincerely, and he will keep you and give you peace, Amen!   

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Image: The Captivity of Judah (Source: Wikimedia)

 

HEALER OF THE BROKENHEARTED

 

John 4:7-9 (God’s Word Translation)

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

 

The meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman happened early in his ministry. He was going back north on foot to Galilee after a short visit to Jerusalem. Samaria was in-between both places; the people, the Samaritans, were children of Jews who had inter-married with gentiles for many generations. Sadly, they were considered impure by Jews, and contact with them was strongly forbidden by Jewish laws.

Relationships between Jews and Samaritans were often hostile, bitter, full of mistrust and pain. So it was a shocking surprise to this woman in the passage from Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John that Jesus is speaking with her, and even asking her for water. Adding to her surprise was that Jesus knew all about her five failed marriages, and about her current living situation with a man who was not her husband.

A normal Jewish religious leader would not associate with this Samaritan woman, but Jesus did. He not only interacted with this woman, he did not condemn her, he instead offered her redemption and salvation. This woman who came to the well to draw water alone with no friends coming with her as was the custom back then; a woman with a bad reputation; with deep emotional wounds; found a savior in Jesus.

This woman’s story in John Chapter 4 shows an aspect of God’s character revealed in Psalm 147:1-3 (God’s Word Translation) –  Hallelujah! It is good to sing psalms to our God. It is pleasant to sing [his] praise beautifully. The LORD is the builder of Jerusalem. He is the one who gathers the outcasts of Israel together. He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

John Chapter 4 is about Jesus truly bandaging the wounds of outcasts, bringing salvation to a troubled woman and to a despised people. This woman with no friends to accompany her to the well, was so full of joy and went to call everyone in her city to come see Jesus. He spent two days there and we are told that: Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman… (John 4:39).  

What is it that could be causing you deep inner pain? Failed relationships? Unsuccessful career? Financial hardship? Health problems? Discrimination against you because of racism, because of your ethnicity and tribe, because you are a woman, or because you believe in Jesus? What is it that has left you brokenhearted?

Don’t lose all hope; look to Jesus, connect with him through prayer – He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

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Image: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (Source: Wikimedia)

MILK AND HONEY – Part 2

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Deuteronomy Chapter 8 (shortened) (New Living Translation)

God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character… to teach you that people do not live by bread alone – we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD… [He] is bringing you into a good land… 

…when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes… do not become proud… never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.

 

Last week in MILK AND HONEY – Part 1 we saw from Exodus Chapter 3 that the Lord promised Israel that he is rescuing them from Egypt and taking them to a land flowing with milk and honey; we also saw that this gospel of milk and honey is very popular, with many Christians seeking God because they want to get out of poverty.

The narrative from Deuteronomy 8 shows how the Israelites left Egypt; were in the wilderness for 40 years; survived on manna; and passed through God’s school of character building, in preparation for entering the land of milk and honey.

Lesson: before providing milk and honey, God will first build godly character in us.

Why is this important? If God does not build godly character in us, when he answers our prayers for milk and honey, we might become proud, lose interests in serving him, and become much more committed to other activities like politics, sports, pleasure travel, shopping, sexual diversions, excessive eating and drinking.

We have thus moved from the Lord just promising Israel milk and honey in the book of Exodus as a motivation for them to leave Egypt and worship him, to the Lord teaching them 40 years later in the book of Deuteronomy, that worshiping him as the source of their milk and honey is the more important thing he wants them to do.

Lesson – Yahweh will provide us bread as we pray for bread; but an abundance of bread should not turn us away from worshiping him to worshiping our own idols. He will build godly character in us so that success does not make us go astray; but if we still choose to turn our back on him, he won’t save us from eternal death. 

May the goodness of God, not be a stumbling block to us, Amen!

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Image: By jules – Goats Cheese & Honey, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45846370

 

JONAH AND THE GOD OF ALL PEOPLE

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Jonah 4:1-3 (New Living Translation)

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

Prophet Jonah was sent to preach to Nineveh, capital of Assyria, that their cup of wickedness was full; either they repent or face judgement from God. Assyria was a mighty country at that time similar to present day USA, or Germany, or China. Israel as a smaller neighbor feared Assyria, so the relationship between them was poor.

Nineveh was a great city, like New York, London or Paris; when they heard the message from Jonah, they were touched, and they all repented, including their King. God forgave them and the city was spared his judgement. What a happy outcome!

Not so for everyone though, Jonah became very angry, and said: That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God – think about this…

This is a passage from the Old Testament half of the Bible; a passage from a narrative where God is extending his love and mercy to a gentile city, Nineveh. The God of the Bible is clearly not just a God of Israel, but a God of all people. Jonah saw this more than three thousand years ago; this merciful and compassionate God has not changed.

I pray your goals in 2018 include getting to know more of the God of the Bible, through studying the Bible a little more on a regular basis. Don’t be satisfied with my blog, or the word you hear from the pulpit, the radio or the TV, read the Bible a little more!

May the merciful and compassionate God of all people give you understanding and light as you study the Bible to get to know him a little more, Amen!

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Image: Jonah the Prophet By Sargis Babayan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32665853   

WHAT I WANT FOR NEW YEAR 2018

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Luke 12:15 (GOD’S WORD® Translation)

He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.”

What I want for new year 2018 is plenty of money, such that I am unable to count it all; more money than King Solomon and Bill Gates put together!

I hear you thinking ‘but the above Bible passage warns against greed’. How can I desire so much money and not be a greedy, scheming, evil human being? Yes, you have a point for 1 Timothy 6:10 (GOD’S WORD® Translation) says:

‘Certainly, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people who have set their hearts on getting rich have wandered away from the Christian faith and have caused themselves a lot of grief.’

So if setting my heart on getting rich, will cause me a lot of grief, what should I set my heart on in 2018? Proverbs 19:21 (GOD’S WORD® Translation) says: ‘Many plans are in the human heart, but the advice of the LORD will endure.’

If you are like me, you will probably have multiple plans A, B, C, D for 2018. The good plan will be the one that follows God’s advice as you understand it – it would not be only about ‘success’ but would also have a big space for nurturing your faith.

King David wrote in Psalm 37:25 (GOD’S WORD® Translation): ‘I have been young, and now I am old, but I have never seen a righteous person abandoned or his descendants begging for food.’

If you prayed just once in 2017, make it two in 2018; if you went to Church only on New Year’s day, Easter and Christmas in 2017, why not every month in 2018; if you fasted one day a month in 2017, could you do 2 or 3 days a month in 2018?

As you pursue greater success in 2018, take a chance on God also, commit to seeking him a little more. May the merciful and graceful God shower you with goodness, love, joy and peace in 2018; may He protect you as you seek for daily bread, Amen!

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Image: By YVSREDDY – Happy New Year Wishes for 2018, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30429699

LAY IT ALL TO JESUS THE MERCIFUL GOD

Luke 7:7 – 10 (NLT)

Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

A great need all over the world is healing, from spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological illnesses, bitterness, pain and sorrows. No one is spared this unwanted cup of affliction – rich and poor, enslaved and free, white and black, old and young. It is a constant reminder of human weakness despite our advanced technologies and medical knowledge.

Jesus healed people of different kinds, ages, and levels of faith. The centurion, a senior Roman soldier, was not Jewish but understood more than most Jews that Jesus is God and has great spiritual power. He understood that Jesus did not need to be physically in the presence of the sick person, for his word to cure, heal, and bring life back into that sick person.

This is an incredible level of confidence in Jesus, considering that we who now have a record of the miracles of Jesus, still find it difficult to trust and call on him for help. Many of us read of Jesus miracles and just don’t believe; some of us think we are too sinful and cannot receive anything from Jesus; others prefer to cry in front of their Pastor for prayers.

This Bible passage is for everyone. This senior army officer was not even a Church goer; but he strongly believed in God’s goodness and power in Jesus. He made his request in all humility, Jesus was amazed, and next thing was  ‘they found the slave COMPLETELY healed.’ Please don’t suffer in agony and in silence – open up your mouth and pray to Jesus.

Do not be afraid, do not think I must find a Pastor and present him or her a large gift to pray for me. It does not require many words or high sounding grammar – simple sincere humble prayers like ‘Jesus, have mercy on me, deliver me from pain, compassionate God heal me from ill health, in your great love return me to good health’, are acceptable to him.

Lay it all before Jesus the merciful God, and let him bring healing into your life, Amen!

 

Image: Jesus and the Centurion by Paolo Veronese [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons